Walker’s Haute Route Packing List

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If you’re planning to trek the Walker’s Haute Route from Chamonix to Zermatt (or the other way around) and have been utilizing our Guide to Camping on the Haute Route and/or our Ultimate Guide to the Walker’s Haute Route, you’re well on your way to having your best possible adventure. By now, you’ve likely realized that the Haute Route is a tough hike that requires thoughtful preparation and efficient packing. So how do you make sure you’ve got everything you need without carrying a backpack that’s as big as you are?  Our Walker’s Haute Route Packing List is here to help!

Hiker with trekking poles on stage 12 of the Walker's Haute Route
All smiles (and grateful for my trekking poles) on our final day of the WHR!

Below you’ll find a detailed Walker’s Haute Route 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 Walker’s Haute Route adventure! We’ve organized it into the following categories to make it easy to customize for your own travel style and itinerary:

Everything you need to to plan your Walker’s Haute Route trek – all in one place.

Whether you prefer mountain huts or hotels, fastpacking or meandering, luxury, dirtbag or or something in between, we’ve got you covered. Our Guide to the Walker’s Haute Route is the ultimate tool to help you plan your perfect trip.

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We truly believe this is the best resource available for planning your Haute Route trek.  Pick up your guide below and if your not satisfied for any reason we’ll give you a full refund!

Haute Route Packing Basics

There are limitless ways to hike the Haute Route; you can customize the length of your trek, your accommodation preferences, your meal options, and so much more. Your Walker’s Haute Route 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 Haute Route that apply to everyone. These include:

  1. Keep your backpack as light as possible! (see the next section for more on this)
  2. Bring shoes/boots that you know from experience will be comfortable and problem-free.
  3. Bring hiking poles and learn how to use them prior to your WHR trek.
A trail in the foreground with snowy mountains and the Mattertal valley in the distance on the Walker's Haute Route.
Don’t forget to bring some sort of camera (or smartphone) to capture amazing views like these!

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? 
A hiker climbs a ladder up to Pas des Chevres on the Walker's Haute Route
You’ll be glad to have a lightweight pack on sections like this one at Pas des Chevres!

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.

Footwear on the Walker’s Haute Route

Traditional hiking boots, hiking shoes, or trail runners will all work for the trail conditions on the Haute Route, 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 Haute Route! 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!

A woman stands on a log that juts into turquoise water. Footwear on the Walker's Haute Route.
Your trusty boots are one of the most important pieces of gear!

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 probably need to cross some snow at some points along your hike. Gaiters and waterproof boots can be helpful for these situations, but certainly aren’t essential.

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

We’ve completed a lot of tough treks, but the Walker’s Haute Route was one of the toughest on our knees. There are long steep ascents, and even longer and steeper descents on nearly every stage of this roughly two-week hike. I honestly don’t think we would have been able to complete this trek without our trusty trekking poles. These help so much with taking some of the strain off of your lower body and providing traction and stability on loose sections. We consider trekking poles to be an absolute game-changer for the Walker’s Haute Route, and this is especially true for campers who are carrying heavier loads.

A trekker seen from behind heads towards snow capped mountains on the Walker's Haute Route
Charging up the trail thanks to my trekking poles and comfortable backpack!

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 Haute Route. 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 Walker’s Haute Route (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 Camping Guide, we’ve noted the availability of electronics charging along every stage.

Cooking on a camp stove outside Cabane du Moiry
We were glad to have our cozy jackets when cooking dinner outdoors!

Puffy down jacket

We’ve found this to be a perfect piece of gear for the Walker’s Haute Route. 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

Cicerone’s Chamonix to Zermatt: The Classic Walker’s Haute Route by far the best guidebook out there for the Haute Route. 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 offers helpful advice on how to tailor the length of the trek to work for your time parameters, as well as descriptions of optional variants and side-trips. It is also available as an e-book, meaning you can download it to your phone to really optimize your packing! Make sure to get the 2019 version for the most up-to-date information.

Read more: Walker’s Haute Route Accommodation and Refuge Guide

Get The FREE Haute Route Essentials Handbook

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Our free PDF guide covers all the basics – when to hike, accommodation, typical costs, and more!

