Category: Tour du Mont Blanc

How to navigate on the Tour du Mont Blanc | GPS Maps

We often get questions from readers asking how we navigated during our TMB trip. Did you buy maps? Was the trail hard to find? What about finding all the various…

We often get questions from readers asking how we navigated during our TMB trip. Did you buy maps? Was the trail hard to find? What about finding all the various campgrounds that you stayed at? This post will explain exactly how we navigated on the TMB, show you how to use some of the awesome tools that we employed on our trip, and even provide some custom resources for those using our Guide to Camping on the Tour of Mont Blanc as well as anyone looking for a custom Tour du Mont Blanc map solution. Let’s get started.

Tour du Mont Blanc Map with alternate routes shown.

The Tour du Mont Blanc circumnavigates the Mont Blanc massif.

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Tour du Mont Blanc Packing List

Making smart choices about what to pack (and what to leave behind) is a vital part of setting yourself up for a successful and enjoyable Tour du Mont Blanc experience….

Making smart choices about what to pack (and what to leave behind) is a vital part of setting yourself up for a successful and enjoyable Tour du Mont Blanc experience. It’s simple- the heavier your pack, the harder your effort. However, with a little thoughtful planning, you can keep your pack weight manageable while still ensuring you have everything you need to be comfortable on the trail and while relaxing at the refuges, campgrounds, and villages along the way.  

Crossing a snow field on the TMB

You’ll need to be prepared for everything from sunshine to snow fields!

 

Below you’ll find a detailed Tour du Mont Blanc packing list that will provide you with great, trail-tested gear that won’t weigh down your backpack too much. This list reflects our personal packing list which will vary for each individual’s specific needs. However, this should serve as a great starting point for planning your own TMB adventure!

 

Want more planning resources?

Check out our downloadable Guide to Camping on the Tour du Mont Blanc. In addition to our printable packing list and gear recommendations for campers, you’ll find custom maps, campground locations, an 11-day itinerary, and much more!

LEARN MORE  BUY NOW

Tour du Mont Blanc Packing Basics

There are limitless ways to hike the TMB; you can customize the length of your trek, your accommodation preferences, your meal options, and so much more. Your Tour du Mont Blanc packing list will need to be tailored to your individual itinerary and needs. Someone who is using a luggage transfer service 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 Tour du Mont Blanc that apply to everyone. These include:

  1. Keep your backpack as light as possible! (see the next section for more on this)
  2. It is essential to dial in your footwear.
  3. Bring hiking poles and learn how to use them prior to your TMB trek.
Hiker on the TMB.

Don’t forget to bring a good pack cover for stormy days like this one.

 

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 should keep their pack weight below 13kg, including food and water. Those staying in refuges should carry no more than 9kg. If having your luggage transferred along the trail, most transfer services will limit you to 18kg, and your daypack shouldn’t exceed 4kg. 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:

  1. 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.
  2. Plan out when/where you’ll restock food provisions and don’t carry more food than you need.
  3. 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.
Hiking boots

Your trusty boots are one of your most important pieces of gear.

 

Footwear on the Tour du Mont Blanc

Traditional hiking boots, hiking shoes, or trail runners will all work for the trail conditions on the TMB, 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.

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.

If you’re blister prone, consider trying sock liners. Many hikers swear by them. Other tried-and-true blister prevention tactics include putting bodyglide on potential hotspots or wearing toesocks.

Trekking Poles

BRING THEM. Enough said. Seriously, these are a total game-changer on a tough trek like the TMB. You (and your knees) will be so glad to have them on steep sections, and this is especially true for campers who are carrying heavier loads.

Backpacking backpack

The type of pack you’ll need for the TMB will depend on your individual itinerary.

 

Backpack

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 TMB. 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.

Don’t forget to bring a pack cover (included with many newer backpacks) to protect against rain. This is an absolute must-have.

Battery Backup

If you plan on using your phone as a GPS to navigate along the TMB (which we highly recommend!), it’s imperative that it stays charged. Most accommodation providers will allow you to charge electronics, but this 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.

Cell phones charging

Charging electronics can get a little crazy on the TMB.

 

Puffy down jacket

We’ve found this to be a perfect piece of gear for the Tour du Mont Blanc. It can be quite chilly in the Alps in the early morning and evenings, but a heavy fleece or bulky jacket can really sabotage a lightweight pack. Down jackets are warm, super packable, and very lightweight. Besides a light waterproof rain jacket, this is the only outer layer you should need.

Guidebook

The Ciccerone Guide to the TMB is an excellent resource for anyone planning a TMB trek. This thorough guide covers everything from the history of the hike to interesting sights you’ll see along the way, and of course provides a comprehensive breakdown of every stage. It is also available as an e-book, meaning you can download it to your phone to really optimize your packing!

Camping-Specific Gear

If you plan on camping along the TMB, 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 Tour du Mont Blanc packing list. 

Camping on the Tour du Mont Blanc is definitely worth carrying the bigger backpack. We love the flexibility and independence it gives us, and many of the campgrounds are downright luxurious. With the right gear and a manageable pack size, you are guaranteed to have an amazing experience conquering the TMB with your own tent. 

 

Tent at Le Peuty Campground

Camping ensures you’ll always get a room with a view!

 

Most valuable piece of camping gear: Nemo Astro Sleeping Pad

Confession: This was the third sleeping pad I purchased in a three year quest to find the right fit. Until I got the Nemo, I just assumed it wasn’t possible to get a good night’s sleep while camping. Not only do I sleep warm (thanks to its 20 degree insulation) and comfortably, but this is also one of the most compact and lightweight options out there. It’s relatively quick to inflate and a breeze to pack away. A good night’s rest and extra space in my backpack make this my favorite piece of camping gear. Check it out here:

ItemOur recommended gear 
TentSierra Designs - Clip Flashlight 2
or
MSR Hubba Hubba Tent
The Sierra Designs Clip Flashlight 2 is the best budget tent on the market, while the MSR Hubba Hubba 2 is the best overall tent you can buy.
Sleeping bagMarmot Trestle 30A 30° F or 0° C sleeping bag should keep you plenty warm on the TMB.
Sleeping pad Nemo Astro Insulated Sleeping PadIf you are a side sleeper this is a must! Even if you're not, this is one of the most lightweight and comfortable sleeping pads out there.
PillowTherm-a-Rest pillowA camping pillow can be great when you're spending 10+ nights sleeping in a tent, but this is an optional item for those looking to save weight.
StoveMSR Pocket Rocket StoveIan has used this stove for nearly a decade and highly recommends it!
Backpacking potGSI HaluliteFor those planning to cook their own meals this pot will serve you well.
UtensilsMSR Deep Dish plate , MSR Stainless Steel mugHumangear Spork Best $4 you will ever spend!
Plate/Bowl/MugMSR 2-person mess kitWe find this bowl and mug combo to be light, durable, and perfect for camp dinners.

 

Refuge-Specific Gear

If you’re planning on sleeping in mountain refuges and hotels along the TMB, you can enjoy the benefit of a shorter packing list! This list has a few items you’ll need specifically for sleeping in gites and refuges. 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 TMB 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 refuges. 

