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Packing Like A Pro: What to bring on a Colorado road trip

It was Memorial Day, the unofficial kickoff to summer, and my family and I were already in our warm-weather wonderland: the Rocky Mountains. We were on our way back from a mountain biking trip on the Western Slope. My 12-year-old daughter, Dillon, and 10-year-old son, Harper, were dozing off …until we heard a “pop!” And another “pop!” And another. Suddenly, Harper’s bike, which had been strapped to my paddleboard was dangling along the right side of our 4Runner, pedals lining up with Harper’s nose.


What to do? We were on I-70, cars and trucks whizzing past. We were in the midst of a crucial Colorado lesson: pack the right stuff for a road trip, please.


Beyond the obvious bikes, boards, helmets, first-aid kits (and…oh yeah, the kids) be sure to begin with straps—lots of them. Sure, you’ve got the bike rack, the roof box, and maybe even something affixed to the front and undercarriage but Colorado road trips inevitably involve more gear than a NASA mission, which means ratchet straps and tie downs. They’ll come in handy when you pull off the highway to make adjustments, as well as, printed directions and maps to your destination. You never know what kind of service you’ll have in the mountains. While you’re at it, download music and movies, and bring more chargers than you need.


I have a strict rule for my 2008 SUV: no food—unless, that is, four of us are hurtling to the mountains. In that case, I capitulate to Cap’n Crunch, gummi bears, Takis and Doritos, along with the more sensible snacking choices of granola bars, jerky and electrolyte-infused water. Remember food for Fido, too, and a collapsible water bowl for rest stops on the road or on the trail. Also, my husband reminds readers to have planned stops on hand, to avoid running out of gas, running out of patience, or running out of clean underwear.


The remaining essentials are extra sunglasses, sunscreen and hiking shoes (plus, for the flip side of fickle Mother Nature, raincoats and a couple of old towels). All of these should fit tidily into one small, lidded bin that you can tuck on top of everything else. And if you see a mountain bike dangling from a 4Runner on I-70, steer clear—or at least stop and offer us a cold beer.




Sarah Tuff Dunn recently moved to Louisville, Colorado, with her husband, Carlton, and their two children, Dillon, 12, and Harper, 10. They’re looking forward to exploring the world-class skiing in Colorado, aided by the Colorado Ski Country 5th and 6th Grade Passport Program. Sarah has been writing professionally for nearly 25 years and her work has appeared in The New York Times, SKI, Skiing and Powder, among other publications. Read more of Sarah’s stories here and follow along with her Colorado skiing journey here