Complete Alta Via packing list: what to pack for hut-to-hut hikes in the Dolomites
Preparing to set out on an epic hut-to-hut adventure in the Italian Dolomites? Whether you’re packing for the popular trails of Alta Via 1, the more challenging Alta Via 2, frequent via ferrata on Alta Via 4, or any of the other spectacular overnight routes that criss-cross the Dolomites, this detailed packing list will discuss all of the essential gear and my personal recommendations on everything from the best hiking pack to boots to via ferrata equipment.
What's in this travel guide
Packing tips for hut-to-hut hiking
- PACK WEIGHT: on both Alta Via 2 and Alta Via 4, I carried 16kg of clothing, via ferrata gear, snack food, and photography equipment, but you can reasonably keep your pack ~10-12kg if you aren’t hauling a tripod and large camera. I met a couple ultra-light hikers who somehow managed 5kg each, but they were purchasing ALL of their food on the trail and made significant cuts in terms of comfortable hut clothing and climbing gear that, to me, didn’t really feel worthwhile unless you physically cannot carry a larger backpack.
- LAYERING: when it comes to clothing, the best compromise between preparedness for all weather and weight/bulk in your pack is a well-thought-out layering system. Aside from socks and underwear, I’d suggest bringing just 1 of each layer: a tank top, wool base layer, mid-weight longsleeve, synthetic jacket, down jacket, and Goretex shell. You can wear these in a dozen different combinations depending on the weather and I felt totally equipped for the variety of rain, snow, wind, and scorching sun that you’ll encounter in the Dolomites!
- CASH: it’s mentioned on the list below, but I’ll repeat here that you should bring enough cash to cover all of your hut bookings and food purchases along the trail. A few huts are starting to accept credit cards, but the vast majority do not (and even those that do often experience signal issues), so come prepared with a wad of euros!
*Complete packing list for Alta Via
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Choosing a backpack is about as personal as it gets, but I’d recommend something in the 25-35L range with sturdy hip belts, a good suspension system, and some back venting for hut-to-hut hiking in the Dolomites. I love my 33L Osprey Talon— it’s lightweight, easy to climb with, yet still very comfortable for long days on the trail!
trekking poles: Black Diamond Trail Trekking Poles women’s or men’s
For all the rough terrain you’ll encounter in the Dolomites, trekking poles are incredibly helpful and a lightweight addition to your kit.
water bottle: Nalgene Wide-Mouth Water Bottle 32 fl. oz.
For ease of filtering and filling up water on multi-day treks, I find wide-mouth water bottles much easier to use than hydration bladders, though this is very much a matter of personal preference.
This is my go-to lightweight backpacking filter, allowing you to safely drink from sinks and streams all over the Alps!
Via ferrata gear
Many Alta Via routes (including AV2 and AV4) feature via ferrata, so you’ll need to pack safety gear for these sections of protected climbing, including a harness. I love the fit and comfort of this crag climbing harness and have used it on countless adventures!
via ferrata lanyard: Black Diamond Iron Cruiser
A via ferrata lanyard connects to your climbing harness and is then used to clip into the cable for continuous protection along exposed or challenging routes; the shock absorber helps distribute force in the event of a fall. After trying several different styles, I personally prefer these flick-lock carabiners for ease of use and this bungee-style lanyard for improved mobility on the rock.
For via ferrata routes, a light climbing helmet is essential to protect against rockfall, which might come from other climbers above or even unstable areas of the mountain. And for routes that wind through dark tunnels, it can also be handy for protecting your head against bumps.
climbing gloves: Metolius Half Finger Climbing Gloves
Although not technically required, you’ll enjoy via ferrata a lot more with climbing gloves to protect your hands from cable-burn, particularly when down-climbing. I like these half-finger gloves, which maximise dexterity for climbing— plus, I can still operate my camera/phone with them on!
New to via ferrata? Read this post: Via ferrata in the Italian Dolomites: the ultimate beginner’s guide
For hot summer hiking in the Dolomites, these Lululemon crops are my absolute favourite— super compact, comfortable, sweat-friendly, and vibrant! Men, you’re on your own here… But I’d recommend 2x shirts or tank tops of your choosing for any Alta Via hike!
A long sleeve wool shirt is great for layering on chilly mornings or keeping cozy at the huts, and merino wool offers an amazing warmth to weight ratio. I primarily used mine for sleeping and tried to keep it mostly sweat-free by using the lightweight hoody below as my hiking base layer.
You’ll want a lightweight wool or brushed fleece layer that provides some warmth without considerable bulk for those chilly mornings and shaded via ferrata climbs. I particularly like having a hood that can be worn (even under my helmet) for added warmth and/or sun protection.
