What to pack to walk the John Muir Way
A watch with navigational capability can be a useful item.
It is a good idea to plan ahead to make sure you have all the right kit for walking the John Muir Way. You should take time to trial and test your chosen footwear, clothes and equipment, too.
Many people choose to book a luggage transfer company so that they only need to carry a day pack for section of the long-distance walk.
Here we help you to decide the essentials and useful extras.
Essential kit list for John Muir Way
There are many different footwear choices for walking.
You will need walking shoes or boots that you know will be comfortable. Walking many miles each day, your aim is to avoid blisters and sores. Therefore, it is important you have tested your choice of footwear.
The John Muir Way includes a variety of terrain, but mainly the route is on paths, tracks and some tarmac. If you are walking in spring, summer or autumn, you do not need boots because walking shoes or trail running footwear will be fine.
If you like the stability of hiking boots, choose a lightweight summer version.
It's a good idea to wear waterproof footwear, although the issue for some people will be that the waterproofing – usually Gore-Tex – can make feet sweat when it is warm. There is likely to be rain to some point, even in summer, and the ground may be wet and muddy at different stages.
Ensure there is good cushioning in your footwear because a lot of the walking is on hard-packed paths.
The grip of the shoes doesn't need to be aggressive. Look for soles that are suited to trails and tracks, rather than muddy and rocky mountains.
It might be worth thinking about taking a couple of pairs of boots or shoes. You can look ahead on the route details each day and if there is likely to be more flat paths or tarmac, then you can choose a pair of lighter and more cushioned shoes.
Walking socks should be comfortable and well-fitting. You do not want your socks to caused blisters or rubs. Natural yarns, such as merino, are recommended because they can help to deal with damp and sweat. Merino is well known for helping to reduce the odour of sweat, too, which means you can wear such socks for more days.
Another tip is to wear socks that are seamless or with fewer seams and make sure they fit neatly.
You can buy socks that offer comfort and support specifically for walkers.
Rucksack or day pack
This is the pack you will carry each day. A pack that is about 15 litre to 28 litre is ideal. Make sure the pack is comfortable with padded shoulder straps and a padded waist strap. Sternum/chest straps are useful, too.
You need to be able to comfortably fit all the day kit you'll carry. An over-stuffed pack will be annoying because each time you go to look for something, everything inside will spill out.
A pack with different compartments and pockets will be useful for keeping items in easy-to-locate places.
Top tip: Make sure your rucksack has an easily accessible pocket for carrying a phone. Many people use their phones for taking photos and checking navigation. If you need to take off your pack to use your phone each time, you will end up not bothering to take as many photos as your should.
Even in warm weather, a waterproof jacket will be useful if it rains or it's a bit breezy.
Waterproof jacket and trousers
Scotland's weather can be very changeable year round. Make sure you have a waterproof jacket and over trousers that you can put on if it does start to rain. Lightweight waterproof jackets are ideal, especially in the summer, but ensure they are good quality.
"Water resistant" jackets will not cope with the sometimes heavy rain in Scotland.
Ideally, you want a Gore-Tex waterproof jacket, or a brand equivalent. Look for products that are breathable, as well as waterproof.
Hopefully, you will enjoy only dry weather throughout your walking holiday on the John Muir Way, but you do need to be prepared for rain.
A waterproof jacket also provides a good barrier from a cold breeze or wind.
Wear clothing that is comfortable an tried-and-tested by you.
There is a huge range of clothing options for walkers. Your aim is to be comfortable. This means clothes should fit well, offer good freedom of movement and not cause rubs or skin irritations.
Whether you wear walking trousers, tights, shorts or a skort, make sure you feel really comfortable. Some people prefer the versatility of walking trousers that convert to shorts.
Aim to have a system of layers for your tops. Start with a short-sleeved baselayer and add long-sleeved layers. Again, natural fabrics can be a bonus because they dry quickly when you sweat and they do not create as much odour as synthetics.
A lightweight insulated jacket or a fleece-style mid-layer will be a great addition. You can start the day wearing it and then take off when you warm up. Some jackets pack up very small so they are easy to carry in a rucksack.