Camping Gear

If you plan on camping along the Walker’s Haute Route, 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 Walker’s Haute Route packing list.

Camping on the Walker’s Haute Route is definitely worth carrying the bigger backpack. We loved the flexibility and independence it gave 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 Haute Route with your own tent.

A sign attached to a tree points towards a camping area on the Walker's Haute Route
Take shortcuts to get to your campground, but not when it comes to your gear!

Our favorite piece of camping gear: Marmot Trestles 15 Sleeping Bag

When the sun goes down, it can get very cold in the Alps, even in the summertime! Spending night after night shivering in your tent will surely make your Haute Route adventure much less enjoyable. This sleeping bag is designed for backpacking, meaning it is lightweight and packs down small, while still being cozy and warm. It is thoughtfully designed; we love the practical features like the double zippers and convenient stash pocket. Sure it’s not as fancy as a down version, but it’s the best synthetic option on the market and way more affordable than down.

 

ItemRecommendedNotes
TentMSR Hubba Hubba Backpacking TentThe MSR Hubba Hubba 2 is the best overall tent you can buy, and the freestanding feature is helpful when you’re trying to find a level pitch or squeeze into a tight spot.
Sleeping BagMarmot Trestle 15A 30° F or 0° C sleeping bag should keep you plenty warm on the WHR. Otherwise the Marmot 15 is a great all around bag.
Sleeping PadNemo Astro Insulated Sleeping PadThis is one of the most lightweight and comfortable sleeping pads out there. Plus, the genius pump sack makes inflating it so easy!
PillowTherm-a-Rest pillowA camping pillow can be great when you’re spending multiple nights sleeping in a tent, but this is an optional item for those looking to save weight.
StoveMSR Pocket Rocket Stove + MSR WindscreenIf you’re camping, a good stove is a must. The MSR is a classic backpacking stove, but you’d be wise to bring a windscreen given the unpredictable weather you may encounter.
Backpacking PotGSI HaluliteFor those planning to cook their own meals this pot will serve you well.
UtensilsHumangear Spork
Plate/Bowl/Mug
MSR 2-person mess kit
We 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 Walker’s Haute Route, 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 Haute Route 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.

A view of the outside of Cabane du Mont Fort on the Walker's Haute Route
Cabane du Mont Fort.

Our favorite piece of refuge-specific gear: Vumos Sleep Sheet

Many mountain refuges along the Walker’s Haute Route require the use of sleep sheets for hygienic reasons. Even if it’s not mandated, a sleep sheet is a good idea. The bedding at most refuges consists of just a mattress cover and a duvet that isn’t typically washed between every use. Plus, it can get quite warm at night in those crowded dorm rooms, and you may prefer something lighter than the blanket provided. The Vumos sleep sheet is great for a number of reasons. It’s super soft, thoughtfully-designed, and easily packable in a compact stuff sack. This can be a huge difference-maker when it comes to getting quality sleep on your trek.

ItemRecommendedNotes
EarplusMack’s EarplugsThe perfect defense for that snorer in the bunk next to you!
Sleeping MaskAlaska Bear Sleeping MaskGreat for blocking out light while sleeping in refuges.
Sleep SheetVumos Sleep SheetRequired in most of the refuges along the Haute Route.
Sandals/SlippersCrocsAlthough not always the most stylish, Crocs make the perfect refuge shoes!

Personal Gear

Whether you’re camping or staying indoors, these items are must-haves for the Walker’s Haute Route. 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.

Our favorite personal gear: Kahtoola Microspikes

Depending on when you hike the Walker’s Haute Route, these will either be absolutely essential or at the very least super helpful. It is very common for large patches of snow remain on the trail through mid-July or later. Some of these sections are easy to navigate with just your hiking boots, but others are extremely steep and slick. This can create a slow, tiring situation at best and a dangerous one at worst. These Microspikes can be quickly attached to your shoes or boots, and they provide immensely better traction to help you grip icy and snowy surfaces. They are small and easily pack away when you don’t need them.

