When packing for the Tour du Mont Blanc it is absolutely crucial that you stick to the bare necessities. I don’t care if you’re an experienced hiker or backpacker, every ounce counts. This packing list will help you narrow it down to what you truly need and what you should leave at home for the iconic Tour du Mont Blanc trek.
To a practiced backpacker, this tour may seem like a walk in the park but I can tell you from personal experience that as a somewhat obsessive overachiever who tends to hike obscene distances in a day and often thinks there is no hike that’s too strenuous, I honestly underestimated the elevation gain on the Tour du Most Blanc.
I mean seriously, we hiked all four passes of the Maroon Bells Four Pass loop in one day so how hard could the TMB really be?
Trust me, it’s REALLY FREAKING HARD but like in a really epic, awesome, would do it all over again kind of way.
The biggest factor when packing for the Tour du Mont Blanc is to know if you’re camping or staying in refugees.
Hopefully you’ve already read our complete guide to planning your Tour du Mont Blanc trek so you’ve decided whether you’ll be camping or not (if you haven’t decided yet, go figure that sh*t out now by clicking here…err I promise it’s coming soon).
I’ve compiled a complete list of every essential you will need to pack to hike the Tour du Mont Blanc and I’ve also separated the things that you will need to camp.
First I’m going to give a few descriptions on the most essential gear depending but if you want to just see the overall pack list, jump down to the bottom of this post with our table of contents.
Packing for Tour du Mont Blanc Hike
It’s really important to consider if you really want camp on the Tour du Mont Blanc. While it may seem like you only need a little bit more gear to camp versus stay at a refuge, the little bit of gear you do need makes a tremendous difference in weight.
Backpack for Tour du Mont Blanc
If you don’t camp, you only need a 25-30L pack but if you camp, you’ll need a 50-60L pack.
Our packs were each 20-25 lbs/9-11 kgs for the 3 of us and we no doubt could’ve dropped that to a mere 10-15 lbs/5-7kgs if we were not camping at all.
I don’t regret camping, however, you must thoroughly consider this when deciding to camp or not.
Clothes for the Tour du Mont Blanc
First of all let me recommend to not make the same mistakes we did. If you are coming to hike Mont Blanc, there’s a good chance you will not care to spend any days in the European cities (they’re nothing compared to Chamonix anyway). The days we spent in Paris and Copenhagen ended up being a slight waste of our trip but oh well. Anyways, if you really want to have one nice outfit for Geneva or Chamonix, girls, you could bring a packable travel dress but we just wore leggings and a nice tank top like this. Guys, cargo shorts and a shirt is probably enough.
Note that you will be be able to hand wash your clothes at campgrounds and refuges so you don’t need enough clothes for 11 days.
Let’s start with the most crucial, shoes.
Maybe we’re crazy or maybe we’re genius but we always hike and backpack in our La Sportiva Bushido trail running shoes. You might be thinking that they don’t have enough support but as another hiker pointed out to us, trail running shoes are designed for impact.
In addition to your life force, AKA your hiking boots, you may want to pack a pair of flip flops though technically you don’t need to. Refuges don’t allow hiking boots inside but they all provide Crocs in the boot room and if you’re camping, you technically could just wear your hiking boots to walk around. Nevertheless, we wanted to have our flip flops.
Now for what clothes we packed for the TMB…
We each packed a rain jacket and a down jacket.
I know it may seem a bit overrated at this point but Patagonia jackets are always our number 1 pick. Seriously, I’ve owned the same Nano Puff jacket for 5 years and it’s still incredibly functional and warm enough for summer nights.
In addition, you must bring a packable rain jacket. This is Europe we’re talking about which means it rains a ton in the summer. That being said, we got abnormally lucky with weather and you will probably need a rain jacket at some point.
For hiking, you’re going to want versatile clothing depending on the weather.
We each packed 2 pairs of shorts (Lululemons are our absolute favorite shorts for hiking), a pair of leggings, and a pair of hiking pants. The leggings functioned as hiking pants but also as comfy pants to hang out in the refuges at night and also function as a base layer if you want to camp like we did.
I also loved my soft and water resistant Kuhl pants for hiking (especially if it rains) and hanging in refuges. When we were in refuges, since it was warm and cozy at night, we all chose to sleep in our shorts. To sum up, versatility is key and basically you’ll need 2 warm weather pants and 2 cold weather pants whether you camp or stay at refuges.
Tees and tanks are all hikers choice but no matter what your choice is, I would recommend 3-4. I highly recommend setting 1 shirt aside for lounging at refuges in. Usually the first thing you do when you arrive at a refuge is unpack, shower, and change and it’s nice to have one super comfy, non-smelly shirt back on.
We also each packed a long sleeve tee/base layer. It doesn’t really matter what kind of long sleeve it is, it’s mostly for if it’s chilly in the refuges or if you’re camping, we used this to layer up at night.
A sun layer is crucial. I wish I had packed a lightweight flannel as a sun layer. I thought that my long sleeve tee would function as a sun layer but it ended up being too hot so I kinda just roasted.
