Tour du Mont Blanc camping: your TMB questions answered

I’m often contacted by people preparing to hike and camp the Tour du Mont Blanc asking questions about my TMB experience. It’s great to hear from everyone and I’m glad you’ve found my Guide to Campsites on the TMB helpful. This post is a summary of the questions I get asked most often. I hope this is useful, please feel free to comment with more questions or advice!

I’ll be hiking and camping as a youngish solo female, did you feel completely safe?
Good question, I get asked this quite often. Personally I did feel completely safe the whole time. The hiking is never too exposed or dangerous, and all the people I met were very friendly. Although I did spend plenty of time alone, there were enough people around that there was always someone to talk to if I needed help. I didn’t meet too many other solo female hikers so it was great to stop and chat to them when I did!

When you did the trail, did you encounter snow problems?
When I hiked the TMB there was a heatwave so it was unusually hot for the time of year (early July). There was some snow at Brevent above Chamonix, and there was some at the Col de la Croix du Bonhomme, but it was really only a small amount and I didn’t need crampons. The conditions can vary year to year, so keep an eye on the weather in advance of your trip.

I’m not a mountaineer, will I need a guide?
I found the trail clearly marked and easy to follow. There wasn’t any difficult or dangerous ground – there are a couple of sections with ladders which are really fun.

What time of year can I complete the hike?
The TMB is a summer route, the guide book advises that the best time of year to complete it is from early July to mid-September, depending on snow conditions which can vary every year.

Gear

Did you use a trail map as well or only the guide book?
I used the Carte de Randonnees hiking map Pays du Mont-Blanc. The TMB is well signposted, but I would recommend having both the guide book and the map.

Is your tent Terra nova or Hillberg? 
My tent is a Terra Nova Laser Competition 1, it’s quite small and only weighs about 900g!

I am planning to do this trip in the summer. I was wondering what type of sleeping bag you used?
I used the Rab Ascent 900 sleeping bag. It’s really thick and very comfortable, but it’s quite large and weighs 1.7kg. You don’t need anything that warm for the TMB in the summer. Since then I’ve bought a Rab Neutrino 400 sleeping bag which I’ve used for fastpacking. I think it’s one of the best available for a balance of technical spec and price. It comes with a drybag, weighs around 900g in the drybag, and packs down to 18 x 27cm, so I would really recommend it.

Accommodation and food

Are there places suitable for wild camping near Rifugio Elisabetta?
It is against the law to wild camp below 2,500m. Rifugio Elisabetta is at 2,200m, however, if you did choose to wild camp, there are suitable places close by.

At Rifugio Elisabetta, do they serve food to people not spending the night?
Yes you can eat at the huts even if you aren’t staying in them.

Did you have to book the campsites in advance or can you just show up? Would there be a case where it would be too full?
It’s not possible to book the campsites in advance, but they are used to hikers arriving and staying for one night. Some of them had separate areas especially for TMB campers with plenty of space. I can’t promise that they never fill up, but I didn’t have any problems with the campsites being too full in the first week of July.

We are taking mostly freeze dried dinners and snacks etc, but is it possible to find lunches or stops along the way?
It is possible to eat at the huts even if you aren’t staying in them, but if you’re on a budget you might prefer to buy food in the supermarket. Be aware that there isn’t a shop selling food at Les Chapieux (although there is a restaurant) or Col de la Forclaz.

Will I be able to charge my phone and camera at the camping?
There are plug sockets in the shower/toilet blocks. It does mean you have to leave your items there to charge. I use a portable battery which can recharge a phone 2-3 times. They don’t cost much, and no one has ever taken it or moved it when I’ve left it for a few hours.

If you’d like to know more, you can read the highlights of my TMB trip.

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6 thoughts on “Tour du Mont Blanc camping: your TMB questions answered

  1. deb

    AS far as packing for the TMB, the pants I’m bringing are water resistant with scotchgard coating (Prana Halle) Do you still recommend rain pants with these? I am trying to keep the pack weight down.

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  2. Juha Ranta

    “At Rifugio Elisabetta, do they serve food to people not spending the night?”

