10 Equipment Tips for the Tour du Mont Blanc

Posted on May 24, 2013. Filed under: Exercise, France, Italy, Photography, Switzerland, Tour du Mont Blanc, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , |

Travel - TMB Equipment 1

1.  Get your boots early and start wearing them immediately.  If anything isn’t right about them abandon ship and get a pair that is supremely comfortable.  If using boots you already have, get out in them and double check they still work well.  You do not want brand new, untested boots on this trip.  Also make sure they are waterproof; put them on and walk into water to test.  You will be crossing water on the TMB and wet feet inside boots spells trouble.  Also, socks are obviously equally important.  Sort out what works best for you early on.

Travel - TMB Equipment 2

2.  Get a functional backpack that you can wear with 20-25 pounds in it for at least 6 hours.  Don’t assume you know how to fit a backpack.  Go to a qualified outfitter who can fit you and find pack choices that work for your body size and shape.  As soon as you have your boots and pack get out in them as often as possible even for a half hour.  It is wise to get your body accustomed to the equipment on it while moving.

3.  Check out the equipment list at REI and think carefully about everything listed.  We did not take gaiters because we did not go early in the season when snow would be more likely, but you should decide if each item would be important for you to take.  It is comforting to look at this list from people who did the hike and know that you didn’t overlook anything.

4.  Get a scale and start weighing everything that goes into the pack.  When deciding between two similar items because you only need one, weighing them can be the deciding factor.  If you are training regularly as described in #1 and #2 above the genius of this will be self-evident because even 20 pounds is dang heavy!  Ounces become very important because ounces turn into pounds.

5.  Realize that no matter what time of year you are going you must be prepared for emergencies.  Weather in mountains is often unpredictable and severe.  Cuts, scrapes, blisters and hurt joints can happen.  You will carry items for these possibilities even though you may not use them.  We didn’t use our rain gear at all.  Seeing a day-long downpour in the mountains, however, I’m glad we had it along in case we were up high and needed to hike to get in.  I threw in a cheap dollar-store knee brace as a last thought, however, and this item proved indispensable to my husband when he hurt his knee.  Prepare a small first aid kit and make sure that gets packed to come along.

6.  Memory foam.  Get a few small hunks (buy a cheap pillow and cut it up) and bring along.  Tucking these under your backpack straps can be a shoulder-saver!  I brought 4 hunks and the extra 2 went to a hiking mate who was eternally grateful!

7.  Get trekking poles, a set of 2.  Figure out how you will get them there.  When we went they were not allowed in carry on luggage.  So we got a bag long enough for them (even collapsed they were pretty long) and checked that one bag.  In Chamonix we left that bag at the first hotel and retrieved it right before leaving when we checked it again to get the poles home.  Hotels there are very used to this and have a place to store bags.  Go on the airline website to find out the current rules for items such as this.  That multi-tool you want to bring along probably isn’t allowed to be carried on either.  And if you buy any of the wonderful Opinel knives in Chamonix to bring home (great gifts) you will have to check them also.

8.  Consider your camera.  How important is photography to you?  If at all important, don’t rely on the camera in your phone.  This is some of the most beautiful scenery you will ever see.   My best camera which I would have loved to bring along is pretty bulky and weighed in at a whopping 2.5 pounds.  This was just unacceptable, but I didn’t want a tiny point-and-shoot either.  So I decided to invest in one of the more compact SLR-types, going with a Sony.  It saved me 1 whole pound and a lot of bulk.  I considered this well-worth the cost especially since this camera is now always my travel camera.

9.  Take time to pack everything in your backpack before you go.  How will you arrange it?  Once you have everything spend some time working out how to use the bag efficiently.  Put items used daily on top where they can be easily retrieved.  Plan to keep things used hourly on the outside of the bag.  My camera bag attached at my hip belt because it was out so frequently that made the most sense.  Find a good place for the guidebook and maps because you will want to refer to these often.  Temperatures and wind conditions change quickly in the mountains so having places to stow and retrieve jackets and fleece is something to plan for also.  It’s nice if you don’t have to actually take off the pack and open up the main compartment every time you want your jacket.

10.  Relax about the equipment!  You will not be totally away from civilization.  If you forget something or if a piece of equipment works really badly, you are not completely stuck.  The towns on the TMB cater to hikers with excellent equipment shops.   See my post about how I bought trekking poles in Champex.  It was fun and makes a great story, the hardships of a trip always make the best stories!

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4 Responses to “10 Equipment Tips for the Tour du Mont Blanc”

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Beautiful! I wish to visit France once in my lifetime 🙂 Great post!

For me once was not enough, I love France! I hope you get there soon!

I am hiking the TMB in August 2017. I would like to say that the information that you have shared is extremely helpful-one of the best articles I have read. Thank You!

Thank you Susan! This made my day!

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