There are some long-distance hikes in which you can get away with carrying stuff you don’t need. Sure, you may find yourself huffing and puffing a little more than you’d…
There are some long-distance hikes in which you can get away with carrying stuff you don’t need. Sure, you may find yourself huffing and puffing a little more than you’d like and your knees might be cranky by the end of the day, but on the whole you’ll be alright. Maybe you’ll even be glad you brought along that collapsible camping tea kettle or extra fancy toiletries (although we seriously doubt it).
The GR20 is not one of those hikes.
Not only is the GR20 very long and physically demanding, but it also has several sections that are quite technical. When you’re awkwardly climbing your way down a steep gully or hoisting yourself up a sheer slab of rock, you’ll be glad to have as light a pack as possible. Indeed, carrying a backpack that is too heavy is a common cause of hikers quitting their trek all together. We’re not telling you this to scare you, but rather we want to spread the word about one of the most important keys to success on this trek-your GR20 packing list.
When packing for the GR20, you need to be ruthless. Leave behind everything except for the absolute essentials, and we promise your trek will be exponentially more enjoyable. In this post, we’ll share our best advice for on must-have gear, as well as give you our tried-and-true GR20 packing list, organized into helpful categories and suitable for both campers and those staying in the refuges.
What’s in this post:
- Packing Basics
- Camping-specific gear list
- Refuge-specific gear list
- Personal gear list
- Miscellaneous gear list
- Men’s clothing list
- Women’s clothing list
GR20 Packing Basics
There are limitless ways to hike the GR20; you can carry your own tent, stay in refuges or hire tents, self-cater, eat meals at refuges, hike at a slow pace, double up on stages, and so on. Your GR20 packing list will need to be tailored to your individual itinerary and needs. Someone who is purchasing most of their meals and staying in refuges will have a significantly different kit than someone who is carrying all of their own camping gear and cooking their own meals. Despite all of this variability, there are a few basic truths about packing for the GR20 that apply to everyone. These include:
- Keep your backpack as light as possible! (see the next section for more on this)
- It is essential to dial in your footwear.
- Bring hiking poles and learn how to use them prior to your GR20 trek.
How much should my pack weigh?
This isn’t easy to answer, since there are a ton of factors that influence how much is too much for any individual hiker. Some things to think about…
- How fast are you hoping to hike? Generally speaking, lighter=faster
- Have you completed a multi-day through hike with this specific backpack and this amount of weight before?
- Are you injury-prone or do you have any chronic knee, hip, or back issues?
As a very general rule, campers (with their own tent) should keep their pack weight below 13kg, including food and water. Those staying in refuges should carry no more than 9kg. If you are backpacking for the first time or have a chronic injury, the weight of your pack should be significantly less than these guidelines.
Generally speaking, less is more. Here’s a few tips for lightening your load:
- You only need a couple of shirts. Same goes for underwear and socks. Before you write us off as total dirtbags, hear us out. First, you’ll have plenty of time and sunshine to wash and dry laundry. Second, clothes are heavy, so cutting out everything but the absolute essentials will make a huge difference.
- Plan out when/where you’ll restock food provisions and don’t carry more food than you need.
- Consider leaving your bulky camera equipment at home. Unless photography is your passion, most smartphones take great photos and save a ton of space and weight.
Footwear on the GR20
Traditional hiking boots, hiking shoes, or trail runners will all work for the trail conditions on the GR20, but you need to make sure they will work for you too. This means that you should bring a pair of boots or shoes that you know from experience don’t cause problems for your feet. Ideally, you should put at least 30 miles on them in various terrain and weather conditions to reduce the chance of running into issues on the trail. A nasty blister can be catastrophic on a multi-day trek like the TMB! That being said, you also don’t want your boots/shoes to be too broken in, as you need them to hold up faithfully for many miles of gnarly terrain. I know we’re asking you to work some Goldilocks magic here, but it’s definitely worth it!
