The TMB is NOT a wilderness hike. Parts of it do go into uninhabited wild areas, but the trail always leads back to an inhabited area eventually, and a very good transportation network allows relatively rapid escape. There are also many places along the way to seek help or go to ground.
We recommend that you carry a basic Uh-oh kit that any hiker should carry on any hike…it does not need to be elaborate. For a hut-to-hut hike, effectively you are doing eleven day hikes chained together. And that is how you should prepare…basic survival equipment. Pocket knife or multi-tool, fire starter, compass, map, space blanket, signaling device, etc.
If you are tenting, you will be responsible for your own wellbeing at all times. Your preparedness will need to be greater, and your survival bag of tricks deeper.
If you have unlimited time and resources, you can do the trail as you please, stopping and starting at any time. But very few have this luxury. Most hikers will have a finite number of days and a hard stop after which all hiking must cease…and reservations that may be hard or even impossible to re-book on the fly.
Our suggestion is to have a plan ready for EACH of the follow contingencies:
- You are delayed in reaching your start point and forced to begin the hike later than expected (this NEARLY happened to us.)
- An injury or other situation forces you off the trail for a few days, and therefore you must skip ahead (or otherwise shorten the itinerary)
- An injury or other situation forces you off the trail, period
- You reach Courmayeur (or an equivalent checkpoint) but have serious doubts about your ability to continue
- One of the refuges cancels your reservations or becomes unavailable due to unforeseen circumstances (this DID happen to us.)
Our advice if possible is to set aside AT LEAST two weeks for the entire hike if you plan the full itinerary. Of course, this may not be possible for all people. But the more time you have, the better you will be able to deal with unforeseen things that arise.
Our final piece of advice would be to learn at least SOME conversational French. Brian’s attempts to learn it were lacking, and the experiences did suffer for it. We muddled through but…the experience would have been better had we been able to communicate fully. Sylvia on the other hand was able to speak passable Italian and this was a HUGE help in Courmayeur.