 

Rifugio Bonatti

 

Most valuable item for Refuges: Mack’s Earplugs

Getting quality sleep is so important for your body to feel recovered and fresh on a long-distance trek. Unfortunately, it can be difficult to sleep well in the dorm-style sleeping arrangements commonly found in TMB refuges. Being packed like sardines into a room full of Olympic level snorers doesn’t have to ruin your night though! It’s amazing what a difference some good earplugs can make. We find that we sleep much more soundly with these comfortable, effective earplugs. They’re a huge step up from those cheap foam ones- these stay in place and block out way more noise. Sometimes the little things can make the biggest difference! Check them out here:

ItemOur recommended gear 
EarplugsMack's EarplugsThe perfect defense for that snorer next door!
Sleeping maskAlaska Bear Sleeping MaskPerfect to block out light while sleeping in refuges.
Sleep sheetVumos Sleep SheetRequired in most of the refuges along the TMB.
Sandals/SlippersCrocsWhile not the most stylish, Crocs make the perfect refuge shoes!

 

Personal Items

Whether you’re camping or staying indoors, these items are must-haves for the TMB. While we’ve included some toiletries that are absolutely essential for this hike, 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 list, and the miscellaneous and clothing lists to build your perfect kit. 

Most valuable personal item: Black Diamond Trekking Poles 

We absolutely love our Black Diamond poles for their lightweight design and durability. I can’t imagine tackling some of the steep, loose sections of the TMB without my trusty poles! The make a significant different in our perceived effort on tough climbs and descents, and they’ve saved me (a serious klutz) from falling countless times! Their telescoping feature makes them easy to pack away for international flights. Check them out here:

ItemOur recommended gear 
Multi-toolGerber Suspension Multi-PlierPerfect for cutting cheese and bread!
First-aid kitAdventure Medical KitsA 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 BakPlatypus 3L Hydration BladderWay easier than a water bottle! We suggest carrying a 3 liter version.
Small day-packCotopaxi Luzon 18L DaypackOptional item that is great for walking around town and hiking up to Lac Blanc!
Pack-coverSea to Summit Pack coverThis is a truly essential piece of gear given how hard it can rain on the TMB! The best pack-cover we've ever used.
Men's backpackOsprey Atmos 65LWhile backpacks are a very personal item, we find Osprey to make by far the most comfortable packs on the market.
Women's backpackOsprey Aura 65LOne of our favorite features of Osprey packs is the 'anti-gravity' mesh. So comfortable!
Trekking polesBlack Diamond Trail Trekking PolesEssential for long downhills!
Travel towelSea to Summit Drylite TowelGreat to have in huts and campsite showers.
HeadlampBlack Diamond Storm HeadlampGreat headlamp with long battery life and adjustable brightness.
Dry bagsSea to Summit Ultra-Sil dry bagsKeeps your clothes and other items dry in a downpour!
SunscreenWe recommend a waterproof sport version with SPF 30 or higher.
Toilet paperAs any hiker will tell you, it's always better to be prepared! Plus, not all of the bathrooms you'll find along the TMB provide toilet paper.

 

Miscellaneous Gear

These odds and ends are the unsung heros of the TMB 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 personal Tour du Mont Blanc packing list. 

Most valuable miscellaneous gear: Anker Powercore 10000.

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 TMB. Your phone can be your navigational device, your camera, your guidebook, and your notepad all in one. Charging opportunities can be unreliable 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. Check it out here:

ItemOur recommended gear 
GuidebookThe Tour of Mont Blanc: Complete two-way trekking guideA must-have resource
EarplugsMack's EarplugsEssential for sleeping in huts!
Sleeping maskAlaska Bear Sleeping MaskPerfect to block out light while sleeping in refuges or campgrounds.
Travel adapterAll-in-one Travel AdapterGreat for all of your travels.
Digital watchCasio digital watchWe recommend a simple digital watch to keep track of hiking times.
CameraSony a5100 mirrorless cameraOptional item for the photography lovers. Consider using your phone to save weight.
Battery backupAnker PowerCore 10000Great for charging electronics when you don't have access to an outlet.
Biodegradable soapSierra Dawn Campsuds Outdoor SoapPerfect 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.

 

Courmayeur

It’s an added bonus if you can pack clothes that will work both on the trail and in town.

 

Women’s Clothing

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. 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 most valuable clothing item: Ex officio underwear

Perhaps this may seem like a strange choice for my favorite piece of gear, but it truly was a game changer for me on the TMB. As a woman, I’ve found it to be so annoyingly difficult to find good quality, comfortable underwear designed for outdoor sports and travel. And not that it should matter, but most of the ones that do exist are extremely ugly. Ex officio changed all that for me. I love the “hipkini” variety because they provide full coverage and stay in place while still being low profile under shorts, pants and even leggings. What’s even more amazing is that you can rinse them out at the end of each day and they’ll be totally fresh and dry by morning. This makes it so you can get away with packing just a few pairs. Check them out here:

ItemOur recommended gear 
Underwear (2-3 pairs)ExOfficio Women's UnderwearVery packable and easy to wash on the go!
Socks (2-3 pairs)Darn Tough Micro Crew SocksIn our opinion, these are the best hiking socks available. Your feet will thank you!
Sports BraBrooks Women's Rebound Racer Sports BraThis 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 CrewA great merino wool base layer for chilly mornings.
Short sleeve hiking shirt (3)Smartwool Women's Merino Short SleeveMerino wool is perfect for backpacking. Lightweight, quick drying, and odor resistant.
Leggings or hiking pantsprAna - Women's Halle Roll-upStylish, lightweight, and great to hike in.
Running shorts (1 pair)Lululemon Run Speed ShortsThese shorts are so comfortable, packable, and quick-drying, that Emily didn't even feel the need to buy hiking-specific shorts.
Down jacketPatagonia Down SweaterLightweight, super warm, and packs down small. This jacket was perfect for this kind of trip!
Rain jacketOutdoor Research Helium II JacketA high-quality all-weather jacket that packs up small.
Rain pantsColumbia Storm Surge pantsFor those heavy downpours!
Hiking bootsKeen Targhee II Mid Hiking BootEmily has had these boots for five years and hundreds of muddy, snowy hikes, and they are still going strong!
SunglassesSuncloud Loveseat Polarized SunglassesGood quality sunglasses are essential when you're in the mountains all day. And these are stylish too!
Basic black dressColumbia Women's PG Freezer III DressFor the nights we went out to dinner in town, it was nice to have one non-hiking outfit. This comfortable, versatile dress was easy to pack and worked great.
Underwire/standard braAfter a long day of hiking in a sweaty sports bra this can be a welcome relief to change into.
GlovesSmartwool Liner GlovesPerfect for cold evenings and mountain passes.
HatHeadsweats Performance Trucker HatHelps keep the alpine sun off your face.
Sandals/Camp shoesChaco Z1Super comfortable around camp with great support.
BandanaIs everything from a towel to extra sun protection.

