College in Colorado: What to Pack, What to Leave Behind

Posted by Kate C on May 24, 2016 12:40:15 PM


Heading off to a college in Colorado?

Good for you!

Have you picked the college in Colorado that is right for you?

If not,

you can get a better handle on it by reading "How to Choose a College in Colorado", it will get you pointed in the right direction! 

If so,

congratulations! You have made it past all those hurdles. The ACTs. The advanced placement exams. The admissions process. Whew!

You made it through all of that, and now you’re starting the adventure of a lifetime. New experiences. New friends. New recreational possibilities.

And Colorado is a great place to start that adventure with

  • World-class education
  • A wide range of sporting events
  • Recreational activities
  • Festivals
  • Tons of hiking and biking trails
  • National parks
  • And conventions – no, not the boring kind, think tech conventions or Comic Con!

And don’t forget the rugged, breathtaking scenery, scenery so remarkable that people the world over travel to see it – and even write songs about it!

All of this lies before you, just waiting for you to dive in. Only one more small thing stands in your way....

What to pack?


Sounds simple enough, doesn’t it?

After all the hoops you’ve already jumped through to get ready for your college success story – how hard can it be? Just throw a few things into a bag, right? Some clothes. Some shoes. Some personal items.

Oh, and don’t forget the other gear: your laptop, your hiking boots, an ironing board – yeah, no. No ironing board.

But, seriously, dorm rooms are notoriously tiny. You can’t just take everything from your old bedroom and hope it will all fit. Somehow. You need to narrow the list to the most essential items.

Where Should You Start?

The secret to perfect college packing is taking the time for a little introspection, and maybe a quick Google search or two.

What questions do you need to ask yourself …and Google?

  • Where in Colorado is my school located?
  • What activities are nearby?
  • Which sights do I hope to see?
  • Will I be in school in the fall and winter only, or do I plan to take classes during the summer session, too?
  • Will I be living in the dorms, or getting an apartment ... or just couch-surfing with friends?

What Items Should Definitely Make the List?

No one can answer these questions but you, of course, but once you’re through with your soul searching, keep reading. Depending on the answers you came up with to the questions above, the information below will help you fine tune your packing process.

Maybe it’s obvious, maybe it’s not, but there are some things that you simply must pack before heading out the door to college.

1.) First Aid Kit: Only the stuff you’d need for a minor emergency; your school will have a clinic for anything more serious.

  • Band-Aids
  • Over- the-counter pain medicine
  • Bug spray and sunscreen.
  • Analgesic creams can help with minor scratches or bug bites; aloe Vera gel can soothe a minor sunburn.
  • Antacids (like Tums) and your preferred stomach soother (Pepto, Imodium, etc) for an upset tummy.
  • Antibacterial gel for quick, sanitary cleanups.
  • And of course any prescription medications you take, as well.

2.) Other Basics: Things that are important, but that you can probably live without for a short while.

  • Laundry items like soap, a laundry bag, quarters for the washing machines.
  • A sturdy backpack.
  • A robe, especially if you’ll be using a shower somewhere down the hall, and a shower caddy and shower shoes.
  • Bedding should be kept simple: pillow, comforter, fitted sheets. Go European and skip the top sheet. You’ll have less laundry that way, and making your bed in the few seconds before your mother shows up to see your dorm room will be a breeze.
  • Oh, and underwear. Lots of underwear. The more pairs you have, the longer your wardrobe will last between washings and the less time you’ll spend staring at the walls in the laundromat.

How to Stock Your Fridge 

Even if you’re planning on eating at the dining commons most of the time, you’ll want some food in your room.

Regulations vary from school to school, but most universities won’t allow any kind of cooking implement with a heated surface - like hot plates, electric frying pans and even toasters – they’re just too much of a fire hazard.

3.) Dorm Food: With a microwave and a little fridge, you'll have lots of options.

  • Microwave. If it's convenient, you can bring one with you, otherwise it when you arrive or have them shipped to you. You should be able to use the campus mail stop as your shipping address.
  • One or two microwave-safe bowls or mugs.
  • Once you’re on campus you can stock your micro-fridge with fruit, milk, soda and cheese sticks.
  • Dry food like nuts, popcorn, gorp, etc.
  • Canned soups and chili make great little meals (and can help eliminate the temptation to live off of candy and Cheez-its).

BuzzFeed has a great list of dorm room recipes, including Upgraded Ramen and Pizzadilla. Check it out!