In terms of other specifications, we feel that the only other must-have is a good, grippy vibrum (or similar material) sole for steep descents and loose paths. Otherwise it’s up to personal preference when it comes to how much ankle support you need, waterproof versus quick-dry, sturdy versus lightweight, and so on. I hiked in non-waterproof trail runners, while Ian used traditional hiking boots and we were both very happy with the results. Some people argue that trailrunners can’t withstand the wear and tear of the rough conditions of the GR20, but I didn’t have any issues in this regard, and I was grateful to have comfortable, reliable footwear.
You’ll also want to make sure you have some good socks. Socks are one of those rare things in life where you really do get what you pay for, and high quality socks can be a game changer. Once again, try to do some hiking in a few different types to figure out how what you like in terms of thickness, cushion, and height. We love merino wool for its quick-drying and anti-stink qualities.
BRING THEM. Enough said. Seriously, these are a total game-changer on a tough trek like the GR20. You (and your knees) will be so glad to have them on steep sections. Make sure your poles are lightweight and collapsible, as you’ll need to stash them frequently on scrambling sections that necessitate having your hands free.
The same rule for shoes applies to backpacks: make sure you complete several hikes with your bag packed the same way (and with the same weight) you’ll carry on the GR20. Also similar to shoes, backpacks need to be broken in through use, and your body needs to get used to the feeling of wearing it for extended periods of time. In terms of size, most campers will need between 45 and 65 liters. Those staying in refuges will find that 30-40L is perfect. If you’re purchasing a new one, most good outdoors stores have experienced staff that will help you find the right fit and style for your needs. Bonus points if the pack has a system for quickly stashing your trekking poles!
Don’t forget to bring a pack cover (included with many newer backpacks) to protect against rain. This is an absolute must-have.
If you plan on using your phone as a GPS to navigate along the GR20 (which we highly recommend!), it’s imperative that it stays charged. Even if you’re not, you’re likely to have something that necessitates having a full battery. Some refuges will allow you to charge electronics (sometimes for free & often for a small fee), but this certainly isn’t a guarantee everywhere. Carrying a small battery backup or one of these nifty portable solar panels will give you a little more freedom and peace of mind.
Corsica can get extremely hot in the summer months, and you are more than likely to face some sweltering temperatures while hiking the GR20. You should plan on drinking upwards of two liters of water per day- indeed some hikers will need three or even four liters on long, hot day. Staying adequately hydrated is crucial for this trek, as the heat and the physical exertion can take their toll. Although there are water refill points along most stages of the hike, these are not always the most dependable or conveniently located. Instead of relying on spotty water sources, we strongly recommend that you fill up a large hydration bladder with all of the water you’ll need before setting out for the day. We love using our 3L Platypus hydration bladders because they make it easy to fill up on larger quantities of water, their handy straws promote more frequent and efficient hydration while hiking, and they allow you to carry the weight in an optimized way against your back. We definitely feel that a good bladder is an essential item for the GR20.
Camping-Specific Gear List
If you plan on camping along the GR20, there’s a lot more gear you need to think about than just your hiking basics. Don’t worry though, we’ve got you covered!
Use this camping gear list in conjunction with the personal items list, miscellaneous list, and men’s or women’s clothing list to put together your perfect kit.
Our most recommended piece of camping gear: Freestanding Tent
In all honesty, we did not actually bring a freestanding tent with us on the GR20. We’re still using our trusty Sierra Designs Clip Flashlight, which has lasted us nearly a decade and hundreds of nights out in the backcountry. We typically recommend this tent wholeheartedly for any backpacking trek, due to its high quality design and affordable price tag. Even though we love this tent dearly, there were countless times we wished we had a freestanding tent on the GR20. This is because the ground at most camping areas consists of very hard-packed dirt, making it virtually impossible to get a stake in. Additionally, it can be very challenging to find an even surface to pitch your tent on, and sometimes you’ll realize you need to move it once you’ve already erected it. Unlike with a traditional tent which you have to completely break down to move, a freestanding tent allows you to simply pick it up and put it anywhere you please. Freestanding tents give you the ability to shake out all of the dirt, rocks, and grass that you’ll inevitably track in much more easily than with a traditional tent. And one last reason? Many freestanding tents are designed so that you can pack up the tent while the rain fly remains erected- a complete lifesaver on wet mornings. We met dozens of hikers along the GR20 who were using the MSR Hubba Hubba and absolutely loved it. This is arguably the best backpacking tent on the market right now.