 

Men’s Clothing

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 valuable clothing item: Smart wool 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. 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:

ItemOur recommended gear 
Underwear (2-3 pairs)ExOfficio Men's Give-N-Go Boxer BriefHighly 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 SocksIn 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 CrewVery versatile mid-weight base layer
Short sleeve hiking shirt (1)SmartSmartwool Men's Merino Short Sleeve shirtMerino wool is perfect for backpacking. Lightweight, quick drying, and odor resistant.
Hiking pants (1)Prana Brion pantsThese are great for hiking and also look great walking around town!
Hiking shorts (1)Prana Brion Hiking ShortsAwesome shorts that are great for hiking.
Down jacketPatagonia Down Sweater HoodySuper warm, and super packable
Rain jacketOutdoor Research Men's Helium II JacketA good rain jacket is a must!
GlovesSmartwool Merino Wool Liner Gloves Perfect for cold evenings and mountain passes.
Rain pantsMarmot Precip PantsFor those heavy downpours!
HatHeadsweats Performance Trucker HatHelps keep the alpine sun off your face.
Sandals/Camp shoesChaco Z1 sandalsSuper comfortable around camp with great support.
Hiking bootsSalomon Men's X Ultra 3 Mid GTX Hiking BootSuper comfortable and super waterproof!
SunglassesSuncloud Mayor Polarized SunglassesGood quality sunglasses are essential when you're in the mountains all day. And these are stylish too!
BandanaIs everything from a towel to extra sun protection.

 

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Tour du Mont Blanc Packing List

 

Keep Reading

Be sure to check out all of our Tour du Mont Blanc posts below.

If you’re looking for one-on-one support in preparing for the Tour du Mont Blanc, we can help! Learn more about our personalized TMB coaching services. 

 

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Guide to Camping on the Tour of Mont Blanc

Have you ever wanted to spend 11 days in the world’s most majestic mountains, walking on rugged trails by day, indulging in artisanal cheese and plentiful wine by night, and…

Have you ever wanted to spend 11 days in the world’s most majestic mountains, walking on rugged trails by day, indulging in artisanal cheese and plentiful wine by night, and capping it all off by cozying up in your tent  under the stars as the crisp evening chill sets in? Maybe you’ve never considered it before. We didn’t know we wanted such a thing either…and then we learned about the TMB and that all changed.

Water and steep mountains on stage 4 of the TMB

We’re not exaggerating when we say this is one of the prettiest trails in the world!

 

We first hiked the Tour du Mont Blanc in July 2017. We camped most nights and stayed in a few huts. Even after experiencing several more incredible thru-hikes across Europe, the TMB still stands out as the most unique and rewarding.  We created this guide in hopes that it will inspire more people to camp along the route, which was one of our favorite parts of the entire trip. Ever since completing our own trek, we’ve spent the past few years researching the best campsites and most essential information to share with our fellow tent-dwellers. We even hiked much of the trek again in 2019 to ensure that our guide is accurate and up-to-date (and because we couldn’t help but return to one of the most beautiful trails in the world!)

Thanks for using our guide and we wish you a wonderful trip! As always, we’d love to answer your questions and hear your feedback in the comments below.

Happy Trails,

Emily & Ian

What’s in This Guide:

 

Everything you need to camp on the TMB – all in one place.

For those who want specific information about trekking with a tent, this printable guide includes campground locations, custom maps, a complete itinerary, and much more. At less than $10, it’s an unbeatable value! 

Purchase your digital guide here:

LEARN MORE  BUY NOW

About the Tour du Mont Blanc

The Tour du Mont Blanc (TMB) takes trekkers through France, Italy, and Switzerland on one of the most spectacular trails in the world. Typically completed in 11 stages, the route circumnavigates  Mont Blanc, the highest peak in Western Europe. The trail passes through seven unique and beautiful valleys, where charming hamlets and regional delicacies abound. Between the valleys, the route traverses rugged mountain landscapes and stunning high alpine scenery. The TMB is one of the most popular long-distance treks in Europe and is considered to be a classic walk that belongs on any passionate hiker’s bucket list.

The Mont Blanc massif covered in glaciers and seen from stage 11 on the TMB

The Mont Blanc Massif in all of its glacier-covered glory.

 

How long is the Tour du Mont Blanc?

Distance: 170 kilometers (105 miles)

Elevation Gain: 10,000 meters (32,800 feet)

 Check out our extensive collection of TMB Maps to get a better sense of distance, stages, elevation, and more! 

How long does it take to hike the Tour du Mont Blanc?

It typically takes walkers between 8-11 days to complete the TMB. One of the great things about the hike is that there’s a lot of room for customization when it comes to creating your itinerary. Camping will allow you a lot more flexibility in terms of not needing advance reservations, but you will be a bit more restricted in other ways since camping is not permitted on every stage of the TMB. We’ve structured this camping guide for the classic 11-stage version of the trek, but we’ve noted places where you can adapt your itinerary to combine or reduce stages.

A few other considerations to keep in mind when deciding how many days you need to hike the TMB:

  • If you plan on camping, you’ll need to carry a heavier pack and therefore may hike slower than usual.
  • Do you enjoy spending 8+ hours on steep trails every day? If not, you shouldn’t double-up on stages.
  • Fastpacking the TMB is possible in 7 days or less, but you’ll need to be very fit and experienced.
  • Do you want to take a rest day? If so, don’t forget to factor that into your itinerary.
  • Are you determined to exclusively camp along the trail? If so, you’ll need to adjust your itinerary to avoid stopping in places without camping options. See our stage-by-stage guide for more details on this.
  • Are you interested in taking shortcuts or cutting out sections of the trail? This can be a good option for those who don’t have enough time to realistically complete the entire route or want to tailor it for their ability level.
Signpost with several yellow trail signs pointing in two different directions.

There are lots of variants and shortcuts that can be used to customize your trek.

 

When to hike

The general season for hiking the Tour du Mont Blanc lasts from mid-June through mid-September, although this window is subject to great variability due to snow conditions on the higher passes.

June can be lovely, but you will likely have to negotiate large sections of the trail that are covered in snow. In some cases, you may need to reroute to avoid unsafe areas. Those hiking in June should bring crampons. You can expect an explosion of wildflowers in June and July.

July and August are typically the best times to be on the trail, but these are also the most busy months on the TMB. Be sure to check when the Ultra Tour du Mont Blanc is happening. This trail-race of the entire circuit typically occurs at the end of August and brings out thousands of spectators – not the best time to be trekking!

Expect increasingly cooler weather and fewer crowds in September; this can be a wonderful time to hike. However, it’s important to note that many campgrounds and other services along the route may already be closed for the season.

Crossing a snow field on the TMB

An easy snow crossing in July.

 

How difficult is the Tour du Mont Blanc?

If you are reasonably fit and have some backpacking experience, you should be well-suited to the physical challenges of the TMB. It is a tough trek that involves long, steep ascents and descents on nearly every stage, but it isn’t too technically demanding. Make sure you have healthy knees, as the downhill sections can take their toll! Keep in mind that carrying a heavier pack will greatly increase the physical demands of a trek like the Tour du Mont Blanc. If camping, some extra weight is inevitable, but if you’re strategic you can avoid carrying too big of a backpack.

Read More: How to Train for the TMB

Which Direction?

The TMB is traditionally hiked in a counterclockwise direction beginning in the French town of Les Houches, adjacent to Chamonix. It is also possible to walk the route in a clockwise direction, and trekkers headed this way typically start in the Swiss town of Champex. Below we’ve outlined some pros and cons of hiking in each direction:

Counterclockwise

PROS:

  • Follows the classic route, good if you’re a sucker for tradition.
  • Begins in Chamonix, which is easier to get to from the Geneva Airport than Champex.
  • Rewards hikers with jaw-dropping views of Mont Blanc on the final stage.

CONS:

  • More people hike in this direction, so the trail could feel more crowded throughout the day.

Clockwise

PROS:

  • Fewer hikers walking in the same direction as you.
  • The first few stages are a bit mellower, allowing you to get acclimated before tackling the tougher sections.

