Travel blogger Kathi is appropriate hiking equipment for a trip to Scotland.

Packing Tips & the ultimate Packing List for Scotland

Packing for trips to colder climates is quite a bit more challenging than throwing together a summer wardrobe for the Caribbean or South-East Asia… Scotland, in particular, is famous for often experiencing all four seasons in one day, more or less year-round. So, how do you pack the right clothes and equipment for any occasion, while at the same time looking good AND potentially minimising costs by fitting it all into a carry on?  This post includes my top Scotland packing tips for every season, which essentials to bring with you, how to pack everything in a carry on (and why you should) and my ultimate packing list for Scotland. It will help you pack efficiently and be prepared for anything, without breaking your luggage allowance!

This post contains affiliate links, which I may make a commission from.

 

Of course, what you pack and how much you should bring of everything, depends a lot on how many days you will spend in Scotland, where you are going and what kind of activities you’ve got planned. Packing for a city trip requires different skills than putting together a hiking wardrobe. If you haven’t made these major decisions yet, you should definitely start by reading my guide for planning your trip to Scotland.

Once you are clear about the details, it’s time to plan your wardrobe. Packing for Scotland can be challenging, especially if you come from warmer climates, or somewhere with more stable weather conditions. As the American journalist Raymond Bonner once said,

“If you don’t like Scottish weather, wait thirty minutes,
and it is likely to change.”

The most important thing to keep in mind when packing for Scotland is, that you want your clothes to enable you to enjoy your trip, even if it is raining sideways. This guide will tell you how that’s possible, but if you already know that you need more tips on how to get that “there is no bad weather”-attitude, check out my post on how to deal with Scottish weather.

But let’s get started now!

Packing tips for every season

Whether you travel to Scotland during the summer or in the winter, you should be prepared for everything. This means to be prepared for a warm summer day of 25C as well as carrying some warm items with you at all times.

While I wouldn’t suggest packing summer dresses and sandals for your trip to the Highlands, I learnt to pack in LAYERS in order to enjoy extraordinarily warm and unusually cold days during the same trip. Most summer outfits can easily be worn as base layers or turned into warmer outfits with extra tights and jumpers. Get creative with your travel wardrobe!

Packing Tips for Spring

Spring is a wonderful time to travel Scotland, because the flowers are blooming, it’s lambing season, people are extra friendly because the days are finally getting longer, but the crowds are still far away in their cosy homes.

Read more: Everything you need to know to visit Scotland

During the Spring months, roughly March to May, temperatures can vary – in March it can still snow, while in May you might go for a hike in shorts and a t-shirt. I’d suggest packing for anything between 0 and 15C. If you wonder what jacket you should bring – I’ll talk the only jacket you need for Scotland year-round below!

If you plan to go hiking during this time of the year, remember that it is likely going to be extra muddy, since the snow is melting in the hills, causing rivers to overflow further down in the valleys. Gaiters can be useful to keep your feet and legs dry, and proper hiking boots are a must if you want to do anything but a city or road trip.

Should I pack wellies and an umbrella?

Instead of weighing down your luggage allowance with wellies and umbrellas, I recommend investing in a high quality rain jacket – more on that further down. In my opinion, wellies are pretty useless and so are umbrellas. Wellies are slippy and not warm enough; umbrellas just can’t deal with the wind and sideways rain you will almost inevitably experience in Scotland.

While umbrellas make for pretty photo props, they are rather useless in protecting you against Scottish weather. It's better to invest in a good rain jacket for your trip to Scotland!
Umbrellas are pretty photo props, but pretty useless against the Scottish weather.

Packing Tips for Summer

Whenever someone asks me what to pack for Scotland in summer, I think of about my favourite Scottish saying:

“I love summer in Scotland. It’s my favourite day of the year.”

“Summer” becomes a relative term here in Scotland, and coming from a place where summer temperatures easily rise about 35C, I’m pretty convinced that “summer” does actually not exist in this country…

If you visit Scotland during the summer months, June to August, you should expect temperatures to be anywhere between 12 and 25C – more often closer to the former, than the latter. Mind though, that the wind can chill that down about 5 degrees, so if you are near the coast or it’s just a windy day, it will feel even chillier.

Here are some things you probably won’t need during the Scottish summer: sandals, flip flops, hot pants, and sun dresses.

And here is what you should bring: sunglasses, something to cover your head (a hat or a buff would be great), a warm jumper, short-sleeved t-shirts, sun lotion, midge spray and a swimsuit for when you feel brave.