|Item||Our recommended gear|
|Tent||MSR Hubba Hubba Backpacking Tent||The MSR Hubba Hubba 2 is the best overall tent you can buy, and the freestanding features are perfect for the GR20.|
|Sleeping bag||Marmot Trestle 30||A 30° F or 0° C sleeping bag should keep you plenty warm on the GR20.|
|Sleeping pad||Nemo Astro Insulated Sleeping Pad||This is a must-have for side-sleepers! Even if you're not, this is one of the most lightweight and comfortable sleeping pads out there. It held up well on the hard and rocky conditions of the GR20.|
|Pillow||Therm-a-Rest pillow||A camping pillow can be great when you're spending 14+ nights sleeping in a tent, but this is an optional item for those looking to save weight.|
|Stove||MSR Pocket Rocket Stove||Ian has used this stove for nearly a decade and highly recommends it! A stove isn't 100% necessary on the GR20, as the refuges provide gas cooktops, but it can be nice to have.|
|Backpacking pot||GSI Halulite||For those planning to cook their own meals this pot will serve you well.|
|Utensils||MSR Deep Dish plate , MSR Stainless Steel mugHumangear Spork||Best $4 you will ever spend!|
|Plate/Bowl/Mug||MSR 2-person mess kit||We find this bowl and mug combo to be light, durable, and perfect for camp dinners.|
NOTES FOR CAMPERS:
- If you plan on camping in hire tents, you do not need to carry a tent or sleeping pad, as those are included in your rental. You do, however, need your own sleeping bag.
- If you plan on self-catering most of your meals, you should bring your own pot and utensils. Many refuges provide pots, pans, plates, cups, etc, but there is no guarantee what you’ll find at any given place. Nearly every refuge has a gas cooktop that you can use, so it’s not necessary to bring your own stove and fuel unless you don’t want to wait in line at the cooking area. You do, however, need to supply your own lighter/matches.
Refuge-Specific Gear List
If you’re planning on sleeping in refuges, gites, and hotels along the GR20, you can keep your pack relatively small. However, there are some specific items you’ll want to make sure you pack. While you don’t need much, there are some essentials that you’ll be glad to have for these communal accommodation situations. Use this list in conjunction with the other lists (except for the camping gear list) to ensure that you’re well prepared for your GR20 adventure.
Note: there are some repeats on this list that we’ve also included on the other lists. However, we wanted to highlight items on this list that are especially important for anyone who is staying primarily in dorm-style accommodation.
Our most recommended piece for the refuges: Eco-Friendly Bedbug Spray
We’re not trying to scare you, but the reality is that bedbug infestations are very common in the GR20 refuges and gites. Besides being pretty gross, bedbugs can really put a damper on your trek by covering your body in uncomfortable bites and getting into all of your clothing and gear. Many hikers swear by using a bedbug spray like this Eco-Friendly one to keep the nasty little buggers at bay. This spray comes in a 3.3 ounce travel-friendly bottle and doesn’t have a strong scent. While it may not reduce your risk of bedbugs entirely, it’s definitely worth a shot!
|Item||Our recommended gear|
|Earplugs||Mack's Earplugs||The perfect defense for that snorer next door!|
|Sleeping mask||Alaska Bear Sleeping Mask||Perfect to block out light while sleeping in refuges.|
|Sleep sheet||Vumos Sleep Sheet||If you sleep warm, you may want this in addition to your sleeping bag for the nights when you need a lighter option.|
|Sandals/Slippers||Crocs||Boots cannot be worn inside the refuges, so you'll want something to wear indoors. While not the most stylish, Crocs make the perfect refuge shoes!|
|Sleeping Bag||Marmot Trestles 30||Sleeping bags are required in all of the refuges. This one should keep you plenty warm, without being too heavy.|
|Bedbug Spray||Eco-Friendly Bedbug Spray||Bedbugs are a common issues in many of the GR20 refuges, but they don't have to be a nuisance if you're prepared.|
Personal Gear List
Whether you’re camping or staying indoors, these items are must-haves for your GR20 packing list. While we’ve included some toiletries that are absolutely essential for this trek, we’ve left it up to you to determine your personal list of additional self care items (comb, toothbrush, prescription medication, etc).
