36 Pieces of Gear That I Loved, Liked and Loathed on the West Highland Way

Before setting out on our 96-mile thru-hike of the West Highland Way in Scotland, Amalie and I were pretty dialed down on our gear. However, we recently decided to bite the bullet ($$$) and upgrade some major parts of our gear setup (i.e. tent and backpacks). Usually, our hiking trips mostly consist of 1-2 overnights per trip, so the 7-day hike made the perfect opportunity to really test the overall functionality of our wisely chosen gear.

If you're interested in a quick overview of what was in my pack in Scotland, check out my full gear list our 2018 thru-hike of the West Highland Way.

In this list, I have omitted items like toothbrush, toilet paper, hand sanitizer, etc. because it is not really of vital importance (well, pooh-pooh paper is pretty damn crucial, but shouldn't really be addressed as gear... just keep it soft).

Let's get to it.

 

GEAR I LOVED


 

1. MY SHELTER: Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL 2

WEIGHT

1.25 kilograms (no footprint)

WHY I LOVED IT

For a long time, I've been eyeing out Big Agnes' tents, but they are not easy to find in Europe. However, Ken at www.backpackinglight.dk made this possible and Amalie and I got the tent just before our West Highland Way hike. So, this tent is the bomb. It's easily one of my favorite pieces of gear already.

First, it's easy, quick and really fast to assemble the inner tent. The rain fly is separate, which can be slightly annoying if it is raining, but it's definitely possible to set it up while still keeping the inner tent dry.
Second, it's pretty spacious for a 2-person tent, it's tall and long enough for my 190 cm / 6f 2" to comfortably be inside.
Third, it has double-doors (a MUST for a two-person tent, in my humble opinion) and decent space in the vestibules (easily enough space to store gear and pack).
Fourth, it's freestanding and pretty lightweight for a 2-person tent.


2. MY SLEEPING BAG: Western Mountaineering Ultralite

WEIGHT

880 grams (Long / 6f 6" version)

WHY I LOVED IT

My girlfriend, Amalie, rolled eyes at me when I first bought this bag and took it home to lay in it on the bed and snug myself in this glorious wonder of a sleeping bag. If you aren't familiar with Western Mountaineering, it's an American manufacturer of down products and its sleeping bags are widely perceived as the creme de la creme on the market.

The UltraLite is a popular bag with its 850+ cuin goose down and toasty -9 C / 20 F rating, making it suitable for a wide range of trips. They've included a draft-tube collar around the neck area to prevent air gaps. For a West Higland Way hike in July, it was definitely too hot to sleep in fully zipped but I just slept with it unzipped and used it as a blanket. However, a cool feature is that the baffle system on the UltraLite is continuous meaning that the down can be moved around the bag. If you want more insulation, simply move the down from the bottom to the top. If you want more comfort, move the down from the top to the bottom.

Next, the UltraLite's inner materials are silky on the skin and don't feel clammy, but it is advised to use a silk liner to protect the down from moisture and dirt. Also, the bag compresses oh so well in my pack and comes in pretty light for a mummy bag at 880 grams.


3. MY SLEEPING PAD: Therm-A-Rest NeoAir X-Lite

WEIGHT

450 grams (size Large)

WHY I LOVED IT

A massively popular sleeping pad, primarily because of its feather-weight and super compressibility. I got the long/wide version and it's perfect for me as a side sleeper.

By the way -  the worst of the infamous Therm-A-Rest creakiness wears off after a couple of nights use. Wholeheartedly recommend this piece of gear.


4. MY STOVE: MSR Windburner 1.0 L

WEIGHT

432 grams

WHY I LOVED IT

Amalie and I picked up this stove because we wanted to bring only one stove that could do the job for both of us.

We considered the WindBurner against the JetBoils models because we wanted a fully integrated system but ultimately chose to go with the WindBurner primarily due to the in-built windscreen. We thought it would be a good investment to cope with the harsh and windy Scottish weather and the often windy conditions in Northern Europe. And how glad we were that we went with this stove.

The WindBurner ensures you a good and reliable stove-performance in all sorts of weather. We used it in good conditions, rain and wind and it performed like a boss at all times. It's fast and easy to setup and perfect for two persons (we could easily boil water for two meals + a little extra for coffee). Also, a small gas cannister + burner can be stored inside the cup after use. It comes with a little plastic stabilizer that helps keeping the cannister balanced.


5. TREKKING POLES: Fizan Compact Four

WEIGHT

159 grams per pole

WHY I LOVED IT

I believe these poles are the lightest in the world and that's almost enough to make me happy. Of course, weight isn't everything, but these bad boys certainly didn't disappoint me in any way.