ItemRecommendedNotes
Multi-ToolGerber Suspension Multi-PlierPerfect for making sandwiches, repairing gear, and a million other purposes!
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. Make sure to include some Compeed for blisters.
Hydration Bladder or Water BottlesPlatypus Big Zip EVO Reservoir – 3LFar easier than a water bottle!
Water FilterSawyer Squeeze or Sawyer MiniAlthough potable water isn’t difficult to find on the Haute Route, it is always a good idea to carry a portable filter just in case.
Pack CoverSea to Summit Pack CoverSea to Summit makes a variety of sizes to fit a range of packs.
Men’s BackpackOsprey Atmos 65L or Osprey Talon 36LIf you’re camping, a 65L pack is a good size for all of your gear. The 36L Talon pack should be plenty for those staying in huts. We believe that Osprey makes the most comfortable packs on the market.
Women’s BackpackOsprey Aura 65L or Osprey Kyte 36LIf you’re camping, a 65L pack is a good size for all of your gear. The 36L Kyte pack should be plenty for those staying in huts. We believe that Osprey makes the most comfortable packs on the market.
Trekking PolesBlack Diamond Trail Trekking PolesEssential for long downhills!
MicrospikesKahtoola MicrospikesImportant for anyone trekking in the earlier part of the hiking season.
Travel TowelSea to Summit Drylite TowelGreat to have for those freezing campsite and refuge showers!
HeadlampBlack Diamond Storm HeadlampGreat headlamp with long battery life and adjustable brightness.
Dry BagsSea to Summit Ultra-Sil Dry SackKeeps your clothes and other items dry in a downpour!
Hiking GaitersOutdoor Research Rocky Mountain High GaitersThese will help keep your boots dry when walking on snow covered trails.
SunscreenBlue Lizard SPF 50We recommend a waterproof sport version with SPF 30 or higher.
Toilet PaperCoghlan’s Packable Camp TissueIt’s always good to have a backup. Be sure to pack it out!
Hand SanitizerDr. Bronner’s SprayThis can come in handy on the trail and while traveling.
Extra BatteriesIt’s a good idea to have a few spare batteries for your headlamp or other essential electronics.

Miscellaneous Gear

These odds and ends are the unsung heroes of the Walker’s Haute Route 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 Haute Route packing list.

Our favorite miscellaneous gear: Mack’s Earplugs

Whether you are camping or sleeping indoors, we can almost guarantee there will be some noisy nights on your Haute Route trek. From people inexplicably setting up camp at 11:00pm to international snoring contests in the mountain refuges, there’s an endless array of things that can sabotage your much-needed sleep. That’s why these earplugs are one of the most essential items to take along on a trip like the Haute Route. Mack’s makes good quality silicone earplugs that are more comfortable and effective than the standard foam kind. Trust us, you’ll be glad you packed them!

ItemRecommendedNotes
GuidebookChamonix to Zermatt: The Classic Walker’s Haute Route (Cicerone)A great resource for planning your trek.
EarplugsMack’s EarplugsEssential for sleeping in dormitories or crowded campsites.
Sleeping MaskAlaska Bear Sleeping MaskThis is a must-have for getting a good night’s sleep while traveling.
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. Unlike smart watches, you don’t need to worry about charging this.
CameraSony Alpha a6000 Mirrorless Digital 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 SoapThis is a great all-purpose cleaner for your body, your clothing, your gear, and everything else.
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.
No need to pack a  bunch of clothes- simply rinse them in the sink and rig a clothesline wherever you find yourself!

Women’s Clothing

When you’re wearing the same clothes for roughly 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.

Emily’s favorite piece of women’s clothing: Smartwool Baselayer Top

This shirt was absolutely perfect for layering under my down jacket on frosty mornings on the trail, as well as nice and cozy for hanging out at camp and sleeping in. It’s light enough that I could wear it for added sun protection on hot days, too. Since it’s merino wool, I could wear it for days without it getting stinky at all. When it did need washing, I simply washed it out at the campground and it was dry in no time. This is the ideal clothing item for the demands of the Haute Route.


