Hiking the West Highland Way — gear review

Well our hiking, exploring and cruising has come to an end. I can tell you it was an AMAZING adventure. Now it’s time to take a look at how my gear held up! My follow-up comments are in BLUE.

 

CLOTHING

 

Mountain Warehouse 4 Way Womens Stretch Convertible Trousers (from catalog)

My hiking pants from Mountain Warehouse are starting to see some serious wear (this photo is from their website), but they are comfortable and offer light water resistance as well as flexibility as they also convert to shorts if a miracle happens and it’s warm. These have seen me through 2 treks on the Camino de Santiago and too many day adventures to count.

These trekking pants from Mountain Warehouse held up great. Even on a couple of our cooler and wetter days (though for the most part the weather was great) they worked great. I stayed warm and dry despite the Scottish weather.

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When my sister visited in August of 2017, she brought me several pairs of LuLaRoe leggings. While they have quite wild designs, they are warm and comfortable and will be perfect as a base layer to keep my legs warm, plus they can double as pajamas.

I brought these along for cold days as an extra layer, but thankfully the weather was fairly mild and they were just used for sleeping. Probably could have done with just one pair.

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Since this trip is not just about hiking but doing touristy things while in Edinburgh and Barcelona plus all the ports of call while on our cruise, so I plan to toss in an old pair of jeans for casual comfort. One of these will get packed, the other will probably join me in Barcelona courtesy of the husband who has offered to bring me some non-hiking things for the cruise!

Jeans are my go-to for non-hiking days. Having one pair with me and having the other delivered by the husband was the perfect way to minimize the extra weight in my pack and allow me to shed my hiker-chic when we arrived in Edinburgh.

 

A new item for this hike are the Pakka Waterproof Overtrousers, also by Mountain Warehouse. I found them online at Amazon for €19 + shipping. I ordered them a size larger than I needed to make sure they would fit over my hiking pants and my hiking boots. They have taped seams and side slits that allow access to pockets. Though honestly, I didn’t care for the color options. I like my hiking stuff to be primarily grey with tops in varying colors, but navy blue was the only option in my size at this price. I could have paid three times more and purchased the grey ones, but not for something I’ll likely wear only for this trip.

Thankfully I never needed  these, but I was glad to have them along. We heard stories of just how wet Scotland can be!

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I picked up a couple of new short-sleeved hiking tops by Quechua from Decathlon (€4 each). I love this brand. Everything is affordable and there are different price structures but even their entry-level gear is a quality product that will do the job. I’ll use these as a base layer on warmer days.

I decided that I hate these shirts. Not because of they weren’t a quality product but because I really do not like a t-shirt collar, I felt like I was being chocked everyday. In the future I will look for something with a longer neckline. Though they held up great and dried in minutes, they will most likely end up in the donation bin by the end of the week.

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A couple of new long-sleeved hiking tops were also picked up at Decathlon. One by Quechua and the other by Kalenji. Kalenji is another brand offering quality products at affordable prices. These will work as a base layer on cold days.

These were both great shirts, but the purple one will be donated because I didn’t care for the feel of the fabric. If I have to wear a shirt that often, I want one that doesn’t irritate me! The yellow one will be kept for future trips, loved it! It worked great as a base layer and was warm without being hot, a plus for women my age!

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About 10 years ago I purchased a light-weight jacket by Calvin Klein. While quite old, it is still an amazingly warm for a super light-weight jacket. I plan to use it as an additional base layer if the weather gets really cold.

Still love this jacket, boy is it warm. Perfect for the mornings when the temperature is a bit cooler and small enough to easily store in my day pack. Kudos Calvin Klein, excellent product!

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Another new purchase for this trip was a new polar fleece by Quechua. The body length and sleeve length are a bit longer and will offer just a touch more coverage for keeping warm.

Despite the god-awful bright orange color, this jacket is soft and fluffy and warm. Added bonus: husband recovering from eye surgery could easily find me on our cruise!

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Several years ago I invested in a nice rain jacket by Quechua. It is perfect for hiking as it not only keeps rain out, but also has vents for cooling off when you get too warm and has a hat stored in the collar. This will be perfect for rainy or snowy days. It also rolls up small enough to store in my day pack if I don’t need it.

Love  this jacket. Even got the opportunity to use the hood stashed in the color. Wind was annoying constant and it cut out the cold and noise great. Even worked great with my knitted hat on. And, of course, kept me dry on days when we saw a bit of light rain. Really love this jacket!

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I did pick up new socks by Artengo. My older hiking socks have seen a LOT of miles and it was just time for some new ones. These are not quite as high tech as the ones I used on the Camino, but this hike is only 7 days long, not 42!