Travel blogger Kathi Kamleitner from Watch Me See, on a sunny day in the Kilpatrick Hills. Sunglasses and layers are essentials when packing for Scotland!
Hiking near Glasgow in August. Sunnies CHECK, Rain Jacket (in my bag) CHECK.

Packing Tips for Fall/Autumn

Very similar to Springtime, the Autumn months from September to November are a great time to visit Scotland. Temperatures drop again to somewhere between 0 and 15C and you should always be prepared for showers and colder days.

The days are getting shorter, and visiting in November might be significantly colder than September, but your packing list will look pretty much the same throughout this season. Lots of layers, at least one warm jumper to wear under your waterproof jacket and some knitwear to keep your head, neck and hands warm.

Packing Tips for Winter

Scottish winters are generally speaking fairly mild. Unlike central Europe where temperatures can drop to -15 or -20 on a regular basis, you would expect it to remain between -5 and 10C between December and January. And to be honest, below 0 is fairly uncommon – it might last for a few days, but hardly ever for longer than that.

Of course, there can be quite a lot of snow all over Scotland. Snow is most likely to fall and stay in the Highlands and sometimes roads can be closed and trains cancelled due to heavy snowfall. Again, usually that doesn’t really last longer than a few days, so it’s all about being flexible with your route or sitting out the storm until it’s over.

Unless you plan to go skiing, you won’t need padded ski trousers, but I suggest packing a warm padded jacket and either fleece-lined winter trousers or a warm base layer to wear underneath your normal trousers to stay warm.

Your number one priority is to keep your feet warm, so bring shoes that are waterproof and lined to ensure your toes stay nice and toasty.

An ice-cold day at the Nevis Range by Fort William - a padded jacket and warm knitwear are essentials to pack for Scotland in winter!
It’s -7C but I’m warm in my fleece-lined trousers, padded jacket and warm knitwear!

Why should you travel Scotland with a carry on?

Now, you might wonder why on Earth you should try to fit everything you need to be prepared for everything, in a carry on bag! Here are three very good reasons why:

  1. It’s more cost effective when you fly. Many airlines charge you extra for checked luggage, especially arriving from Europe. It it simply cheaper to travel with a carry on.
  2. It is way easier to move your luggage. Did you ever enjoy dragging a big suitcase up and down cobbled lanes? No? I thought so. In most cases, you will be able to lift your carry on bag very easily, which makes it easier to climb stairs or transport it on unpaved roads. If you use a carry-on backpack (I always travel with my Pacsafe 40L weekender backpack) you even get the benefit of travelling handsfree!
    Find out more about the best travel backpacks!
  3. You don’t have to worry about maximum luggage allowance. If you plan to to join a guided tour while you’re in Scotland or want to maximise your time by taking small planes around the country, you might find that they only allow one small bag of up to 15kg per passenger. No problem, if you’ve packed in a carry on!

If you need a couple of tips to get you started on easy hand luggage packing, check out these packing tips.

Essentials for carry-on packing from Amazon:

Packing for different activities

What to pack for hiking in Scotland

A typical hiking outfit in Scotland includes a breathable top, quick dry bottoms, a comfortable backpack, proper hiking boots and a few layers to add when it's cold or wet.
Hiking the West Highland Way on a sunny day.

If you plan to do some hiking while you’re in Scotland, please prepare accordingly by bringing the right equipment with you. This includes shoes, clothes and items like maps or compass.

There are very few hiking trails in Scotland that I would hike without a map and compass (the Grey Mare’s Tail during summer is one of them). Weather conditions can change rapidly in the hills, and both can become essential lifesavers in an emergency. Bring and learn how to use them!

Proper hiking boots are essential when you hike in Scotland. During the summer you might get away with low top trekking shoes, but for ultimate protection and grip, I recommend always to hike with boots that support your ankles. If you’re worried about space in your carry on – simply wear these on your flight over!

A backpack with hip belt is a lot more comfortable to carry than a normal city backpack. I usually use my 30L pack for day tours and my 40L for short treks. The hip belt means that I carry the majority of the weight on my hips rather than my shoulders, which saves me quite a bit of suffering.

