Please sign in to post.

How we solved our rural-to-urban packing challenge; rah, Swiss Post!

Husband and I just did a combined rural-urban trip:

1) Fly to Geneva. Ten days hiking across the Swiss Alps, requiring heavy boots, poles, emergency mountain climbing gear, and cold-weather layers.
2) Train to Milan. Ten days in the most famous Italian cities for sightseeing and restaurants, requiring lightweight, dressier clothing. Fly out of Rome.

After some head-scratching, we got it all into carry-ons out and back using the following system:

1) Pack for mountain trip, including one or two decent non-hiking outfits per person.
2) Cross Alps. End in Zermatt.
3) Go to the Zermatt post office. Mail home all the mountain climbing gear and clothes, which almost emptied our packs. They have excellent, sturdy boxes available at the office and had no problem with packing on the spot. Swiss Post Economy class charged us $100 to send forty pounds of stuff back to California.
4) Take a train to Milan, hit the street market, enjoy the fresh food and flowers. And by the way, they sell clothing. Pick up a few extra socks and shirts and lightweight pants by that famous Italian designer, Il Cheapo.
5) Enjoy Italy.

Benefits: Easily changed flights without concern. No lost luggage. Skipped straight through customs with our light carry-on bags, avoiding the long line for checked baggage. Did not have to carry an extra forty pounds all over Italy. Well worth $100.

I would not recommend mailing things home by Italian Post unless you never need to see them again. Use a private mailing service from Italy. However, if you have to carry a lot of gear for a specific event, this system worked great.

Posted by
14483 posts

What did you need to carry in the way of emergency mountain climbing gear? Rope and ice axe? Carabiners or other hardware? Did you need to use them at any point?

Posted by
8608 posts

See, now, this is someone thinking.

Someone else might say -- You spent $100 to mail stuff back to yourself??! But it looks like that $100 enabled you to do what you wanted on your trip and enjoy yourselves and marry the two halves of your trip. $100 well spent indeed!!

And I definitely agree, a wise decision to send from Switzerland as opposed to Italy (as much as I love Italians, I'm married to one, I can't say that their postal system is the most reliable).

Posted by
437 posts

I am surprised you could carry on the treking poles. What kind of climbing equipment is allowed in a carry on bag? I assume an ice axe is not allowed :-)

Posted by
60 posts

Our trekking poles are collapsible and foldable into a sack, so they were allowed on the plane. We also carried full bivouac gear, harnesses, and beaners, and picked up the sharp stuff (crampons, ice axe) after arriving in Chamonix. We ended up not needing most of it.

Posted by
14483 posts

Were you with an organized group or on your own? I am curious because we are considering this walk and I have not seen advice to carry ice axe, crampons, and harness/biners for the walkers' Haute Route. (My son did the ski route and of course that is different). If the route requires that equipment I will reconsider, as we are fit and strong hikers but I do not care any more to venture where an ice axe is required.

As for the trekking poles you carried on to the plane---are they Black Diamond Z-poles? I have always checked mine and did not realize they would pass the security inspection. Good to know if they are OK.

Posted by
9055 posts

I think you got lucky with the trekking poles. It's a grey area when it comes to airport security. Another screener may not have allowed it. When traveling with them I always check my bag. They're too expensive to risk;)

Posted by
60 posts

You don't need crampons and ice axes for the Haute Route unless it's winter. We were planning on a possible mountain ascent but didn't bother.

I too was a little concerned about my trekking poles, but hoped a sensible screener would observe the climbing gear, mountain guide book, etc. and figure it out.

Posted by
60 posts

Pardon the double posting.

Our stuff has arrived. Took less than three weeks by economy post from a country without a port. Not bad.

We organized this trip on our own and thus had to carry all of our own emergency gear. I packed in preparation for my worst-case scenario: you're the last one on the trail that day, get injured, and have to stay out all night until help arrives the next morning. This required a packable thermal blanket, first aid kit, and so on. I also carried my own towel and liner sheet for the hikers' huts. It all went home by mail.

There are guide services that plan the whole trip for you, make your reservations at village hotels, cook your food, and port your gear. They cost an arm and a leg, but if you just want to show up and hike, that's an option.