It is not that hard to find a packing list for a trek such as the TMB as there are heaps of them posted on the internet. Much of the contents of the lists will be similar but there are sometimes a few quirky items to be found. Trekkers are creatures of habit and most have their own little foibles: a few small items that they would not be without. As many of you will now be aware, I am obsessed with pack weight. Accordingly, the purist in me likes to think that I have no foibles, carrying only what is absolutely necessary to trek safely and efficiently. The reality, however, is not quite so ascetic. So what are my foibles? What are the things that I don’t want to do without?
The TMB: taking a break in front of Mont Blanc
The GR54: The Ecrins National Park has many beautiful lakes
The GR54: Refuge de Vallonpierre
The Walker's Haute Route: hiking in front of the Matterhorn
The TMB: fabulous views into the Rhone Valley
Ear plugs: I am not breaking new ground with this one! You will find these on many people’s packing list. Many of you will be staying in dormitories on your trek. There will be many other people in these dorms. And you would have to be mad as a bag of cats to believe that you will be lucky enough to avoid people that snore for a period of 10 days or more! I once met a trekker who snored so badly that he carried a bag of earplugs and offered them to those in the beds near him! True story. Trust me on this one: you need to bring some. The yellow foam ones are cheap and light but I believe that there are now fancy-ass noise cancelling Jedi ones. I have not tried these myself yet.
Moleskin: you could say that I am lucky in that I rarely get blisters these days. 15 years ago, I was fortunate enough to find a set of boots that fitted me really well. Since then, I have never worn any other model of boots: I am now on my twelfth pair (Meindl if you are interested). However, it is not all luck. Some years ago, on an Alpine trek, I happened to mention to another hiker that I thought I might have the beginnings of a blister. The kind soul handed me something that I had never seen before: a moleskin pad which you stick on your foot. I had used Compeed blister plasters before with mixed results but the Moleskin really works for me. Any time I feel the tiniest makings of a blister, I stick one on. And then, I change it every morning for the rest of the trek. I am quite sure that most of the time I don’t really need it but it has become part of my trekking regime: perhaps even superstition. Well it works for me and I won’t be without it. Fortunately, a roll is very light!
Anti-inflammatory gel: this could be another of my superstitions, but I always carry a small tube of Volterol gel for strains or knee pain. Anytime my hypochondria tells me that I am in grave danger of my joints imploding, I slap a load on. And in no time, I feel much better. It could be a placebo but it works for me. My lawyer tells me to advise you to make sure that you are not allergic to the gel you take with you!
Protein bars: now there is some science behind this one! Many sports scientists tell us that, for 30 minutes after finishing endurance activity, the human body is best able to absorb protein. This means that if you eat protein and carbs within that period then it gives your body a better chance of recovery before the next day. Accordingly, part of my trekking routine is to eat a protein bar as soon as I stop for the day: before checking in to a refuge or setting up camp. I have been doing this now for 5 years and I believe that it helps my recovery. Have you ever got really cold at the end of a long trek? Well that means your body wants protein and carbs. Again it’s a thing that works for me. I bring six of them. After the sixth day I try to buy some more but if I cannot find them then I do without: my body has usually adjusted to the trek by then anyway so recovery is less of an issue.
Great big heavy camera: yes I know that the iphone takes 12mps and that you can take some staggering photos with it. However, I just love looking through an old school viewfinder. This is my true foible (folly perhaps) for my Canon DSLR and case together weigh 2kg, nearly 25% of my total pack weight. It is heavy but it is part of the trekking experience for me and I love it. Maybe this explains why I am obsessed with making everything else so light!
So what are the things that you cannot do without on a trek?
The newest guidebook to the Tour du Mont Blanc
Real Maps are included for each stage
Numbered waymarks link route descriptions to the maps