So you think about hiking in Scotland? Awesome! I absolutely loved my month of trekking through the West Highland Way, parts of the Great Glen Way and on the Isle of Skye. The landscapes are captivating and pretty soon you are completely in love. But to fully enjoy your trip to the Highlands you have to prepare. The weather can be tricky and wet. And don’t let the term “summer” confuse you – you might encounter all possible seasons: from early spring’s evening chills, through real summer heat to fall’s cold rains and bitter winds. No matter what the Scottish skies throw at you – be prepared with the right gear. Thank goodness this land is beautiful no matter the weather! I have prepared this complete packing list for women hiking & camping solo in Scotland to ensure a safe and enjoyable trip.
Summer hiking & camping in Scotland: a few tips
First of all, you need to be aware of the specific conditions you encounter when hiking in Scotland. I personally don’t like hot weather, so I was happy with the northern climate. In general, you should expect temperatures around 15 – 20°C during the day. Extremely rarely more than 25°C and not-that-rarely below 12°C, during the day. The more to the north you go, the colder it can be. Scotland is notorious for getting a lot of rain and you can be sure to get some. Preparing a good system for hiking and camping in wet conditions is the key.
The packing list for hiking in Scotland is created with the solo hiker & camper in mind. I really love hiking by myself but the downside of it is, I have to carry all I might need with me. If you hike with someone you can share your camping and cooking gear. You may choose to stay at B&Bs for the night, which is pretty easy when around the more popular trails, like the West Highland Way, but a bit more challenging when in more remote areas. And remember to always book well in advance! I took the advantage of Freedom to Roam laws in Scotland and wild camped more than a few times.
Still anxious and a bit scared about the idea of camping by yourself? Don’t worry – with this handy guide you will learn how to fight your fears and love camping solo. I love it, it gives me such a sense of pride and accomplishment!
I included examples of pieces of gear and clothing you can easily buy. I tried to pick only items I already own and like or ones that are appraised and highly recommended by the hiking community.
Packing list for women hiking in Scotland: Clothes
Long-sleeved merino base layer – One or two pieces. I have a Devold shirt (similar to this one Devold UK . I haven’t found any Devold shirts in the US, but one by other reputable producers is as good – for example, this Smartwool Shirt). Why merino? Read here on the benefits and amazing qualities of merino wool. You may also want to pick a synthetic, fast-drying shirt. Pick one with technology fighting odor. These shirts by Arc’teryx US or Rab UK are both really good choices.
Short-sleeved merino base layer – Again – one or two pieces. I have one t-shirt by Devold (basically the same as this one Devold UK, for the US – for example, this one by Icebreaker would be great). I also have a synthetic short-sleeved tee by Arc’teryx for warmer days, one similar to this Arc’teryx US and this one from The North Face.
Thin, long-sleeved stretch light jacket (Salomon) – “AdvancedSkin warm” thin stretchy jacket, with hood. I haven’t found the exact same model, but it is similar to this one, just full-zip and with a hood: Salomon Trail Runner UK, I think this one is the closest to what I have: Salomon Discovery Hooded Jacket – US).
Warmer second layer: I recently got an awesome thin fleece jacket by RAB UK / Rab US (I have the UK’s style but US’s color) that I absolutely love and recommend. For this layer, you can get a good fleece or a PrimaLoft sweater. They look like jackets but are thinner and lighter. They pack small and are perfect for all kind of trips. You can pick something similar to this warm fleece by The North Face UK and US or The North Face’s very popular Thermoball jacket: US/ UK.
Rain Pants – this one is a personal choice. Many people use them, I found that I preferred to get soaking wet in my fast-drying pants and then wait for them to dry. But after getting soaked in a really bad weather with low temperature, I actually wished I had proper rain pants. So, my tip is to have them for when it rains, with heavy cold winds. When it’s warm – I think it’s better to get a bit wet than to sweat under the rain pants.
