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Ultralight Trail Running Packing List

The Shreckhorn Hut, with the 4000 meter Shreckhorn behind in Switzerland's Berner Oberland

Location, location, location. The Alps’ huts are in some incredible locations, but it takes some work to get there.

Nearly every time I’m on an iconic tour in the Alps I see it. A hiker, ski tourer, or trail runner laboring up some massive climb beneath too much weight and in the wrong gear. Americans, I’m talking to you. And yes, I have been there too and just hope my advice here can help you avoid the carnage.

It’s a fact, the Alps require enormous climbs, sometimes one after another. How you attack them, and how many you do a day is often your choice, but no matter what you will be gaining a lot of vertical. That favorite fleece you look so good in sounded like a good idea at the hotel, but with 1000 meters to go, it’s not so cool. Somewhere along the lines, the outdoor industry convinced people that more stuff is better for the mountains. While that may hold up for short & easy, here in the Alps you’ll appreciate my candid words – dump the junk.

The Alps offer an experience not possible in the US. Multi-day hiking, running, biking, or ski tours with overnights in huts, in huge mountain terrain. This is what you come for, and if your goal is to run, maximize your experience by not hauling freight around. The huts are what make the difference, and it’s the hut concept that needs to be understood. These aren’t cabins or shacks, they are staffed mountain hotels & restaurants, in places you won’t believe, serviced by helicopters. They are wonderful!

Thanks to these huts, you don’t have to carry much. You can enjoy the mountains without the burden of stuff. Just how much stuff, you ask? No… how little! Let’s take a look at my pack for a multi-day summer trail & mountain running tour with a forecast that could include some thunderstorms. Imagine this is for a warm summer day and you are already wearing your shoes, shorts, shirt and visor. In the Alps, early starts are advisable to avoid being caught out in thunderstorms. Always check the forecast via MeteoSwiss.


UL Multi-Day running kit

Trail Running Tour Summer Packing List

01 Running Pack (approximately 15-20L, in addition to this gear you will need some day food)
02 Soft bottles, 2x 4-500ml Hydrapak soft flasks that stay on the outside of the pack. One is the Katadyn BeFree filter. These are easily filled at water sources, which are common in the Alps. There is less need for a huge water bladder if you have the Katadyn BeFree filter.
03 UL rain/wind jacket
04 UL rain/wind pants
05 Dry bag for second shirt
06 Phone with:
Swiss Map App with maps pre-downloaded Kindle App loaded with books and Pocket/Read it Later App full of goodies
07 Extra SS shirt, which is hut/town shirt until necessary to change
08 LS shirt, light insulation
09 Tights
10 Light down or synthetic puffy
11 Buff
12 Headband
13 Gloves : I like the OR gloves with the lobster claw shell for added warmth in wind and rain.
14 Phone charging plug, cable, and headphones : The huts don’t always allow charging, but maybe, be prepared.
15 Back up battery (Goal Zero Flips)
16 Tape : For ankles and first aid. I use livestock tape, seriously… it is a thin, super light tacky material that when wrapped around a body part forms a kind of soft cast. Perfect. Available in Switzerland at Landi Stores in the animal care section- which I love.
17 Headlamp
18 UL towel/washcloth
19 Camera : Sony RX100. You’ll appreciate having a good camera, and this one takes 14fps, great for running photos.
20 Extra Socks
21 Cash : For Switzerland, lots! Huts are about CHF70/person per night for a bed, dinner and breakfast. Credit cards are typically not accepted at huts.
22 Toothbrush / Toothpaste / Floss (I only take one long piece, not the box. Kind of gnarly, but light) / Soap / Ear plugs
23 Silk bed liner : Mandatory in most huts.
24 Personal energy stash : Trail Butter
25 Personal energy bar stash : ChiaCharge
Pole(s) optional and usually a good idea for uphills and snowfields.

Packing Tips for the Alps

  • Find a brand that specializes in true ultralight, performance gear, for running or fast packing, and explore what they offer. Here in the Alps, the two obvious leaders are DynafitSalomon.
  • Make what you carry work for multiple uses.
  • Huts sometimes have soap, sometimes not. Take your own soap that can also wash clothes. If possible, wash that day’s running clothes in the afternoon that become the next day’s hut outfit. Rotation!
  • Keep one outfit in a dry bag until it is absolutely needed.
  • Euro hut fashion can be pretty horrific, do not be concerned that you’ll look like a knob in your running shorts or tights in the dining room. Odds are someone will be wearing skin tight 25 year old long underwear full of holes, in all the wrong places.
  • Accept the fact that you don’t have clothing changes, but at least you can clean up at the huts. The light pack is going to be worth it.
  • Kindle app on your phone – in case of hut downtime
  • Some phone app with ambient sounds, in case of snoring or if cabbage was served at dinner. I use Ambiance and the rain on the roof soundtrack. Zzzz….
An ultralight trail running pack and gear on a scale

It seems like a big list but with the right gear doesn’t amount to much weight – 2.63kg. You are ready to run for several days!

Do you have some of your own tips to share? Or insight into some great ultralight running gear – feel free to share your experience in the Comments.

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Comments 3

    1. Post
      Author

      Hi Theo, we don’t use gaiters, and we have all different shoes and crampons depending on what’s best for the day.

      1. I would love to see a post on the subject. Guess the glacier traverse was a good opportunity to explore those equipments.

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