I got no blisters from the grip (even though it is an EVA grip and not cork). They come with a reliable flexy-lock system and packs down to a decent 49 cm. They're so ultralight that you almost forget you're using them. However, they're not as fragile as one might think because they are made with aluminum which makes them more durable than carbon fiber options


6. MY RAINCOVER: Sea To Summit Rain Cover

WEIGHT

128 grams

WHY I LOVED IT

Well, I loved it because it kept my pack dry. It packs down relatively small, can be cinched to sit tight around the pack, but also loosened for the option to store stuff loose in the sides.


7. MY BUG NET: Sea To Summit Head Net

WEIGHT

34 grams

WHY I LOVED IT

Man, you NEED one of these for Scotland. I can't underline this enough. Just get one. It's your best protection against the bloodsucking midgies.


8. MY HEADWEAR: Buff Merino

WEIGHT

47 grams

WHY I LOVED IT

I think everybody who've owned a Buff knows just how awesome a piece of gear it is. It's a lightweight, compressible, multi-use item that can be used as a beanie, neckband (and, if need be, for cleaning, tying knots/first aid, etc. etc.).


9. MY SPOON: Optimus Long Spoon

WEIGHT

11 grams

WHY I LOVED IT

Well, it's a spoon. It's hard to hate it. Same goes for loving it. But, it did make it ton easier to eat my hiker meals from Blå Band. And that's enough for me. Just get any long spoon. You'll never go back to the short-spooned life.


10. MY TROWEL: TentLab Deuce of Spades

WEIGHT

17 grams

WHY I LOVED IT

You've never dreamed of being the proud owner of a poop shovel made in titanium? No? Well, I have and I'm pretty happy about this one. Maybe you've wondered about the Art of Pooping The Wild. That being said, the Deuce of Spades is cool because it weights nada, takes very little space and makes it easier to follow 'Leave No Trace'-principles.


11. MY SOCKS: Darn Tough Quarter Cushion

WEIGHT

50 grams a pair

WHY I LOVED IT

I bought these in Canada due to the massive hype around Reddit and on Youtube. And in all honesty, they're worth every penny of their steep price tag. Hands down the most comfortable socks I've ever worn. Perfect for trail runners / low hiking shoes. Almost indestructible. Dries really fast. Wicks sweat and persists odor (they inevitably start to smell a bit funky after some days of serious hiking). Lifetime guarantee from Darn Tough. What's not to like? Maybe, that you'll want to change every pair of socks in your wardrobe to Darn Toughs.


12. MY MAP: Guthook app

WEIGHT

N/A

WHY I LOVED IT

The Guthook app is a GPS-based map that provides meter for meter coverage on the West Highland Way and other major trails. It gives a complete overview of the whole trail, incl. points of interest, water sources, and elevation. Just get this, I promise you it's 100 % worth, we used it all the time. The app is free but the trail map costs a little.


13. MY UNDERWEAR: SmartWool 150 Boxer Briefs

WEIGHT

Worn weight (didn't measure)

WHY I LOVED IT

I'm not  a fan of bringing a whole lot of underwear when I go on longer trips (to Amalie's delight - or something like that) and if I can choose to bring only one pair of undies, I would. And it would be these. Super comfortable fit, no chafing at all and wicks sweat pretty darn good. Bravissimo, SmartWool.


14. MY RAIN PANTS: Montura Magic 2.0 Cover Pants

WEIGHT

350 grams

WHY I LOVED IT

I've never stumbled across the pants before, but had them gifted to me just before we went to Scotland. First, you'll be happy that you bring both a rain jacket and rain pants. I considered omitting rain pants, but was pretty happy I brought some (quality) ones when we eventually stood in the pouring Scottish rain. Note: don't underestimate the Scottish weather. So, these babies are bomb - they sport a full zip on both sides (looks hilarious, but the ventilation is SO enjoyable). Packs decently well and - yeah - they kept me dry.


15. MY RAIN JACKET: Marmot Precip

WEIGHT

371 grams

WHY I LOVED IT

For many of the same reasons I loved my rainpants, I was very satisfied with my newly purchased Marmot Precip. It's decently light for a rain jacket, all though lighter options are available (i.e. OR Helium), but it did the job and kept me dry at all times. It vents relatively well and has zips under the arm pits. Decently large hood and comfortable fit. Quite simple jacket, but does the trick without breaking the bank.


16. MY ASSPAD: 1/4 of Therm-A-Rest Z-Lite

WEIGHT

60 grams

WHY I LOVED IT

Man, it's hard to hate this thing. It kept my bottom dry, it made all the small on-trail breaks much more convenient and comfortable and it could also be used as a small table for preparing lunch. It highly suggest bringing a sit pad / ass pad. A lot of the other hikers seemed to envy it, especially on the wet days where it's hard to find a spot t0 sit without getting your butt soaked.


