Peaks of the Balkans Packing List

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One of the best parts about the Peaks of the Balkans trek is that it strikes a perfect balance between rugged wilderness and creature comforts. The trail ventures into some very remote areas, but you’ll still be able to find a hot shower, multi-course meal, and soft bed to sleep in each night. Although this contrast makes for a wonderful experience, it can also make it challenging to know what to pack. You’ll need to make sure you’re prepared for a serious mountain adventure, while still keeping your backpack as lightweight as possible.

Our tried-and-true packing list is here to help! We’ve highlighted everything you need and nothing that you don’t. It’s sorted into categories so you can easily stay organized as you prepare for your trek. Whether you’re hiking with a guide or on your own, camping or staying in guesthouses, we’ve got you covered. Keep reading to build your perfect Peaks of the Balkans packing list.

Looking down into the valley at the village of Vusanje on the Peaks of the Balkans.
Vusanje, Montenegro.

Packing Basics

There are limitless ways to hike the Peaks of the Balkans: you can carry your own tent and self-cater, stay and eat in guesthouses, hike at a slow pace, double up on stages, and so on. Your Peaks of the Balkans packing list will need to be tailored to your individual itinerary and needs. Despite all of this variability, there are a few basic truths about packing for the Peaks of the Balkans that apply to everyone. These include:

  1. Figure out a way to keep your feet happy and stick to it.
  2. Bring hiking poles and learn how to use them prior to your trek.
  3. Be prepared for the elements.

In the following sections, we’ll break down each of these and share our best advice.

1. Figure Out Your Footwear

The Peaks of the Balkans Trail has the perfect conditions for blisters and other foot issues to grow and thrive: long days, varied and steep terrain, and plenty of moisture. Therefore, it is imperative that you are proactive about keeping your feet healthy and happy on your trek.

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

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. 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 toe socks.

Close-up of hiking boots as hiker crosses a stream.
Good boots will protect your feet against moisture-related issues.

2. Use Trekking Poles

If you haven’t tried hiking with poles before, you are really missing out. Trekking poles can be especially helpful for anyone with hip or knee issues, as they take a lot of strain off your knees and hips. Additionally, they make hiking feel easier, as you transfer some of the effort to your upper body and can get into nice rhythm while you walk. And of course, you’ll be glad to have them when they catch your fall on a steep downhill section! Look for lightweight, collapsible poles that you can easily stash when you’re not using them.

3. Be Prepared for Rain and Shine

If you plan on hiking the Peaks of the Balkans in the summer months, be prepared for plenty of heat and sunshine. That means good sun protection, such as a wide-brimmed hat and sunscreen, as well as a way to stay hydrated.

You’ll also need to be ready for rain and storms, regardless of when you hike. Bring a lightweight rain jacket and a pack cover so that you can keep yourself and your gear nice and dry.

Gray cloud sits low on a mountain.
Moody weather can occur at any time in the mountains.

Camping-Specific Gear

If you plan on camping along the Peaks of the Balkans, 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 and/or women’s clothing list to put together your perfect kit.

ItemRecommendedNotes
TentMSR Hubba Hubba Backpacking Tent
The 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 30A 30° F or 0° C sleeping bag should keep you plenty warm on the Peaks of the Balkans.
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 10+ nights sleeping in a tent, but this is an optional item for those looking to save weight.
StoveMSR Pocket Rocket Stove WITH Kovea P-AdapterThese items are optional, as you can purchase meals while camped at guesthouses. However, if you plan on self-catering, the only gas you’ll find in the region is the puncture top variety. We recommend using the MSR stove with an adapter like the Kovea model, which allows you to use a screw-top stove with puncture-top gas.
Backpacking PotGSI Halulite
For those planning to cook their own meals this pot will serve you well.
UtensilsHumangear SporkEven if you don’t plan on self-catering, this is handy to have with you for on-the-go meals and snacks while hiking and traveling.
Plate/Bowl/Mug
MSR 2-person mess kit

We find this bowl and mug combo to be light, durable, and perfect for camp dinners (only needed if you plan to self-cater).

Most Valuable Camping Gear: Nemo Astro Insulated Sleeping Pad

This was by far our favorite piece of gear for camping on the Peaks of the Balkans. After a long day of hiking, there’s no better feeling than lying down in a cozy tent. Our Nemo sleeping pads were reliable, comfortable, and easy to pack. Getting a good night’s sleep is so important on a multi-day trek, and a comfortable sleeping pad is a key ingredient when you’re camping.

A green and gray tent with grass, fence, and mountains in the background.
Camping in Milishevc.

Personal Gear

Whether you’re camping or staying indoors, these items are must-haves for your Peaks of the Balkans packing list. While we’ve included some toiletries that are absolutely essential for this trek, we’ve left it up to you to determine your personal list of additional self care items (comb, toothbrush, prescription medication, etc). Use this list in conjunction with the miscellaneous and clothing lists to build your perfect kit.

