As noted in our post about planning the Tour du Mont Blanc, we strove for a balance in our packing. We wanted to carry little so we would have energy for side trips and explorations. We also wanted to carry enough that we weren’t committed to doing laundry every day or worried about clothes drying.
For us, that meant carrying enough clothes for half of the trip, with some re-wearing, and doing laundry at the midway point. We ended up doing laundry more often early in the trip, especially when we had sunny days and good places to dry clothes. We did laundry less often toward the end, since we knew we had sufficient clothes and also because we had rainier weather on the second half.
An advantage of being a pair was that we could share some gear. I tended to carry the “information” (book, map, Garmin) while Kyle carried some of the other resources (e.g., sunscreen, water filter).
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Sean’s packing list
For my bag, I had hoped to fit everything into my larger day pack bag, an Osprey Stratos 36. Extra camera gear would have made that challenging, so instead I used an Osprey Kestrel 48 (Amazon). It was a great size for the Tour du Mont Blanc: enough room to store everything and to get stuff in and out, without being too big. Based on other hikers we saw on the trail, I wasn’t the only one to come to this conclusion.
For stuff sacks, I like Sea to Summit’s ultra sil bags (Amazon) for their weight, but ALPS Mountaineering’s product (Amazon) feels sturdier and its straps are easier to work with.
- Passport, wallet, and cash in a small SealLine waterproof case (Amazon)
- Tour du Mont Blanc guidebook (Amazon) and printed copies of reservations in a large SealLine waterproof case (Amazon). In hindsight, we should have just bought the Kindle version on our phones/iPad.
- iPad mini (as an e-reader, in lieu of books) and a map in an XL SealLine waterproof case (Amazon)
- Garmin inReach Explorer+ satellite communication device (Amazon). I bought it as a device I hoped to never use. Now, I really appreciate having it running in the background as an occasional navigation aide and to use the GPS traces to help tag my photos. See our notes on why we bought the inReach and what it’s been like to use it for a year.
- Clothing in a stuff sack.
- 3 polypro wicking short sleeve shirts (e.g., Adidas Climapro)
- 1 Smartwool – Merino 150 short sleeve shirt (Amazon). This resisted odors better than the the polypro shirts.
- 1 half-zip fleece (Amazon). This was part of my layering strategy for the trail, but warm days meant I wore it only as a cozy layer at night and in the morning.
- 2 long sleeve wicking shirts. I probably could have gotten away with one.
- 1 pair of REI Endeavor zip-off pants. I love these convertible pants. They were what I primarily wore on the trail even though I’ve worn them until they are falling apart. Sadly and inexplicably, REI discontinued them.
- 1 pair of Outdoor Research Ferrosi pants (Amazon). There were my backups for hiking and my morning/evening wear.
- Leggings. Happily, I didn’t have to use these on our trip.
- Eddie Bauer Downlight StormDown Jacket (Amazon). Another one I carry for layering, though our week was so warm that I think I only wore it one morning for sunrise. It folds delightfully small, but it does shed down.
- Sleep stuff in a zip loc bag
- A cotton t-shirt
- Gym shorts
- Sea to Summit Traveler liner (Amazon). Sleep liners were mandatory in most refuges and hostels. The traveler version of the liner is a bit bigger than their mummy liner, but it has the benefit of having a pillow pocket. This is useful since refuges and hostels we stayed at provided pillows. I would have been too hot even in my summer sleeping bag, which also would have been heavier and bulkier to carry.
- Socks and underwear in a stuff sack.
- 5 pairs of hiking socks
- 5 pairs of liners. I currently prefer the FoxRiver liners (Amazon) since they are light and their seams are minimal.
- Buff (Amazon): Good for when I don’t want to wear a hat, as a backup if my hat ever blows away, and to keep my neck warm.
- Sun hat: I like the Outdoor Research Transit (Amazon); it offers reasonable coverage and breathability.
- Rain coat: I use an Arc’teryx Beta Lt Hybrid Jacket (Amazon). It’s pricey but lightweight and effective.
- Gaiters: I’ve been very happy with the Outdoor Research Crocodiles (Amazon), but I didn’t end up using these. The trail was sufficiently solid and wide that they never seemed worth putting on.
- Traction devices: We use Hillsound Trail Crampons (Amazon). They have a bit more bite than micro spikes but are still pretty light. We used them on snowfields on three occasions, more for convenience than safety.
- Standard trail stuff, in a mesh sack:
- Water bladder – I used a 2L Platypus (Amazon). I also carried an auxiliary 1L bladder that I didn’t end up using since streams were flowing well enough that we could count on refills as needed.
- Snack / energy bars: one per day, as a supplement to lunch stops or packed lunches.
- Electronics pouch: plug adapter, multiport USB charger (Amazon), battery (Amazon), charging cables
- Toiletries: deodorant, nail trimmers, hand sanitizer, toothbrush, toothpaste, backup sunscreen, ear plugs.
- Towel: I use an REI Large pack towel.
- Sandals: Teva Hurricane 4s (Amazon). I used these as shoes for the refuges and hotels in the evening. Most refuges provide slippers for use inside; most hotels do not. The Tevas also doubled as my plan for shoes for crossing any rocky streams, though sufficient bridges were in place that this turned out to be unnecessary.
- Cameras. Right before this trip, I switched to an Olympus OMD EM-5 Mark II (Amazon), which I normally carried on a Peak Design Capture Clip (Amazon). Not completely confident in it yet, I also carried my old RX100. I also carried a charger and spare battery for the Olympus; the RX100 supported in-camera charging via USB.
- Trekking Poles. I’ve been very happy with my Black Diamond collapsible poles (Amazon)
- Clothing in a stuff sack.
