Preparing for a trek in the Alps can be daunting, but it certainly doesn’t need to be. If you’ve already chosen your route, you’ve made it past the hardest part! But because we know that good preparation can sometimes make the difference between a regrettable trip and an unforgettable one, we’ve put together this basic list of essentials. Rest assured, though, when you sign up for a WT trek, we’ll send you an extensive packing list—and get downright nitty-gritty with the details!
Simply put, there is only one physical item that truly has the power to make or break your trip. That, of course, is your…
The state of your feet will determine the fate of your trek. Running shoes will not do you any favors on the trail. Be sure and bring a warm, waterproof, broken-in pair of good hiking boots! Look for boots that are lightweight but supportive and have excellent tread. Wear them on the plane or bring them in your carry-on—these are really the only things that aren’t easily replaceable.
Off the trails, you’ll want to give your feet a break. Bring a comfortable pair of shoes for strolling through the city, as well as for kicking back at the lodge or hotel. If you have one versatile pair that works for both, even better!
If you already use these at home, great! You know how useful they can be. If you aren’t used to using them and haven’t been on multi-day hikes with a lot of elevation gain and loss, let us tell you, they can really be a lifesaver! Day after day of hiking can be really hard on your knees, especially on those sustained downhills, and hiking poles can really help with this…not just with balance, but also with distributing some of the pressure on your legs to your upper body. Note that you can’t bring hiking poles on a plane as carry-ons. They must be with your checked-in luggage.
Good-Quality Rain Gear
Of course, we always hope for perfect weather, but you should definitely be prepared for any weather conditions. At home, you might decide to stay in on a rainy day, but you’re traveling thousands of miles for a multi-day hike, and a bit of rain isn’t going to stop us from hiking (unless of course there are critical safety issues involved, in which case your experienced mountain leaders will make the decision to either cancel or alter a hike). So make sure you have good waterproof pants, jacket, and boots. If you have some old rain gear that has been sitting in your closet for 10 years with hardly any use, it would be a good idea to test it out and make sure it is still waterproof.
You’ll need a soft-sided suitcase (with a small padlock), as well as a medium-sized daypack or backpack. Most of our treks in the Alps offer van support, so you’ll only need to carry a daypack. But there are some occasions when van support is not available due to remote lodges and a lack of roads, so make sure you have a comfortable, lightweight day pack.
Layers!! Weather in the Alps can vary greatly. You may get some hot, sunny days when you’ll want shorts and a t-shirt, but rain and cold winds can sweep in at any time. Bring a good base layer, mid-layer, and outer layer. Fleece and synthetic fabrics as insulating base layers are ideal. Cotton is not a good first layer, as it can stay wet and keep you cold. Make sure you have one high-quality outer layer that is roomy enough for under layers.
You’ll also need a couple of long-sleeved and short-sleeved shirts, long and short pants, a hat (for sun and cold), mittens, hiking socks, under layers, and an outfit or two for the cities and/or nicer hotels. Also, don’t forget your bathing suit for a dip in the hot springs or an evening plunge in the hotel pool.
Other Equipment and Personal Items
We recommend bringing two reusable water bottles (we like wide mouth, Nalgene-style bottles), a good pair of sunglasses, a decent supply of sunscreen (non-toxic), lip balm for the dry air, and, of course, your camera! You’re definitely going to want to share your experience with others when you get home.
One final note: You’ll want to check the weather conditions before you pack, but remember that mountain weather is fickle. You may end up not needing much of the rain gear you bring, or feel like you over packed, but you will certainly be glad you brought it if you do experience rain, snow, or unseasonably cold or hot temperatures.
That’s it! Start breaking in your boots, and happy trails!