Making smart choices about what to pack (and what to leave behind) is a vital part of setting yourself up for a successful and enjoyable West Highland Way experience. It’s simple- the heavier your pack, the harder your effort.
However, with a little thoughtful planning, you can keep your pack weight manageable while still ensuring you have everything you need to be comfortable on the trail and while relaxing at the inns, campgrounds, and villages along the way.
Below you’ll find a detailed West Highland Way packing list that will provide you with great, trail-tested gear that won’t weigh down your backpack too much. This list reflects our personal packing list which will vary for each individual’s specific needs.
However, this should serve as a great starting point for planning your own West Highland Way adventure! We’ve organized it into the following categories:
- West Highland Way Packing Basics
- Camping-Specific Gear List
- Bunkhouse & Hostel Specific Gear List
- Personal Gear List
- Miscellaneous Gear List
- Women’s Clothing List
- Men’s Clothing List
We’ve included specific lists for campers and those staying in dorm-style accommodation. The remaining categories apply to all types of hikers. Those staying in guesthouses, hotels, and B&B’s shouldn’t require additional gear beyond what’s on the general lists.
West Highland Way Itinerary & GPS Package
– Plan Your Perfect Trip –
Our itinerary package is the perfect resource to plan your route. You’ll get
Offline GPS Maps for 5-, 6-, 7-, & 8-day West Highland Way itineraries.
Itinerary tables with start/finish location & daily distances.
Step-by-step instructions on how to use your GPS files for offline navigation.
Everything you need to plan your perfect West Highland Way walk!
West Highland Way Packing Basics
There are limitless ways to hike the West Highland Way; you can customize the length of your walk, your accommodation preferences, your meal options, and so much more.
Your West Highland Way packing list will need to be tailored to your individual itinerary and needs. Someone who is using a luggage transfer service and staying in B&B’s will have a significantly different kit than someone who is carrying all of their own camping gear and cooking their own meals.
Despite all of this variability, there are a few basic truths about packing for the West Highland Way that apply to everyone. These include:
- Keep your backpack as light as possible! (see the next section for more on this)
- It is essential to dial in your footwear.
- Bring hiking poles and learn how to use them prior to your WHW trek.
How much should my pack weigh?
This isn’t easy to answer, since there are a ton of factors that influence how much is too much for any individual hiker. Some things to think about…
- How fast are you hoping to hike? Generally speaking, lighter=faster
- Have you completed a multi-day through hike with this specific backpack and this amount of weight before?
- Are you injury-prone or do you have any chronic knee, hip, or back issues?
As a very general rule, campers should keep their pack weight below 13kg, including food and water. Those staying indoors should carry no more than 9kg.
If having your luggage transferred along the trail, most transfer services will limit you to 20kg, and your daypack shouldn’t exceed 4kg. If you are backpacking for the first time or have a chronic injury, the weight of your pack should be significantly less than these guidelines.
Generally speaking, less is more. Here’s a few tips for lightening your load:
- You only need a couple of shirts. Same goes for underwear and socks. Before you write us off as total dirtbags, hear us out. First, you’ll have plenty of time and sunshine to wash and dry laundry. Second, clothes are heavy, so cutting out everything but the absolute essentials will make a huge difference.
- Plan out when/where you’ll restock food provisions and don’t carry more food than you need.
- Consider leaving your bulky camera equipment at home. Unless photography is your passion, most smartphones take great photos and save a ton of space and weight.
Footwear on the West Highland Way
Traditional hiking boots, hiking shoes, or trail runners will all work for the trail conditions on the West Highland Way, but you need to make sure they will work for you too. This means that you should bring a pair of boots or shoes that you know from experience don’t cause problems for your feet.
Ideally, you should put at least 30 miles on them in various terrain and weather conditions to reduce the chance of running into issues on the trail. A nasty blister can be catastrophic on a multi-day trek like the WHW!
That being said, you also don’t want your boots/shoes to be too broken in, as you need them to hold up faithfully for many miles of gnarly, muddy terrain. I know we’re asking you to work some Goldilocks magic here, but it’s definitely worth it!
You’ll also want to make sure you have some good socks. Socks are one of those rare things in life where you really do get what you pay for, and high quality socks can be a game changer. Once again, try to do some hiking in a few different types to figure out how what you like in terms of thickness, cushion, and height. We love merino wool for its quick-drying and anti-stink qualities.
