The complete* A-Z packing list for walking Scotland’s West Highland Way

A

  • Attitude – the right one, not the one Secondary (High School) Teachers encounter. Your attitude from the outset will determine how well the ups and downs of the Walk goes for you. If travelling with someone else, it’s worth agreeing aloud that you’ll both (or all) be putting the effort in physically and mentally to make sure your trip gets off on the right foot!
  • Alcohol Hand Gel. For hygiene and First Aid.

  • Boots – give them a dunk in the sink before you leave and ensure that they are waterproof. I walked the first section during a particularly warm September weekend in 2016, it hadn’t rained for about 3 days which is almost miraculous in Scotland – yet still encountered boggy patches on the shadier sections of the path at the beginning near Milgngavie and then particulary in the cow field a few hundred metres before the finish point at Drymen (pronounced Drimin rather than Dry-Men).I used these fairly cheap (around £25), light Decathlon boots which were really comfortable and warm without being sweaty:bootsThe only downside is that they are textile uppers so I bought this cheap waterproofing spray also from Decathlon and waterproofed them heavily (one coat, dry, second coat, dry) the day before I began the WHW. I used this cheap waterproof spray, also from Decathlon:spray

My feet got wet, the waterproofing spray didn’t seem to work at all which was a disappointment so invest in proper waterproof boots. For your own happiness, this should be your biggest spend!

  • Binoculars.

C

  • Camera.
  • Crampons? In Winter, any long distance route requires additional warm clothing, preparation and specialist Winter equipment and skills. Your map skills need to be strong. This list is basic, you should consult other specialist sources, walk in a group and contact the local Mountain Rescue to advise them of your route beforehand.
  • Condoms. If you have any energy left after a day of hiking… . Also, condoms are in fact multi-functional survival tools. Genuinely.

D

  • Documents. Maps, paper, pen, hostel booking confirmation, wallet, credit/debit card, ID.
  • Duct Tape, because Duct Tape.

E

  • Electrical spares & accessories: spare torch / phone / GPS batteries, chargers, waterproof camera / phone cases, tripod, memory cards.

F

  • First Aid Kit. Blister plasters, a first aid reference book, safety pins, triangle bandage, micropore tape, anti-fungal cream/ powder, anti-histamines, pain killers and anti-inflammatories, anti-septic cream, sewing kit, needle, scissors, small knife, lip balm, waterproof matches – as a minimum. You should consider taking a First Aid Course.
  • Food. Opt for high calorie, long life, no cook snacks like Pepperami, Kendall Mint Cake, Soreen loaf, Cliff bars, Snickers bars, sports energy gels and bars but remember to eat fresh fruit and vegetables when possible and consider taking vitamin supplements along. Look after your body.

 

G

  • Gloves. Even in Scotland’s Summer, take gloves. You’ll thank me.

 

H

  • Hat. Even in Scotland’s Summer, take a hat. You’ll thank me.

I

  • iPod or other mp3 player if you like to add your own musical soundtrack to your adventures. Remember chargers (solar? extra battery pack?) and earphones.

J

  • Jewellery... okay not jewellery really but a watch will be useful and will continue to work longer than your phone will. One with a backlight would be best. An analogue watch can also be used for orienteering.

K

  • Knife. A small Swiss Army knife or similar should be sufficient. Make sure it’s sharp before you go.

 

L

  • Layers. A moisture wicking base layer, fleece, waterproofs are the 3 basic layers you should always take.
  • Loo Roll. Remember to take it away with you. Leave no trace.
  • Lighter.

 

M

N

  • Nuts for snacking along the way. Peanut butter for example is a walker’s staple. It’s high in energy & protein and low in saturated fat, it makes you feel full up, it’s easy to find even in the smallest or most remote shops and the plastic jar can be re-used.

O

  • Ordnance Survey map or similar walker specific map. The WHW is fairly well signposted but you should always have a map, a compass and know how to use them. Even if you don’t need the map for navigation, it will also provide more information about the terrain around you and keeping an eye on your route on the map is good practice. Protect your maps and yourself with a sturdy, waterproof map case.