    Rifugio may serve warm food, but don’t count on it. The places that serve warm food (omelettes, tc) have some time frame during which they serve warm food during the day, don’t expect it available when planning the trip. I had a good meal and drink at Elisabetta, but some people coming after me were turned away because it was no longer the “meal time”.

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  3. Juha Ranta

    I did solo Tour du Mont Blanc this year around 1.7. – 16.7.2016. I had visited Chamonix and Courmayeur the year before, so I knew the area area, and I had also did parts around of the hike as day trips. I also had tent as a backup, and a guidebook said the high season will start mid-July so I figured I could do the trek without planning each accommodation place beforehand. I also allowed myself some days to plan, change plans, wait for better weather and so on.

    I stayed in refuges, half-board dorm rooms, private room hotel in Chamonix and Courmayeur and camping. I camped for five days, all of the places from your camping blog post. I downloaded that blog post offline in my phone and frequently consulted it during the trek. So thank you so much for writing that blog post.

    Concerning accommodation, I noticed it’s already quite high season on TMB at this time. When I was about to start the TMB, I tried to call some refuges, especially from Les Contamines to Courmayeur, and they were all full. At that point I decided to use my “spare days” to plan a bit more, and I then reserved my places up to Courmayeur.

    There were no problems with snow for me. At refuge Bonhomie, I heard that there’s much more snow this year there than the last year. However, the snow in the “classic” or easier TMB route is soft and quite easy to walk on.

    One people struggled with accommodation was from Les Contamines to Courmayer. The popular guide book many people, including me, had with them “Tour of Mont Blanc: Complete two-way trekking guide (Cicerone Guides)” lists Rifugio Elisabetta as one day stop during TMB. However, it seemed to be full-booked for each day I tried it. In addition, there are not any camping areas in this part, and wild camping is not generally allowed I think. Talking to people, I heard many people had issues getting accommodation at this part of TMB. Tip: There’s a very good quality (quite new?) place with shared rooms to stay 3 km from Rifugio Elisabetta at Cabane du Combal by lake Combal.

    The hikes were quite easy for me, even though I’m not in a very great fit. With all the ascents and descents, it was important that my gear was quite light weight. I walked it through with trail running shoes. Light weight carbon hiking poles were so useful when ascending, descending or walking in snow.

    I was a male solo hiker. I met perhaps four female solo hikers and three male solo hikers during the trip that I talked a bit more with.

    Anyway. So many things to say about this trek. Maybe I’ll write a post about it in some forum, one that will help other people planning to solo hike TMB in the same way your posts helped me, Anna.

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  4. Juha Ranta

    I did solo Tour du Mont Blanc this year around 1.7. – 16.7.2016. I had visited Chamonix and Courmayeur the year before, so I knew the area area, and I had also did parts around of the hike as day trips. I also had tent as a backup, and a guidebook said the high season will start mid-July so I figured I could do the trek without planning each accommodation place beforehand. I also allowed myself some days to plan, change plans, wait for better weather and so on.

    I stayed in refuges, half-board dorm rooms, private room hotel in Chamonix and Courmayeur and camping. I camped for five days, all of the places from your camping blog post. I downloaded that blog post offline in my phone and frequently consulted it during the trek. So thank you so much for writing that blog post.

    Concerning accommodation, I noticed it’s already quite high season on TMB at this time. When I was about to start the TMB, I tried to call some refuges, especially from Les Contamines to Courmayeur, and they were all full. At that point I decided to use my “spare days” to plan a bit more, and I then reserved my places up to Courmayeur.

    There were no problems with snow for me. At refuge Bonhomme, I heard that there’s much more snow this year there than the last year. However, the snow in the “classic” or easier TMB route is soft and quite easy to walk on.

    Anyway. So many things to say about this trek. Maybe I’ll write a post about it in some forum, one that will help other people planning to solo hike TMB in the same way your posts helped me.

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  5. Pingback: Tour du Mont Blanc camping: A guide to campsites on the route of the TMB | Anna Paxton

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