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 aim to complete it 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 birthday) paid a West Highland Way baggage transfer company to take our backpack bags from one location to the next.

Several companies do this for a fee.

Remember your travel insurance! My Achilles went for the first time, and I’ve been very active all of my life.

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Join me in my free Scotland Facebook group to ask questions about your trip to Scotland.

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 Icebreaker Merino wool base layer USA / UK.  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 USA / UK – 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, here (USA / UK) is 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.
  • Midge nets: you will 100% need these if hiking during midge season, the West Coast midges are horrors.
  • Midge hat: if you don’t want to wear a face net over your head, try the hat with a net. 

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 Rab Alpine down USA / UK.
  • 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 US / UK.
    but have previously worn Salomon Ellipse trek shoes US / UK, which I trekked with to Machu Picchu. 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 US / UK  for me, have had them for five years!) to let your feet breathe/ popping on for shared shower use
  • Leukotape US / UK  is post-WHW discover, which I now use for hikes. I tape up my feet to avoid blisters, 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’ US / UK, which has a hook on it for attaching to your backpack (Scottish tap water to great).
  • Trail mix snacks
  • Packed lunches – bought at accommodation; see our guide to West Highland Way accommodation.
  • Clean socks – cotton socks as well as 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 — US / UK. 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 the hostel in Glencoe from pub).
  • 1 x day bag cover like the Osprey US / UK to protect belongings from the rain.
  • Music playlists, I took this JBL clip speaker US / UK 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 US / UK 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 US / UK for aches and pains.
  • Wine (red or white, if you are not picky about it being chilled).

Travel Insurance

Naturally, as a Scot, I have 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 that followed.

Luckily, my extensive research 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 of poor quality and was selected because of the colour.

I now have two of these ‘alright’ quality raincoats; I will never again scrimp on cost (as I bought two anyway).

My advice is to splurge and buy a 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 US / UK, one of the two best hiking gear decisions I’ve made.

The second is purchasing Salomon Quest boots.

The Rupal is made from GORETEX, making it waterproof, not just showerproof 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.

Two large pockets on the front of the coat store phones, maps and even a small camera.

For long-term travel hikes, I pack a Marmot PreCip Jacket US / UK 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!

Footwear

I killed my Achilles on Day 4, and I blame heavy, overly supportive walking boots and my ineptness for not breaking them in.

The biggest rule for hiking for beginners is to 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 had no issues.

They are leather walking boots like Scarpa US/ UK (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, but not.

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. 

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 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.

Midge nets.

A face covering or hat (see here) with a net to protect your face is a must if you are hiking during midge season, which runs from mid-May to mid-late September.

During a recent trip, I experienced the West Coast midges at their worst, and I was so thankful for having face nets. 

At one spot, they didn’t leave after dusk! You’ve been warned. 

Final Words

The West Highland Way was undoubtedly an endurance test for me. It was my first multi-day hike; my Achilles played up, and it was 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 that 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 jealous of you.
Have I missed anything?

52 thoughts on “West Highland Way Packing List

  1. Catherine says:

    Thanks so much for your information about the WHW. I would like to do just two sections when I am in Scotland in September this year.. Bridge of Orchy to Kingshouse, then to Kinlochleven.
    My problem is that I will be on my own . I have done multi day walks here in Australia and in NZ but am not confident walking on my own in Scotland.
    Do you think I would be likely to meet people along the way, not to chat to endlessly but just to have someone know you are on the track? I will book luggage transfer and accommodation with one of the companies so I will be known in some way. Any thoughts?

    Also …. midges in mid September???
    We usually travel to UK and Europe on winter so have not had the experience so far.
    Thanks for any advice or information.

    • Gemma I Two Scots Abroad says:

      Hey Catherine! That’s a good post to start because you can get the bus from Glasgow to Bride of Orchy [this is what some of my friends did then did your exact route with us + on to Fort William].

      As for fellow hikers, it is really hit or miss. We only met one other group of lads from Kinlochleven to Fort William. I would suggest doing a call out in a hiking Facebook group to see if anyone wants to join you? Try the Scottish Travel Society, a very active group.

      Midges wise, it depends on the weather. If the chill has set in you’ll be fine. September is still a culprit month for the wee beasties!

  2. Glenda Smith says:

    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.

    • Gemma I Two Scots Abroad says:

      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.

  3. Justina says:

    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 :))

  4. Connie Janes says:

    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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