Packing list for the Tour du Mont Blanc

Packing list for the Tour du Mont Blanc

I often get asked for a packing list for the Tour Du Mont Blanc. This summer I guided the Tour du Mont Blanc five times and my packing list stayed much the same from July to September. The only exceptions being that on very hot days I wouldn’t carry my gloves and hat. On exceptionally cold days I would wear trousers, rather than shorts, and pack an extra warm layer.

If you want to read a concise packing list for the tour du mont blanc then I suggest you click here. However, if you want more detail, then I hope this article helps. Feel free to ask any questions in the comments section at the end of the blog. We all have our own layering system and favourite pieces of kit and I’d love to hear yours!

I am not paid or endorsed for any of the items I mention below.

What I wear on the Tour du Mont Blanc

  • Sun cap – Something breathable is best. I highly recommend against a waterproof hat as they are incredibly hot.
  • Light-weight merino wool t-shirt – I prefer merino wool to synthetic layers as merino wool has natural antibacterial agents which reduces the smell. This means you can wear the same t-shirt for more than one day at a time without upsetting your fellow hikers. I really like ice breakers ultra-light range of t-shirts.
  • Hiking shorts or hiking trousers – Any type will do, but I recommend something light-weight. In general, I always wear shorts unless the forecast is very cold.
  • Hiking poles – Hiking poles can be expensive but, in my opinion, most will do the job. If you are happy to spend a lot of money then black diamond make a very good carbon pair. I personally use gipron aluminium poles as I found they are the best compromise between price and weight. If you buy a fixed height pair of poles, rather than adjustable ones, make sure you get the right size. A good guide is that your elbow should be at 90 degrees when you are holding the pole at the handle with the ‘pointy end’ touching the floor directly below your hand.
  • GPS watch – A GPS watch isn’t necessary but a fun toy to have if you like tracking your hike. I have a suunto ambit 3 watch which I bought a few years ago for the long battery life. Garmin also make very good GPS watches.
  • Sun cream – I always use a factor 50 with uva and uvb protection. I use La roche posay sun cream as it has very good uva and uvb protection and it doesn’t feel sticky or smell bad.
packing list for the tour du mont blanc should include warm clothes
The weather can change quickly in the Alps! Here’s a group I guided in August at the Col de la Seigne. We had set off that morning in nice weather. Luckily we were all well prepared!

Trail running shoes or high-top boots?

This is something I get asked all the time. Personally I wear sportiva bushido trail running shoes all summer and keep a pair of gortex high-top boots in my suit case* for the days when I expect there will be snow to cross.

I prefer trail running shoes as they are light weight, cool and give my feet more range of movement. However, I only recommend wearing trail running shoes if you have strong ankles and lots of experience wearing trail running shoes for hikes on uneven,  rocky trails. If not, high tops are safer for your ankles.

If you have the baggage allowance, it’s a good idea to bring two different pairs of boots/trail shoes that are well broken in. That way you can alternate the days you wear them to give your feet a break from being in the same position all day.  It’s great to have a light-weight, none-gortex pair of boots for sunny days and a gortex pair for when we expect rain/snow.

*If you don’t have the luxury of baggage transfer and can only bring one pair of boots, then I would opt for a fairly stiff-soled goretex pair early season. In spring/early summer there can be significant stretches of snow to cross and you will need sturdy boots to kick steps in the snow and keep warm.

What’s do I carry in my pack?

  • Food and water – You will need the means to carry at least two litres of water as there are a couple of days on the Tour Du Mont Blanc without a safe water supply.  
  • Sun cream – Sun radiation is incredibly strong at altitude. Although I am not that sun sensitive, I still wear factor 50 on the tour du mont blanc.
  • Thin fleece – Any kind of synthetic fleece will do. The difference in price tends to be related to how warm and breathable a fleece is. I wear Patagonia’s R3 hoody.
  • Insulated layer – I really like my Patagonia nano puff jacket as it is incredibly warm and breathable for its weight. You can find plenty of alternative cheaper options. The main criteria is to have a spare layer that will keep you warm enough when you stop for lunch or if the temperature drops.  
  • Waterproof jacket – I recommend gortex as it is light-weight and very waterproof. I always carry a waterproof jacket no matter the forecast as storms can be unexpected and very heavy in the Alps. A waterproof jacket also couples as a wind proof.
  • Light weight water proof pants – I pack water proof pants even when the forecast is good as they also work as an extra warm layer for my legs. Look for a pair that have zips most of the way up the leg so that you can easily put them on over your walking boots.
  • Wool hat – Any type will do. I don’t always pack a wool hat when the forecast is very hot.
  • Thin gloves – I use a pair of light weight gloves by RAB, but when there is a cold forecast, I carry a thicker wind-proof pair.
  • First aid kit*
  • Emergency blanket*
    This is something that can be used to keep a casualty warm while they await rescue. I carry a blizzard bag in my pack. Blizzard bags are bulkier than a foil blanket but much warmer (equivalent to a medium sized sleeping bag).
  • Satellite phone*
    There are sections on the Tour du Mont Blanc without phone signal and so a satellite phone is necessary to call for rescue.
  • Map and compass*
  • GPS* – I use a GPS app on my phone called view ranger. It functions the same as a GPS but is much cheaper and you can pay per map square. Another popular app in France is Iphigenie.

*If you are on a guided trip then you will not need to carry these items as your guide will have them in their pack. Check out Alpenwild’s guided Tour Du Mont Blanc.

packing list for the tour du mont blanc
Me (left) and fellow Alpenwild guide, Sophie Nolan, about to cross into Italy on the Tour du Mont Blanc. It’s a typically sunny day in the Alps but notice the clouds building in the background.

Useful extras to take with you on the Tour du Mont Blanc

  • Waterproof bags for your warm layers – On very windy days waterproof covers have a habit of flying off rucksacks. Keep your warm clothes dry by carrying them in a waterproof bag. I use canoe sacks, but a black bin bag does the trick just fine!
  • Hydration tablets – If you are prone to cramping then hydration tablets can be a life saver.
  • Washing liquid to hand wash your clothes
  • Blister care kit – Compeed is fantastic. If you can’t find it at home, you can buy it in every pharmacy in France.

Main take away points

  • Always carry extra warm layers – On the tour du mont blanc you will cross a lot of cols (mountain passes) which can be incredibly cold and windy, despite scorching temperatures in the valley below.
  • Be prepared for rain – Storms can form very quickly in the Alps, so it’s always a good idea to carry a waterproof jacket
  • Break in your boots at home – You are going to be on your feet all day for over a week – so look after them!
  • Don’t underestimate the power of poles – On the Tour du Mont Black there will be days when you are ascending and descending over 3000 ft. Your knees will thank you…
  • Many layers are better than one – The most common problem I see with hikers is that they overheat by wearing dark, heavy layers. Don’t buy black t-shirts and remember it’s easier to regulate your temperature if you have more thin layers than one thick one.
  • Bring the right pack – Make sure that your pack is comfortable and big enough for everything that you need. The main features I look for in a trekking pack are a comfortable waist strap to take the weight off my shoulders and a mesh at the back to allow air flow between my back and the pack. If you aren’t going to use a water bladder then it’s useful to have side pockets for your water bottle that you can reach without taking your pack off. If you are on a guided trip with luggage transfer, a 20l pack is a good size.

Posts you may also find useful

5 tips to stay hydrated while hiking

Is a guided or self guided tour du mont blanc for you?

Are you fit enough to hike the tour du mont blanc?

The best time of year to hike the tour du mont blanc

Jennifer Stretton
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