Spring Break

Depending on your preferences, you might want to go hiking, take a week off and go home to chill or maybe go to the beach... 

4.) Beach Ready: If you plan to take part in that all-American college ritual of a beach vacation, you’ll need to have a few things ready.

  • Beach bag
  • Swimsuit.
  • Sunscreen and towel.
  • Change of clothes or two, but choose things that go with your swimwear, you’ll probably have it on most of the time anyway.
  • Cell phone,
  • Your ID – just try and have a secure, inconspicuous way to carry your phone and ID.
  • Tiny travel size toiletries.
  • Flip flops or sandals.
  • A pair of baggy sweats for down time in your hotel room.
  • If you bring jewelry, think bright, cheap, disposable. After all, in all the mayhem, there's a good chance that you won't be coming home with all the stuff you packed.

Sports Gear 

Colorado offers plenty of topnotch choices for outdoor thrill seekers: hiking, skiing, rock climbing, mountain biking and river rafting, to name a few. But hauling bulky and expensive equipment through an airport can be arduous, if not downright impossible.

Once you’re on campus, storage for bulky sports equipment will be nearly nonexistent.

5: Gear: Even if you love the outdoors, pack lightly.

  • Rent at first. Try renting equipment on an as-needed basis and consider leaving your skis or your mountain bike at home.

Many resort areas have onsite rentals, and the school you’re attending might have an equipment rental program, as well.

Colorado’s (legendary!) Winters 

Colorado is a state of extremes. According to, the state averages 300 days of sunshine a year, but can also get more than 300 inches of snow in some places!

The snow usually starts flying as early as September, but, according to the site, there is snow falling somewhere in the state during nearly every month of the year.

Average summer temperatures in Aspen can fall into the 20s clear through May. And Durango doesn’t get past freezing temperatures at night until well into June. On the other hand, Denver can see temps of 90+ in the summer.

The lesson here? 

6.) L-A-Y-E-R-S: The weather can change every 15 minutes, so always think about bringing layers.

  • T-shirts
  • Tank tops
  • Sweaters
  • Jacket/parkas. A coat with a zip-out liner is a good choice because you’ll be able to use it during the rainy months as a windbreaker, then put the liner back in for the frigid winter season.
  • Hats
  • Gloves and a scarf, as well. With temperatures reported by CBS Denver in 2015 as low as 51 below zero – yes below! – you’ll want to be prepared for the worst.

Online Courses, On Campus or Both?

Have you decided whether to take the online path, courses on campus or to mix it up? Here is a pretty helpful quiz that will help you determine if online learning is right for you!

You wouldn't head off to college without a computer any more than you would head out the door without pants. That would be a disaster! Especially if you had a lot of online courses...

Here are other ways to fail your online courses without even trying!

7.) So, bring the tech: Your college should have a computer lab that's easily accessible, but having your own tech can make life easier.

  • Laptop or tablet.
  • Webcam and mic (if not installed on your laptop).
  • Headphones.
  • Smartphone. Depending on your preference of screen size, you should be able to read assignments, post questions to the class message board, and pretty much anything else needed for an online class.

What NOT to Bring

8.) What Not To Bring: Freshmen are notorious over-packers simply because they don’t yet know what they’ll need and what they won’t. We’re going to fast track you right now by telling you what not to bring.

  • Ironing board. No matter what your mother says, no, you will not need it, and even if you bring it, you will not use it.
  • Your printer. There will be printers available at the school, set up specifically for students to use.
  • Décor for your room. Sure you’ll want to express your personality in your dorm room, but your personality is changing right now, growing and expanding as you make new friends and learn new things. Let the expression of who you are unfold as the school year unfolds.
  • Anything that produces surface heat like hot plates, toaster ovens and scented candles. You really don’t want to be remembered as the kid who burned down the dorm, do you? Leave the incendiaries at home.


Wrap Up

On the first day of school at colleges across the country, you can probably stand in the quad and pick out the freshmen by the size of their pile of belongings.

So, heed this list and pack just enough of what you think you'll need.

Once you're on campus, you can scope out and see what others have, and form an opinion of what you like and don't like.

This way, you can be more nimble and make decisions on the fly instead of being stuck with what you thought you might need.

Hopefully this list was helpful! If you are still a little weary, you can take a look at The Ultimate Cheat Sheet to College Success, it'll lead you right.

As always, leave your comments below!

Topics: College Tips

Request More Information

Posts by Topic

see all

Subscribe to Email Updates