The Scottish Highlands are famed for its weather. Quick-changing, sometimes relentless, often varied, Scotland’s landscapes have been sculptured by Mother Nature for hundreds of years. However, the wet and windy climate doesn’t need to dampen your spirits if you’re well prepared to embrace the elements.
The rain brings life to nature as it nourishes the landscapes and calls wildlife into bloom. Wet weather brings out the vibrancy of the scenery and helps to create a magical feel that will make your walk along the West Highland Way memorable for many years to come. To enjoy the beauty of wet weather, you’ll need to consider a few things to stay warm and dry.
When it comes to clothing, we recommend an effective layering system. Using technical cotton fabrics, merino wool blends and other synthetic materials, base-layers help wick moisture away from the skin while remaining warm and breathable. A mid-layer provides additional warmth, typically in the form of a shirt or fleece, while a jacket becomes the top layer to seal it all in. This layering technique helps to regulate your core body temperature so you wind up getting too cold, or too hot. Remember to check the weather forecast each day before you head out on the trail, so you can choose an appropriate thickness of layers to keep you warm.
Another great thing about layers is that you can remove the wet ones and replace with fresh dry clothes throughout the day, which is why we recommend packing an additional layer or two in your backpack.
Come rain or shine, having a good hat will go a long way. You lose a lot of heat through your head and while it may be cold, the sun can still have an adverse effect so wearing a hat will help protect your noggin for long days out on the trail. To accompany this, a good pair of gloves and a neck buff will help keep you cosy as well – do note that fashion scarves are likely to get damp and retain water, so a buff designed with a technical fabric is more suitable.
When it comes to your feet, you should consider suitable socks and shoes. Walking boots should be waterproof with a sturdy rubber sole that offers support for your foot and traction for the terrain. If your boots aren’t waterproof, you can help to offset wet feet by investing in some waterproof socks. If your socks do become wet, the damp and cold conditions can cause friction blisters and numbness in your toes from the cold which can slow down or even end your walk early. We also recommend carrying a spare pair of socks in your bag each day on the trail.
With all the fastenings, pockets and features of backpacks, it can be difficult to find one which is completely waterproof and doesn’t cost a small fortune. However, there are some bags which come with a rain cover that can be pulled out and extended over the entirety of the bag. If your pack doesn’t include one of these, they can be bought separately, or you can use a plastic bag when the rain comes. Alternatively, you can protect the important contents of your backpack by using ziplock bags, ideal for mobile phones, money and maps.
At the end of a wet day, it’s important to dry out your kit immediately so that it’s ready to go for the following day. This will help to reduce the risk of mould developing. If you’re in a tent, try to dry your clothing in the vestibule so the clothing doesn’t drip on your clean dry clothes, or create too much condensation to sleep in.
Perhaps one of the most important things you can do to get through, and even enjoy, a wet weather day, is maintaining a positive mental attitude!
Just like the Scottish comedian, Billy Connolly said; “There’s no such thing as bad weather – only the wrong clothes.”