The trail conditions on the West Highland Way are notorious for causing blisters. If you’re blister prone, consider trying sock liners. Many hikers swear by them. Other tried-and-true blister prevention tactics include putting bodyglide on potential hotspots or wearing toesocks.
These are a total game-changer on a tough walk like the West Highland Way. You (and your knees) will be so glad to have them on steep sections, and this is especially true for campers who are carrying heavier loads.
The same rule for shoes applies to backpacks: make sure you complete several hikes with your bag packed the same way (and with the same weight) you’ll carry on the West Highland Way.
Also similar to shoes, backpacks need to be broken in through use, and your body needs to get used to the feeling of wearing it for extended periods of time. In terms of size, most campers will need between 45 and 65 liters.
Those staying indoors will find that 30-40L is perfect. If you’re purchasing a new pack, most good outdoors stores have experienced staff that will help you find the right fit and style for your needs.
Don’t forget to bring a pack cover (included with many newer backpacks) to protect against rain. This is an absolute must-have.
If you plan on using your phone as a GPS to navigate along the West Highland Way (which we highly recommend!), it’s imperative that it stays charged. Most accommodation providers will allow you to charge electronics, but this isn’t a guarantee everywhere. Carrying a small battery backup or one of these nifty portable solar panels will give you a little more freedom and peace of mind.
The Trailblazer Guide is an excellent resource for anyone planning a West Highland Way walk. This thorough guide covers everything from the history of the walk to accommodation recommendations, and of course provides a comprehensive breakdown of every stage.
If you plan on camping along the West Highland Way, there’s a lot more gear you need to think about than just your hiking basics. Don’t worry though, we’ve got you covered!
Use this camping gear list in conjunction with the personal items list, miscellaneous list, and men’s or women’s clothing list to put together your perfect kit.
Camping on the West Highland Way is definitely worth carrying the bigger backpack. We loved the flexibility and independence it gave us. Plus, campgrounds along the trail are plentiful, convenient, and generally quite comfortable. With the right gear and a manageable pack size, you are guaranteed to have an amazing experience conquering the WHW with your own tent.
Confession: This was the third sleeping pad I purchased in a three year quest to find the right fit. Until I got the Nemo, I just assumed it wasn’t possible to get a good night’s sleep while camping. Not only do I sleep warm (thanks to its 20 degree insulation) and comfortably, but this is also one of the most compact and lightweight options out there. It’s relatively quick to inflate and a breeze to pack away. A good night’s rest and extra space in my backpack make this my favorite piece of camping gear.
|Tent||MSR Hubba Hubba Backpacking Tent||The MSR Hubba Hubba 2 is the best overall tent you can buy, and the freestanding feature is helpful when you’re trying to find a level pitch or squeeze into a tight spot.|
|Sleeping Bag||Marmot Trestle 15||A 30° F or 0° C sleeping bag should keep you plenty warm on the West Highland Way. Otherwise the Marmot 15 is a great all around bag.|
|Sleeping Pad||Nemo Astro Insulated Sleeping Pad||This is one of the most lightweight and comfortable sleeping pads out there. Plus, the genius pump sack makes inflating it so easy!|
|Pillow||Therm-a-Rest pillow||A camping pillow can be great when you’re spending multiple nights sleeping in a tent, but this is an optional item for those looking to save weight.|
|Stove||MSR Pocket Rocket Stove + MSR Windscreen||If you’re camping, a good stove is a must. The MSR is a classic backpacking stove, but you’d be wise to bring a windscreen given the unpredictable weather you may encounter.|
|Backpacking Pot||GSI Halulite||For those planning to cook their own meals this pot will serve you well.|
MSR 2-person mess kit
|We find this bowl and mug combo to be light, durable, and perfect for camp dinners.|
Everything you need to to plan your West Highland Way – all in one place.
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- Instant access to our online trip planning portal
- Downloadable eGuide to Camping on the West Highland Way
- Complete 7-day, 8-day, and 9-day West Highland Way itineraries with video fly throughs
- Detailed maps for every stage
- Custom GPS data for each itinerary
- The ultimate packing list
- Information about getting to and from the trail
- 15-week training plan
- Video tutorials on how to use your GPS files to navigate on the trail.
We truly believe this is the best resource available for planning your West Highland Way. Pick up your guide below and if your not satisfied for any reason we’ll give you a full refund!
Bunkhouse & Hostel Specific Gear
If you’re planning on sleeping in bunkhouses and hostels along the West Highland Way, you can keep your pack relatively small. However, there are some specific items you’ll want to make sure you pack.
