West Highland Way Packing list

West Highland Way Packing List

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The West Highland Way is a 96-mile hike which starts just outside of Glasgow in Milngavie and ends in Fort William (many then go on to hike the Munro, Ben Nevis). The trek takes you along the West Coast of Scotland and this West Highland Way packing list will advise you on what best to take in your backpack and day bag. We divided the hike up over six days, if you are aiming to complete in less or more time, adapt this guide accordingly. To reduce the stress of the hike, we (hi, my name is Gemma and I hiked with my friends for our 30th birthdays) paid a West Highland Way baggage transfer company to take our backpack bags from one location to the next. There are several companies who do this for a fee. Don’t forget your travel insurance; my Achilles went for the first time and I’ve been very active all of my life.

West Highland Way Packing List

Here is a West Highland Way checklist for what to wear hiking in Scotland

  • 1 x raincoat (decent quality – see below).
  • 1-2 fleece tops or as many as you require, sweat can smell.
  • 2-4 Merino wool base layer.  They are not the cheapest so I would possibly go for 2 merino and 2 not. I really do love them and think they are worth investing in as they keep you cool if hot, warm if chilly. They also came with me to Snowbombing ski/music festival in Austria.
  • 1 t-shirt for every 2 days.
  • 2 x walking trousers. The drying options in our B&Bs weren’t great and if you are camping you’ll struggle even more.
  • Waterproof overtrousers – by the last day, I just wore leggings and pulled these waterproofs on top when it rained. This is my staple hiking outfit while travelling to save space (worked for trekking to Machu Picchu, Peru!) They often come with a wee pouch which you can stuff the wet trousers in and have slit access to trouser pockets if worn underneath
  • Gaiters – material that goes over your shoes and covers your ankles. I never had these but will consider them now I wear trek trainers instead of walking boots (see here for this story). My friend, Gemma T, liked her gaiters, see here for the variety of prices, they are inexpensive
  • Pants (as in knickers).
  • Sports bra and ‘normal’ bras.
  • Socks: very important 6 pairs of clean cotton socks and 4-6 pairs of walking socks.

Evening Clothes

Once you’ve removed your soggy clothes, you will want to change into something clean, or dry at least.

  • Lounging, comfortable clothes to dine drink in.
  • 1 x padded coat, like my North Face.
  • Socks and pants if you want clean ones after a shower.
  • Shoes/flip flops (my trainers ended up being my saviour).
  • PJs (bed socks? Some hotel rooms were cold, others toasty).
  • A towel (although all of our accommodation options provided them for free).

West Highland Way Footwear

This is the most important part of hiking gear – boots/shoes must be broken in or you will be in the world of pain!

  • 1 x well broken in walking boots/shoes are essential. Now, I hike in Salomon Quest boots but have previously worn Salomon Ellipse trek shoes. I had a disaster with footwear during the WHW. Not anymore!
  • 1 x shoes for evening wear (trainers saved me on Day 5)
  • 1 x flip-flops (always Havaianas for me, have had them for five years!) to let your feet breathe/ popping on for shared shower use
  • Leukotape is post-WHW discover which I now use for hikes. I tape up my feet to avoid blister, this worked extremely well for my most recent hike, the West Island Way on the Isle of Bute

West Highland Way Day Bag

A small day bag is an essential part of your walking gear for hiking in Scotland as the weather can be pretty temperamental! You’ll need access to a raincoat, hat and of course, snacks.