Recommended
Notes
Underwear (2-3 pairs)ExOfficio Women’s UnderwearVery packable, comfortable, 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 BraProvides excellent support, cushion, and breathability.
Standard Bra (1)After a long day of hiking in a sweaty sports bra this can be a welcome relief to change into.
Long sleeve base layer (1)Smartwool Women’s NTS Mid 150 CrewA great merino wool base layer for chilly evenings.
Short Sleeve Hiking Shirt (1)Smartwool Women’s Merino Short SleeveMerino wool is perfect for backpacking. Lightweight, quick drying, and odor resistant.
Leggings or Hiking Pants (1)Prana – Women’s Halle PantThese pants are stylish, lightweight, and great to hike in.
ShortsLululemon Run Speed ShortsWe prefer running shorts to hiking shorts, as they are more breathable and comfortable under a backpack.
Puffy JacketMarmot Featherless HoodyLightweight, 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 Boots or Trail ShoesAltra Lone Peak Trail Shoes
or
Keen Targhee II Mid Hiking Boot
Depending on your preferences, these are our favorites for a traditional hiking boot and a minimal trail runner.
SunglassesSuncloud Loveseat Polarized SunglassesGood quality sunglasses are essential when you’re in the mountains all day. And these are stylish too!
HatColumbia Bora Bora BooneyThis wide-brimmed and breathable hat keeps you cool and protected from the sun.
Bandana/BuffBuff CoolNet UV+These are great for wiping away sweat, keeping hair out of your face, or protecting your neck from the sun.
GlovesSeirus Waterproof GlovesEssential if there is any cold, wet weather in the forecast.

Men’s Clothing

Ian’s favorite men’s clothing item: Darn Tough Merino Wool Socks

Part of what makes the Walker’s Haute Route so incredible is the variety of terrains and conditions it allows you to experience. Unfortunately, while the dynamic nature of the Haute Route can be great for the senses, it can wreak havoc on your feet, causing blisters and other nasty ailments.  A good pair of socks can greatly reduce your chances of suffering from foot issues. This is one of those times where you really do get what you pay for. We love Darn Tough socks because they keep our feet dry and comfortable in a variety of conditions. T

ItemRecommendedNotes
Underwear (1-2 pairs)ExOfficio Men’s Give-N-Go Boxer BriefHighly recommended! 1-2 pairs is all you need as they are super easy to wash out and dry.
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 LayerSmartwool Men’s NTS Mid 250 CrewVery versatile mid-weight base layer
Short Sleeve Hiking ShirtIcebreaker Merino Men’s Central Short SleeveMerino wool is perfect for backpacking. Lightweight, quick drying, and odor resistant.
Sun HoodieColumbia Sun HoodieThis is a new favorite item of ours. Cool enough to hike in even on hot days, you’ll appreciate not having to constantly reapply sunscreen.
Hiking Pants (1)Prana Brion PantsThese are great for hiking and also look good around town!
Hiking Shorts (1)Prana Brion Hiking ShortsAwesome shorts that are great for hiking.
Down JacketMARMOT Highlander Down HoodySuper warm, and super packable.
Rain JacketOutdoor Research Men’s Helium II JacketA good rain jacket is a must! This one packs up small and light
Rain PantsMarmot Precip PantsYou’ll be glad to have these on rainy days on the trail.
HatColumbia Bora Bora BooneyThis wide-brimmed and breathable hat keeps you cool and protected from the sun.
Hiking BootsSalomon Men’s X Ultra 3 Mid GTX Hiking BootSuper comfortable and super waterproof!
There is a trail running version for those who prefer something a bit lighter.
SunglassesSuncloud Mayor Polarized SunglassesGood quality sunglasses are essential when you’re in the mountains all day. And these are stylish too!
Buff/BandanaBuff CoolNet UV+These are great for wiping away sweat, keeping hair out of your face, or protecting your neck from the sun.
GlovesSmartwool Merino 150 glovesTrust us, you’re going to want gloves on cold mornings on the WHR.

 

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What’s Next?

Be sure to read our entire series on the Walker’s Haute Route to learn everything you’ll need to know to prepare for your trip!

Get The FREE Haute Route Essentials Handbook

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Our free PDF guide covers all the basics – when to hike, accommodation, typical costs, and more!

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