West Highland Way Packing List

There are probably lots of these all over the internet, but a packing list for a backpacking trip (thru-hike as the Americans like to call them) is a very personal thing so this is what I’ll be taking with me on the West Highland Way. It won’t be what you’ll take as everyone needs slightly different things but it might give you some ideas.

As always, the art is striking a balance between weight and comfort. It’s easy to go minimalist and get the weight down to next to nothing and then freeze overnight and not have all of the things you need. It’s also easy to take everything you own and be super comfortable and warm whilst stationary but barely be able to move because you’re carrying so much. The art is taking everything that you need to be safe and somewhat comfortable, keeping the weight of all that kit to a minimum and taking nothing that you don’t need.

I’ll break it down into various categories starting with the Big 3 – Shelter, Sleep System and Pack.

Pack Contents

Pack [1369 grams]

My pack of choice for this trip is the Osprey Talon 44. It’s not the lightest, it’s not the largest, it doesn’;’t have the most features and it’s not the most comfortable but it does strike a good balance for me. After trying quite a few rucksacks, the Osprey Talon in a small torso size (which actually has a volume of 42 litres not 44) was the best for me. All my kit fits in it nicely without having to strap anything to the outside and there’s some room to spare as well for those days when I’m carrying a little extra food or have packed up in a downpour and haven’t done so very neatly.

I’ve have added a little waterproof shoulder strap pouch to the pack which is where I’ll keep my phone. At 1.34kg (including the shoulder pouch) it’s a little on the heavy side but it supports the weight of the contents better than some of the lighter packs that I tried and has the features that I particularly like.

I’ll couple this with a nylofume pack liner which weighs 29 grams. It’s tougher than a bin bag and fits the pack well. Most things will be packed into dry-sacs anyway to help with organisation but experience has taught me that these don’t always keep things 100% dry so things that I definitely don’t want to get wet will go into dry-sacs and will be placed inside the nylofume liner too.

Shelter [1388 grams]

I’ll be using my 2-man Nordisk Telemark 2.2LW tent. It’s the only backpacking tent that I’ve got so I don’t have too much choice here but it’s a lightweight, quality tent and has plenty of room for me and my kit. I’ve added some extras to the original weight of this with the addition of a gear line across the inside and some extra stakes and a repair kit so the entire tent in its bag with stakes, pegs and extras is now 1183 grams.

I’ll couple this with my homemade tyvek groundsheet and I’ve recently seam-sealed the tent too. Here’s hoping it keeps me warm and dry and serves me well. (not shown in photo above)

Sleep System [1037 grams]

The temperatures in Scotland could be doing anything in April – it could easily be below freezing overnight and it could reach the low 20’s if I’m lucky. Realistically though it’s likely to be around 10-14ºC during the day and drop to somewhere around 2-6ºC overnight. I have to be prepared for some colder temperatures though so will be taking my Thermarest Vesper 20 quilt which is rated to a comfort rating of 0ºC and a limit of -6ºC. It weighs in at 580g and is once again is a lovely piece of kit.

This will be paired with a Thermarest NeoAir XLite NXT sleeping mat (393 grams). This has an R-Value of 4.5. I’d prefer a wider and somewhat quiter mat for comfort but they don’t come cheap and this is the one I have for now. It’s warm and relatively lightweight without being too fragile. I’ve modified it to stop it slipping around on the tent floor quite so much.

I do suffer with condensation in the tent and sometimes this ends up getting on my down quilt. It’s not the end of the world as the down is hydrophobic and there’s never loads of it so it dries in no time but I’d prefer to keep my quilt as dry as I can. I’ve tried a tyvek sleeping bag cover that Anna made for me. It only weighs 64g but I don’t think it was quite breathable enough so I might try a very thin waterproof jacket (146g) instead. If I zip it up I can put the foot pod of my quilt into it, tie the arms around it to hold it on and hopefully it’ll keep the sleeping bag dry. It will also double as n extra layer of somewhat waterproof clothing too should I need it. I’m still a little undecided on this though as the tyvek foot cover would be nice to use if it was more breathable.

I’m also undecided on a pillow. If I take one it’ll be a Sea to Summit Aeros Ultralight inflatable pillow, but I think I’d prefer to just use a drysac filled with clothes as it’s more comfortable and it’s one less thing to take.

Clothes [3555 grams]

The weight above includes whatever I’m wearing which is likely to be around 1.2 – 1.8kg of that.

I’m hoping to not take too many clothes as this is one area where I tend to take too much. I usually return having not used any of it but as this will be at least a week long trip and I might extend it to 10-12 days I will need some spares! I also tend to stay warm whilst moving so don’t ever wear much whilst active but do get cold when I stop so I need to carry quite a ot more than I’m wearing whilst mobile. I need to learn to walk slower and expend less energy so that I can wear more of the clothing all day long rather than having to carry it!