CONS:

  • You’ll pass a large wave of people walking in the opposite direction each day, which can get tight on narrow trails.
  • Champex (your starting point) has less amenities and is less conveniently connected by public transport than Chamonix. If you want to start in Chamonix and hike clockwise, be warned that the first day involves a doozy of a climb, which could be a major shock to the system.

Our stage-by-stage guide is organized for hikers walking the circuit in the traditional counterclockwise direction, but would be just as useful for those hiking in the clockwise direction.

Red boats on the shore of Lac Champex

Those who choose to hike clockwise will start in the pretty town on Champex.

 

Weather

Mountain weather is always volatile, and the Tour du Mont Blanc is no different. Conditions can change very rapidly in the Alps, meaning that you can find yourself in the middle of a whiteout blizzard or on an exposed ridge during a thunderstorm without much warning. For the most part, the weather during the hiking season is ridiculously lovely. Expect warm, sunny days, cool evenings, and not too much rain. However, you also need to be prepared for very hot temperatures, very cold temperatures, rain, and storms (and you could even see all of these in the same day!)  Getting caught high up in the mountains during a storm or without the right gear is extremely dangerous, but you can greatly minimize your risk by taking a few important precautions:

  1. The Meteoblue App is arguably the best resource for predicting the weather. It allows you to see the forecast for specific peaks or coordinates, plus it has excellent radar displays and wind predictions. Check it every time you have cell service.
  2. Start hiking early in the day! Not only will you enjoy gorgeous sunrises, get to the campground before the crowds, and avoid the heat, but you’ll also greatly reduce your risk of getting caught in afternoon thunderstorms.
Gray clouds partially obscure the mountains on the TMB.

Weather can change quickly on the trail!

 

Food and Drink

One of the many wonderful things about the TMB is that you don’t need to worry about carrying (and eating) eleven days’ worth of underwhelming freeze-dried backpacker meals. Due to the fact that the trail passes through many towns and villages, you will be able to resupply every few days. We’ve noted the availability of shops and restaurants at every stop along the route in our stage-by-stage camping guide below. Make sure you plan accordingly, as there are not shops at every stage.

For budget travelers, it is possible to self-cater and keep your food and drink costs quite reasonable. You’ll need to bring your own camp stove and cooking equipment if you plan on fixing most of your own meals along the TMB. 

Additionally (for those with deeper pockets), many of the hotels, gites, and refuges sell meals and offer the option of purchasing meals. You can just show up for lunch, but you’ll need to order ahead of time for dinner.

Whichever way you approach your food and drink strategy, we think you’ll find that trekking in the Alps is every bit as much a culinary delight as a natural one! 

Dietary Restrictions

The restaurants and accommodation providers along the TMB are generally quite willing to provide a vegetarian option. Those who are vegan, gluten-free, or have a specialized diet will have a harder time finding suitable meals. While certain places will be able to accommodate your needs, that will be the exception and not the norm. We’d recommend bringing plenty of your own food as insurance.  

Water

All of the hotels, gites, and campgrounds provide potable water. You will pass through many villages with public drinking fountains, but make sure to plan ahead and carry 1-2 liters of water each day. Due to the presence of agricultural activity near large swaths of the trail, we do not recommend drinking any water from natural streams without filtering it first.

Bread, cheese, fruit, and a bottle of wine.

Who says self-catering can’t be delicious?

 

Getting to and from the TMB

The circular nature of the Tour du Mont Blanc keeps logistical puzzles to a minimum, as you’ll start and end your hike in the same place. This makes it easier to store extra baggage and book round-trip transport to and from the trail. If you are travelling from further afield to reach the TMB, you will likely fly into the Geneva Airport (GVA). Depending on where you plan on starting your hike, you’ll either take a bus from GVA to Chamonix or a train/bus combination  from GVA to Champex.

We wrote an entire article with the sole purpose of providing you with in-depth information on TMB logistics. Check it out here! 

The bus stop in Les Houches, surrounded by pink flowers.

The worlds prettiest bus stop? This one in Les Houches has got to be a top contender!

 

Wayfinding

For the most part, the TMB is an extremely well-marked trail. You’ll see a variety of trail markers along various sections of the route, ranging from the iconic yellow and black diamond to the more modern bright green TMB logo. Generally speaking, if you go more than twenty minutes without seeing a trail marker, you’ve probably wandered off the trail. Despite its helpful paint flashes and signage, it is still surprisingly easy to get lost on the TMB if you’re not careful. The scenery is so darn pretty that it will often draw your eyes away from the path and cause you to miss a turn. That’s why carrying a map and (preferably) a GPS device is of the utmost importance. This is even more true if you plan on camping, as many of the campgrounds require you to leave the trail to access them.

No fancy GPS device? No problem! In this post we’ll walk you through exactly how to turn your regular old smartphone into a bonafide GPS– and you don’t need to use your precious data to do so!

Additionally, check out this post on how to find all of your campgrounds on the TMB and this one if you want to see our range of helpful maps and/or download the GPS waypoints for the hike.

Screenshot of GPS locations on a smartphone

You can easily turn your smartphone into a handy GPS device for the trail!

 

Budgeting and Money

Cash or Credit?

While an increasing number of accommodation providers, shops, and other services are beginning to accept credit cards, cash is still the primary payment method used along the TMB. It is important to carry enough cash to cover all of your expenses for several days, as  ATMs are infrequent along the trail. Check out our stage-by-stage guide (later in this post) for availability of ATMs on specific stages. 

Currency

The TMB crosses the borders of three different countries, meaning that you’ll need to switch from using Euros in France to Swiss Francs in Switzerland then back to Euros upon entering Italy. While most places in Switzerland will accept Euros, you’ll be better off using Francs if you can. 

Typical Costs

Although it has the reputation for being one of the more expensive and luxurious thru-hikes, it is still very possible to hike the TMB on a tight budget (camping helps tremendously with this!) Furthermore, you can even eat delicious foods and drink some tasty beverages without breaking the bank.

The two keys to saving money on the TMB? Lodging and food.

Since you’ve found this camping guide, you’re well on your way to having the first one covered. Camping will save you boatloads of money, and you’ll have a better experience too!

In terms of food, the best thing you can do is to avoid eating meals at restaurants and refuges. Sure, stop for a coffee and a pastry, enjoy a post-hike beer, and definitely pick up some local cheese, but if you cook your own meals you will greatly, greatly reduce your overall spending.

Check out this thorough post in which we break down exactly what you can expect to pay for food, accommodation, transportation, and more. 

Hikers take in the views from the top of a pass on the TMB

Fortunately, the best parts of the TMB-like the sense of accomplishment that comes with reaching the top of a pass- are completely free!

What to Pack

Packing for the TMB is balancing act between ensuring you have everything you need and ensuring you don’t feel like you’re giving a piggyback ride to a small elephant for 100+ miles. This is especially true for campers, as you’ll have a more extensive packing list and the stakes are a bit higher if you neglect to bring something essential.

For a complete packing list, check out this article.

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? If not, you should really try to keep it below 25lbs (including water!) 
  • Are you injury-prone or do you have any chronic knee, hip, or back issues? If so, you need to make sure that backpack is below 20lbs!