Kyle’s packing list
I carried my usual backpack — an Osprey Atmos 65 AG Pack (Amazon) — and vowed not to purchase a bag specifically for this trip. While large, it organizes and condenses well for 30-35 lb. loads.
- Passport, wallet, cash, and iPad Pro (as an e-reader) in an XL SealLine waterproof e-case (Amazon)
- Clothing in 2 stuff sacks:
- 2 synthetic wicking short sleeve shirts, e.g., Marmot Windridge (Amazon).
- 1 Smartwool NTS Micro 150 combo short sleeve shirt (Amazon). This resisted odor far better than my synthetic shirts, and it dried very quickly. In hindsight, I would bring 2-3 of these and no synthetic shirts.
- 1 half-zip fleece (Amazon). This was part of my layering strategy for the trail, but warm days meant I wore it as a cozy layer at night and in the morning.
- 2 long sleeve wicking shirts. I probably should have packed only one. The Smartwool PhD Ultra Light LS (Amazon) is my favorite. It resists odor longer than the Mountain Hardwear Butterman Crew (Amazon).
- 1 pair of Mountain Hardwear Right Bank shorts (Amazon). I bought these on sale shortly before the trip and ended up wearing them 9 out of 10 days. They are incredibly lightweight and comfortable, and very easy to wash and dry in your room.
- 1 pair of Arcteryx Lefroy pants (Amazon) as a backup for cold days. I love these pants for their durability, stain and water resistance, and comfort while wearing a pack, due to the integrated belt.
- Icebreaker Oasis Leggings (Amazon) in case of cold weather
- A comfortable t-shirt for evenings/sleeping: the Patagonia S/S Nine Trails Shirt
- Gym shorts
- Sea to Summit Mummy liner (Amazon). Sleep liners were mandatory in most refuges and hostels. I bought this mummy-style liner to re-use with my sleeping bag (later in the season), but it is not ideal for use on its own if you want to avoid tossing and turning onto the dirty refuge/hotel pillow at night. Packing your own pillow, get Sean’s traveler-style liner, or cinch the mummy hood tightly around you if that doesn’t bother you. As Sean mentions, it was too hot for a full sleeping bag, so this liner was a very good idea and much more lightweight.
- Underwear: 1 Icebreaker Anatomica merino wool boxer (Amazon), 4 synthetic. This was my first experience with the popular Icebreaker boxer, and I enjoyed the benefits of merino enough to buy more in the future.
- 3 pairs of hiking socks. I love socks from Darn Tough for their comfort and durability. I packed a mix of the “Light Hiker Micro Crew Light Cushion” (Amazon) and “Hiker Micro Crew Cushion” (Amazon) and was able to keep at least one pair clean and dry each day.
- 4 pairs of liners (+1 additional as backup). I really like the FoxRiver X-Static liners (Amazon) since they are lightweight, have minimal seams, and produce minimal friction with merino wool socks. I also packed a pair of REI Co-op Merino Wool liners, but they are thicker and were not as comfortable after 8 hours. As for the backup pair, turns out I did not need it (my 4 base pairs survived and did not develop any holes).
- Buff (Amazon): I used to keep my neck warm on our rainy day. It’s also good for when I don’t want to wear a hat or as a backup if my hat ever blows away.
- Sun hat from REI
- Sunglasses + cleaning cloth
- Synthetic insulated jacket (REI puffy) just in case of really cold weather. I used this more than my fleece. With the weather we had, I could have omitted the fleece altogether.
- Rain coat: I use an Arc’teryx Alpha FL Jacket (Amazon), which is expensive but incredibly lightweight and effective.
- Gaiters: We bought Outdoor Research Crocodiles for our trip to Scotland. I brought them for the Tour do Mont Blanc, but, like Sean, I didn’t end up using them on this trip.
- Traction devices: Hillsound Trail Crampons (Amazon).
- Standard trail stuff, in one of my pack pockets:
- Water bladder – I used a 2L Platypus (Amazon). Like Sean, I also carried an auxiliary 1L bladder that I didn’t end up using.
- Snack / energy bars: one per day. I snack frequently and carried a mix of Nature Valley, Cliff Energy Bars, and Cliff Builder Bars. I also ate some of Sean’s bar supply.
- Electronics pouch: USB charging adapter, battery, 2 lightning cables, headphones, earplugs
- Toiletries: body powder (for foot emergencies), deodorant, face wipes, laundry detergent sheets, nail trimmers, hand sanitizer, shampoo, soap, toothbrush, toothpaste
- Towel: Packtowl Ultralight large (Amazon), now 3 years old but still going strong
- Sun protection: 1 large Sawyer Stay-Put SPF50 sunscreen (shared; Amazon) and 1 chapstick. Over the course of the trip, the two of us used at least 75% of the 8-ounce bottle. This sunscreen goes on thick but, as advertised, seems to last longer than other suncreens we have used.
- Sandals: Teva Hurricane 4s (Amazon) for evenings and mornings at refuges and hotels.
- Trekking Poles. Black Diamond collapsible poles (Amazon)
- Clothing in 2 stuff sacks:
As with most hiking trips, hope for sun but be prepared for a range of weather conditions. We were happy to not have had to use some of what we brought!
This post is part of several covering our hike of the Tour du Mont Blanc. For more, see planning the Tour du Mont Blanc or our notes and photos by day:
- 0-2: A Day in Chamonix, Les Houches – La Flégère – Trient
- 3-5: Champex – La Fouly and the Swiss Val Ferret – Col du Grand Ferret and the Italian Val Ferret
- 6-8: Mont de La Saxe and Courmayeur – Rifugio Elisabetta – Les Chapieux and Croix du Bonhomme
- 9-10: Tête Nord des Fours – Lacs Jovet – Les Contamines – Col du Tricot – Les Houches