Refuge Etiquette – tips for what to expect in TMB huts

tour du mont blanc refuge etiquette

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

tour de mont blanc refuges

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.


You’ll be surprised how many hiking boots will be exactly the SAME brand and colour as yours. We know from experience! A lady had mistakenly picked up my daughter’s boots and was heading out on the trail when we worked out what had happened. She had no idea. The boots weren’t even the same shoe size. My daughter’s were a size bigger so she wouldn’t have fitted into the boots left behind. It was a close call. This happened in our FIRST TMB refuge. Our Tour du Mont Blanc trek would have been ruined. Tie the laces of your hiking boots to a friends. This way anyone thinking they might be theirs will think again.

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.

tmb refuges
Crocs are the normal indoor shoes that refuges provide for overnight guests. No hiking boots are allowed inside refuges.

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 400g whereas a silk sleeping bag liner weighs around 100g. That’s around a 300g saving – a lot if you’re carrying everything yourself. You can also buy synthetic sleeping bag liners which are less expensive.

sleeping bag liner for TMB refuges

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).


  • Heather
    November 7, 2021 at 1:03 am

    I’ve heard that the French huts require sleeping bags in addition to sleep sheets; is this true?

    • tourdumontblanchike
      April 9, 2022 at 8:03 am

      Some French refuges during covid had this requirement – namely Refuge de la Croix du Bonhomme. I hiked the trail last September without a sleeping bag and it wasn’t a problem.

  • Hannah
    July 14, 2022 at 5:45 pm

    Do all refuges have the option of using crocs/slippers provided by the refuge? A couple of the reservation confirmations we received stated “slippers required,” but didn’t mention that they provided them.

    • tourdumontblanchike
      July 16, 2022 at 7:23 am

      Hi Hannah. The only refuge I’ve stayed in so far that doesn’t offer crocs/slippers is Refuge Le Balme. Which refuges asked you to bring them?

  • Adri
    October 28, 2022 at 8:12 am

    Can I put my tent outside the refuge and then take a shower at the refuge?
    How much does it cost?

    • tourdumontblanchike
      November 27, 2022 at 11:25 am

      Hi Adri it depends which refuge. Camping is prohibited in certain areas for example it is illegal in Italy up to 2500m so for example Refugio Bonatti or Bertone would not allow it at all. I have heard of Refuge Col de la Balme allowing you to and in fact they are on the Swiss/French border and once inside France it is legal to wild camp from sundown to dawn. There are some good bivvy sites on the French side with toilets. Refuge le Balme has a bivvy site right outside and will charge a fee for use of the shower and also allows you to eat evening dinner if pre-booked. Some allow you to take a shower for a fee, others don’t.

  • Ian
    April 16, 2023 at 10:52 am

    Hi Mags, congratulations on such a good website.
    I’m hiking solo in late June. At lunchtime, do hut staff come and take your order at the tables, then bring it out, or do you have to go inside to order food/drink?
    Is it good etiquette to leave packs outside the huts?

    • tourdumontblanchike
      April 17, 2023 at 11:51 pm

      Hi Ian. Thanks. I hope it’s been helpful in your planning. It depends which refuge you eat at. Refuge Miage come out to take your order but Refuge du Col de Balme you have to go inside. Refuge Des Pres you absolutely have to order outside! They will usher you out. All the refuges are distinctly different so no particular rule there. Yes better to leave big packs outside if you’re going inside to order. Have a great trek!

  • Sherry
    June 5, 2023 at 9:39 pm

    Hi: thx for all the info! What about pillows? Is it a good idea to pack an inflatable one or a pillowcase at least?

    • tourdumontblanchike
      June 8, 2023 at 9:56 am

      Hi Sherry most of the refuges have pillows – Refuge Croix du Bonhomme stands out as one that doesn’t. I wouldn’t bother with an inflatable pillow. I would buy a sleeping bag liner that has the ‘pocket’ or longer head area which folds around a pillow. Otherwise use a t-shirt over the pillow or indeed take a pillow case but I always try not to take anything non essential on the TMB as every gram counts – 1000m of elevation a day turns even the tiniest items in your backpack into a brick! 🙂

  • Christine
    August 23, 2023 at 6:24 am

    Thank you for providing so much useful and up to date information. Also clearly written and no nonsense.

    I am starting the TMB on Aug 28, 2023. I am pretty much gluten free by choice (yes, not the best option for food choices; I know from experience).

    My question: I need food 3 times a day and especially breakfast. What is breakfast in most of the huts? Oatmeal? Lots of bread, buns, brioches, croissants etc all of which I don’t eat? Is there ANY eggs or protein of any kind to start your day? I am bringing dried bison jerky, fruits, nuts but these are all heavy but that is how it is.

    Any advice on food would me much appreciated. I don’t want to starve when I am hiking long days
    Thanks, Christine

    • tourdumontblanchike
      August 23, 2023 at 2:24 pm

      Hi Christine, yes you are correct with all your breakfast assumptions on the TMB – normally it is bread, jam, butter, cereals. In Switzerland they have amazing breakfasts – cheese, hams, sometimes eggs. I would tell the refuges/hotels in advance and it ‘should’ not be a problem for them to prepare you a boiled egg. I would suggest a bag transfer for you ( so that you can add extra food for yourself. If not know that there are supermarkets in Chamonix, Les Contamines, Courmayeur, La Fouly and Champex-Lac. There is also a small shop in Les Chapieux. If you have by any chance booked into Refuge Le Peuty (Trient area) then know that they have the best vegan/vegetarian/gluten free meals on the whole of the TMB! If you booked into Trient I would look at your cancellation terms and try and book with them instead. Best. Mags


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