Generally speaking, less is more. Here’s a few tips for preventing baby-elephant piggyback syndrome:

  1. 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 (and we actually find it to be quite a fun camp chore). Second, clothes are heavy, so cutting out everything but the absolute essentials will make a huge difference.
  2. Plan out when/where you’ll restock food provisions and don’t carry more food than you need.
  3. 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.

If you have other travel destinations before or after the TMB, you can store your extra luggage in Chamonix. See our logistics article for more on this. 

Caution sign showing a person falling off a cliff.

This poor fellow didnt follow our packing advice….

 

TMB MVG (Most Valuable Gear)

Footwear on the Tour du Mont Blanc

Traditional hiking boots, hiking shoes, or trail runners will all work for the trail conditions on the TMB, 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.

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.

If you’re blister prone, consider trying sock liners. Many hikers swear by them. Other tried-and-true blister prevention tactics include putting bodyglide on potential hotspots or wearing toesocks.

Trekking Poles

BRING THEM. Enough said. Seriously, these are a total game-changer on a tough trek like the TMB. You (and your knees) will be so glad to have them on steep sections, and this is especially true for campers who are carrying heavier loads.

Hikers making their way down to the Vallee de l'Arve.

Big shout out to our trekking poles and pack covers!

 

Backpack

The same rule for shoes applies to backpacks: make sure you complete several hikes with your bag packed the same way (and same weight) you’ll carry on the TMB. 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. 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.

Don’t forget to bring a pack cover (included with many newer backpacks) to protect against rain. This is an absolute must-have.

Battery Backup

If you plan on using your phone as a GPS to navigate along the TMB (which we highly recommend!), it’s imperative that it stays charged. Many campgrounds will allow you to charge electronics, but this 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. In our guide, we’ve noted the availability of electronics charging along every stage.

A few other MVG honorable mentions…

Puffy down jacket: Lightweight, warm, packable and all you need (it’s not necessary to bring a heavy fleece, too).

Kev Reynolds’ Ciccerone Guide to the TMB: An excellent resource.

Don’t forget to check out our complete packing list for the TMB here.  Additionally, if you’re on a tight budget, be sure to take a look at this article for backpacking gear hacks to save you money.

Electronics

Charging

Many campgrounds and other accommodation along the route will allow you to charge your devices for free, although there is some variation in terms of availability from place to place. See our guide for specific information on each stage. We recommend using a multi-port USB adapter, as outlets can be in high demand. If you’re coming from outside of Europe, you’ll need a travel adapter. Thankfully, you’ll use the same adapter in all three countries along the route.

Cell Service

Cell phone service is pretty widespread along the Tour du Mont Blanc, but it isn’t always reliable or predictable. Expect to get service in all of the larger towns, but less so as you go further from civilization. You might be able to pick up a few bars at high points and unobstructed areas (like the top of a mountain pass), but definitely don’t count on it.

Wifi

For better or worse, many of the campgrounds along the TMB now offer Wifi. It’s typically free to use, although some places may require an additional fee. You’ll usually have to move close to the reception building in order to connect to it. The mountain refuges (and most gites) along the TMB do not offer wifi, but it is commonplace at all hotels.

Hikers sitting in chairs and enjoying the views outside Refuge de la Flegere

No wifi? No problem! The views and camaraderie provide more than enough entertainment along the TMB.

 

Wild Camping on the Tour du Mont Blanc

Wild camping along the TMB is complicated and discouraged (and often illegal). The trail passes through three countries and several local municipalities, each with their own specific rules and regulations. Generally speaking, wild camping may be allowed in France at high altitudes between sunset and sunrise, it may be permitted above 2,500 meters (from dusk until dawn) in Italy, and it is strictly forbidden in Switzerland. This website has helpful information on the specific legal codes for each country.

The good news is that there are many official campsites that are easily accessible along the TMB. While not entirely cheap, we feel it is important to use these facilities whenever they are available in order to give respect to the local communities and the fragile natural environment. Furthermore, there are quite a few opportunities to pitch your tent in free sanctioned wild and semi-wild camp spots along the TMB (see the guide below for specific details). If you choose to wild camp outside of these areas, set up after dusk, pack up at dawn, and utilize leave no trace practices.

Wildflowers on stage 4 of the TMB

This might look like an ideal place to camp, but it’s definitely not legal!

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Tour du Mont Blanc | Maps

The Tour du Mont Blanc takes trekkers through France, Italy, and Switzerland on one of the most spectacular trails in the world. Typically completed in 11 stages, the route circumnavigates…

The Tour du Mont Blanc takes trekkers through France, Italy, and Switzerland on one of the most spectacular trails in the world. Typically completed in 11 stages, the route circumnavigates Mont Blanc, the highest peak in Western Europe. This post will provide all of the TMB navigational resources you need to familiarize yourself with the route, location, and all things map-related so you can be sure you’re ready to tackle this epic adventure!

What’s in this post?

Where is the Tour du Mont Blanc?

The Tour du Mont Blanc is an approximately 101 mile/162 km trek that takes walkers around Mont Blanc and through France, Italy, and Switzerland. The closest major city to the TMB is Geneva, Switzerland. The route passes through seven mountain valleys (Val d’Arve, Val d’Montjoie, Vallee des Glaciers, Val Veni, Italian Val Ferret, Swiss Val Ferret, and Vallee du Trient) and is typically completed in 11 stages.

Map showing the location of the Tour du Mont Blanc

The Tour du Mont Blanc takes walkers through France, Italy, and Switzerland.

 

The TMB is traditionally hiked in a counter-clockwise direction beginning in the French town of Les Houches, adjacent to Chamonix. It is also possible to walk the route in a clockwise direction, and trekkers headed this way typically start in the Swiss town of Champex. The TMB also passes through the French towns of Les Contamines, Les Chapieux, and Tre-le-Champ, the Italian town of Courmayeur, and the Swiss towns of La Fouly and Champex. The stages for the traditional counter-clockwise route are as follows:

  • Stage 1: Les Houches to Les Contamines
  • Stage 2: Les Contamines to Les Chapieux
  • Stage 3: Les Chapieux to Rifugio Elisabetta
  • Stage 4: Rifugio Elisabetta to Courmayeur
  • Stage 5: Courmayeur to Rifugio Bonatti
  • Stage 6: Rifugio Bonatti to La Fouly
  • Stage 7: La Fouly to Champex
  • Stage 8: Champex to Col de la Forclaz
  • Stage 9: Col de la Forclaz to Tre-le-Champ
  • Stage 10: Tre-le-Champ to Refuge La Flegere
  • Stage 11: Refuge La Flegere to Les Houches

While for many the mere mention of Mont Blanc conjures up images of the famous French mountaineering town of Chamonix, the route of the TMB does not actually go through the town, instead taking a trail high above the Chamonix Valley.

Tour du Mont Blanc map

The Tour du Mont Blanc leads trekkers around the Mont Blanc Massif.

 

In addition to the traditional route, the Tour du Mont Blanc also includes several ‘alternates’. These trails still connect the same start and finish points, but take walkers on a different route between the two points. Alternates can be used to add challenge, avoid certain sections, or lengthen/shorten a particular stage. The map below shows the common alternate routes on the TMB.

Tour du Mont Blanc Map with alternate routes shown.

The Tour du Mont Blanc also includes many alternate routes, shown in the map above.

 

Interactive Tour du Mont Blanc Map

The interactive Tour du Mont Blanc map below will allow you to zoom in on the various stages as well as view the traditional stops along the route. The map also displays the common alternate routes that are a part of the TMB. You can click on each stage to see the total length, listed in both kilometers and miles.

