One of the most important factors in preparing for the TMB is considering in detail your Tour du Mont Blanc packing list. With a recommended pack weight of no more than 10kg, trust me every ounce matters. Lightweight has never been so literal. Packing the essentials is crucial – anything else could well be the straw that broke the camel’s back.
Of course many Tour du Mont Blanc hikers choose to ferry bigger bags along the route with luggage transfer companies, of which there are many. So for those of you where minimal packing is just not feasible, luggage transfers will be your knight in shining armour and in this case your Tour du Mont Blanc packing list might be a little more luxurious than the norm. Note though that not all refuges, understandably on this high altitude terrain, are accessible to vehicles – so there will always be days when your day pack is all you will have access to for a couple of days. Another factor is cost. Luggage transfers ain’t cheap.
Our Tour du Mont Blanc packing list includes trekking kit, refuge essentials, safety inclusions and first aid requirements. Many of the items on are our packing list, most serious hiker will already own. However, we’d serious urge you to consider upgrading any existing kit to more lightweight versions to lighten your load on your TMB – don’t underestimate the elevation gain on the Tour du Mont Blanc. It’s serious. When you’re hiking your second 1000m col in one day, you’ll be wishing you hadn’t brought along that newly released novel from your favourite author!
Tour du Mont Blanc Packing List
I’ll say this again, just in case you didn’t get it the first time. Your packing list for the Tour du Mont Blanc needs to be restricted to the absolute minimum. Just essentials. Unless you’re intending to arrange luggage transfers, you’ll be carrying all your kit on your back.
Every single step.
NO DAY PACK SHOULD BE OVER 10KG WHEN TREKKING THE TOUR DU MONT BLANC
With an average of 7-9 hours on the trail each day combined with serious daily elevation gain (the whole TMB trail is 1km higher than Everest!) anything superfluous is going to become dead weight.
You need to be strict.
Don’t underestimate how much even 1kg will add to your pack weight. I packed three times, pairing down repeatedly until the barebones of the essentials lay before me. It’s not easy! And I still definitely took more than I wished I had once I was on the trail.
The photo above is all of our gear and equipment for three of us (2 adults, 1 child) for hiking half the Tour du Mont Blanc in July.
Below I’ve detailed what essential items you’ll absolutely need to take with you on your Tour du Mont Blanc hike, as well as a complete packing list below. There are a few items that you may not have thought of.
The right gear
There’s no such thing as bad weather right. Only bad gear.
My first advice is to get the right gear. The Tour du Mont Blanc is challenging enough without being ill equipped and poor quality outerwear and kit will be enough to break you. Invest wisely in the main piece of kit. Numbers 1 and 2 being footwear and backpack.
You will require a 25-30 litre backpack with chest straps and hip straps if you aim to stay in refuges. Hikers camping the TMB will need a 50-60 litre pack.
Children will need to carry their own (smaller) backpacks. Make sure kids have proper backpacks with comfortable straps, not the plastic ones which don’t have the all important chest and hip straps.
If you’re buying a new backpack specifically for your TMB adventure, make sure you test it out beforehand. It’s a good idea to train with all the kit you’ll be using on the trek, so my advice is to buy your backpack at least 3 months before so you can wear it during your training hikes. It will soften and become more comfortable over time and you’ll know your way round it well before you embark on the TMB.
If you are buying a new backpack, look for one with an in-built rain cover. It will save you having to buy a separate one or having to take thick black bin liners to cover your pack in the event of rain on the trail. We can’t recommend Osprey backpacks enough.
Layering is vital to staying comfortable on the Tour du Mont Blanc. Layering brings versatility so you can easily adapt your clothing to changing weather conditions on the route. You need to be insulated, ventilated and have wet weather protection – all with minimum weight!
Choose synthetic quick drying fabrics over cotton. These will wick away sweat and will dry faster should you get wet, plus they’re much lighter.
RELAXING IN THE REFUGES
Make sure you take a change of clothes dedicated to refuge only use. You won’t want to put back on a sweaty, damp top or use one of your fresh technical hiking tees. Once you’ve reached the refuge, you’ll want to shower and change pronto. A great tip is to use a pair of thermals to relax and sleep in. That way they’ll be in your bag should you hit cold, wet weather and need to quickly layer up.
You’ll need a good waterproof jacket and trousers, as well as a fleece that packs down well. Pack 1-2 pairs of hiking shorts (I’d recommend 1 pair of shorts & 1 pair of zip off hiking trousers) and 2-3 technical hiking t-shirts.
A good quality waterproof, breathable, windproof jacket is worth it’s weight in gold …. if it’s lightweight. I favour Arcteryx but yes they cost the earth! Anything gortex is going to keep you dry.
