The high mountain huts on the Tour du Mont Blanc trail have a few do’s and don’t. It’s good to know these in advance so you can prepare yourself beforehand and know what to expect when you arrive wearily at your first refuge on the trail.
No hiking boots inside
This is most important rule the TMB high mountain refuges have and one that is insisted on in all refuges. Hikers must leave their hiking boots (whether muddy or not) outside before entering the refuge. You can then swap your hiking boots for a pair of crocs which are provided by the refuge.
Most refuges will have a boot room where you can store your hiking boots overnight. Smaller refuges will have a series of shelves in the corridor or entry hall.
All TMB refuges provide crocs in a variety of sizes, so you should be able to find some your size, or at worst find a pair too big for you that you can slop around in during your overnight stay.
If the idea of sharing a pair of crocs that have a different host every night, then be sure to pack your own overnight shoes. A pair of slippers or flip flops will do.
You might be able to afford the luxury of your own evening shoes if you have paid for baggage transfers, however remember that if you plan to carry everything for the trek on your own back, overnight refuge shoes might not be your priority.
Bring a sleeping bag liner
In every single Tour du Mont Blanc refuge you will be required to bring your own sleeping bag liner or rent one from the refuge.
The reason for this is that the high altitude huts don’t have the facilities or man power to wash duvet covers and pillows after hikers, only staying for one night, have passed through their doors. If you think about it, with each hiker staying only one night, for some of the bigger refuges that would be A LOT of washing. Plus some refuges have limited water supply.
It costs around €3 a night to rent a ‘drap de sac‘ or you can buy one new from the refuges for around €10.
However, I’d recommend you buy your own sleeping bag liner before you embark on this epic long distance trekking trail. Personally I’d go for a bit of luxury and buy a silk sleeping bag liner. Yes, they are a lot more expensive but with this comes the advantage of being super lightweight.
For example a cotton sleeping bag liner weights approximately xxxg whereas a silk sleeping bag liner weights around xxx. Thats a xxxg saving – a lot if you’re carrying everything yourself. You can also buy synthetic sleeping bag liners which are less expensive.
Order next day’s packed lunch before dinner
Refuges have a cut off point when you need to order your next day’s pique nique, your packed lunch. Sometimes this is just the evening before, sometimes it’s earlier in the evening say 9pm. To be safe be sure to order yours before dinner. Don’t count on getting the kitchen to prepare one for you in the morning if you forgot. They won’t.
Pique nique’s in general on the Tour are pretty good. Expect a sandwich, ‘chips’ (crisps to our UK readers), a piece of fruit, and a chocolate bar. Some provide hard boiled eggs or a piece of cheese.
The Bonatti refuge’s pique nique is excellent and comes with their own branded Italian chocolate and individual panettone. Don’t miss it. They are a couple of wonderful souvenirs right there if you can manage to not wolf it down and/or keep it from getting squished in your pack.
Do not buy the pique nique from Refuge du Croix du Bonhomme – their food is not the best – stock up in Les Contamines for some cured ham, cheese & dried fruit to keep you going through to Les Chapieux.
Pay for your bill before bedtime
It is expected that you will pay your bill before settling down to sleep rather than in the morning before leaving early on the trail. Make sure you have cash to pay with. Most of the refuges don’t accept credit or debit cards. All the refuges in all three countries will accept euros, even Switzerland (although sometimes they may give you change in Swiss francs).