Use this list in conjunction with the camping gear list OR refuge-specific list, and the miscellaneous and clothing lists to build your perfect GR20 packing list.
Our most recommended piece of personal gear: Headlamp
As we discussed in our trip report, we firmly believe that getting an early start each day is one of the most important keys to success on the GR20. The Corsican mountains and valleys can get unbearably hot in the afternoon sun, making it so that you’re exerting yourself more than necessary on terrain that is already challenging without adverse weather conditions. Additionally, in the summer months especially, the threat of afternoon thunderstorms is very real and should not be taken lightly. It’s of utmost importance that you’re off the high, exposed peaks and ridges before the storms move in. So why am I going on and on about all this in relation to a headlamp? Because there will be days on the GR20 where you need to pack up and get on the trail before daybreak, and hiking in the dark can be slow, frustrating, and dangerous without a good headlamp. Our Black Diamond Storm headlamps were absolutely invaluable on those early mornings; they are lightweight, long-lasting, have adjustable brightness settings, and they’re totally comfortable. Trust us on this one, you don’t want to leave for your trek without a good quality headlamp.
|Item||Our recommended gear|
|Multi-tool||Gerber Suspension Multi-Plier||Perfect for cutting cheese and bread, repairing gear, and a million other purposes!|
|First-aid kit||Adventure Medical Kits||A good backpacking first aid kit is essential. You hope to never have to use it, but will be glad you have it when you need it.|
|Camel Bak||Platypus 3L Hydration Bladder||Way easier than a water bottle! We suggest carrying a 3 liter version.|
|Pack-cover||Sea to Summit Pack cover||This is a truly essential piece of gear given how hard it can rain on the GR20! The best pack-cover we've ever used.|
|Men's backpack||Osprey Atmos 65L||While backpacks are a very personal item, we find Osprey to make by far the most comfortable packs on the market.|
|Women's backpack||Osprey Aura 65L||One of our favorite features of Osprey packs is the 'anti-gravity' mesh. So comfortable!|
|Trekking poles||Black Diamond Trail Trekking Poles||Essential for long downhills!|
|Travel towel||Sea to Summit Drylite Towel||Great to have in huts and campsite showers.|
|Headlamp||Black Diamond Storm Headlamp||Great headlamp with long battery life and adjustable brightness.|
|Dry bags||Sea to Summit Ultra-Sil dry bags||Keeps your clothes and other items dry in a downpour!|
|Sunscreen||We recommend a waterproof sport version with SPF 30 or higher.|
|Toilet paper||As any hiker will tell you, it's always better to be prepared! Most of the bathrooms you'll find along the GR20 don't provide toilet paper.|
|Hand Sanitizer||Most bathrooms on the GR20 also don't provide hand soap.|
|Extra Batteries||It's a good idea to have a few spare batteries for your headlamp, should you need them.|
Miscellaneous Gear List
These odds and ends are the unsung heros of the GR20 packing list. From getting your stinky shirt clean to keeping your phone charged, these items help your trek run smoothly. Make sure to use this list in addition to the other categories to complete your GR20 kit.