While you don’t need much, there are some essentials that you’ll be glad to have for these communal accommodation situations. Use this list in conjunction with the other lists (except for the camping gear list) to ensure that you’re well prepared for your WHW adventure.
Note: there are some repeats on this list that we’ve also included on the other lists. However, we wanted to highlight items on this list that are especially important for anyone who is staying primarily in dorm-style accommodation.
|Earplus||Mack’s Earplugs||The perfect defense for that snorer in the bunk next to you!|
|Sleeping Mask||Alaska Bear Sleeping Mask||Great for blocking out light while sleeping in refuges.|
|Sleep Sheet||Vumos Sleep Sheet||Required in most of the refuges along the TMB.|
|Sandals/Slippers||Crocs||Although not always the most stylish, Crocs make the perfect refuge shoes!|
Whether you’re camping or staying indoors, these items are must-haves for your West Highland Way packing list. While we’ve included some toiletries that are absolutely essential for this trek, we’ve left it up to you to determine your personal list of additional self care items (comb, toothbrush, prescription medication, etc).
Use this list in conjunction with the camping gear list OR bunkhouse/hostel list, and the miscellaneous and clothing lists to build your perfect West Highland Way packing list.
Midges, those tiny biting flies that come out in swarms when the sun goes down and in cloudy, still weather, are an unfortunate reality on the West Highland Way.
When they are bad, they are really, really bad. If you’re caught unprepared, they can drive you mad and threaten to ruin your day.
Don’t let them!
A good midge net is essential for keeping the nasty little guys out of your face. We particularly liked the hat model because it kept the net from touching our face, giving us more breathing room and keeping the midges further away.
Whatever you do, get a good quality net that is specifically designed for midges. Our friends bought cheap insect nets and the holes in the mesh turned out to be too big. They ended up with midges getting trapped inside their nets!
Learn from their mistake and make sure you invest in the right gear when it comes to this one. Check our favorite midge hat our here:
|Midge Hat||USHAKE Head Net Hat||As mentioned, a midge hat is essential!|
|Multi-Tool||Gerber Suspension Multi-Plier||Perfect for making sandwiches, repairing gear, and a million other purposes!|
|First-Aid Kit||Adventure Medical Kits||A good backpacking first aid kit is essential. You hope to never have to use it, but will be glad you have it when you need it. Make sure to include some Compeed for blisters.|
|Hydration Bladder or Water Bottles||Platypus Big Zip EVO Reservoir – 3L||Far easier than a water bottle!|
|Water Filter||Sawyer Squeeze or Sawyer Mini||Although potable water isn’t difficult to find on the West Highland Way, it is always a good idea to carry a portable filter just in case.|
|Pack Cover||Sea to Summit Pack Cover||Sea to Summit makes a variety of sizes to fit a range of packs.|
|Men’s Backpack||Osprey Atmos 65L or Osprey Talon 36L||If you’re camping, a 65L pack is a good size for all of your gear. The 36L Talon pack should be plenty for those staying in huts. We believe that Osprey makes the most comfortable packs on the market.|
|Women’s Backpack||Osprey Aura 65L or Osprey Kyte 36L||If you’re camping, a 65L pack is a good size for all of your gear. The 36L Kyte pack should be plenty for those staying in huts. We believe that Osprey makes the most comfortable packs on the market.|
|Trekking Poles||Black Diamond Trail Trekking Poles||Essential for long downhills!|
|Travel Towel||Sea to Summit Drylite Towel||Great to have for those freezing campsite or a swim in Loch Lomond!|
|Headlamp||Black Diamond Storm Headlamp||Great headlamp with long battery life and adjustable brightness.|
|Dry Bags||Sea to Summit Ultra-Sil Dry Sack||Keeps your clothes and other items dry in a downpour!|
|Hiking Gaiters||Outdoor Research Rocky Mountain High Gaiters||These will help keep your boots dry when walking on snow covered trails.|
|Sunscreen||Blue Lizard SPF 50||We recommend a waterproof sport version with SPF 30 or higher.|
|Toilet Paper||Coghlan’s Packable Camp Tissue||It’s always good to have a backup. Be sure to pack it out!|
|Hand Sanitizer||Dr. Bronner’s Spray||This can come in handy on the trail and while traveling.|
|Extra Batteries||It’s a good idea to have a few spare batteries for your headlamp or other essential electronics.|
Plan Your Perfect West Highland Way Itinerary
- Offline GPS Maps for 5-, 6, 7, & 8-day West Highland Way itineraries.
