Tour du Mont Blan Trek – 3 countries (France, Italy, and Switzerland), 100+ miles, over 35,000 ft of elevation gain (and loss), in 11 days, starting in Les Houches on June 22nd with Annie & Liz, two long time friends & hiking partners (NH 48 4000 footers), who have yet to experience the TMB, let alone hike in the Alps!
On my third round of the Tour du Mont-Blanc, planning our self-guided trip took more time and effort than in prior editions when hiking with Sam – 2005 and 2010.
It has become a very popular destination with many hiking/trekking tour operators featuring the TMB on their trip calendar which made for a challenging hut booking experience. By January, I had booked all my overnight stays but for Rifugio Bonatti, which does not start booking until February, and this after tweaking the dates in order to secure all of my accommodations. The upshot is that my booking selection is prime with many stays in small rooms/dormitories in idyllic spots – Refuge de Miage, Refuge de la Balme, Cabane du Combal, to name a few. We are also starting early in the season given the popularity of the trek. Much to report later; this is just a preview of some of the gear I will be wearing and testing on the TMB.
TMB Gear – testing new gear and bringing some “oldies”
As a contributor to RoadTrailRun, I have tested and reviewed running and hiking gear over the years. I am well equipped and I plan to bring on the TBM gear from prior years and/or recently reviewed along with new gear being featured in this article.
It has been 3 years since we went on our last trek – a 200 mile hike on the Via Jacobi in Switzerland. From that trip, I will be re-using some of my Mammut gear: backpack (Trea Spine 35L) and hiking pants (Runbold). Also, my goal is to lighten the load and be selective about what I pack (sadly I am not bringing my Mammut “hut” shirt).
To that end, Sam suggested that I borrow his outwear jackets from Ultimate Direction, the Ultra V2 and Ventro, which were better options – and lighter – that the puffy and rain jacket from my own closet. And it just got better as I now have my very own Ultra 2 and Ventro jackets after Mindy from Ultimate Direction offered to send me samples to test on my TMB trek.
At the same time, Sam was testing a pair of trail running shorts and tee from Ultimate Direction, and ordered me the Velum Short and the Nimbus Tee (birthday gift), both on sale, as a second “hiking outfit.”
My first hiking outfit came from BackCountry – the Ripstop Trail Short and Tahoe 2 Sun Hoodie – which I selected and received as free samples after reviewing winter gear from the brand.
I also will bring 3 different tops from ODLO that I have reviewed in the past: Blackcomb Pro-T-Shirt short and long sleeves (2020) and the Zeroweight Ceramicool Hoody. Sam reached out to Buff for bucket hats, half buff, and solar gloves and we received free samples for the 3 of us – all essential gear to protect us against the sun.
In terms of footwear, after testing a pair of Topo Athletic, Trailventure 2 WP, and my first pair of AKU, in March,
I opted for a pair of AKU Selvatica Mid GTX (my own purchase) and a pair of Topo Athletic Trailventure 2 for Annie – a sample provided at no cost by TOPO. Lastly, RoadTrailRun received recovery sandals from OOFOS and I will bring along a pair – OOcandoo Sandals – to wear post-hikes.
This is not a complete inventory. More details below on the new gear that I will be testing on the TMB with additional reporting to follow.
As a hiker and short distance trail runner, I have always felt that gear from Ultimate Direction specifically catered to ultra runners, i.e. UTMB racers. However, now that I am equipped with the Ultra V2 and Ventro from UD for my TMB, I am excited to be trekking the Alps in ultimate performing gear! I am going “hybrid” hiking with a 35L backpack (Mammut) and wearing “ultra” trail running apparel from UD.
Ultimate Direction Ultra Jacket V2 (from prior year & now on sale $76)
The Ultra V2 is lightweight, windproof and waterproof, yet breathable, with an adjustable hood and stowable mitts, and is packable in its own pocket. The Ultra V2 is designed more specifically for wind and rain protection as opposed to being a fully breathable wind shell yet it has one of the highest breathability / water resistance ratings out there, which looks like it exceeds the UTMB race mandatory rating by a factor of 3x for both breathability and water resistance.
Ultimate protection for a lightweight jacket. Ready for the TMB with my Ultra V2.
Ultimate Direction Ventro Jacket ($200)
The Ventro jacket is a lightweight “puffy” specifically designed for high intensity exercise (running, hiking, XC skiing) in cold/cool weather conditions, with ventilation built into the jacket along with stowable Flip Mitts™ and a very protective hood. As per specs, the Ventro jacket “has the highest warmth-to-breathability ratio using award-winning Clo® insulation.”
Packable in one of the zip-pockets (takes a bit of effort), my size medium weighs 9.83 oz / 279g. Extremely comfortable, I can anticipate getting plenty of wear and protection from my Ventro jacket on the TMB while not needing to bring as many warm layers.