Here is my day packing list for the West Highland Way

  • 1 x water bottle like the Tree Tribe which has a hook on it for attaching to your backpack (Scottish tap water to great).
  • Trail mix snacks
  • Packed lunches – bought at accommodation for approx. £5, for accommodation options, see our guide to West Highland Way accommodation.
  • Clean socks – cotton socks as well as and walking socks.
  • Gloves.
  • Hat/woollen headband.
  • Plastic protective case for phones and cameras (or plastic sandwich bag) to keep dry.
  • 1 x phone and charger like the Anker battery pack. I always pack one when I travel/hike/leave the house for more than 3 hours.
  • Camera.
  • Suncream.
  • Lip salve/chapstick.
  • Tissues.
  • Baby wipes.
  • Plastic bag (for litter).
  • Notebook and pen.
  • Sunglasses.
  • Map…. and printed directions/accommodation information (signposts signal the way).
  • Hiking sticks/Walking poles (my heroes)
  • Torch and batteries (used once to get to hostel in Glencoe from pub).
  • 1 x day bag cover to protect belongings from the rain.
  • Music playlists, I took this JBL clip speaker on the West Island Way Hike this summer.
  • Hiking games like A to Zs of 90s bands, celebs names which sound like food (Salami L Jackson, Andy Murray Mint, you are welcome)

First Aid Kit

  • Blister pads, second skin is best (loads of it, go wild on eBay).
  • Ankle support (I needed both supports by Day 4).
  • Plasters.
  • Avon So Soft or Smidge for those damn Scottish midges! April was good for minimal midges activity.
  • Bandages.
  • Pins (so you can burst her blisters, sexy, refrain from this for as long as possible).
  • Antiseptic.
  • Paracetamol.
  • Biofreeze for aches and pains.
  • Wine (red or white, if you are not picky about it being chilled).

Travel Insurance

Naturally, being a Scot, I get access to free healthcare through our National Health Service but I am aware that many of my readers are not actually British so word of warning – get travel insurance before you leave for the UK.

I never travel without insurance when heading further afield. I even had to claim to Vancouver and the cost of visiting the GP alone was $100 never mind the two trips to the physiotherapist which followed. Luckily my extensive research had paid off (literally) as our insurer, True Traveller, refunded us speedily and without fuss. Heading to Scotland to hike? See if True Traveller works for you by searching their rates here.

You can read our insurance comparison guide here.


Details – West Highland Way Kit List

Quality Raincoat

I did not have the best hiking gear for walking the West Highland Way. My £25 Trespass from TK Maxx was poor quality, selected because of the colour. I now have two of these ‘alright’ quality raincoats, I will never again scrimp on cost (as I ended up buying two anyway). My advice is – splurge, buy one decent one, named brand. I was envious as the other girls all had coats where the raindrops balanced neatly on top of the material whereas they doused mine.

For Iceland, I invested in a Mountain Equipment Rupal and it is one to the two best hiking gear decisions I’ve made (the second is purchasing Salomon Quest boots). The Rupal is made from GORETEX which makes it waterproof, not just shower proof like cheaper coats. It is flattering and comes in decent colours. The back of the coat covers my bum which is great in wet weather. There are two large pockets on the front of the coat which store phones, maps and even a small camera.

For long-term travel hikes, I pack a Marmot PreCip Jacket because it is water resistant, thin, light AND folds away into its own pocket. Although I do think something heavier like the Rupal would be better for the WHW. When it rains it pours!

My friend Helen recommends her Berghaus as a trustworthy make. I can’t stress how much a high-quality raincoat is required, it will be the best item on your West Highland Way gear list, believe me, I live in this country. 

Footwear

I killed my Achilles on Day 4 and I blame heavy overly supportive walking boots and my ineptness for not breaking them in. Hiking for beginners biggest rule – do not buy boots one week before the trek, you have to break them in and mould them to your feet. In saying that, my companion, Julie’s boots were years old but she still suffered.

Helen has had her boots since she was 19 years old and she had no issues. They are leather walking boots like Scarpa (which Craig wears). You are mainly walking over farmlands and much of it is flat, trek trainers with gaiters over the trouser would suffice.

My top pick for walking boots now has to be Salomon Quest as mentioned above. They are comfortable, waterproof and look great. My only complaint is that sometimes the lace loop catches on the tie bracket and causes me to trip.

I did the Devil’s Staircase in Nike trainers (as I could not get the boots over my ankles). What a boss I hear you say. Since the West Highland Way, I’ve broken in a pair of Salomon Ellipse trek trainers over mountains, volcanoes (even sledging down it using my feet as brakes!) and through rainforests. I honestly wish I had them during this hike then maybe I would not have had Achilles issues? Heading elsewhere in the UK for trekking? Check out this UK hikes packing list.

