Boulder experiences all four seasons. Sometimes in the same day.
There’s a common Coloradoism: “If you don’t like the weather, wait 15 minutes.” It’s no exaggeration. While it’s unlikely to see a blizzard in July and also unlikely to experience a 100-degree day in December, the quickly and dramatically swinging weather spectrum in Boulder can shock visitors. It’s common to go skiing in the morning and stretch out in the sunshine on a patio in the afternoon. This can make packing for a Boulder vacation a real puzzle.
Lucky for you, we’ve got the hacks. Here’s what you need to pack for Boulder weather, any time of year.
1. Dress in Layers.
Yes, every day. Yes, every season. Pack clothes that you can easily mix and match, layer up and strip down. The depth of your layers will depend on your activities. Heading up to the mountains? Bring a jacket, even in summer. Maybe even a beanie. Scarves are an easy way to add warmth with minimal suitcase bulk. There’s a reason why Boulder stereotypically loves fleece, too. It’s breathable, warming and dries quickly in case of a 3 p.m. rainstorm or surprise flurry. Even if it does rain in the springtime, the rain blasts don’t tend to drag out and they blow over quickly.
Be prepared for warmth, too. One of the biggest surprises for people new to Colorado is how sunny, warm and pleasant the weather is most of the time. And yes, it really can be sandals weather around Valentine’s Day.
2. Don’t Pack Gear.
Don’t waste suitcase real estate (and expensive airplane space) on your gear. You can rent just about anything you want in town. Just pack your clothes and shoes and leave the toys at home.
3. Dress for Your Activities.
This goes without saying but if you will be camping or skiing, you will need to be more attentive to your clothes than if you’re strolling around town. Even so, the layers rule remains law.
4. Dress Your Skin.
Boulder’s high altitude is no joke. Pack sunscreen and lip balm or buy some as soon as you get here. Year-round. It’s wise to also pack a hat to protect your face. Even if you wake up and the sky is cloudy, put on sunscreen. It’s likely the clouds will part and you’ll regret it if you don’t. Always pack sunglasses and bring them with you wherever you go.
5. Bring Quick-Dry Fabrics.
If you plan on being active (inevitable while in Boulder), pack quick-dry fabrics that wick away the sweat and moisture. Cotton can be miserable when wet or damp.
6. Go Casual.
Boulder is extremely laid back and casual with its attire. Even high-end restaurants won’t flinch if you show up in a sundress and sandals instead of pearls. Only a few of Boulder’s fanciest establishments (like Frasca) prefer nicer attire. Even the ultra-chic Flagstaff House only requests business-casual dress. For the majority of your outings, casual clothing is fine. A nice T-shirt or polo and dark jeans won’t stand out. But if you prefer to dress up, Boulder’s wealthy population and working professionals won’t mind a suit and tie or even a designer dress either. Really, anything goes here.
7. Dress Local.
Colorado pride is for real. Even locals wear Colorado paraphernalia, so you won’t look like a tourist if you buy and sport a “C” ballcap or Colorado shirt. Locally made is a high priority here, so if you want to dress like a Boulderite, shop at independent stores, accent your outfit with original artist-made jewelry and fall back on local businesses to shape your style: Pearl Izumi sunglasses from Louisville, Spyder Active Sports, Kelty, Newton Running Co. and Mountain Standard clothes from Boulder and yeah, maybe even Boulder-based Crocs. Maybe.
8. Wear Comfortable Shoes.
Bank on tons of walking while in Boulder, and dress your tootsies accordingly. It’s uncommon to see high heels and ultra-fancy footwear in Boulder. Sneakers, flip-flops and sandals abound. If you’re hiking, consider sturdy hiking boots. If you might end up in snow or rain, dress your feet in layers, too: a wicking layer on the inside, with fast-drying wool socks on top. This will keep your feet warm and dry.