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All things hiking Gear advice

What to pack: our top packing tips for a walking holiday in Scotland

Julia Bradbury recently published her tips on what to pack for walking holidays in the Express. We thought we’d compare our packing lists. Let’s have a look at Julia’s top picks.

This is not by any means intended to be a comprehensive kit list. Don’t use it to pack for your next walking break, but we just wanted to highlight one or two things which have been essential on our own trips plus have a quick look at items we’d consider non-essential/luxury items as we think it’s essential to have something in your pack which gives you some additional pleasure at the end of the day.

Essentials on the what to pack list:

No 1: Waterproofs

First up on Julia’s walking holiday packing list are waterproofs. “Wherever you’re going, whatever your destination, pack your waterproofs,”

“Even if it’s a hot climate and you think it’s very unlikely it’s going to rain. Even in hot countries – and certainly in tropical countries – you can have tropical rains storms.”

It seems obvious to an experienced walker that you should always pack your waterproofs, particularly if you are an experienced walker in the UK. You expect the weather to change. However, if most of your walking has been done in a continental climate, you might be forgiven for expecting the weather to be consistent. On our recent holiday in the Sierra Nevada (Spain), we did meet some hikers (even on the highest peak, Mulhacen, at over 3000m) who set out without waterproofs.

Lack of suitable clothing could cause you to have to turn back from your objective.

Be a scout when it comes to a hiking vacation and “be prepared”.

winter boots


No. 2. Walking boots

Julia also emphasises the importance of good walking boots – and you might want to consider investing in more than one pair.

“Make sure you’ve got the right kind of boots for the terrain you’re going to be walking through,

“If you’re going for a boot that will suit all walks then an ankle boot is vital,” she said.

It might seem obvious to talk about boots for a walking trip, but not everyone thinks to pack walking boots. There are many who think that trainers will do. There are also extensive discussions and debates online in various walking/hiking forums as to the benefits and disadvantages of boots versus walking shoes. Those who have opinions either way are quite vociferous about the benefits on their side of the argument.

The most important thing is that your feet are comfortable.

Uncomfortable feet is the worst experience you could have if you’re committed to a hiking vacation. Feet can be uncomfortable in different ways but in our experience along with boots an essential item to pack is foot cream.

No. 3. Approach shoes

Another option is approach shoes which are becoming more popular. These are good for rough track terrain but not for steep inclines.

Julia Bradbury also reveals she takes sliders or flip flops wherever she is going because “they’re quite comfortable to travel with.”

She added: “It’s good to have them in your backpack if you get your boots wet or you cross a river or your feet get wet for whatever reason.”

A second pair of footwear is in our opinion essential to the comfort of your feet. The last thing you want to do after a day out hiking in your main boots is to put them back on to go out in the evening

You must look after your feet as they are bearing the burden all day and to keep going you need to pamper them.



4. Lip balm

A more surprising item Julia likes to take is a tinted lip balm. “It gives you sun protection and a splash of colour on the lips as well.”

5. Wet wipes or hand sanitiser

are also a must for a walking holiday, said Julia.

And other items

The walking enthusiast also advises taking a single strap rucksack, and weighing scales.

What would we add?

We’d have to agree with Julia’s top 2 picks. It seems really obvious to pack your boots and waterproofs if you’re heading off for a walking holiday (particularly if your destination is Scotland) but believe me sometimes people leave out the water/windproofs if they think they’re heading off to a warm destination, but if you’re going mountain walking anywhere you should always be prepared for the weather to turn.

On our recent trip to Spain there were other walkers who were caught out by the weather turning on Mulhacen. We all walked up in glorious sunshine, but woke up to drizzle. The higher up the mountain we went, the windier and colder it became. Those without waterproofs really suffered in the wind.

cold hands

Dachstein mitts don’t necessarily mean that you won’t be able to use a compass or to navigate, as shown by our director Andy Bateman

For the other 3 items – are they really necessary? Are there other more important things you should make sure you have first?

Our top tips to you personally would be:

bring a map and if you have one a GPS &/or compass

Even on a guided trip it is useful to have your own map. These days you can quite easily get digital mapping on your phone. Personally we don’t like to rely on this as we don’t have the most up-to-date phones and the screen size can be really irritating. It is useful to be able to enlarge portions of the map though, especially as your eyes start to find the small print a bit more of a strain. However, if you’re going to rely on digital images, make sure you have an extra power pack for your phone. Personally this would rank higher up on our own list than flipflops or lip balm.

Because we can’t go on holiday in the main summer season (a dream for the future maybe), and therefore we are almost always away in October, we always pack gloves and hat. If you’re travelling in the main part of the summer season we’d recommend always packing a sunhat and sunscreen (even in Scotland) but not necessarily a midge net. Check our blog on how to have a midge free vacation

Be sure to have at least one item for yourself which you would consider a luxury (a bit like Desert Island Discs).

Our luxury items include:

a book/kindle

a knitting project

a teddy (perhaps only a consideration for the youngest member of your group)


your favourite hiking snack which you buy at home

tea (for the British audience) or your favourite coffee

But don’t forget to leave a wee bit of space (if you can) for souvenirs!

What would your luxury item be?



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