Ensure, you can fit waterproof jacket and trousers over your choice of walking clothes.
Consider your headwear. It could be that a sun cap or sun visor is a good idea to keep the glare of the sun off your head and face. If it's windy, a hat or buff that covers your ears is a good idea.
Gloves are an important extra because even in summer, the temperatures can drop. Choose gloves to suit your own requirements. Remember that mittens will keep hands warmer than gloves.
Many people use a GPX download on a phone app for tracking the route.
More essential kit
Map and/or route GPX. While the John Muir Way is waymarked, it is still a good idea to have access to a map and the route details. A map app on your phone is a great idea.
You can carry sections of OS Maps in paper form, too, by downloading and printing them before you travel.
In addition, it can be useful to have the routes downloaded to a phone app or sports watch.
Small first aid kit: Pack a few items, such as plasters, blister plasters, antiseptic wipes, spare socks, sun cream, pain relief tablets, anti-histamine and midge repellent.
More useful walking kit
There are other items that might be useful depending on the weather and conditions.
Gaiters - these are great for keeping the wet and mud from getting inside footwear
Walking poles – poles help with balance and also take the strain off leg and back muscles
Emergency blanket or bivvy bag (these are small and lightweight and can be placed in a corner of your rucksack in case you, or someone in your group, becomes injured and needs to stop to wait for emergency services)
Food / snacks (there are plenty of places to stop along the route but it’s always a good idea to have a few snacks with you )
Plenty of water
Head torch (if walking in winter or if you are planning long days)
Portable phone charger (again, if you are planning long walking/running days)
Drybags (to carry your kit in your rucksack if your rucksack is not waterproof).
Book the John Muir Way package
Walking the John Muir Way is a very rewarding outdoor holiday. If you want to discuss this long-distance trail as a multi-day trip, give Highland Transfers a call. We can help with luggage transfer between your overnight accommodations, suggest the right accommodation and stops, and offer a plenty of advice about walking, running or cycling the John Muir Way.
Top tip: Arm sleeves – many people use these for cycling – can be a useful addition you your walking or running kit list. They can be used as an extra layer of warmth and also for protection against the sun.
If you choose to book luggage transfer it allows you to walk with a lighter day pack.
What else to pack in overnight bag?
It can be tempting to pack everything you think you’ll need and then pop in lots more items just in case (and then add the kitchen sink!) but, in reality, you can be fairly economical with your packing.
The maximum weight for luggage transfers with Highland Transfers is 25kg. This is generous enough for all the week’s kit that you will need. Note: The items that you will take with you daily in your day pack are not included in the 25kg.
Top tip: Clothing made of natural fibres, such as merino wool, is a good choice if you want to wear for longer. The natural yarns resist odour better than synthetics.
Overnight luggage kit list
Many people pack too many clothes. You won't need to change your full outfit daily and for most people the items that you will change daily will be underwear and socks.
Top tip: It's wonderful to have clean and dry socks daily.
There is a chance you will end up with damp baselayers each day, whether this is due to sweat or rain, and while many accommodations have the facilities to dry clothing, you can't guarantee this. So, a few of spare baselayers for your week's trip on the West Highland Way is recommended.
Useful list of kit for the West Highland Way
Spare walking clothes, such as two or three fresh baselayers
Spare insulated jacket, trousers/shorts, hat and gloves (if any of these get wet it might be difficult to get them dried out overnight)
Several spare pairs of socks (daily if you wish)
Clothes and footwear for evenings (you won’t need many changes of clothing because you won’t be wearing these clothes for long each day!)
Midge net (if you are staying at campsites/huts, or if you plan to be outdoors at dusk)
A book or Kindle.
Walking or running the West Highland Way is a very rewarding outdoor holiday. Key to your enjoyment is preparation and ensuring you have all the basic and essential items. Remember, though, that you will be asking through villages and towns so you can buy food, drink and other bits and pieces at fairly regular intervals.
If you want to discuss any of this further, please do give Highland Transfers a call. We can help with luggage transfer between your overnight accommodations and we have a wealth of other information at our fingertips.