What should you take?
If you are new to long distance walking, the following tips may help. The main consideration is a sensible balance between comfort, safety and manageable weight. Make sure you take plastic bags for your rubbish which must be carried to a disposal site and NOT left in the countryside. A MUST is a small spade to bury any solid toilet waste.
How do you carry it?
The way you carry your equipment will depend on how you intend to complete the walk.
• If you are planning to camp along the Way, you will need a rucksack large enough to accommodate your tent, sleeping bag, cooking utensils and food as well as your changes of clothing. The recommended capacity of rucksack is 65 - 75 litres.
• As the weather on the West Highland Way can be very unpredictable it is wise to use a rucksack with a waterproof cover. Failing this, you should use a waterproof liner or pack changes of clothing in strong plastic bags.
• If you plan to make use of bunkhouses or hostels you may wish to carry a sleeping bag and cooking stove, although these facilities are normally available at most premises. A rucksack of around 40 – 60 litres should suffice.
• Alternatively there are ample B&B establishments along the Way so that you will only need to carry essentials such as, clothing, toiletries, first aid kit, maps, compass etc. For this, a rucksack of around 30 – 40 litres should accommodate your needs.
• There are several companies that provide a baggage carrying service for walkers.
• Many modern rucksacks are equipped with a built-in water container with a feed tube and mouthpiece allowing you to drink without having to open the pack.
Carry only the minimum, a small bar of soap in a plastic container, toothbrush and toothpaste, razor, deodorant, tampons/ sanitary towels and a roll of loo paper (in a plastic bag) In the summer you will need a high-factor sun cream and a good insect repellent as the infamous Scottish midge can be really infuriating! If you plan to use water from streams etc, you should also pack some form of purification.
First Aid Kit
Always carry a small first aid kit, preferably in a waterproof container. The kit should include aspirin or paracetamol, for pain or fever; plasters or band aids for minor cuts and abrasions; ‘Moleskin’, ‘Compeed’ or ‘Second Skin’ for treating blisters; a triangular bandage which can be used to hold dressings or splints or can be used to make a sling; an elastic knee support and a small selection of sterile dressings for wounds. Other sundry items should include antiseptic cream, antiseptic wipes, adhesive tape, safety pins, scissors and tweezers.
Essential – A map of the West Highland Way is a must, either seperate or part of the many excellent guide books available. A number of the maps available display the route in multiple images on a single sheet. Always carry a whistle to summon assistance in case of accidents; a water bottle containing at least one litre; a torch with spare bulb and batteries; emergency food (high energy snacks such as chocolate, dried fruit, mintcake etc.); a pen-knife or multitool; a watch with an alarm and several plastic bags for rubbish disposal. If not carrying a tent or sleeping bag, also carry an emergency bivi-bag or survival blanket.
Useful – On the more rugged parts of the walk, a pair of hiking poles can do a lot to ease the strain on your knees as well as helping keep your balance. A camera and notebook are handy ways of keeping a record of your walk. You may also need sun-glasses in summer or snowy conditions and binoculars for spotting wildlife along the Way. Many walkers carry a mobile phone but you should be aware that for large areas along the Way it is difficult or even impossible to obtain a signal. If you are walking in a group try and get a number of the networks available covered. This will increase the possibility of getting a signal on at least one of the handsets.
Tent – You should always choose a good quality tent if you intend camping along the Way, it should be able to withstand heavy rain and wet, windy conditions.
Sleeping Bag - A three-season bag will cope with most conditions you will meet on the Way although a lighter one may suffice in warmer weather. If staying at hostels or bunkhouses, you can hire bedding on a daily basis.
Cooking equipment – Various types of stove are available using different fuels. The most convenient is probably the camping-gas variety. Make sure you carry a spare cylinder of gas, although replacement cylinders are readily available en route. For cooking, pack a set of pans which can double as plates/ bowls and knife, fork and spoon.