I won’t list everything but the idea is to have at least two of everything, one that I’ll be wearing and one that will be in my pack dry or being dried. I’ll also have a set of clothes that will remain dry at all times for use in the tent, some insulating layers and of course a waterproof layer. Which items are for use in the tent and which ons are for use whilst walking may change from time to time, but I’ll have at least one set that will be dry and for use only in the tent at any one time. I can then keep these on for more warmth overnight if needed. All things will of course be usable together in a layering system

Legwear: One pair of hiking trousers, one pair of shorts and a pair of running tights.

Torso: a long-sleeved base layer, a thin long-sleeved hooded sun-shirt, a short-sleeved shirt and a short-sleeved T-shirt. Also, a very thin long-sleeved hooded sun/wind top (OMM Core Hoody -119g)

Insulation: OMM Rotor synthetic insulated jacket (340g), OMM Rotor insulated trousers (270g). One pair of down camp booties that will be kept dry for use at camp.

Waterproofs: OMM Kamleika jacket and trousers (407g in total)

Underwear: 3 pairs of Bamboo or Merino pants, 3 pairs of socks. This will be one pair that I’m wearing, one pair that are clean and dry and one pair that are in the process of being washed/dried).

Extremities: I’ll take at least one pair of thin gloves, a thin hat and a buff or two. I’ll have my Hoka One One Speedgoat 5’s as my shoes and I’ll take a thin pair of overshoes to keep my down booties dry if I need to go for a midnight toilet trip.

Dry clothes and insulated layers will be packed in a dry-sac inside the nylofume liner so that they stay dry!

Kitchen [570 grams]

My kitchen will be a simple one. Just my Soto Amicus stove, a gas cylinder and a single pot. I’ll also have a foldable mug and a lighter in case the piezo lighter on the stove fails. All of this goes inside a little mesh bag and will be stored along with a buff to stop it rattling around inside a thin canvas bag. Also in this bag will be a towel for cleaning things up and of course a long-handled titanium spoon. It wouldn’t be backpacking without a titanium spoon!

Hygiene [58 grams]

I don’t want to skimp too much on hygiene, but I’m not expecting to smell of roses come the end either! My ‘Ditty Bag’ as the Americans call it contains all manner of things. and these are sub-divded into little ziploc bags. Hygiene-wise there is a ziploc bag containing:

  • bamboo toothbrush
  • Toothpaste tablets
  • Soap Leaves
  • Ear plugs
  • Bug Net

It’s something of an eclectic mix just because that’s how it fits best but in general that’s it. Complete with it’s ziploc bag it’s 58 grams.

First Aid, Medications and Repair Kit [297 grams]

This is also kept accessible within my ‘ditty bag’ and is further sub-divided into little ziploc bags to keep things organised there a whole host of things in here:

  • Prescriptions meds – enough for two weeks (38g)
  • Survival blanket
  • Plasters
  • Leukotape
  • Kinesiotape
  • Loperamide (Immodium)
  • Rehydration sachets
  • Paracetamol
  • Ibuprofen
  • Aspirin
  • GTN Spray
  • Cold sore cream
  • Pencil
  • Waterproof note paper
  • Duct Tape
  • Insulation tape
  • Gerber multitool (with scissors, knife, tweezers etc.)
  • Blister plasters
  • Antiseptic wipes
  • Alcohol wipes
  • Sleeping mat repair patches
  • Safety pins
  • Needle and thread

There’s probably a few things I’ve forgotten as well, but you get the idea, loads of little things to repair me and my kit.

Electronics [417 grams]

This little ziploc bag also lives in my ditty bag and it contains:

  • Nitecore 10000Mha battery pack
  • Charging cables (USB A-C, USB C-C, USB A – Micro USB, Garmin Fenix cable,)
  • AAA batteries (backup for my headlamp)
  • Petzl IKO Core headlamp
  • USB Wall socket
  • Flextail Mini pump

Most of this other than the headtorch isn’t really essential, but if I want to keep my phone and watch charged then it’s a necesssity these days.

In total, with a little dry-sac, my ‘ditty bag’ is a fairly significant 785 grams. I’d like to trim this down but can’t really see where.

Toilet Kit [140 grams]

This is listed separately from my hygiene kit simply because it’s kept in a different bag readily accessible should it be needed on the trail. It contains a trowel, some toilet roll, some hand sanitiser and some plastic bags. I might get rid of the toilet roll though and go for a ‘backcountry bidet’ instead. In reality there are probably plenty of toilet stops along the way so it might not be needed – but it’s always best to have it just in case.