Hat, Beanie, and Gloves
We never hiked without a hat on and even though there were only a few days where I needed it, I was SOOOO happy I also packed a beanie for a day when we had to cross a pass in thick fog.
I usually avoid gloves at all cost but on that same day when it was really cold while crossing a big pass, I had to wear the gloves I brought and it made a huge difference.
Gloves we love: Head Multi-Sport Touchscreen Gloves
You will of course need to pack 5ish pairs of underwear, 3 or more pairs of socks, and 2-3 sports bras for women.
If you are camping I highly recommend packing one pair of extra warm and cozy socks for sleeping in, it can get really cold at night even in the summer.
This was almost unnecessary but if you’re going to spend a day in the amazing town of Chamonix after your trek I highly recommend packing a bathing suit to enjoy your accommodation’s pool, spa, and/or sauna. We stayed at the radical hotel La Folie Douce and we’re so glad we did because the sauna and steam room felt heavenly after hiking 100 miles.
We’re probably the only people in the world that don’t wear sunglasses while hiking but honestly we didn’t use sunglasses a single time on the TMB. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t though especially if you’re early in the season when there’s snow on the ground. Snow and glacier hiking are the only time I really need sunglasses.
For the Trail
There are actually a few things missing from this image. First and foremost…
Never in my life have I needed to hike with hiking sticks. NEVER. Not once. But boyyyyyy oh boy did I wish I had some hiking poles on this trek.
Unfortunately only 2 days into our hike I ended up with a small knee injury. Not bad enough to have to quit the trek, but enough to be walking with a painful limp toward the end of each day and at that point, hiking poles would’ve made such a huge difference. It doesn’t matter how often you hike, how fit you are, or how many times you bagged 20 miles in a day, the Tour du Mont Blanc demands a lot and often times it’s simply too much too fast for your body.
Because if this I recommend trekking poles to preemptively avoid stressing your body too much.
I noticed many trail runners had awesome collapsable trekking sticks that I would’ve loved to have that way I wouldn’t be obligated to hike with sticks for the whole trek since they often just get in the way for me.
Recommended trekking poles: Black Diamond Distance Z Trekking Poles
Assume it will rain on your trek. Whether it’s May or August doesn’t matter, it can rain at any time of the year in Europe, especially in the mountains.
Because if this, it’s essential to be prepared with a rain cover for your pack. Isabelle’s Gregory Wander pack comes with a rain cover which is nice but for our other pack, we got this super cheap one on Amazon that actually works really good. Being so cheap I wouldn’t expect it to last years but hey, it works for one trip.
If you want to save even more money and are confident in the weather report for your trip, you could also not buy rain covers and just pack a trash bag as a backup which is what we did for one of our packs.
In addition, pack lots of Ziploc Baggies. They are a great, cheap way to organize gear inside your pack and it waterproofs anything of value.
We used baggies for food storage (we even packed French butter in it’s own ziploc baggie), keeping our electronics dry, and then sometimes we used them as trash bags. Even if it doesn’t rain, there is so much condensation at night if you camp so it’s super important to keep things dry.
Water Bottle + Filter
We each had a single 22 oz water bottle and it was perfect for us. There are many water fountains all along the trail plus there are refuges so you will most likely never run out of water. Note however that we probably drink a less than average amount of water while hiking.
If you drink a ton of water while hiking you’re probably better off using a water reservoir instead.
There were 2 times when we did run out of water at 2 refuges because they required that you filter the water (at Chalet du Glacier and at Lac Blanc refuge). We were very glad we packed our HydroBlu Versa Flow System which allowed us to quickly filter water in a 2 64-ounce canteen reservoirs which we could either save for later or do as we did and simply refilled all our water bottles. I highly recommend a lightweight water filter like this especially if you’re camping.
Water filter we love: HydroBlu Versa Flow Lighweight Water Filter Package
Related Blog: HydroBlu Water Filter Review
Okay so you know how the TMB is usually done in 9-11 days? Well we did it in 7 days (and I wonder why I ended up with an injury) and this may sound crazy but we owe our success to liquid electrolytes.
We carry liquid electrolytes by EnduroPacks and swallowed 4-5 sprays every 15-30 minutes followed by water. You can literally feel the electrolytes hit you muscles and suddenly the burning in your legs isn’t so bad as you ascend the 2,000+ feet of elevation gain.
We wished we had packed Emergen-C packets which also have electrolytes but are also great way to support your immune system at the end of the day. We normally hike with these in the States and it helps us so much.
We each carried a BioLite headlamp. These are our favorite headlamps because they are rechargeable and have a long battery life.
These are an essential for camping but are basically just for desperate times while hiking.
I wish we didn’t have to use them on the trail but on our last day on the TMB, we pushed slightly too far and ended up finishing our trek in the dark to get down to Chamonix Valley. Anyway, you really only need this if you end up in a scenario where you’e hiking in the dark. It’s up to you if you feel like you need to be prepared for that or if you doubt you’ll push it that far.