Our most recommended piece of miscellaneous gear: Battery Backup
Chances are, you’re getting out on the trail to get a break from the constant demands of screens and technology and that’s wonderful. However, don’t underestimate the importance of having a charged cell phone on the GR20. Your phone can be your navigational device, your camera, your guidebook, and your notepad all in one. Charging opportunities are extremely limited along the route, so a battery backup can be an absolute lifesaver. This one is dependable, relatively small, and can fully charge your phone 1.5-2 times between charges. Check it out here:
|Item||Our recommended gear|
|Guidebook||The GR20 Corsica: Complete Guide to the High Level Route (Cicerone Guides)||A must-have resource, and also available digitally to save weight in your pack!|
|Earplugs||Mack's Earplugs||Essential for sleeping in huts, but we also love using them in the tent at crowded campsites.|
|Sleeping mask||Alaska Bear Sleeping Mask||Perfect to block out light while sleeping in refuges or campgrounds.|
|Travel adapter||All-in-one Travel Adapter||Great for all of your travels.|
|Digital watch||Casio digital watch||We recommend a simple digital watch to keep track of hiking times.|
|Camera||Sony a5100 mirrorless camera||Optional item for the photography lovers. Consider using your phone to save weight.|
|Battery backup||Anker PowerCore 10000||Great for charging electronics when you don't have access to an outlet.|
|Biodegradable soap||Sierra Dawn Campsuds Outdoor Soap||Perfect for doing the dishes or washing a few clothing items.|
|Plastic Bags- quart, gallon, and garbage bags.||We used these constantly for everything from storing trail mix to keeping our sleeping bags dry. A must-have for backpacking.|
When you’re wearing the same clothes for over two weeks in various weather conditions and while doing some serious trekking, it is imperative that those clothes are comfortable and high quality. Although your individual preferences may look a little different, this list is an excellent starting point to ensure you’ve got all the essentials. Plus, if you’re anything like us, you have no idea how many pairs of socks to bring. This list is also a handy (and experience-backed) guideline for quantities of items such as shirts and socks.
Emily’s favorite piece of clothing: Altra Lone Peak Trailrunning Shoes
I recently became a believer in hiking in trailrunning shoes. For ages, I had happily hiked in my Keen Targhee boots (which I still enthusiastically recommend, especially for those with wide feet), but after a chronic injury and ensuring research to try to alleviate it, I decided to make the switch. I can confidently say that I don’t think I’ll ever go back to boots (except for on an extremely wet and boggy trail like the Coast to Coast). I am completely in love with my Altras for a number of reasons. First, they held up to the gnarly conditions of the GR20, and that is no small feat. Additionally, I was grateful for the wide toe box that kept my feet very comfortable, while still feeling supported in the shoe. The zero-drop structure took some adjusting to, but now my feet and leg muscles are stronger and more stable as a result. These shoes are incredibly lightweight, yet I had no issues carrying a large pack while wearing them. The outsole is made of a very grippy rubber and has large lugs to keep you feeling confident on steep and loose terrain. I hiked hundreds of miles in these shoes this summer, in a variety of landscapes and weather conditions, and I never got a blister. Although they are not waterproof, I have come to prefer that, as I like quick-drying and breathable over something that traps moisture for days. If you’re looking to switch to the dark side, I highly recommend Altras as your first trail shoe!
|Item||Our recommended gear|
|Underwear (2-3 pairs)||ExOfficio Women's Underwear||Very packable and easy to wash on the go!|
|Socks (2-3 pairs)||Darn Tough Micro Crew Socks||In our opinion, these are the best hiking socks available. Your feet will thank you!|
|Sports Bra (1)||Brooks Women's Rebound Racer Sports Bra||This is the most versatile, comfortable, and high-quality sports bra that Emily has found on the market.|
|Long sleeve base layer (1)||Smartwool Women's NTS Mid 250 Crew||A great merino wool base layer for chilly mornings.|
|Short sleeve hiking shirt (1-2)||Smartwool Women's Merino Short Sleeve||Merino wool is perfect for backpacking. Lightweight, quick drying, and odor resistant.|
|Leggings or hiking pants||prAna - Women's Halle Roll-up||Stylish, lightweight, and great to hike in.|
|Running shorts (1 pair)||Lululemon Run Speed Shorts||These shorts are so comfortable, packable, and quick-drying, that Emily didn't even feel the need to buy hiking-specific shorts.|
|Down jacket||Patagonia Down Sweater||Lightweight, super warm, and packs down small. This jacket was perfect for this kind of trip!|
|Rain jacket||Outdoor Research Helium II Jacket||A high-quality all-weather jacket that packs up small.|
|Rain pants||Columbia Storm Surge pants||OPTIONAL: Great for those heavy downpours, but arguably not worth their weight on the GR20|
|Hiking boots/Trail Shoes||Altra Lone Peak Trail Shoes|
Keen Targhee II Mid Hiking Boot
|While Emily still highly recommends these Keens for those looking for traditional hiking boots, she recently switched to hiking in Altra trailrunning shoes and absolutely loves them.|
|Sunglasses||Suncloud Loveseat Polarized Sunglasses||Good quality sunglasses are essential when you're in the mountains all day. And these are stylish too!|
|Underwire/standard bra(1)||After a long day of hiking in a sweaty sports bra this can be a welcome relief to change into.|
|Gloves||Smartwool Liner Gloves||Perfect for cold evenings and scrambling on frigid rocks early in the morning.|
|Hat||Headsweats Performance Trucker Hat||Helps keep the strong Corsican sun off your face.|
|Sandals/Camp shoes||Chaco Z1||Super comfortable around camp with great support.|
|Bandana||Is everything from a small towel to extra sun protection.|
|Buff||Buff Original Multifunctional Headwear||Nice to use for sun protection or to keep your ears warm in chilly temps. Also makes a great headband.|
When you’re wearing the same clothes for nearly two weeks in various weather conditions and while doing some serious trekking, it is imperative that those clothes are comfortable and high quality. Although your individual preferences may look a little different, this list is an excellent starting point to ensure you’ve got all the essentials.
