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Packing for Switzerland

I am 64 and will be spending 3 weeks (in September) in the mountains, and cities of Lucerne and Montreux , mostly doing light hiking and viewing the beautiful scenery from boats, cable cars and trains. I will be using Rick Steves’ roller. I am wondering if taking two pair of long light-weight pants plus a pair of blue jeans is wise. I haven’t been to Europe in 25 years, so I am wondering if jeans would look out of place on a woman my age. I am taking some comfortable black Asics, and I am stumped about what to take as my second pair. Should I take a trail shoe or a Keen sandle? Or should I take something dressier? I am also thinking of taking a North face waterproof breathable windbreaker, light black fleece, and black wool sweater. Would this be wise? Thanks for your advice on packing.

Posted by
14175 posts

I hope to heck they don't look out of place on someone of your years since I'm older than you and wear them all the time in Europe!

My feet are horrible so I just take 2 pr of athletic shoes (Altra brand - I have taken both regular ones as well as their trail shoes) so they will be happy. Unless you are doing big hikes you can probably manage with athletic shoes as long as they aren't worn enough that the tread is gone. If both your trail shoes and your Keens are broken in and comfortable I would decide at the last minute based on weather forecasts. I know many love Keens so you may get recommendations for them. They don't fit me so no personal experience.

Definitely take the waterproof windbreaker. Will the black fleece and black sweater layer under it? If the fleece and the sweater are both cardie styles I would probably only take one. What are the scenarios where you would wear each? On the surface taking both seems redundant but I'm sure you've got something in mind!

Posted by
503 posts

I've only been to Switzerland briefly and it wasn't in September - but given your activities I think your packing list will be very similar to my upcoming trip to the Outer Hebrides! The key is "layers"!!! So, definitely bring the windbreaker and the fleece if it goes underneath. If you plan on hitting some nicer restaurants, the black wool sweater might just work great with a nice t underneath and a necklace to dress it up.
Definitely include jeans if they are what you normally wear and feel comfortable in. I know there is debate about jeans (from a laundry and weight perspective!) but I always pack them since that is what I normally wear - and it seems many, many people wear them so you won't be out of place at all!
As for the the second pair of shoes, since you will be spending some time in the cities, I'd opt for maybe a decent pair of leather walking shoes that you could wear with pants to dinner as well as for trekking about the cities. Based on what the general weather is at that time, it doesn't appear that it gets that warm - but with the weather these days, who knows :-)!
For my upcoming trip I'm packing a pair of hiking pants (since we'll be doing a fair amount of mucking about and hiking), a pair of jeans, a pair of black ponte knit pants (for two fancier dinners on the trip) and a pair of walking shorts since we'll be in London for a few days at the end.
Shoes will include low profile hiking shoes (waterproof), a pair of low black boots (for the nicer dinners) and a pair of leather sandals for London.
On the top side - bringing a windproof, waterproof shell and primaloft jacket that works as a liner. A few t shirts (both short and long sleeved) and a long sleeved dry fit pullover as well as a thin waterfall cardigan and one nice blouse for our nicer dinners. It all fits nicely in my carry on and with that assortment, I'm prepared for just about anything!

Posted by
5050 posts

I was on a RS trip last Sept-Oct and fell in love with Switzerland. I had 18 lbs of carry-on luggage for 2 weeks.
I usually don't take jeans [which I'm sure you look great in], because it takes too long for jeans to dry after washing. [Most European hotels I have stayed in have the bathroom heated towel racks, so doing your laundry yourself is pretty easy.] I would think about the functionality of clothing, and not worry about being dressy.
Your layering system is sound. I take a packable down jacket for the mountain tops and a packable raincoat for any day. It can really rain, so I'd recommend a raincoat that goes to your knees.
In Lucerne, you may want to go up to Mt. Pilatus, which is a major weather/temperature change. You could also go hiking, [we took the boat to Weggis to hike], which could be quite warm. The boat rides themselves are usually breezier and cooler than being on land. We also found a marked temperature change from mornings/evenings to afternoons.
I often take lightweight silk-like long sleeve shirts that are easy to wash and keep the outer layers cleaner.
As I've often posted here, I like the Exofficio and/or Scottevest jackets/vests with the INSIDE zipper pockets, so there's no need to carry a purse. I then carry a daypack for snacks, drinks, guidebooks, and clothing layers.
We found food expensive there, so usually had a big breakfast, a snack lunch, then dinner. The Coop stores usually have cafeterias that are more reasonable that eating out.
I'm sue you will LOVE Switzerland.

Posted by
14175 posts

I’ll just add that I generally take 2 pr of jeans. The jeans are fabric blends so varying degrees of cotton/poly. I sink wash for all my trips so if I get new items I do trial washes at home to check the drying time. Mine generally dry overnight, always within 24 even in humid conditions.

Posted by
31 posts

Thank you for your thoughts. I will not take the sweater. It does fit over the fleece and all fit under the windbreaker, but sounds like there are better options for layering enough to stay warm enough for the mountains. I will now take my jeans with confidence!

Posted by
54 posts

I'm in a similar situation, heading to Switzerland and western Austria for 3 weeks in Sept and also debating about the jeans. I think I will bring a pair, just because they're warm and I will want them at high elevations like Jungfraujoch and the Matterhorn Glacier. For layers on top, I have a zippered fleece jacket, long sleeve tees (a couple are more like lightweight pullover sweaters) and a waterproof wind breaker; and of course a warm hat and gloves. For warmer places , I'll switch to short sleeves and lighter weight pants.