Navigation and Emergency Communication

This category is somewhat under negotiation. Usually if out in the hills, hiking or backpacking I would ALWAYS have a map and compass with me. In many cases these would be my primary means of navigation. I’d also carry my PLB (Personal Locator Beacon) in case of absolute emergency. None of this weighs much (32g each for the map and compass, 120g for the PLB).

I also wear my Garmin Fenix GPS watch and often have the route I’m following loaded into it, and I carry my phone which is a navigation tool in the form of a map, a compass, a GPS device, and my latest iPhone has an emergency GPS beacon/communication system built in too.

I’m unlikely to need any of this on the West Highland Way, it is well signposted and easy to follow so navigation shouldn’t be an issue. I certainly shouldn’t need a GPS watch, a phone and a map. One of these would be more than enough.

However, I’ll definitely have my phone with me because as well as serving several navigational and emergency purposes it is also my camera, a spare torch, a phone, my main payment system, my note-taking device, my entertainment in the form of books to read, my alarm clock, my research device for opening times of cafés, bus time-tables, things to look out for etc and of course my main communication device for keeping in touch with Anna and Morgan. I can’t leave that at home so maybe it could be my only navigational aid as well?

That said, I’ll be wearing my watch at all times, just because I always do and it’s the way I record the routes and activities that I do. So I’ll have a second navigational aid on my wrist in addition to my phone.

With that in mind do I really also need a map, a compass and my PLB? Almost definitely not, but I’m not sure I can bring myslef not to take them as they have always been essentials just becuase they can’t run out of battery or fail on me. The map is nice to have just for planning as I find it much easier to visualise the terrain from a paper map than I do a digital device, the compass only weighs 32g so leaving it at home isn’t much of a saving. I think maybe the PLB could stay at home though, my phone (which I’ll have with me anyway) will serve the same purpose. Leaving the PLB will save me 120g but it still doesn’t quite feel right doing so, maybe I’m just old-fashioned – we’ll see!

Food and Hydration

Food and water shouldn’t be too much of an issue along the West Highland Way. There are plenty of places to stock up with both and water sources should be available everywhere. My plan therefore is to carry two days worth of food at the most, stop for lunches and dinners where I can and restock my supplies along the way.

The food I’ll take with me will be 2 dehydrated main meals, 2 dehydrated breakfasts, and a dehydrated pudding. These will be supplemented with café stops and whatever I can find in shops and honesty boxes. I’ll also take some energy bars, some energy chews and some sachets of coffee and hot chocolate.

I don’t want to carry too much water at any one time either. I’ll plan to have between 500 ml and 1 ltr with me at all times and then buy / collect more as I go. I’ll use a little 500 ml plastic bottle for clean water and a 500 ml Pure Clear Squeeze filter bottle for collecting water from streams along the way. That should keep me topped up during the day and then as I approach a camping spot, or at camp I’ll have my 3 ltr Katadyn Be Free filter bladder that can be used for storing/filtering water at camp. Hopefully that way I’ll always have plenty of water but will never be carrying more than 1 ltr, except maybe on approach to camp.


There are a few things I haven’t mentioned in this list. So, for the sake of completeness, my pack also contains:

  • Some cash and a credit card.
  • Car Keys.
  • A larger lightweight towel. This one will be used for drying myself after washing or maybe even showering at a campsite should I decide to make use if such facilities. It’s in addition to the little towel I have in my kitchen kit which will be used for drying pots and wiping down condensation in the tent. I could probably get away with one and make it do double duty, but the small one only weighs 33g so it’s not too much to take.
  • A sit pad – for keeping my bum dry and warm when I stop to chill.
  • Walking poles.
  • Several dry bags – one for my sleeping bag, one for my dry clothes, one for my waterproofs.
  • Phone

I think that’s the lot, total weight including food and water and whatever I’ll be wearing is likely to be 12kg. I’ll be wearing close to 2 kg of that in the form of clothes, my watch and my trekking poles so on my back will be about 10 kg.

If I take out the consumables in the form of food and water then the base weight is 8.35 kg – I’m happy with that and hopefully, it strikes a nice balance between weight, comfort and safety.

3 Responses

  1. Avatar forComment Author Mum x says:

    Wow all in back pack !

  1. Saturday, April 13th, 2024

    […] Get to Glasgow relatively early on day one, have some breakfast and find a shop in which to buy a picnic lunch. I’ll then set off heading north following the West Highland Way with everything I need in my rucksack. […]

  2. Sunday, April 21st, 2024

    […] 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 […]

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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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