Needs and Need Nots on the West Highland Way

Seeing as I wrote a packing list for the West Highland Way I thought it would make sense to review it now that I’m back. What were the ‘needs’ and what were the ‘need nots’? Was there anything I could have left at home to save some weight, and was there anything I wish I had taken that I didn’t?

Backpack, Shelter and Sleep System

So, let’s start at the top with the big three, backpack, shelter and sleep system. All of these were obviously needed and all performed well. I seam sealed my tent before I went which I was thankful for as I had nothing but rain, rain, rain the whole way. There are lighter tents out there and a 1 man trekking pole tent could save some weight, but it’s quite an expense and the 2-man tent is a little more versatile.

I bought a new rucksack cover and used both a nylofume pack liner and individual dry bags for my kit. Again, I’m glad I did considering how wet it was.

My sleeping pad and quilt were perfect with temperatures dropping to 1°C on the third night. The tyvek footpod cover that Anna made for me wasn’t breathable enough so doesn’t quite work as I’d hoped so that could have been left at home. I used my rain jacket to keep condensation off my quilt instead.

Food and Cooking

All was good here, lightweight Soto Amicus stove, one pot, one spoon and a single 100g gas canister was plenty. I did carry a little too much food. One days worth rather than two would have been fine as there was always somewhere to buy something. You could actually get away with taking no cooking equipment if you wanted as you can buy what you need as you go. But part of the fun of camping is the cooking outdoors. Also, having some emergency rations is always a good idea even somewhere as well serviced as the West Highland Way. So overall not too bad but I could have saved some weight if I wanted to go ultralight.


Even though it rained constantly and snowed, sleeted and hailed, I didn’t use all of the clothes I took. My running tights, shorts and spare T-shirt never got used. Really, whilst walking, I only used one set of clothes (hiking trousers, long sleeved merino base layer and a shirt) along with my rain jacket and waterproof trousers of course! I also used my insulated trousers, and insulated jacket at camp and slept in a thin fleece. 2 pairs of socks for walking in was fine, along with a 3rd dry pair for at camp. 3 pairs of pants was fine as well. 

That said, it did only take me 4 days, not 6-7 days so I would have had to do some laundry if it took longer or may have used the spares that I took but didn’t need. The constant rain also made it impossible to dry anything out, so although not necessary a 3rd pair of socks for walking in may have been nice.

I also took a pair of down camp slippers which were nice but not really necessary. Maybe if it had been dry and I could have sat outside the tent in the evenings they would be more useful, but that just wasn’t the case. Even then they wouldn’t be essential so could be left at home to save some weight.


I think I used all of these, phone, battery pack, cables, and head torch were all needed and all worked well. No changes needed there.

First Aid, Repair and Emergency

  • Obviously I didn’t use even a small percentage of the relatively minimal First Aid kit that I took, but that doesn’t mean I should leave it at home!! I did use some of it including the talc for my feet and some tape for my toes but didn’t need to touch any of the medications, creams or bandages.
  • I did use the scissors on my multitool (to cut the tape for my toes) and I tried to use the sewing kit to mend my gloves, but couldn’t even thread the needle so taking that might not be very useful!!
  • I took too many prescription meds, but again that’s because it took less time than anticipated.
  • I didn’t need my survival blanket, but I don’t go into the hills without one. 


I carried 500ml of water and did use the 3l water filter at camp, but there was drinking water available all along the trail so I would have been OK without the filter. I think it’s still worth having though even if it is used to hold tap water. I probably didn’t need the 2nd water filter bottle. I did use it but could have just used the bigger filter.


I didn’t use my hat, but I did use my gloves and buff. A thicker, more weather resistant pair of gloves would have been useful, or maybe some waterproof shell mittens. I’ll make some changes here, and although I didn’t use my hat I will of course still take it with me.

Hygiene and Poop Kit

I didn’t use my poop kit. Toilets and the need for one coincided so that was OK. It’s not something I could leave at home though as that might not have been the case.

My wash kit, toothpaste tabs, toothbrush and towel were all used, they are all lightweight and worked well – nothing to change there.


  • I didn’t need or use my midge net.
  • My walking poles were definitely needed.
  • I had a couple of mini-karabiners on my rucksack. I didn’t use them but I just like the look of them!!
  • My flextail pump was used every night.
  • I didn’t use any cash or my credit card or drivers license/ID. It was contactless or PayPal all the way. I could have saved a small amount of weight there.
  • Plastics bags were useful for rubbish and to put over my dry socks when slipping on my wet shoes at camp. A few more would have been good, or some more durable ones as they soon had holes in. I may have to experiment with different types here.


The map and compass weren’t needed as the trail is well signposted and easy to follow. That said, the snow over the Devils Staircase and Rannoch Moor did make it a little less clear and had there been much more snow that some form of navigational aid may have been needed. The GPS track on my watch would have been sufficient. However, I put map and compass in the same category as an emergency blanket and whistle and don’t go into the hills without them. 


Overall, I think I got it about right I pretty much had everything I needed and nothing I didn’t.

Could I save some weight?

Yes, I could but only in a few places. A 1-man trekking pole tent could save me around 500 g which is quite a bit but they don’t come cheap and I don’t really need another tent.

I could have taken fewer spare clothes, but had it taken more time I would have been grateful for them. So, I didn’t need them this time, but I may have done had it taken as long as expected. The clothes I returned with that were unused came to 475 g

I could have taken less food, but emergency rations is never a bad thing. The uneaten food that I returned with weighed 489 g. However, this includes unused coffee and hot chocolates that would have ben used had I been on the trail for longer.

I didn’t really need my camp booties so could have saved 246 g there, plus the 40 g for the covers, so another 286 g.

The tyvek foot cover could have been left at home saving 64 g and my extra water bottle/filter could also have been left at home for a further 53 g saving.

That’s actually quite a lot if you add it all up – 1.87 kg in total (if you include 500 g for the tent). That would take my toal weight down to just under 10.5 kg which isn’t bad.

Was there anything else I needed?

Not really. Better gloves would have been nice, an extra pair of socks would also have been nice, but not essential.

Changes to Make

Equipment wise there really aren’t any, what I do need to change is my pace and planning. I either need to slow down and cover less distance each day or I need to plan differently. Rather than planning for 12-15 miles a day I need to plan for 20-30 miles a day. That will change how long I think it’ll take and I can adjust the amount of clothing and supplies accordingly. 

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Alan Cole

Alan is a Freelance Website Designer, Sports & Exercise Science Lab Technician and full time Dad & husband with far too many hobbies: Triathlete, Swimming, Cycling, Running, MTBing, Surfing, Windsurfing, SUPing, Gardening, Photography.... The list goes on.

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