Finally, wearing breathable and quick dry clothes is the key to feeling comfortable on the trail. On day tours, I prefer to hike in leggings over trekking trousers, but one thing I definitely won’t wear on the trail is jeans – once they’re wet, they add unnecessary weight to your load and take forever to dry. One of my favourite brands of functional outdoor clothing is Fjallraven, because their clothes have nice cuts and patterns, that don’t look geeky. However, I also love my Craghoppers fleece jumper, which is made from recycled plastic bottles!

My hiking essentials on Amazon:

Road trip essentials

Packing for a road trip does not necessarily require any particular clothing items, but there is one thing you should consider: patchy signal.

That means, not only will your phone fail on you, but also your car’s radio. Bring music and check whether your rental car will have a CD deck or an AUX-in to connect your phone. Also, pack maps or download them to your phone in advance, as Google Maps will give up on you when you need it most!

What to wear in Edinburgh and Glasgow

If you spend a significant amount of time in the city or visit Scotland for a city trip to Edinburgh or Glasgow, you will probably pack a little differently. All that chat about functional and quick dry clothing – forget about it, or you will look like the over-prepared tourist you are.

To blend in with the locals, bring the kind of “normal” clothes you would wear at home. I wear a different rain coat in the hills, than in the city (it’s longer and bright yellow); I still recommend water-resistant shoes, but maybe Chelsea boots are more suitable than outdoorsy trekking shoes.

As long as you keep the rough temperature guide from above in mind, you will most likely be fine wearing a pair of jeans, a t-shirt, a jumper and a jacket.

What kind of jacket you might ask? During the summer, I often just wear a denim jacket, but as a traveller that should only be in addition to a rain jacket in your backpack! Wool (or a synthetic alternative) and padded jackets are both fine during the winter – if you get cold easily, a padded jacket might be more your thing.

5 essential items to pack for Scotland

#1 A great travel rain jacket

Travelling to Scotland without a good rain jacket would be like leaving your passport at home. You won’t get very far. While Scotland gets its fair share of gorgeous sunny days, it is very likely that you will encounter rain in one way or another – a light drizzle or a heavy shower, from above, sideways or sometimes even from below…

The best rain jacket for travel is not only waterproof, but it’s also breathable and lightweight, has practical pockets, looks good in photos and folds up small enough to fit in the bottom of your day bag.

A triclimate jacket from The North Face (I reviewed the previous model of this jacket here) is my personal recommendation! It is THE ONLY JACKET you need in Scotland ALL YEAR-ROUND, as you can wear the two parts separately or combined to keep your warm, dry or sheltered from the wind.

Jackets for Scotland on Amazon:

#2 The right shoes for Scotland

Sturdy hiking boots, like these Zamberlan boots, are a must on your packing list for Scotland.
Taking my Zamberlan Ultra Lites for a spin on the Isle of Iona.

The ideal shoes for Scotland are waterproof and give you good grip on unpaved roads. While you might not need hiking boots for a regular city trip, a pair of sturdy waterproof boots is an absolute must on your packing list for Scotland.

As soon as you plan to leave the pave roads behind though, bring hiking boots or at least low-top trekking shoes. My personal recommendation for long-lasting, comfy and fairly lightweight hiking boots are the Zamberlan Ultra Lites, which I reviewed here.

Shoes for Scotland on Amazon:

#3 A spray to keep midges away

If you visit the Scottish Highlands during the summer months, you NEED to bring insect repellant to protect you from the dreaded Scottish midge. They are tiny black flies that get through any gap and bite you to suck your blood. While not everybody reacts to them in the same way, chances are high, that their bites will itch like crazy! They come out during sunset and in the morning and when it’s particularly bad, they form a big black cloud around you.

I recommend Smidge, which is a repellant that was specifically designed to fight off the Scottish midge – you buy it on Amazon or any shop in the Scottish Highlands. Also, wear long sleeves when you’re out and about during the midges’ active hours and keep away from standing water. Midges don’t like wind, so pray for a breeze to help keep them away!

#4 Gloves and a hat to stay warm

Travel blogger Kathi is appropriate hiking equipment for a trip to Scotland.
My buff keeps my ears warm – this photo was taken in August!

Surely you won’t require gloves and a hat when you visit Scotland in summer, right? Wrong! I can’t think of any time of the year when you won’t require gloves and a hat in Scotland!

You might not need them on a sunny day in the city, but as soon as you climb a mountain or get near the coast and the wind picks up, you’ll be happy I told you. I usually bring my Buff (get on here on Amazon), because it works as scarf and hat or headband to keep my neck and ears warm at the same time. Gloves are great when it’s windy or rainy, but you still need your hands outside to take pictures.

