+44 (0) 1479 831 331 info@scotmountainholidays.com

 0 items - £0.00

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?



Why Scotland for your walking holiday?

Walking holidays in Scotland

If you’re into walking and hiking you’ll probably consider a walking holiday at some point. Once you’ve decided that you’d like to go hiking, your next consideration will be the destination. Depending on where your home is, walking holidays in Scotland could come quite high up the list of possibilities. Scotland has all the usual hiking advantages. When you add in the reasons for ranking Scotland over and above other destinations around the world, then you may well find yourself visiting Scotland in the near future.

It goes without saying that Scotland is a stunning country and the Highlands in particular are gorgeous, but why pick any of the walking holidays in Scotland? There are so many thousands of other destinations around the world which you could choose.

The Cairngorms in summer

Stunning views and shapely mountains abound here in the Highlands of Scotland

Access –

Scotland has world beating access legislation. There is no law of trespass here, so long as you are not on someone’s grounds or garden. Obviously you need to be responsible. It is not acceptable to disturb livestock or leave rubbish behind you. You are expected to “Leave No Trace” or in other words “Take nothing but photos, leave nothing but footsteps.” However, in return you can wonder at will across the landscape and do not need to stick to defined footpaths.

walking holidays in Scotland

Walking holidays in Scotland offer a wide range of scenery and multiple options for hiking

Access to the high hill tops in the UK has developed very differently in Scotland than in Europe. In Europe, there has always been a strong tradition of taking livestock to the high alps for summer pasture, but the land was not privately owned. In Scotland, vast tracts of land belong to private estates but the high land is not considered particularly valuable. It is not good pasture and is not very fertile. Common access has always been taken for granted and until the Land Reform Act was published the lack of a trespass law and the responsibility of landowner and land user were not clearly defined. Now responsible access is everybody’s right, but the key to this is to act responsibly.

Private land ownership in Scotland has meant that there are not a lot of waymarked paths across the high hills.

walking holidays in Scotland

Amazing panoramic view across the high peaks of the Cairngorms which could be yours during walking holidays in Scotland (Taken by Claire Grogan on a guided winter walking holiday with Scot Mountain Holidays


If you are considering  walking holidays in Scotland, bear in mind that freedom of access also means freedom from signage and waymarked paths.

No altitude sickness –

Much as the world may sneer at our mountains, thinking them just bumps on the landscape; while they do not reach the towering heights of Everest, they should still not be taken lightly. The decided advantage to mountains of lesser stature, however, is that though you can have spectacular views and expend a significant amount of energy climbing up them, you will not suffer the detrimental side-effect of altitude sickness.

No large predators

The bear and the wolf etc have all been extinct in Scotland for some time. If you are very lucky you may encounter a shy adder sun bathing on a mountain slope, but they are rare and not usually deadly. So no poisonous snakes or spiders either. We like to keep our irritating pests small and inconvenient: the tick and the midge!


Scotland’s hills are nice and compact. You can have an amazing adventure in a day if you so wish. Then you can still return to partake of your home comforts at the end of the day. You can also – if it becomes necessary – travel a relatively short distance (up to 2 hours) and experience a completely different day’s weather than you can see from your kitchen/lounge window.

For example, Andy once had a private guiding booking from a group of ladies staying in a cottage in Glen Feshie. When the day dawned, it was raining steadily. Andy drove over to meet the clients – who were showing a distinct lack of enthusiasm for heading out. He persuaded them to give the walk a try and drove from Glen Feshie round to Ben Vraikie, near Pitlochry. On Ben Vraikie there was no rain and the hill top was clear. It may even have been sunny. Whereas back at home base it was one of those dreich days of rain and grey light all day. Know your weather patterns and you can still have a good day out.

Hiking Ben Macdui

Hiking Ben Macdui with Scot Mountain Holidays group tour

Plenty of options – 

There are such a wide range of options in Scotland, even if you only visit the Highlands, that you’re spoilt for choice. Before you start to choose your hike, you need to decide which parameters are most important to you.

There are famous viewpoints to discover; lochs to circumnavigate; historic sights to see; Munros (282 in total) to climb; Corbetts to climb, Grahams to ascend and Marilyns to collate. Where do you start to choose?

Sunset view over water and mountains

Sunset over the west of Scotland

Reminder of risk

Remember though that hiking and mountaineering are hazardous activities by their nature and you have to accept an element of risk yourself if you choose to enter the mountain environment without a guide. The weather in Scotland changes in an instant. Even if the day looks calm and sunny when you set out, it could end up a completely different season by the end of the day. Please make sure you are well-equipped (see our suggested kit list for ideas). Check out our blog on gearing up for the autumn

Always check yourself over for ticks at the end of the day, particularly if you have been walking through rough undergrowth.

Make sure you pack some Smidge.

Still – there is nothing more exhilarating, relaxing and refreshing than a day out in the hills

Check out our walking holidays in Scotland

All content © Copyright Scot Mountain Holidays 2024

Responsive web design by Summit Web Solutions

Want to hear more?

Join our newsletter for a lifetime of hiking adventures!

Subscribe now!


Follow us