This is a bit of a personal preference. Some women like to hike in leggings, some in traditional trekking trousers. I’m of the second kind. To cut on weight I don’t have separate shorts, but use zip-off pants. You will need tights for the night as your pj’s (and an extra pair of pants when you have to wash the hiking trousers – make sure you pick a pair you feel OK walking around a campsite in!).
Trousers (North Face) – Quick-drying and lightweight with zip-off legs, very comfortable and stretchy. I can’t remember what is the name of the model I have, which is a pity as I absolutely love them! I think it’s probably this model: UK/US.
Underwear & socks:
Sports bra – Icebreaker: (UK/ US) made of merino wool. It’s a great bra that I found really comfortable although a bit too high on my neck in the back. It’s probably not the best choice for a really hot day, though. Last season I had a synthetic Arc’teryx bra (UK/US). I liked it and it’s great for all weather. When choosing backpacking bra remember to choose one where the straps won’t rub under your backpack’s straps.
Underwear – Three pairs of underwear is enough. Pick up merino or synthetic panties – just make sure you don’t wear cotton! I recommend these merino wool panties (Icebreaker UK/US) and synthetic Arc’teryx Phase SL series (UK/US) I own myself.
Socks – My system to prevent blisters is to wear two layers of socks. First a very thin synthetic pair, then a merino-wool pair. Take two pairs of thin Coolmax liners (UK/US) and two or three merino (UK/US). I have a few pairs by Bridgedale and SmartWool Ph.D., but there are a few other great companies around.
Buff – what a simple, yet genius idea! I have four of them now, take two for a hike: one classic made of microfiber (UK/US) and one made from merino wool (UK/US). I’ve been using the merino wool instead of a hat all winter and love it! If you don’t’ want two buffs, grab a hat/beanie – it can get really cold!
Gloves – Two pairs: one very thin runners’ gloves and one merino Bridgedale.
Sun Hat – This for me is a must both for protection against the sun, as well as from the rain. I find the rain jackets’ hood just not big enough to protect my face. And I am really annoyed when I have droplets on my glasses. I’ve been using this one (UK/US) although I look somewhat dorky in it. Recently I got a basic Nike light baseball cap and am really happy with it.
Boots & Shoes
There is a lot of discussions among the fans of hiking boots and lighter hiking shoes or even trail runners. Scottish trails are very often rugged, covered with loose rocks and gnarly roots. Very often slippery, muddy and boggy. I am definitely in the gore-tex hiking boots for Scotland team, especially when hiking with a bigger (and heavier) pack.
Boots – Salomon Quest 4D (UK/US). I loved them from the start. I don’t want to switch to trail runners just yet, my backpack is still a bit too heavy for that. And anyway, they just fit me so well I don’t really want to change into anything else! If you want to find out why I love my Solomon Quest 4D boots, read this review 🙂.
The second pair of shoes. It’s good to have a “base camp” pair – flip flops or sandals. I have this (UK/US) pair of Keens and love them, but they are a bit heavy. Grab a pair of crocs or water shoes which might help in crossing burns in spate. There were some moments I had to take my boots off to cross a stream.
Packing list for women hiking in Scotland: hiking and camping gear
Backpack and packing
Backpack – You can read my review of the Deuter Aircontact (UK/US) I’ve been using for a while. I advise to go as light as possible but make sure you do it the smart way. I think it’s quite doable to fit all your gear in a 40l pack, but 50l is also fine – but try to go as light as you can. There is also the option of using luggage carrying services. You can then pack in a carry-on and just hike with a 20l – 30l day-hike.
Trekking poles – an absolute must! They are life-savers. You can read all about the benefits of hiking with trekking poles here. The ones I’m using are made by a small local company, but you can find great options out there, for example, UK or US.
Gaiters – I have Deuter low ones. Good for protecting the boots and pants from mud and dirt.