#5 Waterproof trousers as a backup

Finally, pack a good pair of waterproof trousers. They are not only for hiking, but literally for any activity that requires you to be outside in the rain. It comes in handy on the mountain, but also on your way from your B&B to the pub or visiting a castle garden.

Waterproof trousers are my secret ingredient to a rain-proof attitude, because when you wear the right clothes (to stay dry and warm), there is simply no such thing as bad weather! I used a cheap pair for years, but have recently upgraded to a pair of Fjallräven Eco Shell trousers and they’re sooooo comfortable to wear!

A Complete Packing List for Scotland for women+

To make this packing list for Scotland as realistic as possible, I have based in on a combination of trips I have taken around the Scottish Highlands between April and October, which hopefully covers the travel time of the majority of my readers.

If you travel during the colder months, check out my packing tips for winter above, or drop me a line with your questions in the comments!

I generally pack using my Pro Packing Cubes to keep my things organised. If I combine different activities (e.g. hiking and a city trip) in one holiday, I organise my stuff into themed packing cubes, so that all my hiking gear is in one place and stored separately from my nice city clothes.

To make packing in a carry on easier, I use a colour scheme to ensure I can mix and match all of my clothes. Additionally I’ll throw in a piece or two of statement jewellery to style up any outfit for the evening (usually one necklace and one pair of earrings).

Travel writer Kathi Kamleitner on a road trip through Scotland, wearing a nice outfit with shoes that still allow her to walk on unpaved roads.
Wearing one of my “city outfits” on a road trip around Argyll.

This is a list of everything I would pack for a 10-day trip around Scotland with a carry on, including what I’d be wearing on the plane. If your visit is shorter, you can decrease the amount of items accordingly; if you travel longer, consider to do laundry somewhere on the road, instead of packing more – that will make it easier to fit everything in a carry on.

Clothes |  1 pair of jeans, 1 pair of outdoor trousers, 1-2 pairs of leggings (for hiking), 1 pair of tights, 1 skirt, 1 dress, 5-6 regular tops (variation of sleeve lengths), 2 outdoor tops (short and long sleeve), 1 vest/singlet, 1 fleece or knitted jumper, 1 nice cardigan, 1 shirt, 2 bras, 1 sports bra, 11 pairs of pants and socks (I always pack one extra and leave it in my day bag for emergencies), pyjamas

Shoes | 1 pair of water-resistant/-proof city shoes, 1 pair of sturdy boots (wear these on the plane to save space and weight), 1 pair of active shoes/trainers (if I have space left)

Outerwear | 1 triclimate travel rain jacket, 1 warmer padded jacket (if you don’t have a triclimate rain jacket), 1 light but warm scarf, 1 Buff (also works as headband/hat), 1 pair of gloves, waterproof trousers

Toiletries | soap, solid shampoo, solid conditioner & deodorant powder from Lush, zero-waste tooth brush, tooth paste, hairbrush, moisturiser with SPF, a few make-up basics.

Misc. | midge spray, camera with plenty of spare SD cards, maps & compass (if hiking), a day bag or backpack, a small first aid kit (plasters, tweezers, painkillers)

***

Packing for Scotland sounds challenging at first – but somewhere between wanting to be prepared for everything and bringing only so much that you can fit is into a carry on, there is the perfect mix of layers, shoes and outerwear for your Scotland packing list!

Do you find it easier now to pack for your Scotland adventure?

***

 

Planning a trip to Scotland?

Find accommodation, book your rental car or a guided tour with Rabbie’s.

Book day trips to explore the country or get advance tickets for attractions.

Read up in a travel guide and prepare for hikes with the OS Explorer maps.

Get your rain gear in place and browse my packing list.

Book your Glasgow tour with me or let me plan your itinerary.

 

All photos by Kathi Kamleitner.

SaveSaveSaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSaveSaveSaveSaveSave

SaveSave

23 comments on “Packing Tips & the ultimate Packing List for Scotland

  1. This is great, kathi! Thank you so much! My boyfriend and I are going to Edinburgh in January for the first time, and I was worried about the cold but you’ve made me feel much better about still having a good time while I’m there. And thank you for all the vegan recommendations in clothing!

