Gear: Essential Items to Pack

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Gear: Essential Items to Pack

Even in July and August the evening air grows chilly in the mountains, so bring a warm sweater. And bring along a hat or sunscreen, as the atmosphere is thinner at high altitudes. You should wear sunscreen all through the year; many different brands are available at ski shops near the slopes. Glaciers can be blinding in the sun, so be sure to bring sunglasses, which should have side shields especially for high-altitude hiking or skiing. Good walking shoes or hiking boots are a must, whether you're tackling medieval cobblestones or mountain trails.

If you're heading up into the peaks, remember that the higher you go, the greater the chance that you'll suffer from altitude sickness—symptoms include numbness, tingling, nausea, drowsiness, vision problems, but most often headaches. Always have some aspirin on hand, just in case. If you plan to spend extended periods in rural areas and natural preserves, take precautions against ticks, especially in spring and summer. Wear long sleeves, long pants, and boots, and apply insect repellent containing the powerful repellent DEET. Two vaccines against tick-borne infections are available in Europe: TicoVac (also known as FSME Immun) and Encepur, but neither has been approved in the United States.

The one thing that seems to be the budgetary breaking point for practically every hotel manager in all categories: the washcloth. They are seldom seen, so bring your own. If you're planning on shopping and cooking, a tote bag will come in handy: most grocers do not provide bags, but sturdy, reusable plastic totes can be bought at checkout. Coin laundries are rare, so be prepared to wash your clothes by hand.

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