Make sure it’s lightweight – the temperatures on the Tour du Mont Blanc can hit 30 degrees even in the high mountains so it might well just be buried in your backpack the entire time, unless your summiting one of the cols and then you might need it as it tends to get chilly. However, bad weather can sweep through the mountains quickly. In the summer the weather system change in the afternoons with storms quickly brewing. It’s best to always set off early and try to get to your refuge early to mid afternoon to avoid the storms.
Other seasoned TMB hikers swear by packing a lightweight collapsible umbrella or a hiking poncho also works well if the weather forecast is looking dubious for some of your hike. Decathlon do cheap ones that work well.
Never scrimp on socks. Your feet are key to the TMB.
Prepare them. Protect them.
Buy good quality wool blend socks and pack enough to enable you to have a clean, dry pair everyday. Obviously if you’re doing the whole trek, you’ll need to wash some along the way, but make sure you have at least 4-5 pairs of socks. Keeping feet dry and warm is pivotal in preventing blisters. Something you want to avoid at all costs!
We’ve also recently discovered the amazing 1000 mile sock range. This brand are big into anti-blister technology and their ingenious double sock system is perfect for long distance treks. Double-layer socks can prevent blisters by reducing friction and wicking away moisture. The inner sock stays with the foot whilst the outer foot moves with the shoe to eliminate friction with the skin.
Tour du Mont Blanc footwear
(i) Hiking Boots
You will need good quality hiking boots to trek the Tour du Mont Blanc. Don’t even think about doing it in trainers, although some on the trail swear by trail running shoes which are built for impact, however still run the risk of ankle injury.
Boots should have good ankle support, a sturdy vibram like sole and be waterproof.
I’ve trekked this trail in my trusty Danner hiking boots (read my review here) which are good for warm weather hiking, although not massively waterproof. I was lucky and the weather was kind to us during our TMB trek, however I could have been slopping around with wet feet if the weather hadn’t played ball.
I’ve also worn a pair Salomon hiking boots which were super lightweight and waterproof which I can highly recommend. Read my review here.
Invest in a good pair of hiking boots for your children too. I know it’s costly. Kids are costly full stop right. And boy those small feet just keep growing. But seriously for the Tour du Mont Blanc your kids will need comfortable, well supported and broken in boots. Make sure they are well worn in before setting off – your dream of trekking through the Alps with your family will certainly become a nightmare if not. Comfortable footwear is a must. Try picking up kids hiking boots in the sales at the end of summer or after Christmas six months before doing the trek. Remember to size up one size.
(ii) Flip flops or refuge slippers
One of the rules in the refuges is that hiking boots are kept in the boot room or allocated area. This is regardless of whether they are muddy or not. The refuge provides indoor shoes for hikers to where inside the refuge. These are normally crocs and they provide a variety of sizes.
If you don’t wish to use the inside shoes the refuge will provide then bring with you something suitable which will be lightweight & comfortable, for example flip flops or light shoes. I’m never too fussed about wearing the crocs, even if they have been used by lots of people (I’d rather save weight in my back) but my 65 year old mother baulked at the idea & brought along a pair of soft shoes.
Trekking poles are essential for the Tour du Mont Blanc. Don’t even think about setting off without any. The extreme elevation gain and loss along the route is severe. Hiking poles will be your friend trust me.
The extra weight trekking poles offset from your knees and leg muscles is significant. Studies suggest that you can save up to 25% of energy using hiking poles. Who knows if that’s true. What is true is that people generally love or hate them.
When you have a heavy back pack on, trekking poles definitely help you keep your balance on uneven terrain, and having two extra anchor points is extremely helpful crossing streams or to keep your balance on a slippery patch of remaining snow (called névé) on the trail.
It’s also proven that using hiking poles prevents hand swelling. The position of poles (keeping your hands above the heart) and the action of using the poles keep your arms moving constantly thus reducing swelling.
Collapsible hiking poles are the best for long distance trekking. They pack up nice and small & can be strapped onto your backpack when not in use. Using poles constantly can be annoying when you want to take a photo or eat a snack whilst walking for instance.
Which hiking poles would we recommend? Black Diamond Distance Z Trekking Poles are excellent quality, super durable and really lightweight. The Black Diamond Distance Z poles are made from aluminium so are a bit more hardy (& less expensive) than their carbon equivalent the Black Diamond Distance Carbon Z. I used Black Diamond Pro Trail trekking poles You can read my review here.
