Our Via Valais trail running tour project is 225+ km’s, 14,000+ meters of vertical gain, and if we have the juice, there’s a peak to climb each day as an add on. We feel it’s just the right amount of not too much. While the distance and vert is a bit more than the Ultra Tour du Mont Blanc, which is done by an elite few in under 24 hours, we’ll do our tour in a relaxed 9 days, making tons of images while traveling through some of the Alps’ most beautiful terrain entirely on foot and carrying only what we need. What we carry is crucial, it has to be ultra light, and super efficient. Thankfully, we have the hut system, which provides the ability to actually run through the high Alps for days on end without the burden of pack weight.
How the Swiss Huts Work
Friends visiting from the US continually remind us of how much we’ve started to take the huts for granted. For first timers to the Alps, they’re blown away by what the huts offer. These aren’t lean to’s, or A-Frame shacks, they’re full blown mountain hotels, sometimes a hundred plus years old and quaint, other times ultra modern. Always comfortable. For hikers, climbers, ski tourers and trail runners, the huts provide meals, snacks, drinks and of course comfy beds. Learn to use them and they offer something else – freedom from carrying gear. Our Hut System page has more info.
On the Via Valais, we’ll stay in five mountain huts. From these, we can purchase day food, eat breakfast and dinner, and of course spend the night in beds without having to carry sleeping bags. With all that provided, we only need to carry what we need for running, and for staying safe in the mountains, where, like always, things can go from fun in the sun to something more serious due to weather or injury.
What to Pack for a Trail Running Tour
Besides trail running for 8 days, our job is to tell the story of this new tour. In addition to running kit, we have to carry camera gear. Thankfully, that gear is light and the system we use is very simple, the Sony RX100 VI. Below are images of Dan’s and Kim’s kits laid out to compare what goes in for a man vs. a woman, or a photographer vs. a writer, who also gets to be a bit of a mule to help out. Of course some items get shared among the group like First-Aid and a water filter.
After these kinds of tours, we often go back to select locations with a better quality camera and wider lens selection.
Trail Running Kit Explained
- Black Diamond Distance 15 liter packs are the choice for multi-day running. 15 liters may not seem like much for up to a week of running, but that’s the point, You need a limiter or you won’t be doing much running. These packs get the job done. We reviewed the Distance packs here.
- La Sportiva Jackal. You’ll want a shoe for long days out, day in and day out. We like something that combines comfort and cushion with a bit of performance. Sportiva nailed it with the Jackal.
- Sun hat
- Two T-shirts for rotating use as running shirt and hut/hotel dining room dress shirt. One synthetic and one lightweight Merino wool (sink management).
- Long sleeve shirt. Again, we go with wool as we’ll be using it for a week. The Black Diamond Solution Merino is ideal.
- Ultralight overpants to keep your legs warm in case of weather, and to not look like a starving runner too much in the hotel dining room. Patagonia’s HEK pants are the choice.
- Lightweight tights (optional based on the forecast). It’s summer so you probably don’t have to go too thick.
- Running shorts
- Lightweight synthetic vest. This is optional based on the forecast as well, you may want to go without, or go warmer with a full puffy. Patagonia’s Nano Air Hybrid vest is perfect.
- Black Diamond Deploy wind shirt. Is there a lighter, more functional piece of gear? We don’t think so.
- Black Diamond Stance Mitts go where we go in the mountains. They’re ultra, ultra light puffy gloves for when things get cold.
- Rain Jacket. The Black Diamond Fineline Stretch Rain Shell is a super light waterproof jacket that lets you continue moving quickly without bulk or movement restriction.
- Lightweight fleece gloves
- Socks. Two pair of your favorite, and proven, socks. We like Drymax .
- Headband or beanie if temps are low
- Carbon poles. Black Diamond’s Carbon Z Poles are simply unrivaled.
- Two soft flasks – one dedicated for plain water, one for drink mixes
- Sun glasses. Julbo Shield’s include high quality photochromic lenses and side shields to protect the eyes for long days out.
- Camera. The Sony RX100 is pro quality in a tiny, lightweight package.
- Chapstick/sun screen
- Toiletries: toothbrush & toothpaste
- Extra Sony RX100 battery
- Dental floss and ear plugs (do not forget ear plugs!)
- Phone with important apps: FatMap with route downloaded, Rega emergency App, and MeteoSwiss)
- Water filter. The MSR Trail Shot is ideal for two or more people so you can quickly filter water for each person. Also, by filtering you avoid having to buy water at huts, saving you money, and reducing the need for plastic water bottles transported by helicopter.
- Headlamp. You probably won’t need it as hotels serve a dinner you won’t want to miss at about 6:30. And, there’s no real rush in the morning. So, go light. The Black Diamond Flare does the trick.
- Tiny knife
- Tape – for toes, ankles, cuts, etc…
- Charging cables – phone, watch and camera
- Swiss Francs, and lots of them. You can use credit cards for your overnights, but day food at huts might require cash.
- Wallet. Including ID, credit card & insurance info
- CLIF Bars & Shot Bloks – as many as you are willing to carry for the first four days until you get to Bergün and the first store.
- Trail Butter – my choice for calories, reviewed here
- Emergency coffee. Always carry your own favorite quick brew in case your hotel greets you with a Nescafe.
- NOT SHOWN : Silk Liner for the huts
Dan’s total pack & gear weight, not including all food & water: 3.35kg
- Black Diamond Distance 15 liter pack
- La Sportiva Kaptiva with Superfeet Run Pain Relief insole
- Two Long sleeve shirts rotating running and hut/hotel dining room dress shirt -one synthetic and one Black Diamond Rhythm Nuyarn Wool
- Patagonia HEK pants – could be for running or town appropriate
- Lightweight tights
- Running shorts
- Black Diamond Distance wind shirt
- Black Diamond Stance Mitts – always handy in emergency cold
- Rain Jacket – Black Diamond Fineline Stretch Rain Shell
- Lightweight gloves
- Socks – I always go Drymax
- Black Diamond’s Carbon Z Poles
- Two soft flasks
- Julbo sunglasses
- Toiletries: toothbrush, toothpaste, Squirrels Nut Butter, & vitamins
- Phone with important apps: FatMap with route downloaded, Rega emergency App, and MeteoSwiss
- MSR Trail Shot water filter
- Tiny knife
- Blister Pads – hope to not need them
- Charging cables for phone and watch
- Wallet with cash, credit cards, and ID
- Nuts – I like to have some extra
- CLIF Shot Bloks – as many as you are willing to carry for the first four days until you get to Bergün and the first store.
- Trail Butter – Key high octane fuel and always yummy
- Hydration mix
- Emergency coffee so you don’t ever end up drinking Nescafe
- NOT SHOWN : Silk Liner for the huts
Kim’s total pack & gear weight, not including all food & water: 3.25kg
The Via Valais
We’re not sharing our route quite yet, we’d like to confirm some key passages that we haven’t done to be sure it’s suitable as a trail running tour. If these passages go, we know we’ve linked up a series of trails perfect for running days on end, with fantastic nights in mountain huts. If you’d like to follow along, we’ll be posting to our social channels with #ViaValais