The packing process for the Tour du Mont Blanc is a delicate thing, coming from someone who’s been there, done that. But you can save time, energy and frustration by adhering to my packing list below!
You’ll want to bring enough so that you can happily experience this hike of a lifetime, but you don’t want to pack so much to the point that you’re struggling out there on the trails. You’ll have the option to pay for luggage transfer, which is helpful should you want to bring more luxury items. The list below is geared towards individuals who are opting out of luggage transfer, so it’ll be the bare minimum you’ll need to be comfortable out there.
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Backpacking pack | For multi-day or weeklong backpacking trips where you’ll be carrying all of your gear, you’re going to want to go with something ranging from 50 to 80 liters. I am a huge fan of Osprey bags due to their genius design and high quality (they are my personal favorites)! One great thing about the Osprey Aura (women) and the Osprey Atmos (men) is that you can remove the top lid for shorter hikes, thereby turning them into a smaller, less bulky packs. I went with the Osprey Aura for the TMB.
Daypack and rain cover | If you’re going ultralight or getting luggage transfer, a 35-45L backpack is ideal. My friend who was opting in for luggage transfer used the Osprey Kyte 36 on the trail, which was perfect in size for the amount of gear she had for the day.
Rain Cover | If your backpack doesn’t come with a rain cover, the Osprey Ultralight Rain Cover is a good one to consider getting. A rain cover is essential, given the unpredictability of mountain weather. (Though we went on our trek in late July, it rained the day before we started our trek, as well as on day 7 of our trek).
Overnight Bag or Luggage | Some sort of wheeled duffel bag or carry-on luggage to hold all of the extra gear you don’t want to carry on your back as you hike. You’ll only need this if you’re opting for luggage transfer. Likely, your overnight bag will need to stay under 25 pounds (for most baggage operators). Keep in mind you won’t have access to this during the day.
Rain Shell/Jacket | Definitely necessary to be prepared for rain as it’s likely to come and go in the Alps. I’d go with a rainshell, as it’s more lightweight. You won’t actually need warmth since you’ll be hiking and getting sweaty. I like this Marmot rainshell, it’s lightweight and pretty breathable. For a more affordable option, I’d go with this one by Columbia for women. This one for men is a reliable bestseller.
Trekking Poles | A must-have item if you want to save your legs from torture. I brought my trusty Komperdell Hiking Poles with me and they were nothing but reliable. There are other great, cheaper options as well!
3 Moisture-Wicking Shirts | Merino wool tops are your best option. They’re able to keep you warm on those cooler mornings and keep you cool throughout those warmer afternoons. Plus, you can wear them the next day and they won’t be stinky! I brought a long-sleeved one from Smartwool (protects you from the flies as well as all that sun exposure), but there are short-sleeved options as well.
3 Pairs of Hiking Pants | My favorite pairs for women include the Prana Meme or the Prana Halle since they have a more modern, tapered look to them. I also brought a pair of Arc’teryx Gamma LT’s with me. In terms of hiking pants for men, I hear great things about the Prana Stretch Zion. I also found that the 1 pair of hiking shorts I brought came in handy for the warmer days (I wore these about 3 times). Alternatively, zip off pants work well if you want to kill two birds with one stone.
1 Lightweight Fleece/Hoodie | Trust me, mornings and nights in the Alps will be chilly, even in the middle of summer. I love, love, love my trusty Patagonia Better Sweater for its warmth factor. For something more affordable, I’d go with this one by Columbia. If you don’t already own a fleece jacket or a rain shell, this jacket might be a good option since it’s an interchangeable 2-in-1!
2-3 Sports Bras | Some days you might be too lazy or tired to want to do post-hike laundry. I found 3 to be the perfect amount of sports bras to have.
Waterproof Pants | If you want to be extra prepared for rain, I like this pair, being the best bang for your buck. Since you probably won’t be wearing them too often, they don’t need to be super high tech or expensive. Alternatively, if you don’t mind a little wetness, you can just buy a disposable poncho that’s long enough to shield your legs from the rain.
3 Pairs of Hiking Socks | I brought medium weight wool socks. These socks provide a good amount of cushioning in the heel and ball of the foot for hiking and backpacking. You can also go with lightweight wool socks as well, but note they are relatively thin with some light cushioning in key places like the heel and ball of the foot. Similar to the wool tops, wool socks can be worn multiple times in between washes, which is perfect because you don’t want to be lugging around 10 pairs of anything in your backpack.
1-2 Pairs of Sock Liners | Don’t forget these! I wore sock liners and got zero blisters. My friend did not wear sock liners and ended up with 6 bubbly blisters on one foot… better to be safe than sorry.
Sunhat/Cap | You will definitely want to get a hat for the TMB as you’ll be hiking under the sun for hours on end. Protect your face!
Warm Hat/Gloves | A pair of gloves and a light beanie are good to have just in case. Though we hiked in late July, there were definitely some cooler mornings (when we started hiking before 8am) where the gloves really came in handy.
1 Nicer Outfit/Dress | Optional, only if you want to dress up a bit after hiking in the fancier alpine villages.
Quick-Drying Camp Towel | Lightweight and quick-drying, what else could you ask for? Not all of the accommodations you stay at will provide you with towels, so do bring one of your own. I have this one.
