I'm hut hiking / backpacking the Tour Du Mont Blanc this fall. Any advice or tips from others who have completed all or some of this hike?
so jealous! it will be a wonderful experience! your biggest challenge will probably be having enough batter juice for your camera!
I've had a fair bit bit of experience with the huts in the alps, including a few around chamonix, ski touring (haute route)
- your guide service, if using a guide, probably has a packing list, study it closely
- your packed in shoulder to shoulder in the huts sleeping area, unless you have a rare private room
- the blankets/pillows are re-used daily bring a sheet-like sleeping bag that also covers the pillow
- it can get stuffy in group rooms, try to get a bunk next to the windows
- bring some thin rope in case you need to build a clothesline to dry stuff
- bring your own crocs or something, they usually make you leave your boots in a boot alcove, they used to provide some old rubber 'hut shoes'
- make sure you bring a headlamp and know how to get the bathroom at night
- they never feed you enough, so bring a lot of snacks and if you like coffee, bring some starbucks via and get some hot water or pay through the nose for morning coffee/tea. Don't be afraid to take your cup up to the kitchen area and just ask for some hot water.
- know your please/thank you's in french and german. and how to ask for hot water, more food, etc.
- some huts think a couple of slices of thick bread, butter, jam and a piece of cheese is all you need for breakfast.
- they huts are usually well stocked with local beer, I think they assume that's a meal unto itself, lol
- you usually sit on hard benches, so maybe a very small sit-pad. there's not much to do after arrival, meals are the high-lite (or low lite)
- everywhere in the huts is coed, so there's a lot of clothes changing going on out in the open after arrivals, wet clothes, either from rain/fog or just sweat. This is, well, different, for
Americans, but just go with it.
and now, some hut pix
You may be dating yourself 😉 either that or the French huts haven't been keeping up with their Austrian, Swiss and German counterparts...
> the blankets/pillows are re-used daily bring a sheet-like sleeping bag that also covers the pillow
Sleeping bag liners have been mandatory for at least 20 years now. REI sells them. You can also buy them at any European sporting goods store. You can probably also buy them in the huts. I prefer silk for light weight and packability, as well as comfort.
The supplied pillows tend to be puny. Either wrap some clothes around them or bring an inflatable pillow if you want something that's larger and provides better support.
> it can get stuffy in group rooms, try to get a bunk next to the windows
It can also get very loud when the snorers are active. Bring a pair of ear plugs.
> make sure you bring a headlamp and know how to get the bathroom at night
Be respectful of others when using the headlamp at night. I can't count the number of times someone has wakened me by inadvertently "aiming" their headlamp at my face. I prefer a small pocket flashlight for use inside the hut.
> they never feed you enough, so bring a lot of snacks and if you like coffee, bring some starbucks via and get some hot water or pay through the nose for morning coffee/tea. Don't be afraid to take your cup up to the kitchen area and just ask for some hot water.
That's also improved greatly since the '80s and '90s. Food is generally plentiful. It's often as good as you'll find down in the valleys. Many huts also offer vegetarian options.
> some huts think a couple of slices of thick bread, butter, jam and a piece of cheese is all you need for breakfast.
Breakfasts are now often all-you-can-eat buffets with yoghurt, muesli, eggs, hams, sausages, cheese, orange juice, etc. The food is meant for consumption at breakfast. Don't take extras for later snacking.
If you can carry the extra weight, bring a thermos and get it filled with tea or hot water every morning before you head out.
> they huts are usually well stocked with local beer, I think they assume that's a meal unto itself, lol
Not just beer and not just one variety. Nothing quenches thirst after a hike on a hot day than a cold beer. Huts also have wine and liquor (schnapps.)
Back in the '80s and '90s showers were essentially non-existent. Now they're often available. A few even offer "warm" water 😉 as an option. You'll need to buy a token and the warm water will be on a timer, e.g. a couple of minutes, so plan accordingly.
Huts are now also very environmentally-conscious. Use water, even cold water, sparingly. Pack out your waste.
Many huts now require hiking poles to be hung up on a rack rather than brought up to the dorm. Similarly some don't like day packs being brought into the dining room. If you're not sure about something, ask. Most people (staff and other hikers) speak English, often very good English. Most appreciate it if you try to speak their native language first.
Carry local cash (Euros.) Don't assume that credit cards are accepted.
If you have devices that need recharging, bring an AC charger and adapter. There are usually only a few public AC outlets. Use them respectfully of others.
There's cell phone service at some huts. There may even be WiFi.
The national alpine clubs (who sponsor the huts) have websites as do most of the huts. You can use these when planning your trip to find out what facilities are available at each hut. Google is your friend.
something else, the hut staff is always very busy and are not going to 'wait on' you. If you want/need something you'll have to go get them, get their attention and just ask, in their language at first, they'll let you know if they speak english once they get impatient at your butchering the vocab (my experience, I did a lot of butchering, lol), smile, be friendly, but firm and resolute so you don't get pushed over by very aggressive, uh, other climbers/hikers, are more than used to pushing by folks to get to front.