This post originally appeared on All Women All Trails, a community of adventurous women sharing their experiences in the outdoors.
What To Bring: All The Gear You’ll Need
If you refer to my previous post about planning to walk the West Highland Way, you’ll remember that we used a baggage service and stayed at B&Bs and inns along the way. So this list is not comprehensive if you are planning to wild camp. However, this is what we packed in our luggage and/or carried which worked well for us.
- Backpack – daypack of at least 20L. I carried the Gossamer Gear Kumo Camo 36, which was great because it held all my extra layers and gear for each day without feeling heavy or cumbersome.
- Shoes that are well cushioned – I wore the Altra Timp 1.5.
- Water bottle or reservoir
- Water filter or tablets just in case – we were able to fill up along the way and I never used mine.
- Garmin InReach Mini – helped our family track our progress. Not necessary, but was fun for those at home.
- Guidebook with maps and helpful info
- Camera or phone, headphones optional
- Guthook app for navigation – I found this much more helpful than the guidebook I hauled.
- Battery pack and cord to charge phone if needed
- Rain gear – jacket, rain skirt
- Hat – wool beanie, brimmed hat
- Gloves – mittens or half mittens, waterproof shell mitts
- Purple Rain Adventure Skirt
- Socks, liners, plus extra pair of dry
- Gaiters to prevent sand and rocks from getting in shoes. Not absolutely necessary, but mine were quite helpful.
- Baselayer shirt
- Puffy – I wore the Patagonia Nano Puff
- Trekking poles – I used mine the whole time, even on the flat portions.
- First aid kit with blister prevention
- Silnylon packable backpack for walking around town, not necessary, but I liked having a lighter option than my day pack. I did not carry a purse with me.
- Snacks! Cadbury chocolate highly recommended. Also Snickers protein bars.
- Pen – we were often asked to fill out papers at the hotels or on the plane and pens were not offered. Plus, postcards for friends and family!
Helpful Things To Know
- We chose to hike the WHW in the beginning of May because we wanted to avoid the evil bloodsucking creatures known as midges. They typically come into season end of May through mid September. Even though the weather was colder when we went, and the landscape was less green, it was worth not having to deal with these awful bugs!
- Most of the WHW is goes along old military or drovers roads, which means you will be walking on rocks and cobbles for miles. The entire trail is graveled, which is very hard on the feet. I can’t stress enough how important footwear is. Cushioned trail runners or boots will go a long way in saving your feet. This is not a trail for minimalist footwear. 98% of the people we saw wore boots. I wore trail runners and am so glad I had softer, cushy shoes on my feet. We didn’t have any rain though, so wet feet weren’t an issue. If you decide to wear trail runners, perhaps bring a pair of waterproof socks for rainy days.
- You will be traversing farmland throughout Scotland on the WHW. Multiple times per day we were walking through privately owned sheep farms, opening gates and trekking beside animals. It’s very important to respect the farmers and their livestock by firmly closing all gates, and not disturbing the animals. Before you return to the US, make sure that your footwear is completely cleaned so as not to transport any kind of bacteria from those farms into this country.
- Bring UK power converters for the outlets.
- There are no outlets in bathrooms in the UK.
- Beds are very firm, without exception. This was really tough on our backs. At no point did we actually sleep in a comfortable bed regardless of how nice our accommodations were. This was our experience on both Scotland trips.
- In almost every place we stayed we did not have WiFi in our room. There is usually a common area where it’s available, or the inn might be remote enough that they don’t have it. Plan to be happily off the grid on certain days.
- Most places accept major credit cards (not American Express). We brought £50 cash for our taxi ride and got an extra £150 from the ATM at the airport for various purchases along the way. Sometimes if you need to leave a gratuity on a meal, this can only be done with cash.
- Book everything in advance! – inns & hotels, restaurants (very important), taxis, train rides. As soon as you book your flight, start booking everything else. Restaurants, about 2-3 weeks out from your trip. You can email them and set up a booking. We saw several walkers get turned away from eateries because they had no booking and all tables were full.
- Most places will offer a full Scottish breakfast, which is a hearty meal to start each day.
- The WHW is a very exposed trail in most sections, so you will be subject to the elements. It is smart to pack for each day like you could experience all 4 seasons. Also, due to this exposure, it’s tricky to find secluded places to go to the bathroom. I suggest women use a Pstyle or something similar so you don’t have to “drop trou” and can go easily and quickly around a bend.
- There are usually places to stop and get lunch along the way. There may be one day where you don’t have a lunch spot, but most inns offer to pack a lunch for you if that’s the case.
- For those who are used to hiking trails in the US, this is a decidedly different experience. The views are spectacular, the people are friendly and kind, and amenities abound. However, I constantly found myself missing the challenge of the green tunnel. I gained both a greater appreciation for the incredible network of long trails in the US, and a desire to explore other long trails in different parts of the UK.