1 Swimsuit | Optional, only needed if you are going to swim in alpine lakes or pools for fun.
Sleeping Bag Liner | This is required by the mountain huts. You might not need this for hotels, but some of the beds in the refuges and mountain huts do not come with sheets (gross). For hygienic purposes and germaphobic sanity, get a liner. If you’re trying to invest in your outdoor gear and would like something more lightweight with added warmth, I would recommend splurging on the Sea To Summit Reactor Thermolite liner, which you can use for other backpacking/camping trips. For a more affordable option, this one will do just fine.
Casual Loungewear/PJ’s | A good pair of stretchy leggings can double as sleeping pants as well as hiking pants. I brought my Lululemon leggings, which I hiked in on certain days and slept in for others. They really are that comfortable! As I was carrying everything on my back, I didn’t bother with a separate set of pajamas.
Flip Flops/Slippers | For showering in the communal showers and for hanging out in the huts. Some huts won’t allow you to wear your hiking boots around indoors, but they have communal Crocs that you can borrow. If you can make one pair of shoes count for both purposes, even better. You’ll also want a comfortable, lighter pair of running shoes (such as the Adidas Women’s Cloudfoam Pure) to give your feet a rest from the hiking boots.
Kindle/Books | You will find that you’ll have a lot of downtime once you finish hiking for the day. If you enjoy reading, bring a book or a Kindle.
Nuun Tablets | You’ll be burning so many calories and sweating out so much. Take some electrolyte tablets with your water to replenish your body throughout the day. If you’re bringing a hydration reservoir system, you might want to bring a water bottle as well for this.
Water Reservoir | Bring a reservoir with a bite valve and stick it in your backpack for easy access to water while hiking. A 2-liter reservoir will do just fine as there are always places to refill water along the trail.
Stinger Waffles | My absolute favorite way to get quick energy. Stinger waffles taste SO GOOD.
Stinger Energy Chews | They’re like little candy gummies, and they really do give you fast energy when you start to feel drained or sluggish while hiking. One girl in our group bought 8 packs and shared with the others. Motivation by food, it was great.
Laundry Soap | Bring a super-concentrated soap so you can do your own laundry at the huts/hotels. Your clothes will be stinky, and you will definitely want to wash things.
Compeed Blister Cushions | In case of blisters, it’s great to have these assorted blister bandaids on hand.
Eye Mask and Ear Plugs | Must, must, must! Some mountain huts/shared rooms get loud with the snoring, so bringing an eye mask set is essential.
Sunscreen | Very, very important to have as you’ll be applying sunscreen multiple times a day. Don’t forget your ears (this was the only place where I almost burned)!
All Other Toiletries | All the usuals for showering, oral hygiene, etc. You know what you typically need better than I do!
Travel Documents | Airline tickets, printed out confirmations/itineraries, valid passport, extra passport photos.
Money | Local currency and bank cards. You’ll need euros for France and Italy, Swiss francs for Switzerland.
Packing Cubes | Packing cubes are definitely necessary to compartmentalize everything and make things easier to find, especially when you don’t feel like digging or removing all contents from inside your backpack each time you want to get something out. They are a game changer!
Travel Adapter | This one here is tried and trusted. It got me through my 3.5 months in Europe without any issues.
Power Bank | Some refuges will shut off their power at a specific time after dinner. Others will only have chargers in the communal dining area (you’ll be fighting with other guests to get a spot to plug your phone/camera in). If you’ll be relying on your electronics, don’t forget the external battery. The more compact the better.
Plastic Bags | For garbage of all sorts. There will not be garbage cans on the trail and you will need to carry your trash until you reach the next refuge or town.
Mini First Aid Kit | If you’re going with a guided tour, your guide will likely have this. If you’re doing self-guided, make sure you remember to bring one.
Medications | Make sure you bring ibuprofen for the ongoing soreness that’ll develop as you hike, EpiPens/allergy pills for allergies, as well as whatever else is necessary.
Sunglasses | It’s sunny on the trails.
Headlamp | (Optional) In some mountain huts, the bathrooms are in a separate building than where you’ll be sleeping. If you use the bathroom in the middle of the night, you may need this. Or use your phone’s light.
Massage Ball | Best thing in my bag, hands down. Roll on your legs, upper back, and under your feet whenever you have downtime to undo that tension and soreness you’ve built up over the course of the day. Bring this one, or if you’re going with friends, bring a 3-pack and share with your friends!
Journal | Lots of downtime after hiking and before bed to record your experiences and memories!
Tissues/Wipes | Always a good idea.
Things I Didn’t Need (Optional)
Insect Repellent | I asked my guide about this, and he noted because we were that high up, mosquitos are not really a thing. From personal experience, there weren’t any mosquitos on the trail. However, there was one occasion where I was hiking while wearing shorts and felt something ‘bite’ my calf, resulting in a few itchy red bites that went away overnight. There are a lot of flying creatures on the trail, but very little of them actually want to eat you.
Fancy Thermal/Wool Underwear | If you don’t own these, save your money. Regular undies did just fine for me.
Now that you know precisely what gear to bring for your Tour du Mont Blanc trek, head on over to read my post on how the actual TMB experience went. Happy hiking!
Tour Du Mont Blanc Trekking Guidebooks