P

  • Your Prescription medication. Speak with your Doctor and Pharmacist prior to undertaking a long distance route. 

Q

  • Quinoa for camping. Quinoa is naturally gluten-free and contains iron, B-vitamins, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium,calcium, vitamin E, and fiber. It is one of only a few plant foods that are considered a complete protein, containing all nine essential amino acids. It’s also easy to carry, a little goes a long way and it won’t perish.
  • Repair Kit for your tent if camping. Bear in mind that there are byelaws that prohibit camping along the East of Loch Lomond. You should always follow “the seven principles” of wild camping. Campsites and B&Bs are available along the Way.

S

  • Scarf or buff (even in Scotland’s Summer).
  • Sleeping Bag.
  • Sleeping Mat.
  • Soap shavings / Shampoo if you intend on washing wild. Use environmentally friendly, bio-degradable soaps to avoid damaging the landscape and wildlife you’re there to enjoy.
  • Suncream. Yes, gloves and suncream are in the same list. Welcome to Scotland and it’s every-changing weather!
  • Sunglasses. Dual purpose – they keep glare and midges out of your eyes.

T

  • Torch. A headtorch rather than a handheld torch is the most practical as it leaves your hands free.
  • Toiletries.
  • Tent.
  • Trowel, or a “poo tube”, whichever you prefer.
  • Towel.
  • “Tubi” grip joint supports.

U

  • Underwear.

V

  • Vanity Mirror. A small mirror is useful not only for pretty purposes but more importantly, can be used to attract attention in case of emergency.

W

  • Waterproofs. You’ll need wind and waterproof , breathable trousers and a jacket with a hood. Gore-tex is a well-known brand.
  • Whistle.
  • Water – plenty of it to sip along the way even if you’re not feeling particularly thirsty – the key is to stay hydrated so that you don’t reach the parched stage. The vast majority of wild, moving water in Scotland is drinkable – any watercourses not drinkable will be clearly marked. You can take extra precautions by using cheap sterilisation tablets but I don’t know anyone who does this in Scotland. Fill your bottle from clear, moving watercourses.
  • Weather Forecast. Keep checking the forecast during your walk, it will change.
  • Wax trousers. Ticks are little bloodsuckers that look like a piece of pale sweetcorn with legs. They’re present all over Scotland but found particularly in long grass and around livestock. They can cause Lyme Disease. Their bites leave a “bullseye” ringed mark. Wax trousers will help to prevent tick bites. Check your whole body regularly for ticks. If you suspect you have Lyme disease then head straight to your GP. Know the symptoms.
  • Xtra Sox …but seriously, extra socks, for when your feet inevitably get wet.

Y

  • Yellow clothing of some description, preferably neon yellow. High visibility clothing is neccesary for the road sections day or night, and in case of emergency. I bought a cheap Hi Viz labourer’s vest at a “cash & carry” for a few pounds and cut it into strips – I sewed two strips on to my rucksack and sewed some velcro on to another strip for use around my cuff/ankle etc. You can easily just tie it on to your rucksack – in fact, if it’s flapping in the wind, the motion should help make you more noticeable to other road traffic.

Z

  • Z? Oh I don’t know, how about a zombie book to give you the creeps (or the heebie jeebies as we say in Scotland) in your tent in the middle of a the night in a fog-filled Glen?

*It’s important that I include the following note:

The above list is for reference only and is not (despite the title) a comprehensive list – the reason for this is that the requirements for packing and preparation are specific to your route, your timescale, your level of fitness, your health conditions and the weather at the time of your trip. You should take sufficient precautions. It is very easy to think that because this walk has a name, it can be dismissed as tourist route. For a large percentage of the WHW, should you fall and sprain an ankle or break a bone or worse, there are miles and miles between you and adequate Medical support. You should always leave a note of your route and your expected timescale with someone, stay in contact when possible and avoid deviating from the marked paths. Check out the Scottish Mountain Rescue website for further information:

http://www.scottishmountainrescue.org/

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