Salomon Quest Ladies Boots

Socks/Vaseline/Boots Rule

Lube your feet up, seriously. Get in between the toes too. An alternative is to vaseline your feet but not your toes then tape up your toes with sports tape (which I ended up doing by the end of the week, I had comical blisters on my toes but never on my feet). And cut your toenails! Once you are slimy put on cotton socks, walking socks and then boots.

West Highland Way Equipment List

To pole or not to pole, that is the question. I borrowed walking poles from my Mum’s friend who highly recommended them. I could not have done it without them as they became crutches on the day of doom! Others in the group did not bother with them. Personal preference.

Final Words

The West Highland Way was certainly an endurance test for me. It was my first multi-day hike, the first time my Achilles played up, and the first time I had to sit out of a challenge for one day to recover. Would I do it again? Sure thing, but only now I have a decent raincoat and walking boots moulded to be my feet!

Planning Your WHW Hike?

  • West Highland Way route – Day by day: starting here
  • Accommodation guide: here
  • West Highland Way map: here

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West Highland Way Packing list Scotland

Oh, the fun you will have, I am actually jealous of you.
Have I missed anything out?

Gemma and Craig are full-time workers with a life-long travel habit. Flirting with 30 and let loose on the world! Gemma writes, Craig looks good in the photos.

Comments 44

  1. My personal preference is for leather walking boot as they do mould better to the shape of your feet – but as you said breaking in is the key!

    If money is no object get breathable, natural fibre base layers. Merino wool stuff comes highly recommended but can be expensive. Uniqlo do a good range of reasonably priced heat-tech clothing which is ideal, especially for those of you who are mad and opt to camp!

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  2. It’s great to have a detailed packing list like that. Well done! My biggest challenge when packing for trips has been trying to limit the number of pairs of shoes I take. I’ve done it, but always wish I’d taken just one more pair!

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  3. This is a nice comprehensive article. We dont really need to wear boots here since its hot. I didnt know that you could put vaseline to help. Thanks for the new tips I learned . I can apply it perhaps to my multi day hikes too.

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      It varied from 19 to 9. If we managed day two without any hiccups (there were lots!) that would have been our most but we had to take a water taxi after getting lost in trees for two hours, very distressing!

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      The WHW is a 96 mile trek from just outside of Glasgow all the way up to Fort William. I did it back in April 2014, it’s an old post with some new life! It’s actually my most popular post this month according to GA so there must be a lot of hikers out there looking to explore my beautiful country. Still in BC, sweating in the sun!

  4. To avoid blisters and protect your feet, wear liners. A good pair of liners and hiking socks are the two layers. Then instead of rubbing on your foot and getting a blister, the two sock layers rub. I have never had a blister! Seriously- and we hike! I carry moleskin- which is great if you do get a blister, but al I ever use it for is giving it to others that have blisters!

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  5. You should look into these slippers for at night after a big day of trekking, and for cold hostels. They are called ‘Baffin boots’ and you can pick them up in Canada (which I know you are) …I have Raynauds and they are my LIFESAVER. ugh, love them!

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  6. What an epically detailed packing list guys! This must have taken you ages – hats off to you. Some great tips in there – packing flip flops for the bathroom is something I probably wouldn’t have thought of! And you’ve inspired us to invest in a good pair of walking boots (my old ones have seen better days) – so that little outing is on the list for next week! Thanks for sharing this, ridiculously useful :).

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  7. I suppose this is a list for the month of April? Million thanks as I had the least idea about weather in Scotland. Seems like a fleece jacket is warm enough as mid-layer underneath the shell?

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      1. Envy you for the sunshine :).
        More likely in April. I’m starting to gather a proper packing list for the trip as I will visit some other places before & after the walk.
        Btw, what book / route map you recommend to bring along? I’m living in China so I have to order in advance. Many thanks!!

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          We actually just printed off from the WHW website but I am considering making an ebook of routes in the near future, this has just confirmed that I need to! There is signs along the way, we did get lost on day two due to construction work messing up the route but just ask people, it’s very popular! All of the accommodation is set up for WHWers too. I would say April would be similar to October weather wise, maybe a bit rainier and we have had snow in April before (eek!)