I would definitely recommend the Black Diamond First Strike trekking poles for children. Don’t buy them the expensive ones above. I bought a pair for my daughter locally in Chamonix (but you can buy them at a fraction of the cost on Amazon, see link above). These are brilliant value (compared to the price of adult poles!) and she loved them. They are lightweight (431g) aluminium poles with comfortable hand grips, very durable (very important with kids who thwack anything) and available in lengths 66-100cm. My daughter really felt the part on our TMB adventure with her new poles and I’m confident that it’s partly due to them that she managed to make it around the trail!
Better to be safe than sorry, particularly if you’re hiking the TMB trail in June or July. Hiking crampons were a must for us trekking the Tour du Mont Blanc mid July. It might seem slightly over the top but trust me, it’s not.
Crampons are lightweight, so won’t add too much weight to your pack and will give you confidence, along with your trekking poles, to cross slippery patches of snow left from winter on the high mountain cols which can be fatal from a simple slip.
We bought Grivel Ran Crampons which worked a treat. They were easy to pop on over your hiking boot with wide rubber and velcro straps that secure the crampons nicely to your boot. We would highly recommend them. Buy the small pair for kids (my daughter was a UK size 4 & the small was an okay fit for her).
Sleeping Bag Liner
In all the mountain huts on the Tour du Mont Blanc trail, sleeping bag liners are mandatory. Either take your own or you can normally rent one for around €3 a night (check when you book).
Each refuge bed comes with a mattress (& sheet), a duvet and a pillow case with cover, however the linen will not have been washed since the last trekker so a sleeping bag liner is essential and warning, you will not be allowed to stay without one.
I always prefer to take my own and have a RAB silk sleeping bag liner (expensive but worth it – it’s so light you don’t even know you’re carrying it, plus silk is so comfortable to sleep in).
It’s worth noting that cotton sleeping bag liners, whilst cheaper, are considerably heavier and so, particularly for the Tour du Mont Blanc, I would HIGHLY advise you to buy a silk liner. Anything to streamline your trek as much as possible. Trust me, you’ll thank me for it later!
If you are camping along the Tour du Mont Blanc trail, you’re going to be needing obviously some extra kit. Choose your tent with care. It needs to be as lightweight as you can afford. Remember you’ll be carrying it for 8-10 hours a day! Choose a good quality tent that will be robust enough to withstand any bad weather.
Most of the refuges have electricity sockets to charge phones etc, however they are highly in demand! We suggest you bring a USB multi socket charger which will enable to you still charge your phone even if all the sockets are being used!
I would also advise bringing a power bank with you. Admittedly they do add to your weight but these handy, pocket sized gadgets will guarantee a fully charged phone which is a safety must on the Tour du Mont Blanc, to be able to track the trail on an off-line app such as Gaia to prevent getting lost, or in the event of an emergency to call mountain rescue.
Read more: why the Gaia GPS app is a godsend to hikers navigating the TMB
Read more: 10 safety tips to know before embarking on the Tour du Mont Blanc
Don’t forget as you’re trekking into three different countries you’ll need to pack your passport in your backpack. Whilst the borders aren’t controlled officially with border guards on the high mountain cols, you still need to keep it on you.
Make sure your travel insurance covers you for high altitude trekking. For many standard policies hiking is only covered up to 2,000 metres. The highest point on the TMB is on the Col des Fours and Fenêtre d’Arpette alternative routes which both reach an altitude of 2665m. The highest point on the traditional route is 2532m on the Grand Col Ferret.
When seeking insurance you will need to state what elevation you will be hiking up to. In most policies hiking to this kind of altitude will require an additional premium and maybe labelled ‘adventure sports’. If you have an annual travel insurance, call them to find out what you’re covered for – it’s important. Don’t even consider embarking on the TMB without travel insurance!
The Tour du Mont Blanc is not without it’s risks. Some of the trail is precipitous and if snow is on the trail, some areas can be difficult to negotiate with steep falls below. Note: if the thought of this scares you, make sure you hike the TMB in late Summer (end of July and August) when the snow patches (névé) have mostly melted.
Remember, something as simple as a sprained ankle may require you to be lifted out by helicopter. It’s at this point you don’t want to be worrying that your insurance might not cover you! Helicopter rescue is not cheap in the Alps!
For cheap multi-risk sport insurance which includes trekking take a look at Vieux Camper. It’s €25 per person or €70 for a family.
OUR COMPLETE TOUR DU MONT BLANC PACKING LIST
HIKING THE TRAIL
FOR THE REFUGES
FIRST AID KIT
TIP: Packing cubes whilst not essential do make life super easy, particularly when you’re tired arriving at your refuge. Keep one cube just for your refuge stuff (relaxing/sleeping clothes, sleeping bag liner, head torch, eye mask, ear plugs, toiletries) and another for hiking clothes. Packing cubes make organisation in your backpack simple.