    • You’re welcome! If it rains, just embrace it and seek the cosiness of the city’s cafes, pubs and museums. I’m sure you’ll have a brilliant time! 🙂

  2. Thank you Kathi, this is very helpful. I live on the Gold Coast of Australia – sub-tropical, with winter temps as low as 10 overnight and between 18-23 during the day. As you can imagine, I am really quite scared of the weather in Scotland!
    My dream is to arrive there in September 2020, and spend at least a month. I am also vegan, so I will definitely ask for your assistance with my planning. I think it will be money very well spent.
    Thanks for your wonderful blogs

    • Hi Claire, thank you so much for your comment! Right, your winter is like our summer 😀 I think you will be fine as long as you dress in layers (and I don’t think you have to overpack either, as long as you can combine all your pieces into different outfits) and keep your feet warm. October can be wet (but so can any other month too to be fair), but it’s not super cold yet. Please get in touch when you start planning details – I’d love to help! Thanks for reading my blog! Cheers, Kathi

  3. Thank you so much for writing this blog! I’m vegan and planning on traveling to Glasgow and the highlands in a few weeks and it’s been so helpful!

    Cheers!
    Jocelyn

    • You’re going to love all the vegan food in Glasgow! Check out my Glasgow posts for my favourites and glasgowveganguide.com for reviews. In the Highland there are always options – people are accommodating. I’ve written a bit about vegan food on the area around Fort William in my road trip guide from Glasgow to Fort William! Happy traveling!

  4. Honestly, Scotland has ruined me for clothes – I have hardly anything smart left in my wardrobe – it is full of outdoor gear!

    • Haha totally – all my nice coats are stored in the cupboard, cause I can’t go anywhere without my waterproof…

  5. We were lucky in some ways because we lived in a place with similar weather, so are used to multiple clothing needs in a day. I never had the need for hiking boots before moving here, though, and while I bought a pair, I haven’t been happy with them. I’m going to check out your boot recommendations!

    • The Zamberlan are hand-down the most comfortable boots I’ve ever worn! They needed a bit of breaking in (no blisters, just felt tight), but I’ve never had issues with them even on longer treks! I also have a pair of Hanwag boots and really like them, but I’ve only worn them once towards the end of summer season last year. Need to take them out more! Definitely go to a shop where you get proper advice – buying the right hiking boots for your feet is a tough job!

  6. I’m in love with that backpack of yours!

    Also you’ve just made me want to visit Scotland even more with your photos <3

    • Please come and visit!!!
      The backpack is from Urban Outfitters, but I got it years ago in Canada…

  7. What an absolutely perfect post! And so thorough too. I couldn’t agree more with every point you made. I’m also going to have to look into those shoes, as all of mine keep falling apart.

    • One of my biggest takeaways from writing this post is that I need new shoes – after this winter, especially snowboots… 😛

  8. I wish I wasn’t so stubborn and learned to pack for winter with lots of layers. I went to Scotland in August and I still froze! I went to Canada in February and I was so glad that I actually thought about what I was packing. I was actually warm and not pretending to not have frostbite 😉

    • Layers are the way to go – you get lovely warm days in Scotland during the summer, but it’s always best to come prepared. Can you believe I went on a roadtrip to Arran in August and forgot to bring a proper jumper?!? 😀 Never forget..

  9. Sounds a bit like hiking in Patagonia in summer: prepare yourself for all kind of seasons in ONE day! It can be a bit frustrating because you will have to carry a lot of stuff with you. But that’s how it is 🙂
    Great list and great suggestions!

    • Yeah I think the same kind of packing rules apply to most countries far north or far south. I’m dreaming of traveling Patagonia one day – sounds like I’d be well prepared!!

  10. Fantastic guide Kathi! The right shoes and waterproof trousers are definitely the key to happy exploring in Scotland.

    • Thanks! Yeah, I think those are essentials too – it’s all about the equipment and attitude!!

  11. Loving this post! you have a great style of clothing!

  12. No flipflops? Not even in summer? Oh you poor Scots! Okay, so my decision to come in November was actually wise as I had snow, fog and rain which made for moody pictures and I was happy for the bit of sun I had. Would probably get the same in so called summer but be disappointed 😉

    • Unless you stay in a hostel with shared bathrooms, you really won’t need flipflops 🙁 To be honest, I’ve had some amazing weather during summer trips here (hence all the sunny photos), but you just can’t get a guarantee and there’s a high chance at least one day of your trip is gonna be rainy. The only time that didn’t happen was during a trip to the east coast in June – we had 7 days of sunshine (and a little bit of morning fog for the mood)!!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *