How to pack for Santa Fe weather

There is often confusion about Santa Fe weather. It’s important to know that all deserts are not created equal. For some reason, people equate the climate in New Mexico’s capital city with that of Phoenix, Arizona. As a result, they sometimes arrive in Santa Fe with the wrong clothes in their suitcases. At 7,000 feet, The City Different is high desert with four distinct seasons. It’s also very dry. One of the benefits of the lack of moisture is that you don’t notice the cold so much and the heat is easier to take. It rarely gets into the 90s in summer and evenings always cool off, often into the 60s. A common question from visitors is, “What should I pack”?

Northern New Mexico's high desert

Northern New Mexico's high desert has four distinct seasons, photo/Steve Collins

Santa Fe is a casual place when it comes to dressing, as is much of the southwest. Men don’t need jackets to go to dinner at even the swankiest places; women can get away with nice jeans and a fab top. You rarely see people in dressy attire. The exceptions are formal dinners, Christmas and New Years and during opera season. Dress at the Santa Fe Opera can be extreme. You’ll see people in jeans next to others in black tie and gowns. Most people wear something in between. You can dress for your own comfort level here and get away with it.

Always pack a hat. In warmer weather it will protect you from the sun and in winter from the cold. Bring sunscreen year round. For people who live at sea level, it’s important to remember that Santa Fe is 7,000 feet closer to the sun and the air is thinner. The end result is you burn faster. The other must-haves for this high and dry climate are a good moisturizer, skin lotion and lip balm. You will use more than you could ever imagine.

Here is a four-season guide to packing for your trip to Santa Fe. Treat these suggestions as guidelines and pack for your own style and comfort.

Winter:

The trick to dressing in Santa Fe is layers. Even in winter, there are warm sunny days where a sweater is enough during the day, but warmer clothing is needed when the sun sets. Also, windy days call for more outerwear. Be sure to bring a hat, gloves and boots or shoes that work in snow. If you plan to ski, hike, snowshoe etc. bring long underwear and appropriate outerwear.

Santa Fe skiing

If you plan on skiing while in Santa Fe, bring some really warm clothing photo/Joy C. Frank-Collins

Spring:

Again, layering is essential. Some of the heaviest snows can come in late March, through April and sometimes there is even snow in early May. Again, layering is key. It’s not unusual to have days in the 60s in early spring. Sixty here feels warmer than the same temperature in a damper climate. Throw a pair of linen or lightweight pants or skirt and a lightweight top or two in your suitcase. You’ll see sandals, slides and mules on feet when the weather starts to warm up.

Spring in Santa Fe

Flowers announce the arrival of spring and mostly mild weather in Santa Fe, photo Steve Collins

Summer:

During the day, shorts or linen or lightweight pants, skirts, sundresses and other typical summer gear are appropriate. The nights get cool and you will want something warmer with you. If you go higher up in the mountains, you may need a sweater during the day as the temperatures can be twenty or so degrees cooler. Also, bring an umbrella. July and August are referred to as “monsoon season”. The typical weather pattern can include heavy thundershowers late afternoon or early evening, which can last a brief minute or even an hour or more. The temperature can drop 20° in a matter of minutes, so be prepared. Also, because of the sun, don’t forget your hat.

The Opera is a popular summer activity in Santa Fe

Dress at The Santa Fe Opera is eclectic, bring a sweater, evenings can get chilly, photo/ Steve Collins

 Fall:

This might be the best time of year, weather wise in Santa Fe. The temperatures tend to be mild, the days sunny and the nights crisp and cool to cold. Again, layering is the key. Sandals are still appropriate, but you want closed toe shoes, too. A heavy sweater or coat may be needed in the evening. During the day, shirt sleeves to a light sweater should suffice.

The aspens are turning in Santa Fe

In fall Santa Fe can get warm days, but evenings are chilly. Get out and see the aspens, photo/Steve Collins

Don’t worry, if you forget something, the airline loses your luggage or the weather brings some surprises, you’ll have a welcome excuse to hit the shops and add to your wardrobe.

For more information on Santa Fe Travel, contact The Santa Fe Traveler. We’re here to meet all of your Santa Fe travel needs.

 

 

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8 Responses to “How to pack for Santa Fe weather”

  1. Karen D.
    October 24, 2019 at 5:34 pm #

    Concise and useful! Bravo!

    • Billie Frank
      October 25, 2019 at 8:28 am #

      Thanks! If anyone knows about how to dress for the outdoors here, it’s you!

  2. Anne T.
    October 24, 2019 at 6:01 pm #

    Perfect timing for this topic! We are heading there next week and have been following the weather to see what to pack - but it has been changing back and forth daily! We will stick to layering and your tips. Thanks!

    • Billie Frank
      October 25, 2019 at 8:21 am #

      Right now, Annie, it’s unseasonably warm. Still mostly short-sleeve and sandal weather- 50s predicted for daytime part of this week to keep us on our toes. Use the layering theory, but start with short sleeves and end up with sweaters and a light jacket. Throw a pair of gloves in the suitcase in case it really cools off. Predicting the weather here at the moment is as challenging as picking a Derby winner.

  3. Murr Brewster
    October 25, 2019 at 12:27 am #

    After my recent visit, I’m wondering how to tell what season it is. THEN I’ll be able to properly pack for it!

  4. Charles Higgins
    October 25, 2019 at 11:27 pm #

    Useful tips for Santa Fe visitors…

    Cheers..

    • Billie Frank
      October 26, 2019 at 6:55 am #

      Thanks, Charles. We knew that this was a question for many Santa Fe bound visitors. Figured we’d weigh in. Cheers!

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