Macs Adventure, Walking, West Highland Way

What to Pack for the West Highland Way?

13 Jan , 2011  

Baggage:

Day Pack: During each day’s walk, your baggage will be transferred to your next accommodation, leaving you with the flexibility to carry just a day pack. We recommend a 20 – 35L bag that is comfortable and has a waistband. Your daypack contents should include 2-4L of water, snacks, lunch, spare clothes required during the day, waterproofs, hats, gloves, sunglasses (yes, the sun shines in Scotland occasionally!), passport, money and definitely your camera. We would recommend either a waterproof inner lining, a waterproof cover or both, just in case.

Duffel Bag: Your main bag will be with the handlers, so you will not have access to it during the day so allocate gear accordingly each morning. In regard to type of luggage you can take – any bag will work so long as it us under 40lbs. Though duffel bags are easier for the baggage handlers to move, a roller bag or hard-shell will work, too.

Boots/Socks:

walker on the west highland way

Choosing the correct clothing is essential!

Boots:

Keeping your feet happy and comfortable is essential. We recommend worn in, sturdy hiking boots – preferably with ankle support. Though most of the West Highland Way paths provide relatively an easy walking surface, book with extra support are nice to have on the few rougher sections. Additionally, ensuring that the footwear is well worn in prior to your walk will make a world of difference.

Casual Shoes: After a full day in (potentially wet) boots, having a pair of comfortable shoes for the evenings is essential. Since you will likely be walking from your accommodations to dinner/town in the evening, we would still recommend something appropriate for the outdoors opposed to slippers (though having both is an option!).

Socks: There is no point spending money on boots and then not using the right socks. We recommend bringing 2-3 pairs of the same types of walking socks. While we personally recommend Smartwool and Darn Tough socks, you can easily ask for advice in a specialist outdoor retailer. A great tip to prevent blisters is to apply Vaseline on potential hotspots each morning prior to putting on your socks – this stop rubbing and keeps blisters from forming.

Clothing:

Using the Layering System: The temperature will vary considerably according to the weather conditions and time of year. The layering system works best to cope with the variation in temperature. This way you can add or remove layers quickly, easily and as needed to stay comfortable.

The layering system consists of:

Base Layer – high wicking, close fitting tights and top.
Mid Layer – a warm mid layer consisting of fleece or similar materials.
Outer layer – A breathable waterproof and windproof jacket and trousers.
Extra Warm Layer – A down jacket for use at night is pretty much essential and you may even wear it while walking on very cold days.
Accessories: This system is then supplemented with gloves, hats, buffs etc. that you can take on and off quickly to regulate temperature.

Obviously this list is dependent on the weather conditions that you are facing.  The good thing about the layers is that you can strip them off or add them on as you see fit.  You will also learn what you are most comfortable wearing over the first few days of the hike, and then any surplus layers can be stored in your main baggage.

walker on the west highland way

It does occasionally rain on the West Highland Way

Clothing List:
• Hiking Boots –Three season trekking boots with good ankle support and well broken-in.
• Comfortable shoes- for wearing in the evenings around the towns.
• Hiking Socks – Good trekking socks. If you buy good hiking socks, wearing one pair is fine but some people prefer two pairs (taking 3 pairs with you are normally sufficient, and I would suggest packing one really warm pair).
• Gaiters
• Thermal Base Layer – Merino Wool is the best as you can wear for weeks without washing. Synthetic is also fine (2 sets).
• Fleece Trousers – I use power fleece which are great for hiking on really cold days.
• Walking trousers (Zip-offs are great) – 1 or 2 pairs (No jeans).
• Shorts (1 or 2 pairs if you aren’t taking zip-off trousers)
• Waterproof Jacket (Goretex or other breathable fabric).
• Waterproof Over trousers(Goretex or other breathable fabric).
• Long sleeved trekking shirt.
• T-shirts/Hiking T-shirts.
• Thin Fleece Jacket/Top (often called micro-fleece) – 2
• Thick Fleece Jacket/Top – 1
• Sun hat and sunglasses.
• Warm Hat or Balaclava
• Gloves (one pair thinner and one pair very warm)
• Buff or Neck Gaiter.
• Down Jacket
• Travel Towel

Essential Equipment:

• Daypack/Rucksack – A good day pack of between 25 – 40L for carrying spare layers, water, camera, snacks etc.
• Water Bottle and/or Camelback (4 Litres) + purification tablets/system.
• Head torch + Batteries (including a spare bulb and batteries)
• Books/Guides/Maps as preferred.
• Pocket Knife/Leatherman/Swiss Army Knife.
• Camera – I would recommend taking spare batteries and film.
• Money Belt/Pouch
• Waterproof liner for both bags.
• Hiking poles are becoming more popular. I use and recommend them. A pair is best but many walkers start with just one. Leki Makalu anti-shock poles are some of the best although there are numerous brands on the market.
• Large plastic bin liners and Ziploc storage bags of various sizes for keeping your kit dry.
• Energy bars and snacks – 2 per day

Toiletries, Health & Medical Kit:

• First Aid Kit – It is always a good idea to carry a small first aid kit for your own needs. Even though you won’t always be miles from civilisation, some parts of the walk are quite remote so it is definitely worth taking along. It should include; wound dressings, antiseptic wipes, antiseptic cream, crepe bandages, triangular bandages, blister kit (plasters and Compede) etc. You can buy excellent ready-made kits from outdoor shops or pharmacies.
• Sun block & Lip balm – 30+ SPF
• Medication – Please take sufficient quantities of any prescription medication you need for the duration of your trip. Additionally you may want to take a supply of medication that you use occasionally for headaches and aches and pains.
• Toiletries –  Pack toothbrush & paste, floss, hand and face cleansers. Baby wipes are excellent for a quick freshen up.

Even though a lot of this is common sense, there are not so many supermarkets on the route so it is a good idea to think ahead and make sure that you have packed exactly what you need.

If you are looking for a top quality operator for your West Highland Way trip, why not try Macs Adventure?

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Ewan By
A member of Macs Adventure's amazing marketing team, my passion in life is Snowboarding (apart from my family of course, should they happen to read this!) and have taken up mountain biking to fill the seasonal gap and keep me fit enough to spend as much time on the slopes as I can, come winter.