  8. One suggestion. Instead of carrying many pairs of clean hiking socks, consider taking three pairs of good hiking socks and three pairs of very thin socks and a small bottle of detergent. On my hike coast-to-coast in England, I would wash both pairs (I use the two-pair method to avoid blisters) at the end of the day and put them out to dry. You usually have dry socks by the next day. At worst I bagged the damp socks and laid them out to finish the second night (thus three pairs recommended). No socks should be cotton. Manmade or wool only. Oh, and thanks for the info on the WHW. Hoping to hit that one this year in celebration of the 70th birthday.

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      Awesome! I hope to be like you when I am hitting my 70th birthday too! I think because we had the luxury of having our bags carried between stops for us we didn’t think about what was in them too much weight wise but great tip for the future. You might find the drying situation a little difficult, sometimes are stuff was still damp in the morning bar at the Kinlochleven sleepover, that hotel was cosy! I’m doing West Island Way (Bute) in May by the way!

      1. The best way to dry your socks (when it is raining and you have no place on the way to dry them) is to wear them during the day under your t-shirt. The body warmth dries them. Like that you can be sure you will have at least one dry pair for the next day. It might sound disgusting but they are your socks 😀

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  9. What a thorough guide! Trying to establish a new hobby with my son, and I reckon hiking is the one since I’m a big lover of being in nature, despite what my sedentary lifestyle might suggest. Starting off on the Dava Way then onto the Clyde Walkway this month and next…hoping to tackle all of Scotland’s Great Trails.

    I’m so glad to have stumbled upon this – a pragmatic look at what to expect. Thanks very much. 🙂

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  10. Super helpful ! I’m doing this walk in October with 2 other people. I’m a little nervous because it’s the first long distance hike I’ve ever done. We are doing it in 8 days I think with only 1 day being 18 miles. I’m doing as much kit research as I can. The plan is to wild camp as much as we can so I’m in two minds if to choose a bivvy or tent…. ?

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      Hiya Chelsea. I suppose it depends on whether you are carrying your kit or whether you are paying a company to drop your stuff off at each point – you’d need to ask if they do this for campers. If you are carrying then the bivvy may be lighter and erects quicker. Our weather is about as predictable as Nicki Manaj’s hair colour, if it’s cool you won’t be bothered by our notorious midges, if we get an Indian summer there is the slight chance they may still be hanging around but May-Sept is prime time. Hope this helps.

  11. I will be doing this hike with two friends at the start of September. This will be my first multi-day trek, any advice for a newbie? We will be wild camping the whole and carrying our own bags from point to point.

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  12. My boyfriend and I are hiking this the first two weeks in July. What modifications would you make to this list would you make for this time of year. We are also using a baggage service and doing the hike over 9 days.

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  13. Thank you for your reply, I suspected as much. One more question, is water accessible during the hike for filtering or will we need to carry all of our water for the day with us. We both hike extensively in the great Smoky Mountains in Tennessee so we’re prepared to do either 🙂

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  14. Hello! Me and a group of friends are planning to walk the West Highland Way this summer, and I have just bumped into your blog (love love love it, by the way) while looking for useful info on packing. Thanks for the list! Just wondering: can you estimate, at least approximately, what weight you ended up packing? I am particularly interested in the 80l backpack that was carried by the handler; how much did that weigh? We plan to carry our stuff ourselves, so knowing what that means is crucial :))

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  15. My husband and I are doing the WHW, starting in early May 2018. We are both in our 60’s and reasonably fit and healthy, but are staying in B&Bs, Guest Houses and Hotels and having our bags transferred between stays. Thank you for a very comprehensive account of what to take. I am particularly concerned with blisters, so am now considering the 2 layers of socks. We have merino hiking socks for the outer layer, but what should I get for the inner layer? I have been watching a few youtube videos of the Way and have seen you both a few times.

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      My friend who is a trained hiking guide actually recommends waterproof socks so that might be worth investigating? You are going to have a ball, such a lovely area of Scotland. Come back and let me know how you got on please.

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