Keep in mind you have to carry everything yourself, so you better pack light. It’s essential to find a good balance between bringing everything you need, but nothing more. In below packing list you will find everything you need for a multi-day hike in the mountains while sleeping in refuges, from clothing advice to other essentials. I advice you to shift your mindset from ‘fashionable’ to ‘functional’ and from ‘freshly washed’ to ‘clean enough’. It requires some practice, but once you master your mindset, your packing habits will follow.
I have to admit I don’t master it perfectly – my multi-day hike packing list is still larger than Benjamin’s one – but below items had the honour to travel to the mountains with me in the past.
Fancy camping more than refuges? Read through below’s list and then continue here to find out about the extra gear you need for camping.
Dress like an onion for the day
Layering is essential during mountain walks. Be prepared for 4 seasons in a day. This is my standard set of hiking clothes.
- 1 x shorts
- 1 x long trousers
- 3 x underwear: In good weather conditions you could even do with 2. You wear 1, you wash 1 in the evening which can dry the next day hanging outside your backpack. In wet weather conditions I would allow 2 days to dry which is why I recommend 3 pairs. You don’t want to wear wet socks.
- 1 x hiking boots
- 1 x hiking poles. Your knees will be thankful. It really makes a huge difference when going down.
- 1 x sports bra (one of my tops has a built-in bra top in it – you might consider 2)
- 2 x T-shirts/top
- 1 x long sleeve shirt
- 1 x sweater in light weight fabric
- 1 x down jacket
- 1 x rain jacket
- 1 x buff (can serve as a scarf or to protect your head from the sun)
- 1 x gloves (when you expect cold mornings or evenings)
Keep it fresh & clean at night
I keep a separate set of evening/night clothes. I wear them èvery single night but I nèver wear them while hiking to keep them relatively clean.
- 1 x thermal leggings
- 1 x warm socks: I tend to take a soft & looser pair just for the evening/sleeping. Alternatively you could already wear the clean socks your will wear next hiking day.
- 1 x slippers: I prefer bath slippers above flipflops so I can easily wear socks in my slippers – very fashionable! Never thought I would promote these, but Crocs could work great as well as they are comfortable & lightweight.
- 1 x sleeping shorts (if I expect it to be warm enough in the refuge)
- 1 x T-shirt or wool top
- 1 x thermal long sleeve shirt
- 1 x sweater (same as in hiking set*)
- 1 x down jacket (same as in hiking set*)
*While hiking, I don’t really wear my sweater and down jacket while heavily sweating, so I can wear them in the evening without disturbing my neighbours.
- 1 x hat (my sweater & down jacket have a cap, but I do prefer to bring a beanie when I expect cold mountain tops)
Other stuff in my backpack
It’s not all about clothing, The following items have proven to be helpful. I sorted them in a day and night list. Most items on the night list can be stuffed away deeper in your backpack, except for your navigation tool.
FOR THE DAY:
- Headlight (Petzl or similar)
- Camelback or water bottle (check if you need water purifying tablets in the area you’re hiking)
- Toilet paper
- Empty plastic bag to collect your garbage (including toilet paper)
- Camera, phone, power bank
- Small first aid kit, including emergency blanket
- Sunscreen & lip balm
- Hand sanitizer
- Pocket knife or multi-tool
- If you plan on having picnics: Sandwich box, cutlery
- Some snacks or energy bars
- Repair kit: a piece of rope, some duct tape, a tension strap, multiglue, …
FOR THE NIGHT:
You will want to freshen up.
- Washcloth & small quick-dry towel (check upfront: if there are no showers, there’s no need to bring a decent towel)
- Toiletries in small containers: toothbrush, toothpaste, multi-purpose biodegradable soap, hydrating face cream
- Washing powder
- Optional: A piece of rope & some clothes pins
You will have some time to spare.
- E-reader or lightweight book
You will want to prepare for the next day.
- Chargers for your electronic devices
- Take into account that mountain huts often run on solar energy and cannot charge your devices. A power bank is essential.
- Guidebook and/or map
- I pinpoint the itinerary on the free app Maps.me (don’t forget to download the maps at home)
You will want to sleep well!
- Earplugs & eye mask: sleeping in dorms, you know!
- Liner bag: the refuge will provide you with a blanket, but bring your own liner.
*Check this well before leaving. In summer 2020 (COVID) we needed to bring our own sleeping bag in the Pyrenees.
- Inflatable pillow (optional): some refuges provide a pillow and a sweater can help you out in case they don’t offer one
Keep these tips in mind when selecting your equipment.
- Go for lightweight & fast drying materials.
- Good outdoor equipment is not cheap, but it will last for years. It’s something that needs to ‘grow’. No need to buy everything at once or throw away the gear you have. But when you replace an item consider investing in proper lightweight equipment.
Our first-ever multi day hike was part of the GR20 in Corse. We were total novices. We didn’t have a hiking tent, so brought one of those round Quechua pop-up tents. Benjamin did not even bring a sweater, and forget his rain jacket. We had to ask for a garbage bag in the refuge to help him out.
I bought my down jacket during sales for 150€ instead of 300€. At time of purchase, I considered that a lot of money for a functional jacket which I did not really like, even with the 50% reduction. But it’s probably one of the best buys I have made. That down jacket weighs less than 200 gram, is super compact and has kept me warm during our travels in the past 5 years.
In this article you will find the extra items you will need if you decide to camp instead of sleeping in mountain huts.
Let’s end with this last piece of good advice to keep in mind during your hike.
- If you can shower, shower. If you can charge, charge. If you can wash, wash. You’re never really sure when the next opportunity arises.
Please let me know in the comments if you would like to add something to the list. Or if you have any advice to reduce my packing list, I would love to hear from you!
Now that you know what to pack, why not plan your next hike. I highly recommend Alta Via 1 in the Italian Dolomites, one of my favourite multi-day hikes ever.