- Itinerary tables with start/finish location & daily distances.
- Step-by-step instructions on how to use your GPS files for offline navigation.
These odds and ends are the unsung heros of the West Highland Way packing list. From getting your stinky shirt clean to keeping your phone charged, these items help your trek run smoothly. Make sure to use this list in addition to the other categories to complete your WHW kit.
Chances are, you’re getting out on the trail to get a break from the constant demands of screens and technology and that’s wonderful.
However, don’t underestimate the importance of having a charged cell phone on the West Highland Way. Your phone can be your navigational device, your camera, your guidebook, and your notepad all in one.
Charging opportunities can be unreliable along the route, so a battery backup can be an absolute lifesaver. This one is dependable, relatively small, and can fully charge your phone 1.5-2 times between charges.
|Guidebook||West Highland Way Guidebook||A great resource for planning your trek.|
|Earplugs||Mack’s Earplugs||Essential for sleeping in dormitories or crowded campsites.|
|Sleeping Mask||Alaska Bear Sleeping Mask||This is a must-have for a good night’s sleep.|
|Travel Adapter||All-in-One Travel Adapter||Great for all of your travels.|
|Digital Watch||Casio digital watch||We recommend a simple digital watch to keep track of hiking times. Unlike smart watches, you don’t need to worry about charging this.|
|Camera||Sony Alpha a6000 Mirrorless Digital Camera||Optional item for the photography lovers. Consider using your phone to save weight.|
|Battery Backup||Anker PowerCore 10000||Great for charging electronics when you don’t have access to an outlet.|
|Biodegradable Soap||Sierra Dawn Campsuds Outdoor Soap||This is a great all-purpose cleaner for your body, your clothing, your gear, and everything else.|
|Plastic Bags- quart, gallon, and garbage bags.||We used these constantly for everything from storing trail mix to keeping our sleeping bags dry. A must-have for backpacking.|
When you’re wearing the same clothes for nearly two weeks in various weather conditions and while doing some serious walking, it is imperative that those clothes are comfortable and high quality.
Although your individual preferences may look a little different, this list is an excellent starting point to ensure you’ve got all the essentials. Plus, if you’re anything like us, you have no idea how many pairs of socks to bring.
This list is also a handy (and experience-backed) guideline for quantities of items such as shirts and socks.
You are going to get rained on at some point while walking the West Highland Way. It’s Scotland after all-the brooding weather adds to the magic of the hike.
However, it can be pretty hard to fully appreciate that special type of magic when you’re trudging along for hours completely soaked to the bone.
A good pair of rain pants can be the difference maker between loving (or at least tolerating) and hating hiking on those damp, Scottish days. These Columbia rain pants are simple, effective, comfortable, and easy to get on and off over boots.
|Underwear (2-3 pairs)||ExOfficio Women’s Underwear||Very packable, comfortable, and easy to wash on the go!|
|Socks (2-3 pairs)||Darn Tough Micro Crew Socks||In our opinion, these are the best hiking socks available. Your feet will thank you!|
|Sports Bra||Brooks Women’s Rebound Racer Sports Bra||Provides excellent support, cushion, and breathability.|
|Standard Bra (1)||After a long day of hiking in a sweaty sports bra this can be a welcome relief to change into.|
|Long sleeve base layer (1)||Smartwool Women’s NTS Mid 150 Crew||A great merino wool base layer for chilly evenings.|
|Short Sleeve Hiking Shirt (1)||Smartwool Women’s Merino Short Sleeve||Merino wool is perfect for backpacking. Lightweight, quick drying, and odor resistant.|
|Leggings or Hiking Pants (1)||Prana – Women’s Halle Pant||These pants are stylish, lightweight, and great to hike in.|
|Shorts||Lululemon Run Speed Shorts||We prefer running shorts to hiking shorts, as they are more breathable and comfortable under a backpack.|
|Puffy Jacket||Marmot Featherless Hoody||Lightweight, super warm, and packs down small. This jacket was perfect for this kind of trip!|
|Rain Jacket||Outdoor Research Helium II Jacket||A high-quality all-weather jacket that packs up small.|
|Rain pants||Columbia Storm Surge pants||For those heavy downpours!|
|Hiking Boots or Trail Shoes||Altra Lone Peak Trail Shoes|
Keen Targhee II Mid Hiking Boot
|Depending on your preferences, these are our favorites for a traditional hiking boot and a minimal trail runner.|
|Sunglasses||Suncloud Loveseat Polarized Sunglasses||Good quality sunglasses are essential when you’re in the mountains all day. And these are stylish too!|
|Hat||Columbia Bora Bora Booney||This wide-brimmed and breathable hat keeps you cool and protected from the sun.|
|Bandana/Buff||Buff CoolNet UV+||These are great for wiping away sweat, keeping hair out of your face, or protecting your neck from the sun.|
|Gloves||Seirus Waterproof Gloves||Essential if there is any cold, wet weather in the forecast.|
When you’re wearing the same clothes for nearly two weeks in various weather conditions and while doing some serious trekking, it is imperative that those clothes are comfortable and high quality.
