8 Practical Tips To Conquer The Tour Du Mont Blanc Hike
You’re familiar with what to expect of the Tour Du Mont Blanc from a mileage perspective, good. You’re familiar with what to pack, great. What about gathering learnings from people who’ve done it in the past? In this post, I’ll reveal my top 8 practical tips to conquering the Tour Du Mont Blanc so you can have the best possible time on this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
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This trek is not a walk in the park.
Just because the Tour Du Mont Blanc is categorized as a “walking holiday”, does not mean it is going to be a week-long stroll through the rolling hills of the Alps. No, no, no. I mean yes, you will be walking, and yes it is a “holiday” because you’ll be taking time off work to do this, but by no means is it easy.
Day after day, you’ll encounter some other body part that’ll be extremely sore from either trudging up mountains or from carrying your pack all day long. Trust me, you will be putting in work. So make sure your body is prepared and that your fitness level is where you’d like it to be. Having some training/getting your body use to the movements and the daily mileage requirements will make your experience that much better.
Don’t overpack on clothes.
Due to the proximity of the towns and villages, you’ll end up in on various legs of your trek, there will be access to laundry facilities. If there are no laundry facilities around, all you really need is wilderness washing detergent and a sink. So pack light. The best way of doing that is to minimize the amount of clothing you bring. You can definitely get away with 2-3 pairs of pants, 2-3 shirts, and 3-4 socks, underwear, and sports bras. Some people in my hiking group carried way less and had no issues with running out of clothes, as long as you stay diligent about washing/drying them in time for their next use.
Pack as light as possible.
Depending on the number of overnight stops you plan on making for the TMB (this typically ranges from 6-12 days), you will be hiking 6-10 hours non-stop each day. If you’re hiking the Tour Du Mont Blanc without some sort of paid luggage transfer (aka carrying all your belongings on your back), remember that backpack weight will be with you every step of the way. If you have to ask yourself whether or not you will need an item, chances are you won’t.
Saving pack weight on food
If you’re going to be staying in mountain huts, chalets, refugios, or hotels, then you won’t need to carry too much food– just lunch and snacks. Another option to packing a lunch: buy lunch at the mountain huts/refuges you encounter throughout the hike (the food is actually good).
My favorite on-the-go snacks for this trek include Honey Stinger Waffles and Honey Stinger Organic Energy Chews. Not only are they super light, portable and mess-free, but they’re also meant to be consumed before and even during physical activity. The great thing about them is that they don’t melt or crumble into a mess if stuffed carelessly in your bag.
Saving pack weight on camping gear
You also won’t need to be carrying a tent or sleeping bag, which will lighten your load significantly. However, if you plan on camping throughout the trek, then attempt to get “ultralight”/“backpacking” versions of everything you need.
Carry cash with you.
Along the Tour du Mont Blanc, most of the places you’ll stop do not accept credit cards. You should bring cash with you here if you plan on getting any of the following: an espresso or other beverage, pastry, lunch, post-hike beer/wine, etc. In my opinion, trying the local food here is part of the experience! Bringing euros is highly recommended (no need to get francs–you can use euros even at the Switzerland portion of the trek).
How much is enough? My hiking guide told us to be prepared and assume we’ll need 20-30 euros per day. You can always use the extra at a gift shop or at the airport later anyway.
If you’re not a breakfast person, you still have to eat.
And eat a lot. Stocking up on those calories is important for not only your energy levels but also for your endurance. Shortly after you begin your day, you will be burning hundreds of calories each hour.
Many mornings during my trek, I had no appetite. After all, we were waking up and eating communal breakfast before 7:00 am (not something I typically do in my everyday life). But because I knew I was going to be hiking up and through mountain passes, I knew I would need energy reserves. So three slices of buttered toast with jam it was! If you’re worried about the calories, don’t. You’ll be amazed by how all the carbs will burn right off as you continue hiking. I actually ended up losing fat and gaining a bunch of muscle on this trek despite all the carbo-loading I was doing (mmm… all the fresh bread, pastries, energy bars, pasta, and cheeses!).
Prepare some sort of activity for your down-time.
Upon reaching your next accommodation after a day of intense hiking, you will find a bunch of down time to relax and essentially do whatever you like. This is your zen time, you earned it! You should consider bringing reading or writing materials to pass the time by. I spent a lot of time hanging out and chatting with my hiking group mates, but there were definitely times when I tucked myself in a corner to enjoy the book I had brought along with me.
If you plan on staying in mountain huts, bring a sleeping sheet.
If you are a germaphobe and can avoid staying in mountain huts, then I’d recommend staying in an auberge or hotel if possible. The one good thing about mountain huts is that they’re much more affordable and won’t break the bank. Mountain huts typically consist of one large room filled with many beds/mattresses lined against a wall. The turnover rate of hikers staying in those beds is extremely high–usually one night and they’re out.
With such a high turnover rate, the huts likely don’t have time to wash the sheets, blankets, or pillows after each individual use. Do yourself a favor and bring a sleeping sheet. Mentally and hygienically, you will feel so much better about your night’s rest.
Take care of your feet.
The moment you start feeling a potential blister coming on, take care of it! Especially in the early stages of your trek–remember that the TMB is a marathon. Blisters can be common; either your feet may not be used to so much continuous walking at one time, or maybe you didn’t have enough time to fully break your hiking boots in. Treat them with blister cushions! This is a TMB essential in my opinion. Even if you don’t end up getting blisters, there will definitely be someone in your group who would benefit from your blister bandaids.
I’d also recommend giving your feet a break by bringing an extra pair of tennis shoes for lounging at the refuges/hotels. Some refuges also provide slippers or crocs for you to borrow during your time there, but you should bring your own if you have space. Your feet are so important in this trek; the last thing you want is to experience pain and raw abrasion with every step you take.
The Tour Du Mont Blanc Packing Guide – Essentials
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 0 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.
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.
Tour Du Mont Blanc Trekking Guidebooks
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