For not being hiking socks, these were very comfortable. Though in future I would prefer to get the high-tech hiking socks. These were very, very warm but I don’t always need to be very, very warm while hiking. But I will definitely bring along a pair or two to sleep in as they are perfect for cold, tired feet.

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I will also bring along a pair ski gloves. I believe these are also from Decathlon, though I honestly don’t remember as I’ve had them for years.

Thankfully, we did not see weather cold enough to need these bad boys. So they basically got a free Scottish vacation while everyone else had to work!

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My Tilley mesh hat that Alan got me years ago for our first Camino will accompany me on this trip as well as a knitted hat that I made myself. Again, not exactly sure how warm/cold the weather may get once we are underway.

Can’t say enough about how much I really love my Tilley hat. However, considering the weather I dealt with was mostly wind, I didn’t actually use it opting instead for the knitted hat and the hood stashed in the collar of my rain jacket. Between the knit hat and the hood of the windbreaker I stayed warm and dry through all the weather we experienced.

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As the weather is so changeable I borrowed a fleece scarf from Alan. The lighter weight “pretty” ones that I use here in France are great for mild weather, but this trip is about staying warm and comfortable. Apparently I’ll be bringing a bit of our dog, Lou, along with me. He laid on top of the scarf before I took the photo and now there is dog hair all over the scarf!

I haven’t used a flannel scarf before, they are great at keeping the wind off. I mostly used this one when we would stop to eat as that was when I would get cold from the wind. Nice addition to the cold-weather gear. Would definitely recommend one for the West Highland Way. Lots of wind in Scotland!

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My boots for this trip are a replacement for the Quechua hiking boots I used on three trips along the Camino de Santiago. I literally wore them out. These were purchased in 2017 and have some miles on them, but they are well broke in and will work well for this hike, especially if we run into anything wet.

Hiking boots are very subjective to begin with, but I am still a fan of boot vs. shoe for hiking. However, for me these boots would be better for hiking on tended pathways or flat surfaces or even short distances after 14, 16 or 19 mile days they were too heavy for such long distances and my feet ached terribly by the time I finished each stage of the hike. Next time I will look for lighter boots or maybe even try a hiking shoe with gel inserts. Life sucks when your feet hurt that much!

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I used to have a great pair of hiking sandals that I bought on our first Camino in Spain. These Teva’s are an acceptable replacement. Our dog, Lou, ate the other ones. He’s worked on these a bit as well until he got in trouble and I sprayed with with the bottle of water that I keep on hand for his naughtiness. He HATES being wet!

These are still a favorite. They just work great and can easily be worn with socks (though I would never allow anyone to photograph that since it’s a ridiculous fashion choice) when my feet would get cold. The arch support really helps alleviate pain after long hiking days.

GEAR

Forclaz 500 Light Soft Blue/White by Quechua
Forclaz 500 Light Soft Blue/White by Quechua

These hiking poles by Quechua have a lot of miles on them, but with the addition of the nordic tips they barely have any wear. Since we don’t know what weather conditions we’ll face until we arrive, I’ll just tuck these into my pack and plan to use them for whatever conditions we encounter.

My best advice to those of you who don’t think you’ll like using hiking poles, just try them. I love these things and fear the day that wear out and I have to get new ones. Definitely a must if you plan to hike the West Highland Way.

QUECHUA FORCLAZ EASYFIT 50 WOMEN'S HIKING RUCKSACK

Another Quechua product, this one is the Forclaz 50-litre with comfort fit straps with more than enough space to toss in my smaller day pack. I can honestly say this is the most comfortable pack I have ever owned. While it was in the high-end price range of all the available options at Decathlon, it was still very affordable at €89. My favorite feature is the adjustment straps that allow me to carry the weight at either the waist or hips. For long distance hikes the flexibility is perfect.

Still loving this bag. I put a ton of stuff into this pack and it held everything with room to spare. Even if it was way to heavy for me to carry comfortably!

Black Diamond "Bullet" day pack
Black Diamond “Bullet” Day Pack

In 2014 while hiking the Camino with my aunt, I came across a small Black Diamond Bullet daypack on the donation table, I’ve used it ever since as an everyday carry bag. (Many people over pack and end up leaving behind things that they don’t truly need to carry with them, we’ve seen a copy of War and Peace, and motorcycle boots among the discarded items!)

This daypack is great for one-day excursions, but I found that I was jealous every day of the daypack by Osprey that my aunt had with her. It held quite a bit more and never seemed to run out of storage! For multiple-day hiking, I will most likely leave mine behind next time and opt for a more flexible pack.