17. MY DOWN JACKET: Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer

WEIGHT

210 grams (size XL)

WHY I LOVED IT

I've written a review about my beloved down jacket before. If you've read the review, you'll know how I praised the perks of sporting this lovely piece of year. It's lightweight, super compressible and keeps me warm. With 80 grams of 800 cuin down added, it could certainly be warmer, but it works perfect as a part of a layering system. A premium jacket that I'm really happy to own.


18. MY HIKING SHIRT: Columbia Silver Ridge LS

WEIGHT

240 grams (size L)

WHY I LOVED

I recently picked up this shirt due to its massive popularity in the online hiking community at Reddit and Youtube. The Silver Ridge LS is a long-sleeved synthetic hiking shirt that has UV protection and sleeves that can be folded up halfways and fastened with a button (THIS!). It's pretty light and the fit is great. Another plus is that it looks pretty slick.


19. MY POWERBANK: Anker 10.000 mAh QuickCharge 3.0

WEIGHT

181 grams (+ 67 grams for the charger)

WHY I LOVED IT

This powerbank is the motherload of powerbanks. The 10.000 mAh version holds 5-7 full iPhone charges and the battery itself can be recharged in about 3-4 hours (which is super fast due to the QC-technology). On top of that, it doesn't take up a lot of space in the pack. You can find these on Amazon or at most electronics retailers. They may be pricier than most alternatives, but you get what you pay for. Make sure to get one with QuickCharge!


GEAR I LIKED


 

20. MY MUG: Stabilotherm Mug

WEIGHT

15 grams

WHY I LIKED IT

My steady companion for when eating cereal in the morning and for coffee and tea breaks in the afternoon. It's really easy to clean and is pretty lightweight.

WHAT I DIDN'T LIKE ABOUT IT

The shape is pretty good for eating cereal but kinda odd for drinking. That's where the hang on cups are nice.


21. MY MULTI-TOOL: Victorinox Classic SD

WEIGHT

22 grams

WHY I LIKED IT

This little gem weights in at tiny 22 grams and takes almost no space in my pack. With scissors, knife, tweezers & more included, it covers all my needs.

WHAT I DIDN'T LIKE ABOUT IT

The (tiny) scissors. I've always used a traditional nail clipper and never really been good with scissors. But, you gotta start somewhere.


22. MY PACK: ULA Circuit

WEIGHT

1140 grams (large torso / medium hip belt)

WHY I LIKED IT

Our West Highland Way hike was my Circuit's virgin trip. I was super excited about getting it after eyeing it out for a long time. ULA's aren't easy to find in Europe, but again Ken from www.backpackinglight.dk helped me out. This pack is well sewn, decently lightweight for its 68-liter size and quite comfortable to carry. Even at max load around 15 kilograms, the ULA soldiered on without hesitation. What I liked most about the Circuit are the large hip belt pockets and the comfortable hip belt. Also, the bendable aluminum stay is pretty cool.

WHAT I DIDN'T LIKE ABOUT IT

I'm still not quite sure about the roll-top closure. I know some folks are loving it, but I found it slightly annoying to roll it up and down every time I had to get in my pack. I'm still leaning more towards cinch-closure bags (i.e. the ULA Ohm 2.0). Also, I bought the ULA in size Large where I really should've had a Medium. After our WHW hike, I've swapped my Circuit for a Ohm 2.0 with Medium torso and Small hip belt. More on that to come.


23. MY MIDLAYER: Columbia Ridge Repeat Half Zip

WEIGHT

223 grams

WHY I LIKED IT

How can you not love a fleece? I mean, it's comfortable cozy, warm and relatively light!

WHAT I DIDN'T LIKE ABOUT IT

Oh yeah, one thing. It takes up more space in my pack than I like, but it was definitely worth bringing for the added warmth.


24. MY OUTDOOR PANTS: Revolution Race GPx zip-off

WEIGHT

Worn weight

WHY I LIKED IT

I recently did a full review on these pants where I talked about the extremely comfortable fit and toughness of these pants. Also, they're packed with features.

WHAT I DIDN'T LIKE ABOUT IT

They're on the heavy side. Also, not the most breathable pants when worn fully zipped.


25. MY TOP BASELAYER: Icebreaker Oasis

WEIGHT

260 grams

WHY I LIKED IT

This is a popular piece of gear for a reason. The silky soft merino fabric feels amazing to wear while keeping you warm. The half-zip is nice for venting when hiking with higher intensity.

WHAT I DIDN'T LIKE ABOUT IT

Even though it is a comfortable shirt, the fit is slightly awkward for me. For some reason, I run 2XL in this model, but the sleeves are still too short on my arms. It's nice on the chest but quite boxy on the torso. The sleeves have always annoyed me a bit though, and I usually end up rolling them up.


26. MY PILLOW: Trekology UL Pillow

WEIGHT

78 grams

WHY I LIKED IT

Added comfort to my sleeping system is always welcomed. Especially, when it packs small and has a decent weight. As a side-sleeper, I like to sleep with a pillow (and stuffing clothes in a dry bag usually just doesn't cut it for me). The Trekology is nice, wide and budget-friendly.