Waterproof map cover
Tent – I’m using a Vango tent and you can read my review here. I am soon to upgrade to a much lighter tarp-tent style of a shelter weighing only about 1 kg. You can check companies like TarpTent (US) or TrekkerTent (UK) and read more on all the light-weight shelter options in my post on going light. Whatever kind of shelter you choose, make sure you don’t have to open the inner tent first – you will have to pitch it in the rain at least once during your trip! Also, hammocks won’t work in most places in Scotland b/c of the vast, open spaces with no trees.
Sleeping mat – the lighter the better but the lighter the more expensive as well. Pick what you can afford. Make sure you don’t take only its weight into consideration – you should be comfortable and insulated from the ground. I’ve just upgraded my sleeping system with the ultralight Therm-a-Rest NeoAir for women: US / UK– I will put it to test this summer.
Sleeping bag – When I was hiking in Scotland I used a synthetic +5° women bag and it was too cold. It all depends on personal sleeping patterns, but you need to remember, that the more tired or hungry you are, the colder you sleep. When there is a lot of humidity in the air we also tend to feel colder. Down sleeping bags are warmer and lighter, but more sensitive in wet conditions. For your Scottish adventure, you might be better off taking a synthetic bag, with warm underwear to sleep in and a well-insulating sleeping mat or get a down bag but take extra care to keep it dry.
Camp Stove – I used to have this solid-fuel Esbit stove (UK/US), but I switched to MSR pocket rocket (UK/US) and don’t plan on going back to my old Esbit! Pocket Rocket is fast, tiny and affordable. You can’t fly with a gas canister, so you need to get it when there. But don’t worry – Scotland is really hikers-friendly and it is not difficult to get fuel.
Long titanium spoon. I found that taking both spoon and fork pointless. Spoon is good for eating anything, and it’s one item less in your bag to carry!
Pot – You don’t need a whole set of pots and pans. I’ve been using just one 0,8l during my treks and it’s perfect for a solo traveler. I boil water for a cup of coffee/tea and the rest is for oatmeal or instant soup. I don’t take any additional plate – I eat my breakfast or dinner straight from the pot. Grab a titanium one or a light aluminum one – just stay away from steel, it’s heavy. If you want to find out more about your camping cookware options you can jump over and read my guide – especially if you like to play around in the camp kitchen :).
Water filtration system – Mini-Sawyer water filter (UK/US) – I highly recommend it. Carrying it with you means you don’t have to take as much water, so a lighter bag. Most of the areas you hike in Scotland are abundant in water sources – streams or lakes.
Kindle – I love it. I see it as a necessary backpacking item – I have not only my books on it but also guidebooks, important info on insurance, bus timetables etc. (UK/US). If you prefer, you might be interested in grabbing a tablet to keep all your entertainment in one place.
Phone with GPS and map
Power bank & cords
First Aid Kit
Map – GPS and/or ViewRanger is never enough. You have to have a regular paper (or even better: laminated) map with you.
Headlamp + extra batteries
Notebook + pen
Headnet – the Scottish midges are might beasties not to be taken lightly. Make sure the net is really fine – mine was for bigger mosquitoes and those bloody $@!! were getting through! urgh!
Towel, pee-rug, fast-drying kitchen towel, highly absorbing foam-rug to get dew or raindrops off the tent.
A few bags for garbage etc.
Personal hygiene: toothbrush/toothpaste, face cream, face cleanser (I use Cetaphil [UK/US] and think it’s the absolute best product for sensitive skin, I don’t even consider not taking it), biodegradable soap, menstrual cup, insect repellent, sunscreen, lip balm, hand cream. This list is obviously quite subjective. You might add some things or consider some useless. Just make sure you have a strong insect repellent and sunscreen on you!
If you plan on camping in Scotland, you might want to check this resource page camping along the most popular Scottish trails.
Check out more hiking gear & clothing tips and tricks over at my resource page.
Looks like you are all set to kick ass in the Highlands! Happy Hiking! 😀
What do you think? Would you add something to this list? Have you been hiking in Scotland? Isn’t it awesome?! 😀