No need to bring a pair of gloves to protect my hands in cold weather conditions as the Stowable Flip Mitts™ will get me covered!
Underarm panels provide great ventilation and ease of movement.
Perforated back panels provide great ventilation with full-on wind protection in the front.
Ultimate Direction Velum Short (prior year and now on sale $36)
Ultimate Direction Nimbus Tee (prior year and now on sale $42)
A personal purchase (birthday gift) after Sam tested and reviewed both. I selected a size small for the short and a size medium for the tee (I am 5’51/2” and weigh 135lbs). The fit is great and the feel almost weightless for both the short and the tee. I am planning to alternate my UD “hiking outfit” with another one from Backcountry (see below). Meanwhile, I am enjoying running in my Velum shorts and Nimbus Tee in hot weather conditions in Park City. It’s a trail short with a 360-degree pocketed waistband offering amazing storage capacity that is easily accessible.
The Nimbus Tee features advanced built-in technologies, including POLARTEC® Delta™, for long lasting wicking, cooling and odor control.
Running shot wearing the Vellum short and Nimbus Tee (along with my PUMA Run XX Nitro WNS that I am testing).
After reviewing my first Backcountry apparel this winter (Tabernash GTX Infinium Anorak and Jogger RTR Review), I was impressed with the brand’s own line of clothing and selected a hiking outfit for the TMB which I received as a free test sample.
Backcountry Ripstop Trail Short ($58, in 4 different colors)
Backcountry Tahoe 2 Sun Hoodie ($55 on sale)
Testing my Backcountry gear (and AKU hiking boots) on a hike in Park City. Great solar protection from the Tahoe Sun 2 Hoodie and super comfortable Ripstop Trail Short.
The Ripstop Trail shorts are generous with pockets: 2 zippered front pockets and 2 hand pockets in the back. The fit is great (size small) and I really like the style: comfortable, practical, and just the right length. The integrated adjustable belt is well designed and sits comfortably around the waist.
The Tahoe 2 Sun Hoodie (size medium) offers great coverage for sun protection. It is lightweight and super comfortable.
Buff Sun Bucket Hat ($35)
Easily foldable bucket hat with a brim length (approx. 2 ¾ inches) that offers great protection. Adjustable drawstring helps keep the hat in place in windy conditions. Love the design and the color!
AKU Selvatica Mid GTX Hiking Boots ($190)
Back in February I tested my first pair of AKU, the Ultra Light Original GTX and Sam tested two pairs, the Rocket DFS GTX and the Selvatica Mid GTX. AKU is an Italian brand, which has recently launched in North America. The AKU brand encompasses a wide range of footwear categories: hiking, everyday & travel, rock, ice & snow, hunting, and tactical & military.
I was looking for a pair of hiking boot for the TMB and opted for the AKU Selvatica Mid GTX based on Sam’s review as well as my own prior experience with AKU hiking boots namely the Ultra Light Original GTX (RTR Review), which is intended for day hikes on easy & moderate terrain.
Reasons for selecting the AKU Selvatica Mid GTX: lightweight, built for a secure and very comfortable fit with some breathability factor; great underfoot cushioning; protective Vibram Megagrip, and perhaps especially for its AKU technology, the ELICA Natural Stride System, which provides enhanced comfort, traction, and stability with every step.
AKU Footwear has been experiencing shipment issues with low stock availability – hopefully this will get resolved soon.
I will be reporting from the TMB on the overall performance of my Selvatica Mid GTX
TOPO ATHLETIC TRAILVENTURE 2 ($160)
After I reviewed the TOPO ATHLETIC Trailventure 2WP in February (RTR Review), I strongly considered wearing it on the TMB, but opted for the AKU. Instead, my friend, Annie, who borrowed my 2 WP and tested it on multiple day hikes, will be hiking in the TOPO ATHLETIC Trailventure 2, the non WP version. She received it as a test sample and will be reporting from the TMB about the boot’s performance.
Topo Trailventure 2 WP – tested in February in all kinds of weather conditions.
OOFOS OOcandoo Sandals ($100)
Along with many contributors at RoadTrailRun I received a pair of OOFOS OOcandooo sandals to test and review. This is timely indeed. Lightweight, packable, with active recovery and cushy comfort, this is my selection for my TMB after the day’s hike and hut wear. But mostly for me, the OOcandoo provides a better foothold than just a sandal as the foot is held in place with a hook and velcro strap and it has a full heel wrap. The only drawback is my feet tend to get a bit sweaty.
Reports from the Tour du Mont-Blanc to follow!
Some samples were provided at no charge for review purposes, others were personal purchases. RoadTrail Run has affiliate partnerships and may earn commission on products purchased through affiliate links in this article. These partnerships do not influence our editorial content. The opinions herein are entirely the authors’
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