 

How long is the Tour du Mont Blanc?

The Tour du Mont Blanc is approximately 101 miles or 162.5 kilometers long. This is based on following the traditional route and not taking any shortcuts or alternates. Of course, few if any walkers will stick to this route exactly. You could easily walk less or more depending on your preferences, route choices, and the conditions encountered on the trail.

The maps below show the approximate distance of each stage in miles as well as kilometers. For more detail on each stage be sure to check out our interactive map in the section above!

Map of the Tour du Mont Blanc with stage distances in miles.

Approximate stage distances of the TMB in miles.

 

Map of the Tour du Mont Blanc with stage length in kilometers

Approximate stage distances of the TMB in kilometers.

 

What is the elevation profile of the Tour du Mont Blanc?

Over all 11 stages, the Tour du Mont Blanc has approximately 37,000 feet or 11,300 meters of elevation change! That averages out to over 3,300 feet or 1,000 meters of elevation change per stage for those who complete the walk in 11 days. Of course, there will be days with more elevation gain and days with less. Given that the TMB is a loop trail, you’ll ascend and descend the exact same amount over the course of your trek.

The elevation profiles below, displayed in both imperial and metric units, will give you an overview of what each stage of the Tour du Mont Blanc is like in terms of total elevation change and distance. On the charts elevation is shown on the left hand side while distance is shown on the bottom. Each blue dot represents a stop along the traditional 11 stage TMB route, with the stop name shown at the top.

The steepness of the line between any two points shows the steepness of the trail for that particular stage. The distance between the two points shows the length of the the stage. So for instance you can see that the stage from Tre-le-Champ to La Flegere is rather short in distance, while the stage from Les Contamines to Les Chapieux has a lot of elevation gain.

Elevation profile of the Tour du Mont Blanc in feet and miles

Elevation profile of the Tour du Mont Blanc in feet and miles.

 

Elevation profile of the Tour du Mont Blanc in meters and kilometers

Elevation profile of the Tour du Mont Blanc in meters and kilometers.

Which maps should I carry on the Tour du Mont Blanc?

The TMB is a very well marked trail with frequent signs and trail markers. As a result, when we hiked the TMB we did not rely heavily on any of the various paper maps that are available for the route. Instead, we preferred to utilize GPS maps on our phones, as described in the next section. However, that doesn’t mean we didn’t bring paper maps with us. While technology has done a tremendous amount to make navigating while hiking easier, there is simply no replacement for carrying a physical map with you. If your phone runs out of battery or you drop it in a puddle you’ll be glad you had your handy paper maps to rely on.

We recommend bringing the IGN 3630 OT Chamonix and IGN 3531 ET St-Gervais with you, as they provide a detailed view of the TMB route. A weatherproof carrying case like this one wouldn’t hurt to have either.

Tour du Mont Blanc GPS/GPX

If you’re interested in getting access to the GPS data used to create all of the maps in this post, we are happy to offer our Tour du Mont Blanc GPX files for only $4.99. When you download the GPX file, you’ll get route data for each of the traditional stages of the TMB as well as all of the common alternate route, plus waypoints for each stop along the way.

You’ll be able to load the GPX file into the mapping software or GPS phone app of your choice!

BUY NOW

Tour du Mont Blanc map app/offline mapping

As mentioned above we utilized offline downloadable GPS maps on our smartphones to navigate while hiking the TMB. This is a great way to navigate on the trail as it allows you to see your progress for the day and also isn’t reliant on a cell phone signal to display the map. Our How to Navigate on the TMB post has all the information you need to get set up using an app for your Tour du Mont Blanc map. This step-by-step article will teach you how to quickly and easily turn your phone into a GPS device.

Want more Tour du Mont Blanc content?

Be sure to check out all of our great TMB content for packing lists, camping guides, and much more. We also have a FREE TMB Starter Kit and a comprehensive Tour du Mont Blanc Planning Guide that we know you’ll love!

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Personalized TMB Coaching

  If you’re looking for one-on-one support in preparing for the Tour du Mont Blanc, we can help! We use our passion, experience, and knowledge of the TMB to assist…

 

If you’re looking for one-on-one support in preparing for the Tour du Mont Blanc, we can help! We use our passion, experience, and knowledge of the TMB to assist fellow hikers who want to have their best possible trek.

Who’s it For?

There is a TON of information out there about the Tour du Mont Blanc, so it isn’t absolutely necessary to work with a coach. However, if you don’t want to spend hours combing through books and online resources, a coach can provide you with all of the targeted, individualized information you’ll need while saving you tons of time. Additionally, if you feel anxious about the uncertainties that come with an undertaking like the TMB, working with a coach can help you feel more mentally prepared. Finally, if you have any specific needs, in terms of fitness, diet, budget, or travel logistics, a coach can provide customized advice and solutions.

What We Offer:

While all coaching packages can be customized to fit your individual needs, our basic package includes the following:

  • 30-minute Skype Consultation: Getting to know you, your goals for the trip, what you’d like to get out of working with a coach, and answering any trip-related questions.
  • Itinerary Planning Assistance: We’ll work with you to put together the best itinerary based on how many days you plan on hiking, how much distance you want to cover each day, incorporating a rest day, information on camping, etc.
  • Gear Consultation: We’ll work with to create a custom packing list that minimizes the weight you’ll need to carry, while meeting your specific needs and incorporating the gear you already own.
  • Custom Training Plan: We’ll help you develop a comprehensive and individualized approach to build your fitness and reduce the risk of injury so you can enjoy your trek to the fullest. We will also provide local hike recommendations in your area and give you a breakdown of how they compare to various stages of the TMB.

Price: $100 USD

Why Choose Us?

Both Emily and Ian have many years of backpacking and hiking experience on some of the world’s most iconic trails. We’ve tackled long and short treks in New Zealand, Europe, Namibia, as well as countless adventures in our own Rocky Mountain backyard. Additionally, Emily is a seasoned marathon runner and track coach and Ian is an avid mountain biker, which means we have a good understanding of how to train for endurance events.  As spreadsheet nerds, we have a knack for detailed planning and logistics. Being  stewards of TMBtent.com has allowed us to become very well-versed in all things TMB, and we are continually engaged in deepening our knowledge base. Finally, we truly believe that hiking the Tour du Mont Blanc is a life-changing experience, and we want to help as many people get on the trail and share in that joy.  We work with people from all backgrounds, ages, and ability levels, and we will meet you wherever you’re at with no judgement, only excitement and support.

If you’re ready to get started, fill out the form below and you’ll hear from us soon!