ItemRecommendedNotes
Multi-ToolGerber Suspension Multi-PlierPerfect for making sandwiches, repairing gear, and a million other purposes!
First-Aid Kit
Adventure Medical Kits
A good backpacking first aid kit is essential. You hope to never have to use it, but will be glad you have it when you need it. Make sure to include some Compeed for blisters.
Hydration Bladder or Water BottlesPlatypus 3L Hydration BladderYou’ll need a lot of water on this trek, and refill options are not always reliable along the trail.
Water Filter Sawyer Squeeze or Sawyer MiniIt’s a good idea to filter water before drinking from streams that you pass on the trail.
Pack CoverSea to Summit Pack CoverThis is a truly essential piece of gear given how hard it can rain on the POB. Sea to Summit makes a variety of sizes to fit a range of packs.
Men’s BackpackOsprey Atmos 65L or Osprey Talon 36L If 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 guesthouses. 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 guesthouses. We believe that Osprey makes the most comfortable packs on the market.
Trekking PolesBlack Diamond Trail Trekking PolesYour knees will thank you on steep sections!
Travel TowelSea to Summit Drylite TowelNot all guesthouses provide towels, so it’s good to carry a lightweight one with you.
HeadlampBlack Diamond Storm HeadlampGreat headlamp with long battery life and adjustable brightness.
Sunscreen
Blue 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.

Most Valuable Personal Gear: Platypus 3L Hydration Bladder

As we’ve mentioned, it can get HOT on the Peaks of the Balkans Trail. It is so important to stay safely hydrated on long days in the sun. We loved being able to fill up these bladders in the morning and not have to think about water for the entire day. They sit comfortably against your back, making it easy to carry the extra weight. Plus, you can sip from the hose while walking instead of having to stop every time you need a drink.

A fire ring in the foreground with several wooden buildings in the background.
Guesthouse Leonard in Dobërdol

Read more: Peaks of the Balkans Accommodation Guide

Miscellaneous Gear

These odds and ends are the unsung heroes of the Peaks of the Balkans 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 POB kit.

ItemRecommendedNotes
GuidebookTrekking the Peaks of the Balkans Trail (Cicerone Guides)A must-have resource, and also available digitally to save weight in your pack!
EarplugsMack’s EarplugsEssential for sleeping in dormitories or crowded campsites.
Sleeping MaskAlaska Bear Sleeping MaskThis makes a big difference when you’re sleeping in guesthouses 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. 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 10000
Great 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.
Insect RepellentBen’s 30% DEETInsect repellent is a very necessary item for the POB. It’s a good idea to get one that works well against both ticks and mosquitos.
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.

Most Valuable Personal Gear: Ben’s 30% DEET Insect Repellent

You are guaranteed to encounter bugs of all shapes and sizes on the Peaks of the Balkans Trail, and lots of them! Depending on the weather and the time of year, you may come across a few sections of trail that are absolutely teeming with mosquitos. We didn’t see any ticks on our trek, but they are known to be present in the area. Bringing along some good insect repellent can make a world of difference, and really make your hike so much more enjoyable.

Lake Hrid Peaks of the Balkans
This lake is beautiful, but the bugs love it too!

Men’s Clothing

When you’re trekking in the same clothes for over a week, 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.

ItemRecommendedNotes
Underwear (2-3 pairs)ExOfficio Men’s Give-N-Go Boxer BriefHighly recommended! You can bring 2-3 pairs and easily wash them sinks or showers along the way.
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 ShirtSmartSmartwool 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 good 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! This one packs up small and light
HatColumbia Bora Bora BooneyThis wide-brimmed and breathable hat keeps you cool and protected from the sun.
SandalsCrocs Classic ClogsThis lightweight and comfy sandals are perfect for slipping on after a long day of walking.
Hiking BootsSalomon Men’s X Ultra 3 Mid GTX Hiking BootSuper comfortable and super waterproof! These held up well to the gnarly trail conditions on the Peaks of the Balkans.
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.

Most Valuable Men’s Clothing: SmartSmartwool Men’s Merino Short Sleeve Shirt

When it comes to hiking shirts, we much prefer merino wool over synthetic materials. This shirt stayed smelling fresh after multiple days of trekking, and it dried super quickly once we finally washed it out. The fabric is soft, comfortable, and very breathable.

Hiker seen from behind with winding trail and mountains in the background.
Staying cool and comfortable on the trail.

Women’s Clothing

When you’re trekking in the same clothes for over a week, 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. 

ItemRecommendedNotes
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 250 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.
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 Booney
This wide-brimmed and breathable hat keeps you cool and protected from the sun.
SandalsCrocs Classic Clogs
This lightweight and comfy sandals are perfect for slipping on after a long day of walking.
Bandana/BuffBuff CoolNet UV+
These are great for wiping away sweat, keeping hair out of your face, or protecting your neck from the sun.

Most Valuable Women’s Clothing: Darn Tough Micro Crew Socks

The Peaks of the Balkans Trek can be pretty tough on your feet, so it’s important to be proactive in keeping them feeling good and blister-free. Darn Tough makes high-quality socks that are comfortable, durable, and moisture-wicking. Although they’re a little pricey, the lifetime warranty makes them a good value.

Dirt road with snow-capped mountains in the background in Theth, Albania.
Theth, Albania.

Have a Great Trip!

We hope by now you’re well on your way to putting together the perfect kit for your Peaks of the Balkans adventure. Be sure to check out The Complete Guide to the Peaks of the Balkans Trek and our Peaks of the Balkans Accommodation Guide to learn more about planning for this incredible hike. Happy trails!

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