Ian’s most recommended piece of clothing: Smartwool T-Shirt
After years of hiking and traveling in synthetic tech tees, switching to Merino wool was a major upgrade. Like synthetic materials, Merino is quick-drying and moisture-wicking, but unlike the synthetic materials I can hike in it for days without any funky smells. When I did need to wash it, it would be dry and ready to wear again no time at all. Plus, I find it to be more comfortable and stylish, since it looks just like a normal t-shirt. This was convenient for times when I wanted to wear it off the trail. Smart wool makes an all around great shirt that is well worth the price. Check it out here:
|Item||Our recommended gear|
|Underwear (2-3 pairs)||ExOfficio Men's Give-N-Go Boxer Brief||Highly recommended! You can bring 2-3 pairs and wash them easily in sinks or showers. A must!|
|Socks (2-3 pairs)||Darn Tough Hiker Micro Crew Cushion Socks||In our opinion, these are the best hiking socks available. Your feet will thank you!|
|Long sleeve base layer (1)||Smartwool Men's NTS Mid 250 Crew||Very versatile mid-weight base layer|
|Short sleeve hiking shirt (1)||SmartSmartwool Men's Merino Short Sleeve shirt||Merino wool is perfect for backpacking. Lightweight, quick drying, and odor resistant.|
|Hiking pants (1)||Prana Brion pants||These are great for hiking and also look great walking around town!|
|Hiking shorts (1)||Prana Brion Hiking Shorts||Awesome shorts that are great for hiking.|
|Down jacket||Patagonia Down Sweater Hoody||Super warm, and super packable.|
|Rain jacket||Outdoor Research Men's Helium II Jacket||A good rain jacket is a must! This one packs up small and light.|
|Gloves||Smartwool Merino Wool Liner Gloves||Perfect for cold evenings and windy ridges.|
|Rain pants||Marmot Precip Pants||OPTIONAL: These can be amazing for those heavy downpours, but are arguably not worth the extra weight.|
|Hat||Headsweats Performance Trucker Hat||Helps keep the strong Mediterranean sun off your face.|
|Sandals/Camp shoes||Chaco Z1 sandals||Super comfortable around camp with great support.|
|Hiking boots||Salomon Men's X Ultra 3 Mid GTX Hiking Boot||Super comfortable and super waterproof! These held up well to the gnarly trail conditions on the GR20.|
|Sunglasses||Suncloud Mayor Polarized Sunglasses||Good quality sunglasses are essential when you're in the mountains all day. And these are stylish too!|
|Bandana||Is everything from a towel to extra sun protection.|
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Check out all of our great GR20 resources:
- The Ultimate Guide to the GR20: Everything you need to plan your trip!
- How Much it Cost Us to Hike the GR20: A helpful and detailed budgeting resource.
- GR20 Maps: Custom maps and elevation profiles to ensure you’re prepared for your trek.
- Trip Report: The GR20 Nord-An honest account of our experiences on the notorious northern half of the GR20.
- Trip Report: The GR20 Sud-Know what to expect on the southern section of your trek.