15° Light Hiking Sleeping Bag, Blue by Quechua
15° Light Hiking Sleeping Bag, Blue by Quechua

My sleeping bag, originally purchased for our 2013 trek to Santiago, lightweight and warm. It packs super small comes with a stuff sack that allows lots of compression so it can pack into a really small space. Another great Quechua product!

This is a great product. Even when we were staying in cabins at a sky resort, this bag kept my warm all night. Lightweight, warm, easy to repack . . . can’t beat it!

 

Platypus Hoser 2 liter water bladder
Platypus Hoser 2 liter water bladder (Decathlon Catalog)

Water is a must and 2 litres is just about the right size for all day hiking for me. I prefer to use a bladder rather than a bottle for hiking and this one should work quite well. My older one had a few features I liked better (such as the very large filling spot at the top of the unit) but it has apparently been discontinued. 😦 This one is also from Decathlon.

While bladders are great for hiking in the heat when I tend to drink a lot more, for cooler hiking days I think I would rather of had a water bottle. It was a bit more difficult to get a drink when I was gasping for breath from having climbed yet another mountain!

TOILETRIES

 

Nabaiji Microfiber Towel (from Decathlon  catalog)

While absolutely nothing dries as well as a standard bath towel. My lightweight, microfiber towel by Nabaiji (Decathlon), is quick-drying and folds up nice and small.

Just as I expected, this towel will continue to be a staple in my hiking pack. Large enough to be used as a towel and fast-drying enough to do the job right every day!

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A favorite since our first hike, the shampoo bars by Lush are a staple in my hiking gear. I can use them as a body soap and in a pinch they can be used for laundry as well. My favorite plus with these is that they also have a great orange scent that makes the clothes in my pack smell good.

I figured these would be as useful as they have been in the past and I wasn’t wrong.  The only think I didn’t really need was the safety pins as finding dryers wasn’t a problem in Scotland. Though next time around I want to try Lush’s new peppermint shampoo! Sounds like scalp-tingleing fun!

IMPORTANT STUFF

 

I plan to bring along my iPod for both audio and the camera, my Kindle Fire, and iPhone, notebook, pen, wallet, passport and French “Carte de Sejour” ID in case there are any questions about how long I’ve been in Europe*. It isn’t usually necessary, but I have been asked about it while flying before, so better safe than sorry. *The EU allows tourists 90 days of travel before requiring a visa. Since Alan and I live in France full-time, our passports do not have recent entry dates in them which calls into question our length of stay, hence the reason for traveling with our visa card ID.

All of the above are a must for me when hiking, but gotta love the husband for the foresight to order that particular adapter/charger. With 1 and 2 amp options I was able to keep all my stuff fully charged the entire 25 day trip.

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By using Walker’s Way for the planning of the hike I also received a great “go” package with a list of the places we’re staying, directions to each of those locations, distances for each days hike already planned out, an information package with emergency and other important numbers, brochures for Ben Nevis and the Isle of Skye which has transit info, and a guide book. Alan had already purchased a guide book for us to peruse while waiting for the big day. What normally happens with multiple guidebooks is that it is too difficult to choose just one, so if there is space, I will bring both. If not, I will go with the one provided by Lynne since it is smaller but has a more detailed map section.

The West Highland Way is pretty well marked so I definitely did not need two guide books, and other than two spots where we got a bit confused I probably wouldn’t have needed one at all. But I definitely liked the larger one my husband purchased better than the smaller one. The maps were easier to read in the larger book and the directions were a bit easier to follow. The smaller book tended to be quite prosy and ethereal when I just wanted was firm directions like “turn right” or “turn left.”

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As this particular trip is made up of three distinctly different parts, I also have a file folder with tickets, boarding passes, luggage tags, maps, confirmations, reservations and the like. As well as an itinerary for each part, the hike, exploring Edinburgh, and the cruise. Whoever first said, “Go big or go home” had my family in mind! This is definitely a “Go Big” vacation!

These items should easily cover all my needs for an extended vacation, and everything fits neatly into my 50 litre pack, however it weighs in at 23.7 lbs. (10.75 kilo), nearly double my preferred hiking pack. Thanks again to Lynne at Walker’s Way for the foresight to include baggage transfer in our package!

Our thanks to Lynne at Walker’s Way, she found us some of the most unique and fun accommodations for our hike. We are hard pressed to pick a favorite between our bunkhouse beds at Kip in the Kirk in Drymen where we stayed our first night and the impressive Hotel Alexandra in Fort Williams where we spent our last night. Kip in the Kirk was seriously that cool of a place to stay! Many thanks Lynne, excellent job!

 

 

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