Unlike down jackets that do not perform well once wet (either from rain or sweat), a synthetic jacket is perfect for layering on the hiking trail and offers great warmth for very little weight. The Atom jacket in particular is super stretchy, which makes it great to climb in!
For windy summits and cold evenings at the hut, a down jacket is the best way to stay warm. I often wore mine over all of the layers mentioned previously, so make sure it’s large enough to wear as an outer layer over several other hoodies and jackets in the case of very cold weather.
hiking shorts: Lululemon Align High-Rise Short 4″
My favourite stretchy and super compact hiking shorts, perfect for the trail and for via ferrata! Plan to pack 1-2 pairs of whatever shorts you prefer, depending on the length of your hike. Again, men are on their own here for recommendations…
+ underwear for every day of your hike because laundry is scant!
A pair of lightweight softshell hiking pants are great for cold, wet days (they’ll wick a lot of moisture, and even if they do get super wet, they dry super quick!). Depending on your preference and the season of your trip, you may end up wearing these a lot more than your shorts.
2x liner socks: Injinji Liner Crew Socks
I swear by these toe socks as the ultimate blister prevention, worn under my wool socks as a sweat-wicking liner!
I saw hikers on the Alta Via wearing everything from lightweight runners to (my) mid-weight mountaineering boots, so footwear choice is incredibly varied and there’s no one “right” shoe for everyone. Personally, I loved the stiff soles of my boots for via ferrata and rough terrain/scree; the trade-off is that they are heavier and not quite as comfortable for long kilometres on a flat trail, but I was very happy with my decision and will wear these same boots on my return to the Dolomites this summer!
hut shoes: Birkenstock Arizona
All huts require that you leave your hiking shoes in the boot room upon arrival, so you’ll need to bring hut shoes to wear while inside; I’d recommend a lightweight slip-on sandal or shoe and I personally love Birkenstocks, since you can wear them comfortably over socks for a super stylish look.
sun glasses: Julbo Vermont
From glacier to via ferrata, these are my favourite outdoor sunglasses.
sun hat: Patagonia P-6 Label Trad Cap
Keep your head and face protected from the sun while on the trail!
beanie: Arc’teryx Mallow Toque
For chilly evenings at the hut, a warm beanie is a great addition.
toiletries: The North Face Base Camp Travel Canister
Toothbrush, toothpaste, soap (for those quick hut showers), personal medication…
travel towel: Dry Fox Co. Pack Towel M
Most huts have (paid) options for a hot shower, so be sure to bring a compact travel towel! I have multiple sizes of this Dry Fox Co towel (an amazing female-owned small business!) and I take them everywhere; the medium is perfect for backpacking.
first aid kit: Adventure Medical Kits Mountain Series
A well-stocked first aid kit is absolutely essential on any hike; Adventure Medical Kits has conveniently assembled a range of bandages and common emergency medications into a compact kit that I use on all my adventures. I personally add KT tape (my go-to blister protection), Naproxen for joint swelling, and a pair of spare contacts; make your own personal additions!
Mountain huts provide mattresses, blankets, and pillows for sleeping (leave your sleeping bag & pad at home!), but since the beds don’t have sheets, you are required to bring your own sleep sack.
headlamp: Black Diamond Spot 400-R Headlamp
Some via ferrata routes in the Dolomites pass through dark WWI tunnels, necessitating a headlamp for safety. Equally, if you need to get up and use the bathroom down the hall after “lights out”, a headlamp will be super handy. I love this rechargeable headlamp so you don’t have to carry batteries!
charger: Type-C USB charger
Italy uses Type C two-prong adapters, and this USB/USB-C combo is the most convenient way to keep all your electronics charged in the huts.
Although it’s possible to charge electronic devices at every hut, hikers are always competing for limited power points, so instead of jostling to plug everything in at once, I’d recommend charging a powerbank and then using this to recharge all of your electronic devices over the next few days.
camera clip: Peak Design Capture Clip V3
For photographers, this clip is an absolute game-changer, attaching your camera conveniently to the shoulder strap of your backpack for quick access. I climbed 15 via ferrata with my camera clipped to my shoulder and can’t recommend this system enough.
Most hikers will have no need for this, but for eager photographers: this travel tripod is how I took all of my self-portrait photos in the Dolomites while hiking alone!
PLB: Garmin In-Reach Mini
Never hit ANY trail without a satellite communicator— whether you’re sending check-in messages back home, receiving weather updates, or communicating with emergency services, this small device can literally save your life.
GPS: CalTopo iPhone app
I personally use CalTopo to map all of my adventures and navigate turn-by-turn on the trail; download before you leave home!
passport, credit card, cash
& other personal essentials 🙂
Breakfast and dinner are readily available from mountain huts along the trail, but I’d recommend bringing a selection of snack food for lunch and nibbles throughout the day.
For more information about hut food in the Dolomites, check out this post
Read more about the Dolomites