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Packing for Eastern France trip

We'll be on the Best of Eastern France trip later this year (September) and I'm wondering about packing, specifically for the colder weather in Chamonix. We'll be there only for 2 days, but one of them involves taking the gondola up to Italy, and I'm assuming it will be cold. But I don't want to have to pack extra since I'm trying to pack light. Thus my dilemma!

Will my light fleece jacket and an extra layer be enough? Or will I regret it? Thanks.

Posted by
1079 posts

I have taken this tour twice- once in early September and once in June. Both times I took a fleece jacket as well as a waterproof thin jacket and that was the perfect combo. There were rain days on both tours. For the lift up to Italy, I wore a t shirt, long sleeved t shirt and my fleece jacket. It was sunny both times I was in Chamonix and this series of layers was adequate.

Posted by
94 posts

Thanks, April.

So you have taken this trip twice? You must have really liked it!

Posted by
980 posts

Even in summer it is likely to be below freezing on the observation deck at Aiguille du Midi; see

We've seen many people on RS trips wearing jackets similar to as an everyday jacket since they aren't the old puffy hiking jackets.

Not that big a fan of fleece for travel; doesn't compress as well as down and heavier. If you already have an outerwear jacket you like I'd add a down vest instead of fleece if you want extra insulation. If you're just bringing a rainshell then a down jacket like the one above works nicely underneath. Also if your hands get cold easily then bringing a pair of gloves can be a good idea.

Posted by
522 posts

When we took the tour in 2019 I wore a long sleeve t shirt with an insulating shirt underneath, long sleeve active jacket and a puffy vest over that. A fleece jacket and a couple long sleeve shirts (one being similar to the 32 degree insulating shirt at Costco) would suffice. I got cold as the day wore on as we were standing outside more rather than the gondola cars as we went over to Italy which are plenty warm with sunshine.

Posted by
222 posts

We did this trip in late September into October. We arrived in Chamonix in sunshine and I think almost 70 degrees. The next day was overcast and colder but I was fine with a sweatshirt and down vest plus a scarf. I wished I had brought gloves when up high but was ok without them. The gondola to Italy was not available when we were there.
My down vest is a frequent travel companion—often on the airplane as well as on land and very light to pack.

Posted by
1079 posts

I took this tour when it was called the “villages and vineyards of eastern France” in 2009. It was the inaugural tour itinerary and I took it alone as a single woman. I did enjoy the tour and the people on the tour. I took it again with my then boyfriend, now husband in 2014. He really liked the itinerary and wanted to take the tour. I think that I prefer the tour in September. The lunch at the vineyard in Provence…. I would take the tour again for that alone.


Posted by
2051 posts

Hi Tony, we did this tour a few years ago (Sep) and loved it. You are in for a treat!

There was quite a variation in the temps. We had a beautiful, sunny day in Chamonix. I was comfortable in a long sleeved T-shirt and ‘I ❤️ Paris’ sweatshirt on the Aiguille de Midi. After that we took the train to the glacier and ice cave in Montivilliers (buy the combo ticket). The gondola to Italy was closed for renovations. We loved Chamonix and didn’t want to leave. Fortunately, it was rainy, snowy and cold on departure day so that made it a bit easier. We boarded the bus and later that day arrived in Vaison-la-Romaine to 98 degrees… hot hot hot. I bought a pair of shorts.

If I were to do the trip again, I’d pack a lightweight puffer jacket. I have one that squishes into a pocket. Loved the itinerary, especially Beaune, Chamonix, and Vaison. Lots of good wine and as mentioned, the memorable lunch in Provence. Hope you have a great trip!

Posted by
50 posts

I was on this tour last September and it was simply wonderful. My first guided tour as I usually like to wing it in France. Chamonix was a delightful surprise. Not being a hiker or cold weather person. Lucked out with the weather but going to top of Aiguille du Midi was cold. I layered with my very lightweight ex officio raincoat (packable in its pocket). With 3 layers beneath, 2 shirts and light jacket underneath. You should have pieces you can layer that way . I was just fine and I hate cold living in texas ! However you will need gloves. They are everywhere Iin Chamonix. I bought really nice ones for 15euros that are readily available and enjoyed this last winter at home as well.

Another suggestion Stay over in Aix en Provence at end of tour and go to the Farmers Market on Saturday. Fantastic!

Posted by
3 posts

Thanks to everyone for the suggestions. I will be on this tour departing September 3 of this year and can't wait.

I want to add to John's post above regarding the REI jacket. I just purchased that down jacket, along with the REI Ranier rain jacket. This will make a great travel combination. The down jacket is extremely light and packs down into it's own pocket. I also want to let people know they will be going on sale for 30% off starting on 5/19.

THANKS to John for the recommendation.