TMB Coaching Inquiry
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How Much It Cost Us to Hike the TMB

At first glance, the Tour du Mont Blanc might seem physically daunting, but many might find it even more financially intimidating. Traversing three Western European countries and staying in the…

At first glance, the Tour du Mont Blanc might seem physically daunting, but many might find it even more financially intimidating. Traversing three Western European countries and staying in the many “quaint” (read: pricey) resort towns along the way? Buying enough food to fuel yourself through day after day of long miles on the trail? Doesn’t seem cheap, does it? The beautiful thing about the TMB, however, is that it’s pretty much up to you how expensive you want to make it. There are hikers who choose to spend more to take guided tours, stay in private rooms at upscale hotels and huts, and buy all of their meals at restaurants along the way. Others take the extremely frugal route, camping as much as possible, cooking their own meals, and minimizing expenses wherever they can. We tend to travel on the frugal side, as we enjoy the simplicity and authentic experiences that go hand in hand with this type of travel. That being said, we’re not claiming the most hardcore budget travelers out there; we certainly allow ourselves to indulge in things that bring value to our experience, such as a post-hike beer or a hotel room on our rest day. Below we’ve outlined what we spent on our 2017 Tour du Mont Blanc adventure. We hope that by sharing this information, our fellow hikers will be able to plan and budget more accurately for their own trip. Additionally, you might find that an experience like the TMB is more within reach than you originally thought, if you just make a few intentional decisions when planning your travel. So grab your tent and get out there!

Refuge du Col de Balme.

Accommodation

We chose to camp as much as possible along the Tour du Mont Blanc and we highly recommend it to others for a number of reasons. First, many of the campgrounds were quite luxurious, with amenities such as hot showers and wifi. We also preferred the privacy of our tent versus the dorm-style sleeping arrangements of the huts. Sleeping outdoors in such spectacular alpine surroundings became a highlight of our trip. And of course, the price of camping can’t be beat! There are a few places along the TMB where there are no official campgrounds and wild camping is not permitted. For those situations, we opted to stay in the mountain huts, which offered amazing ambiance and delicious meals for a reasonable price. We also stayed in a hotels for our rest day in Courmayeur, which proved to be a wonderful treat after roughing it for so many days. Here’s a breakdown of our accommodation spending:

  • Average Hut Price: €54 (per person)
  • Average Campsite Price: €12 (per person)
  • Hotel in Chamonix for before and after the hike: €85 (per night)
  • Hotel in Courmayeur for rest day: €132 (per night)

 

Transit

  • Bus from Geneva to Chamonix: €43 (round trip)
  • Bus from Chamonix to Les Houches: €3 (each way)
  • Shuttle Bus from Les Chapieux to Refuge Des Mottets: €3

Flights:

We strategically used credit card points and miles in order to fly from Denver to Geneva for nearly free. Read more about how we did it here.

Airline Taxes and Fees: $98.63 + 60,000 United Airlines miles (per person)

Food and Drink

You may be backpacking through rugged mountains, but that doesn’t necessitate spending a small fortune on fancy freeze-dried meals. We preferred to stock up on lightweight, nutritious, and tasty dry goods from the local grocery stores to fuel us along the TMB. We tended to eat ramen noodles or local cheese, sausage, and bread for most dinners. For lunches, we snacked on a trail mix blend that we made from salted peanuts and raisins, which we purchased copious amounts of whenever we found them at reasonable prices along the route. For breakfast, we ate muesli with powdered milk and instant coffee. Occasionally, we’d pick up some fresh fruit from a local shop. These foods kept us feeling full throughout long days of hiking, and we found them to be more enjoyable than those space-age style backpacker meals. Plus, they were a fraction of the price!

On average, we spent about €8-€12 per person, per day on our food and drink.

Of course, we allowed ourselves a few treats along the way, too. Here’s what you can expect to pay, on average, for the following indulgences:

  • Beer: €6
  • Bottle of Wine: €10
  • Baguette: €2
  • Breakfast/Lunch Mountain Hut: €15
  • Dinner at Mountain Hut: €25
  • Coffee/Tea: €3
  • Sandwich: €10

Miscellaneous

As you can see, we happily teetered between dirtbag and deluxe on our TMB holiday. While there’s no escaping the high costs of some essentials, in general, one can experience the Tour du Mont Blanc on a modest budget (and enjoy some excellent wine and cheese while doing so). Obviously, you’ll also want to factor in the cost of hiking gear that you’ll need to purchase prior to setting off on your trek. Check out our packing list to get an idea of what you might need to purchase ahead of time. Also, our Backpacking Gear on a Budget article has some helpful ideas for keeping your costs low when putting together your backpacking kit. Whether you choose to splurge or keep it simple, we feel confident you’ll have the adventure of a lifetime.

What’s Next?

Ready to keep planning your TMB adventure? Be sure to read our entire series on the Tour du Mont Blanc to learn everything you’ll need to know to prepare for this incredible adventure!

If you’re looking for one-on-one support in preparing for the Tour du Mont Blanc, we can help! Learn more about our personalized TMB coaching services. 

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Tour du Mont Blanc Logistics

Many of the small details of planning the Tour du Mont Blanc can end up being the biggest challenges. You probably know that crossing the Col du Bonhomme will be…

Many of the small details of planning the Tour du Mont Blanc can end up being the biggest challenges. You probably know that crossing the Col du Bonhomme will be difficult, but you might not be thinking as much about how you’ll get from the airport in Geneva to your hotel in Chamonix. We’ve put together the following post to help you tackle all of those tricky logistical items that are sure to arise when you’re planning your own TMB adventure.

What’s in this post?

 

For those who want the best information all in one place, you can purchase our printable Guide to Camping on the Tour du Mont Blanc for under $10! The Guide includes everything you’ll need to have an awesome experience on the TMB. Save yourself the time of endless searching to find the information you need to plan your trip and pick up our guide below!

LEARN MORE  BUY NOW

Getting to Chamonix from the Geneva Airport

The vast majority of walkers will get to the start of the Tour du Mont Blanc by first flying into the Geneva Airport (GVA). There are frequent flights to Geneva from the rest of Europe as well as a good number of flights from the U.S. Most U.S. flights arrive early in the morning, leaving you with ample time to get to Chamonix that same day. Once you’ve landed in Geneva, you’ll have several options for getting to Chamonix, outlined below:

  • OuiBus – We found this to be the cheapest option and would highly recommend OuiBus. The service departs directly from the Geneva Airport and will take you to the Chamonix Sud bus station, in the heart of Chamonix.
  • AlpyBus – AlpyBus runs a door to door transfer service from the Geneva Airport to hotels in the Chamonix Valley. It is more costly than OuiBus, but also more convenient since they’ll drop you directly at your hotel (or campground!).
  • Mountain Drop-offs – Similar to AlpyBus, Mountain Drop-offs runs a door to door transfer service for walkers arriving in Geneva. Very highly rated.

All of the options above will also be able to transport you back to the Geneva Airport at the end of the TMB. Many also offer discounts for booking a return ticket.

Getting from Chamonix to Les Houches

Many walkers will opt to stay at least one night in Chamonix before and after hiking the Tour du Mont Blanc. While Les Houches is a lovely town, there is no denying that Chamonix has more services and certainly more accommodation options. Luckily, the Chamonix Valley has excellent public transportation linking the various villages, and it is a breeze to get to Les Houches and the start of the TMB from just about anywhere in the valley.

If you’re staying in Chamonix, you’ll want to make your way to the Chamonix Sud bus station. Busses depart from the Chamonix Sud bus station every 30 minutes for Les Houches. You can find updated service schedules on the Chamonix Bus website. Once in Les Houches, we recommend getting off at the ‘Les Houches Mairie’ stop located in the center of the village. The stop, located on the Rue de l’Essert, is directly on the TMB. To start you’ll just begin walking along the road through Les Houches!

After you’ve finished the TMB you’ll utilize the same bus to return to Chamonix (after a well-deserved beer, of course). Make sure to save enough cash to pay the bus fare on the way back, as there isn’t a ticket office near the bus stop.

