How to pack for 18 days of hiking in less than 5kg

So, as most of you know, I am attempting to hike the GR5 from Lake Geneva to Menton next week.  It is about 620km with 2000+m of climbing every day .  At the best of times I go lightweight, but when hiking these kind of distances every gram counts.   A few of you have emailed me about my travel packing list, so I thought I would share the choices that I have made for this trip and have attached the full packing list below.

I am hiking from refuge to refuge in the alps, which means I don’t need to take my tent, sleeping bag or cooker so will be able to keep the weight right down.  However, it does mean I have to be prepared for smelly snoring bed companions in the mixed dormitories.

The pack

I have two terrific hiking packs, both of which are much loved.  If I was doing any running on this trip, I would take the Ultimate Direction Fastpack 30, which is light, easy to pack and super comfortable.  Given the state of my shins, I am pretty sure I will be fast hiking the whole way, so am taking the wonderful 580gram Gossamer Gear Pilgrim Rolltop.  This is a great pack, lots of room, very light, extremely comfortable and well designed for thru hikers with capacious external pockets for wet gear and a mostly waterproof interior.




the clothes

It is tough, but the best way to keep weight down is to take very few clothes.  That means take one set of gear to hike in, and one set of gear to change into in the evenings.  At night, rinse or wash your hiking gear if you can.  If it is dry in the morning, happy days!  If it isn’t dry in the morning, put it on anyway and it will dry as you walk (if it is sunny) or just stay wet (if it is raining).  As I always hike in merino, I am not cold even when I am wet.

So, the full set of clothes are

  • Icebreaker underpants x 2 (one to wash, one to wear) – yes it is not many, but it won’t kill you
  • Socks x 2 (same principle) – I love my merino injinji toe socks
  • 2 xu compression shorts – good for looking after the legs at night
  • Trail running skort from montane – just cos I am going bush doesn’t mean I don’t fancy looking a bit like a lady
  • A merino t-shirt, singlet and long sleeve so I can layer up or down as I need to during the day
  • An icebreaker dress which I can sleep in and wear in the evening, with some phd smart wool leggings to wear underneath if it is cold
Montane Trail Skort



And then for rough weather I take

  • Merino hat and two pairs of gloves
  • Waterproof pants – RAB minimus
  • Goretex jacket – mine is the amazing montbell torrent flier which only weights 250 grams
  • My trusty mountain hardwear ghost whisperer down jacket which has kept me warm on so many occasions
THE Toiletries

As I am on the road for 2-3 weeks I am carrying more than I might for a short hike so have

  • A few sleeping pills (for the refuge dorms), nurofen and paracetemol
  • P20 all day sunscreen – enough for three weeks weights about 40g
  • Moisturiser for three weeks (38g including the pot)
  • Industrial strength deodorant – Mitchum – it weighs 80 grams but will be worth it on days that I don’t get to shower (on a shorter trip I would take the salt deodorant which is lighter, or squeeze the mitchum into a recycled chapstick container)
  • Tooth brush head and tooth powder
  • Shampoo soap (60 grams) is enough for three weeks and can do as normal soap too
  • Rocktape for strapping my leg
  • Compeed, plasters and foot fleece for the blisters
  • Nail clippers – it is essential to keep those nails short when taking on big descents every day as it really hammers your toes
Other essentials
  • FFRP guides – Annoyingly the books and maps weigh 600 grams – even after I have ripped out all the pages I didn’t need.   It will make book purists happy to know that I rip out every page as I have finished with it and throw it away – so at least this will weigh less as time goes by
  • Black diamond ultra light hiking poles – yes I know I look like a weirdo doing nordic walking, but honestly these things will save your knees on rocky descents, and keep your arms in some sort of semblance of shape if you use them going uphill.
  • Petzl Tikka headlamp – for early departures, late arrivals and evening visits to the loo
  • Unbelievably small hiking towel from Green Hermit
  • Silk sleeping bag liner from Rab (required by the refuges for sleeping in the dorms, and you wouldn’t want to touch those blankets anyway)1360339083-60144300
  • Earplugs – for snorers in the dorm
  • A trigger point massage ball – my shins are old and battered, my ankles pronate and I am constantly getting injured.  Using the weird ball helps
  • Spoon – always helpful if you buy yogurt at lunchtime, and only weighs 12 grams
  • Knife – the wonderful Deejo weighs 17 grams and is great for cutting cheese and salami that I will hopefully procure from some mountain shopdeejo-knives-caffin-1
    Luxuries I forego
  • A decent towel – the trek towel is the size of a handkerchief, you don’t really get dry, enough said
  • A small sleeping bag – if it is cold and there aren’t enough blankets in the refuge, I put all of my clothes on
  • Shoes for the evening – lots of people bring flip-flops, but they weigh 300 grams.  Many refuges actually provide crocs or shoes to wear inside as you aren’t allowed to wear your boots inside.  If you can get over the fact that a million other people have had their sweaty toes in the crocs (I can), then they work just fine
  • Anything that will look remotely stylish – there is the odd night in the alps when I will be in a town with a good restaurant.  I will look like a feral cat turning up for dinner, but I will still go!  I can live with looking bad as long as they let me in and feed me.

So thats it, the full packing list is attached for anyone curious as to the specific grammar!   Base weight of all gear excluding food and water, and what I am wearing is 4.7kg.   Let me know if any questions

201606 GR5 gear list

You can buy most of the gear at your normal outdoor store.   I tend to buy a lot from as they have the weight of everything clearly marked on the site and you can sort from lightest to heaviest.

Happy hiking!

2 thoughts on “How to pack for 18 days of hiking in less than 5kg”

  1. Pingback: Packing for 450km in Lapland – Only my footprints

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