Travel Essentials for the TMB
Guidebook + Map
As we mention in our Ultimate Guide to Hiking the Tour du Mont Blanc, the Cicerone guidebook to the circuit is not optional, it is essential. In addition, we chose to hike with the 1:50,000 Tour du Mont Blanc map since we were camping and taking so many variants.
This one is not really necessary however, if you just like having maps on your trek or are struggling with planning your TMB trip, you can purchase the recommended map on Amazing by clicking here or they are sold at (and only at) the Mountain Info House in Chamonix. Remember that if you do get the map, get this map specifically. The other ones aren’t much help and are hard to read.
Book + Earbuds
I highly recommend bringing a book to relax at the refuge with unless you’re a social butterfly and intend to spend every hour of your evenings mingling with other hikers.
Related Blog: 25 Books That Will Change Your Life
Assuming you don’t already live in Europe, it’s a probably a long flight for you to get to Europe. Be sure to pack some earbuds for watching movies on the plane and/or listening to music/audiobooks.
Travel Outlet Adapter + Charger
Whatever you do, DO NOT forget a travel outlet adapter. Yes, worst case you could get one once you arrive but save yourself the haste and buy it ahead of time.
We love this travel adapter because it has room to charge multiple phones at once plus you can share with other people if all the outlets are taken.
Travel Adapter we love: Travel Outlet Adapter with 2 USB ports and 2 USA Outlets
Note: For the TMB, you’ll only need to pack the adapter that goes into the 2 circular prongs as shown below.
On a similar note, don’t forget your phone’s charging cable and be sure to bring 1 for each phone that you’ll need to charge. We only brought one and ended up having to share between our 2 phones so much that we never got a full charge.
Jackery Portable Power Bank
If it’s super important to you to be able to use your phone for the whole hike, I highly recommend packing a Jackery portable power bar.
These are especially great if you’re camping and won’t have access to electricity every night or even for refuges since older refuges don’t have accessible outlets.
Whether you camp or stay at refuges, you need a travel towel. Refuges don’t provide towels. Make sure your travel towel is light and quick drying.
Travel towel we love: Rainleaf Microfiber Travel Towel
Besides the essential passport, the only other major document you will need is travel insurance. Travel insurance is super important to have in case of emergency in the mountains. We always use World Nomads travel insurance because they offer coverage specifically for adventure travel like hiking the TMB. Use the box below to get a quote for your TMB trip.
Toiletries + Self Care
A few important things I’d like mention are make sure you pack something in case of blisters. This is probably the most common issue among hikers especially if you don’t hike regularly. Pack some moleskin but remember, you can’t pack scissors in a carry on so pre-cut some different sized pieces ahead of time.
You will of course need to pack things for a typical first aid kit like bandages/band-aids, a antiseptic like BLDG active skin repair, painkiller like Motrin, and we carried Melatonin to help us sleep better.
For more common scrapes we love our Climb On mini balm which is also great for chapped lips.
Along with electrolytes, the thing I swear by most when hiking long distances is a massage ball. LIFE SAVER.
After our first 3 days of hiking really hard and pushing ourselves an absurd amount, we took a rest day at Refugio Bonatti and rolled on our Pro-Tec Athletics ORB Extreme Mini massage ball for, I kid you not, more than an hour each. After rolling our muscles we felt almost as good as new the next day.
As I mentioned earlier, I really could’ve used hiking sticks when my knee was hurting on the descent into Courmayeur. Of course an easy solution would’ve been to either tape up my knee or wrap it in a brace. It was really quite silly of us to come ill-prepared for a minor injury like this but I won’t make that mistake again.
Even if you don’t have any history of injuries while hiking, I highly recommend packing some kinesiology tape as a backup especially if you fastback the TMB like we did and aren’t spending any time in the few cities along the way. The day I really need sports tape or a brace, we had arrived in Courmayeur during siesta and the pharmacy was closed so it would’ve been nice to have it ourselves.
Gear for Camping on the Tour du Mont Blanc
When you tent camp versus refuge on the tour du Mont Blanc, it comes down to 3 things that add weight
- Sleeping bag
- Sleeping pad
Like I said before, I don’t regret camping but I do recommend a few things.
When it comes to the right tent for the TMB, it’s all about the weight. Depending on if you’re trekking with other people will factor what tent you get however I will say that we’ve backpacked many times with the REI Passage 3 tent and considering the price, its a really great backpacking tent. It’s a fairly light 5lbs, 10 oz and it’s totally waterproof.
If you have 1 or 2 people, I highly recommend the MSR Hubba Hubba, which comes in a 1 person model and a 2 person model and is one of the best, lightweight backpacking tents there is.
For sleeping bags, we brought sleeping bags with a max comfort of 28°F. If you’re hiking in July and August you can get by with that however, having done this hike in the first week of September, we were a cold a few nights. I would highly recommend a four season sleeping bag if you’re backpacking in shoulder season or just want extra warmth.
Recommended sleeping bag: North Face Cat’s Meow
It seemed like a lot of people who were camping on the TMB went with classic roll up sleeping pads which they just attached to the outside of their pack.