For shoes, I'm planning to wear my Ahnu Sugarpines (I have the shoes, not the boots) most days. They are a hiking shoe, and they're fine for light hikes and comfortable enough for city walking. I do want to do the Eiger face trail, which sounds like it might be more technical than I'd normally do in a shoe, but it's not very long and I just won't do it if it's raining. I also have a pair of comfortable flats to wear on non-walking days or going out for dinner. I'm not bringing sandals on this trip.

Posted by
1293 posts

I am going to Switzerland in September too! It will be my 4th trip there and I have worn jeans every time. (I am 61). We will be spending 4 weeks hiking in Austria, Germany and Switzerland. On my first hiking trip there (about 15 years ago) I brought shorts but did not feel comfortable wearing them hiking. Thinks have changed! In 2016, I was the only one not wearing shorts when we hiked on hot days. So I will pack a couple of pair for this trip. I will take a comfortable pair of Brooks shoes and my Clarks Wave walkers (waterproof for wet days) Whether you take trail shoe depends on how strenuous of hiking you plan on doing. We generally do 7-10 mile hikes with elevation gains. Therefore, I also take along my hiking boots. (that does mean we will check a bag, but we also take my husbands large day pack and put it in a large collapsible duffle bag.) I do have feet issues (special inserts, etc) and my hiking boots help. I have an awesome pair of Garmont boots I bought in the Italian Dolomites in 2016 (long story) and I won't leave home without them. However, if you are doing "light hiking", you could probably get by with a good pair of shoes with good tread on the soles.My sister did fine with a good pair of running shoes when we went to Switzerland in 2008. We only hiked a few days, but we hiked up to Obersteinberg above Gimmelwald, and she had no problem. See you in Switzerland!

Posted by
54 posts

LOL, seems like there will be a lot of women from the RS forums walking around the alps in Sept.

Posted by
2529 posts

Professional tourist: so paid to travel. How many of us wish to join that category? Just cover my expenses, no need for a salary.

Posted by
221 posts

I will be in Switzerland in Sept., too. I will be bringing jeans for my 2 week trip. If the weather looks like it will be warm enough, I may bring a pair of light weight capris for hiking. I haven't been there since 2010, and I remember that it was cooler and rained quite a bit. Otherwise, I will be bringing items as others suggested; fleece, rain proof jacket, wool socks, combination of SS and LS tops, etc. I wear a pair of shoes and bring a pair. One pair will be ones that worked out well for my trip last year. The other is a pair of low hiking shoes that I am breaking in. My spouse only takes the pair that he wears, but I have foot issues. On one trip to Europe, the shoes that were my favorites didn't work out at all, so fortunately I had another pair. I am not planning on dining in fancy restaurants as Switzerland is expensive enough as it is. I will be using only carry on luggage. Happy Travels! It seems like on all of our trips we see someone looking at a RS guidebook.

Posted by
16738 posts

We leave Monday for our fifth trip to Switzerland and I am starting to pack today. The OP's question has been addressed very well above, so I will only add a couple of points.

Jeans: I alm older than you, and always take a pair of black jeans, usually worn on the plane. They are a cotton--Tencel-spandex blend so are lightweight and dry more quickly than all-cotton. I have learned that 4-5% Lycra or spandex contributes significantly to faster drying ( i.e., overnight if I press them in a towel and then hang in an airy place, not in the closet!)

For city wear I will have a pair of cotton-Lycra capris in addition to the black jeans, and probably a summer dress as it may be quite hot when we arrive (the trip actually starts in Amsterdam). But heat should not be an issue in September, and I am not suggesting you take a dress.

For hiking I like Columbia nylon/spandex fabrics; I will take a pair of long pants ( pull-on pants called "Back Beauty", and a pair of capris.

https://www.columbia.com/womens-back-beauty-straight-leg-pant-AL8070.html

Also my North Face rain pants, as they are required for the Mont Blanc guided hiking we are doing after ten days in Switzerland with the family.

As for weather in September in Switzerland, I have experienced snow on Kleine Scheidegg at the beginnng of September, and beautiful warm sunny days in the Engadine at the end of the month, as well as clouds and drizzle throughout the month. In other words, you need to be prepared for the full spectrum. Then hope you don't actually need the rain gear!

Posted by
31 posts

Thanks to all of you. This morning I bought a pair of Clark’s low hikers and am breaking them in. Clark’s work well on my feet. We will also be economizing by eating picnics and lower cost restaurants and not spending much time in the cities so I will opt to take my running shoes as my second pair to make my feet happy. I am unsure whether taking a fleece with a rain jacket will be warm enough in the mountains so I am pondering whether I should take lightweight, packable Northface thermoball jacket that fits the fleece under and the rain jacket over. I’ll be one of those tourists with a Rick Steve’s book in my hand. Perhaps I’ll see one if you at a Coop! Thanks again.

Posted by
308 posts

Vonnie, thank you for starting this thread! My husband and I are going on the RS Alpine Europe tour starting August 27th and I have just started to think about what to pack. This was very helpful to me, too! Right now I'm leaning towards wearing my Oboz hiking boots and packing a pair of Teva sandals. I'm also planning to bring my raincoat.

Posted by
1194 posts

I am pondering whether I should take lightweight, packable Northface thermoball jacket that fits the fleece under and the rain jacket over.

The thermoball and rain jacket are sufficient, especially if you also have a sweater and a light thermal layer. When I was camped under the glaciers of Salkantay I only needed my base layer at night. The puff jacket and raincoat were fine for day use. Especially if you are hiking.
A fleece/puff/rain layer would be suffocating at those temperatures.