Learning how to dress kids for Colorado weather takes some trial and error. “Wear layers!” people will often say—but what does that mean? Here’s how to keep kiddos comfortable, in any weather, at a mile high.
For spring, fall, and winter, stick to polyester (which is lightweight), wool (which is warm), or a blend of the two over cotton garments, which hold moisture, says Paul Dreyer, CEO of Avid4 Adventure. In summer, however, cotton can be a savior: A bandana dipped in any icy creek can quickly cool a sweaty kiddo. Pack a second quick-drying T-shirt in case one gets wet. Items that took a dip can be dangled from a backpack, Dreyer says; it’ll dry faster that way than wearing it.
Colorado averages more than 300 days of sunshine each year, and the sun at a mile high (or higher) is considerably stronger. When it comes to clothing, the Skin Cancer Foundation recommends covering as much skin as possible with fabrics that have a tighter weave to keep sun from reaching the skin. Synthetic fabrics, like polyester, lycra, and nylon often work best. Buy a full-brimmed hat that includes neck protection, or combine a simple baseball cap with a cotton bandana around the neck. But don’t forget the sunscreen.
The Skin Cancer Foundation recommends using a broad-spectrum sunscreen that protects against both UVA and UVB rays. Generously apply sunscreen on the whole family 30 minutes prior to sun exposure, and reapply frequently, or after getting wet, toweling off, or sweating.
Dreyer is a huge proponent of sunglasses for kids, regardless of whether they’re also wearing a hat. “Reflective environments like snow, water, and sand can do a lot of damage to your eyes,” he says. Look for high-quality UV protection in any pair you purchase for your little ones.
Gloves vs. Mittens:
If an activity (such as biking) requires finger dexterity, go with gloves—but know that mittens (in wool or synthetic poly—no cotton) are warmer overall, Dreyer says. “The body temperature of your fingers touching each other will keep you warmer,” he says, “and they keep each other warmer.”
A coat’s main job is warmth and water protection, Dreyer says. If your kiddo gets cold easily in snow, go with a more insulated jacket that includes down or down alternative—sometimes called a “puffy” here—but know that down as an outer layer is not waterproof. For that cozy down insulation paired with a weatherproof exterior, look for an inner layer that zips out.
Avoid taking your kiddos on a daylong adventure in brand new shoes. “Before you go on that hike, have them test out the shoes around the neighborhood,” Dreyer says.
Word on the Weather
As the saying goes, “If you don’t like the weather in Colorado, wait a few minutes; it will change.” Our high-prairie location makes for an arid, usually temperate climate.
- Spring brings sunny, warm days with cold nights and the occasional three-foot accumulation of wet snow.
- Summer too means warmer, sometimes downright hot, days with cooler evenings. Summer days in the mountains can be idyllic, but the weather can change rapidly, especially at higher altitudes. The prudent mountain traveler always has long pants, a sweater, a hat, and a coat available—even in the middle of summer.
- Autumn brings cooler days, crisp nights, and the long-awaited turning of the aspens.
- Winter in Colorado can be ironic; warm sunshine and cold air. Sunscreen and sunglasses are a must for Coloradans year round. Snow when it falls around town, can melt away in a day.