Although your individual preferences may look a little different, this list is an excellent starting point to ensure you’ve got all the essentials.
The conditions on the West Highland Way are such that hikers are at a particularly high risk of getting blisters at some point on their walk. The moisture levels, long mileage, and stony paths conspire to create the perfect environment for blisters to sabotage your walk.
Fortunately, a good pair of socks can greatly reduce your chance of foot issues. This is one of those times where you really do get what you pay for. We love Darn Tough socks because they keep our feet dry and comfortable in a variety of conditions.
They have just the right amount of cushion without being too bulky in boots. Plus, the Merino wool keeps them smelling fresh for days.
|Underwear (1-2 pairs)||ExOfficio Men’s Give-N-Go Boxer Brief||Highly recommended! 1-2 pairs is all you need as they are super easy to wash out and dry.|
|Socks (2-3 pairs)||Darn Tough Hiker Micro Crew Cushion Socks||In our opinion, these are the best hiking socks available. Your feet will thank you!|
|Long Sleeve Base Layer||Smartwool Men’s NTS Mid 250 Crew||Very versatile mid-weight base layer|
|Short Sleeve Hiking Shirt||Icebreaker Merino Men’s Central Short Sleeve||Merino wool is perfect for backpacking. Lightweight, quick drying, and odor resistant.|
|Sun Hoodie||Columbia Sun Hoodie||This is a new favorite item of ours. Cool enough to hike in even on hot days, you’ll appreciate not having to constantly reapply sunscreen.|
|Hiking Pants (1)||Prana Brion Pants||These are great for hiking and also look good around town!|
|Hiking Shorts (1)||Prana Brion Hiking Shorts||Awesome shorts that are great for hiking.|
|Down Jacket||MARMOT Highlander Down Hoody||Super warm, and super packable.|
|Rain Jacket||Outdoor Research Men’s Helium II Jacket||A good rain jacket is a must! This one packs up small and light|
|Rain Pants||Marmot Precip Pants|
|Hat||Columbia Bora Bora Booney||This wide-brimmed and breathable hat keeps you cool and protected from the sun.|
|Hiking Boots||Salomon Men’s X Ultra 3 Mid GTX Hiking Boot||Super comfortable and super waterproof! |
There is a trail running version for those who prefer something a bit lighter.
|Sunglasses||Suncloud Mayor Polarized Sunglasses||Good quality sunglasses are essential when you’re in the mountains all day. And these are stylish too!|
|Buff/Bandana||Buff CoolNet UV+||These are great for wiping away sweat, keeping hair out of your face, or protecting your neck from the sun.|
|Gloves||Smartwool Merino 150 gloves||Trust us, you’re going to want gloves on cold mornings on the WHW.|
Get The FREE West Highland Way Essentials Handbook
Our free PDF guide covers all the basics – when to hike, accommodation, typical costs, and more!
Be sure to read our entire series on the West Highland Way to learn everything you’ll need to know to prepare for your trip!
- Guide to Camping on the West Highland Way
- West Highland Way Accommodation Guide
- West Highland Way | Maps, Routes & Itineraries
- West Highland Way Logistics – Don’t forget the small details!
- 10 Essentials for the West Highland Way – The quick and dirty basics
- West Highland Way Photo Gallery – Get inspired!
- West Highland Way Trip Report – Know what to expect!
- How to Navigate on the West Highland Way – Turn your smartphone into a GPS!
- How to Find All of Your Campgrounds on the West Highland Way- Free downloadable GPS waypoints!
- How to Train for the West Highland Way – Get in shape for the WHW!
- How Much it Cost us to Hike the West Highland Way – All the budget info you’ll need!