The Complete Packing List for Women Hiking & Camping Solo in Scotland
So you think about hiking in Scotland? Awesome!
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.
Check this out! All you need to know about hiking the West Highland Way!
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!
To help you prepare better for hiking in Scotland, you may want to read this guide to hiking in rain (and loving it!) and how to camp in rain to ensure a fun and safe night rest. Stay safe and know when to turn around or quit the trip - there is no shame in it!
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 synthetic or merino base layer – One or two pieces. 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, you will be glad for that.
Short-sleeved synthetic or merino base layer – Again - one or two pieces.
Take a look below at some excellent examples of female underwear and base layer:
Can’t see anything? Try refreshing the page.
Warmer second layer: Grab a thin synthetic or down jacket that is easy to pack and put on whenever the temperature drops or you stop for a break.
A thin fleece shirt is also a fantastic choice. There might be times when you put both a fleece and a down sweater on to properly warm up!
Check out some of the fantastic choices in mid-layer below:
Rain Jacket You have to have a good rain jacket when you go to Scotland. Rain is basically a given.
Rain Pants - this one is a personal choice. You could go without them and simply wait for the fast-drying pants to dry. The problem is, that if there are also strong, cold winds, you may be shivering pretty fast. Rain pants provide insulation and help to keep water out of your boots (from trickling down your legs and into your boots).
Have a pair for “just in case” situations, when it's warm - I think it's better to get a bit wet than to sweat under the rain pants.
Take a look at the variety of rain jackets for women here:
This is a bit of a personal preference. Some women like to hike in leggings, some in traditional trekking pants. 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 pair - make sure you pick a pair you feel OK walking around a campsite in!).
Thermal Tights Great for sleeping so you can cut on your sleeping bag temp. You can choose synthetic or merino tights.
Pants – Grab a pair of quick-drying and lightweight trousers, optionally with zip-off legs. You may also want to have soft shell pair, although they could get too warm on a sunny day.
Check out a few options below:
Underwear & socks:
Sports bra – Two is enough. Find one that fits you well and which straps don’t rub your shoulders under the backpack. As usual - synthetic or merino. You don’t need a strong hold, a light activity bra is enough.
Underwear - Three - four pairs of underwear is enough. Pick up merino or synthetic panties - just make sure you don't wear cotton!
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 and two or three merino. Remember, you always need to have a dry set of socks and base layer to sleep in!
Check out some excellent pieces of active underwear and socks for women:
Buff – what a simple, yet genius idea! I have four of them now, take two for a hike: one classic made of microfiber and one made from merino wool . 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 – A pair of thin running gloves and if you want an extra rain protection - grab a pair of waterproof mittens you can wear over the other pair.
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.
A few bits and pieces from the hiking accessories department for you:
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 – Choose a pair that fits you well, is comfortable and waterproof. The terrain in Scotland is often muddy and boggy, it’s worth taking care your feet stay dry as long as possible.
When I was in Scotland, I wore a pair of Solomon Quest 4d - you can see why I loved them so much in this review :). You may also be interested in reading a review on my new pair of hiking boots - Hoka One One Tor Ultra Hi for women.
A second pair of shoes. Although it’s not a must, it's good to have a "base camp" pair - flip flops or sandals. 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 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 40 - 45 L pack, but 55 L is probably more practical, depending on the gear you have - 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 20 L - 30 L day pack.
Packing bags - Take a few different dry and compression bags to help you stay organized and keep your stuff dry. I have a number of them in different sizes, those are a must.
Click through some fantastic, high-quality backpacking packs for women:
Trekking poles - an absolute must! They are life-savers. You can read all about the benefits of hiking with trekking poles here. They help you get over muddy puddles, climb slippery slopes, and provide additional support when going downhill on a rugged terrain.
Gaiters – Good for protecting the boots and pants from mud and dirt.
Waterproof map cover
Tent - In Scotland, I used 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. (Edit: You can see my review of the TarpTent’s Double Rainbow right here)
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! Your tent needs to also be sturdy to stand to harsh, strong winds.
Also, hammocks won't work in most places in Scotland b/c of the vast, open spaces with no trees.
If you are in the market for tents, you can see below what are some excellent, lightweight 2-person tents:
Sleeping mat - Pick one that is a good compromise between price and comfort. 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, I will put it to test this summer. EDIT: You can read my review of the Therm-a-Rest NeoAir Xlite for women here!
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.
Below you can see some high-quality sleeping bags for women:
Camp Stove - I used to have a solid-fuel Esbit stove, but I switched to MSR pocket rocket 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.
EDIT: A while ago I got an integrated stove - Jetboil Minimo and really like it - you can read my review here.
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.
Mug - I use a GSI light, insulated mug. It's awesome, I even use it at work all the time.
Water filtration system - Mini-Sawyer water filter or similar. 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. But drinking it without filtering is dangerous - don’t risk getting parasite or stomach issues.
You can see (and shop) my full backpacking kitchen below!
Camera – In Scotland I used Sony DSC rx100m3 - check out my review here. Absolutely the best hiking compact camera. It's small but the photo quality is astonishing.
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. 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 mighty 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!
Synthetic towel, a smaller piece of a towel to use for pots, a piece of highly absorbing sponge to get dew or raindrops off the tent.
A few bags for garbage etc.
Personal hygiene: toothbrush/toothpaste, face cream, face cleanser , biodegradable soap, menstrual cup or tampons/pads, 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.
Looks like you are all set to kick ass in the Highlands! Happy Hiking! :D