Beautiful flowers adjacent to the ‘Les Houches Mairie’ stop

Where to stay before and after the TMB

If you’re using our Guide to Camping on the Tour du Mont Blanc, you’ve surely got your tent packed up and ready to go. While you’ll be doing plenty of camping during your hike, you may enjoy sleeping in a hotel both before and after the TMB. There is nothing quite like a soft mattress and hot shower after 10 days of trekking! Below are some of the best accommodation options in the Chamonix Valley for before and after the TMB:

Chamonix

Hotel Le Morgaine – We stayed at this highly-reviewed hotel both before and after the TMB. We found the rooms to be spacious, the staff very friendly, and the location to be excellent. Room rates are also quite reasonable.

Auberge du Manoir – Known for their friendly staff, beautiful rooms, and great location, the Auberge du Manoir is a great option in Chamonix.

Hôtel Le Refuge des Aiglons – The Hotel Le Refuge des Aiglons is located adjacent to the Chamonix Sud bus station, making it an ideal location for the night you arrive in or before you depart Chamonix.

You can check out all the options in the Chamonix Valley here:



Booking.com

Les Houches

Hotel Les Campanules – Located just across the river from the town center of Les Houches, Hotel Les Campanules gets great reviews for its tremendous views and excellent food. It’s also a great budget option.

Rocky Pop Hotel – Located just outside of Les Houches, the Rocky Pop hotel has stellar reviews for its funky style and friendly staff.

Camping Bellevue – Of course we’d be remiss to not include the well-located campground in Les Houches, Camping Bellevue.

Airbnb

There are many different accommodation options available in the Chamonix Valley on Airbnb. You’ll find everything from luxurious chalets to rooms in a shared house. Airbnb’s often provide a kitchen and laundry facilities, which can be a welcome feature after hiking in the same two smelly outfits for the past 10 days! You can get $40 off your first Airbnb stay by registering here.

There are many stunning Airbnbs in the Chamonix Valley!

Luggage storage

Many walkers will be traveling with more luggage than they might want to carry for the entire TMB. Unfortunately, there are no luggage storage facilities at the train station in Chamonix. The best option for walkers on the TMB is to store your extra baggage at the Gite le Chamoniard, which charges between 4-6 euros per day depending on the size of your bag. Other hotels and accommodation may store your baggage if you have a reservation before and after you walk, but you’ll want to inquire ahead of time.

The best option of course is to only pack what you need and avoid having to store anything extra!

Rest day options

Many walkers will split up the TMB by taking a rest day along the way. If you have the time, we highly recommend this option as it will give your body a break and also let you explore one of the wonderful villages or towns along the route. Here are your best options:

Courmayeur

Courmayeur is understandably the most popular place for a rest day on the TMB. While it isn’t exactly the halfway point, you’ll have already crossed several major passes and your feet may be begging for a break. Courmayeur is also the largest town you’ll encounter on the TMB, making for an easy place to stock up on supplies and enjoy a shower and bed. Our lodging recommendations for Courmayeur are below:

Hotel Maison La Saxe – One of the best hotels we’ve EVER stayed at, you can’t find a much better spot for a rest day than Maison La Saxe. Located just up the valley from Courmayeur, this small hotel offers an incredible breakfast spread and beautiful rooms. Book early as they only have six rooms!

Cresta Et Duc Hotel – Centrally located with free breakfast. What’s not to love?!

You can check out all the options in Courmayeur here:



Booking.com

La Fouly

La Fouly is past the halfway mark of the TMB, so naturally it makes a good rest day spot. The town is small so there won’t be as much to do as in Courmayeur, but it is a beautiful location nevertheless. Check out our favorite spot in La Fouly:

Maya Joie – A highly rated auberge with a variety of room types and free wi-fi.

Champex

Champex is a lovely Swiss town located on a pristine mountain lake. Most walkers will arrive in Champex at the end of their seventh day, and will be very ready for a break! Champex offers many services, accommodation options, and more to do than La Fouly. Our lodging recommendation for Chamex:

Hôtel du Glacier – Get a room with a balcony to enjoy the stunning views!

But wait…there’s more!

If you’re looking for one-on-one support in preparing for the Tour du Mont Blanc, we can help! Learn more about our personalized TMB coaching services. 

Be sure to check out our entire series on the Tour du Mont Blanc to learn everything you’ll need to know to prepare for this incredible adventure!

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10 Essentials for the Tour du Mont Blanc

The Tour du Mont Blanc is no doubt one of the greatest hiking trips in the world. The route is filled with incredible views, towns, and people, and it will…

The Tour du Mont Blanc is no doubt one of the greatest hiking trips in the world. The route is filled with incredible views, towns, and people, and it will surely be a trip we never forget. We highly recommend camping along the way as you’ll save money and experience the towns and stops along the TMB in a very different way. We’ve also published our packing list for those curious as to what they may need to bring to ensure they are equipped for this adventure. But what other recommendations do we have for those considering tackling the awesome experience that is the TMB? Here are our 10 essentials for hiking the Tour du Mont Blanc.

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Tour du Mont Blanc Store

Looking to commemorate your Tour du Mont Blanc trip with an awesome souvenir? Look no further than the TMBtent Tour du Mont Blanc Store. We have custom made Tour du…

Looking to commemorate your Tour du Mont Blanc trip with an awesome souvenir? Look no further than the TMBtent Tour du Mont Blanc Store. We have custom made Tour du Mont Blanc t-shirts and Tour du Mont Blanc posters for sale on our Etsy shop. Check out the full selection below:

Be sure to check out our other TMB posts as well:

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How to Train for the Tour du Mont Blanc

Imagine the following scenario: You are hiking the Tour of Mont Blanc, the trip you’ve been dreaming about for months, if not years. The scenery is surpassing your expectations as…

Imagine the following scenario: You are hiking the Tour of Mont Blanc, the trip you’ve been dreaming about for months, if not years. The scenery is surpassing your expectations as you encounter idyllic villages and jaw-dropping vistas.  The only problem? You can hardly enjoy it because of the aching of your knees, back, and hips, not to mention a blister the size of Switzerland that’s threatening to erupt inside your hiking boots at any moment. You’ve dragged your sorry self up to the top of (yet another) steep pass, but you can’t stop long to enjoy your accomplishment because, due to your slow pace, you’re behind schedule to reach your stopping point for the day.

When you finally reach the campground, all of the best spots have been claimed by faster hikers and there’s no hot water left in the showers.  Exhausted, you sloppily pitch your tent, scarf some dinner, and fall asleep. The next morning, instead waiting around for the freshly baked bread,  you’re up and out before anyone else because you know you’ve got another 10-hour hiking day ahead of you.

This could be you if you don’t train!

 

Now picture this: It’s early afternoon, and you’ve just crested the first major pass of today’s hike. You’re tired, and the hike has been challenging, but you feel good.  You enjoyed a leisurely morning before starting your hike today, sipping some coffee while breaking down your campsite. Now you have time to eat lunch and soak in the views before beginning your descent.  You arrive at your next destination in time to claim a great campsite, shower, and enjoy a beer in the sunshine. You’re sore and tired, but you feel excited for another day of hiking tomorrow.

So what’s the difference between these two scenarios? Training!

If you’re looking for one-on-one support in preparing for the Tour du Mont Blanc, we can help! Learn more about our personalized TMB coaching services. 

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