WHAT I DIDN'T LIKE ABOUT IT

The pillow has started leaking on me after the trip. Also, the outer material is could be more comfortable. As of now, I am trying out the Sea To Summit Aeros Premium.


27. MY CAMERA: Olympus PEN Lite E-PL 7

WEIGHT

309 grams

WHY I LIKED IT

It allowed me & Amalie to take better pictures than our phones would've managed to. Also, it's a quite small camera and didn't take up too much space.

WHAT I DIDN'T LIKE ABOUT IT

It's not even that heavy for a camera, but it's still +300 grams. It's a decent camera, but there are better (and pricier...) options on the market. However, it perfectly matched our needs in terms of picture quality.


28. MY TOWEL: Fine-Wel Seamless Suede Towel

WEIGHT

80 grams

WHY I LIKED IT

It was nice to have something to dry oneself with after showers at the campsites. It was small and didn't take up a whole lot of space. Dries fast.

WHAT I DIDN'T LIKE ABOUT IT

I'd just rather go without one, but one can't expect to air dry / sun dry every day in Scotland.


29. MY HIKING SHOES: Moab 2 Ventilator

WEIGHT

888 grams for a pair

WHY I LIKED IT

These are my babies. Extremely comfortable with the strong and firm sole and the wide foot box. Nice and easy to slip in and out off. Most importantly, breathes amazingly.

WHAT I DIDN'T LIKE ABOUT IT

I hesitated a lot about whether I should put the Moabs in the "liked" or "loved" category, but I got to be fair. The highly breathable material of the Moabs is its blessing and curse. They soaks a lot of water - way more than Amalie's GoreTex shoes - however, they dry faster. That being said, I'd take the versatility of breathability over waterproofness on this one.


30. MY SMALL ORGANIZERS: Generic Clear Bags

WEIGHT

Didn't measure

WHY I LIKED IT

Nice to keep ditty stuff like passport, maps, coins and stuff like that organized and easily accessible in your pack. Can double as trash bags.

WHAT I DIDN'T LIKE ABOUT IT

The rubber sealing wears out by time/heavy use.


31. MY BIG ORGANIZERS: Sea To Summit Ultra-Sil Dry Bags

WEIGHT

1 x 26 grams (4 L) and 1 x 40 grams (13 L)

WHY I LIKED IT

They're good for organizing stuff into categories due to their colorful fabric. I use the orange 4 L for electronics (camera, charger, chords, headlamp, etc.) and the yellow 13 L for food. Waterproof and lightweight.

WHAT I DIDN'T LIKE ABOUT IT

If you don't fill up the bag, it can be a hassle the empty it for air everytime you want to close it.


GEAR I LOATHED


 

32. MY WATER FILTER: Hydroblu Versaflow

WEIGHT

45

WHY I LOATHED IT

I was excited to try out my new water filter but ended up disappointed. The filter didn't fit any of the water bottles we purchased and we ended up using Katadyn Micropur tablets when needed. The Hydroblu did work with a Platypus 1L Soft Bottle. However, it was never really a problem since there's a lot of options for water resupply on the West Highland Way (creeks, villages, etc.).


GEAR I DIDN'T USE


 

33. MY BOTTOM BASELAYER: Helly Hansen Dry Fly

WEIGHT

140 grams

WHY I DIDN'T USE IT

I usually use these pants when its chilly in the morning or evening, but it was generally just too hot during our July month hike. Definitely an overkill (together with the Columbia fleece, all though, I did use that).


34. MY HEADLAMP: Black Diamond Spot

WEIGHT

88 grams

WHY I DIDN'T USE IT

It was never really dark enough for it to come to use. Also, we didn't do any night hiking. However, I would bring a headlamp anytime. They're just good to have around.


35. MY SLEEPING SOCKS: AegisMax Down Booties

WEIGHT

75 grams

WHY I DIDN'T USE THEM

Even though I generally sleep hot, my feet tends to get could when camping out and that's why I like to bring my AegisMax down booties. However, with warm temperatures in mid-July and a Western Mountaineering UltraLite (which already makes for an overkill) the down booties were not needed.

NB: I did actually use them once as a pair of slippers at a hostel. Needlessly to say people stared a little - in pure ENVY.


HONORABLE MENTIONING


MY GUIDEBOOK: West Highland Way by Dan Bailey

This book was a dear and invaluable companion on our trip, providing us with interesting information about the lands we traversed in a humorous and right-in-your-face kind of way. Bailey is a splendid writer and I can wholeheartedly recommend buying this little gem of a paperback that's filled with historical anecdotes about the trail, places to stay, sights to see, food to eat, drinks to drink and even alternative, side-routes to the West Highland Way.