How To Succeed Walking the West Highland Way
One thing’s certain about the way, while the weather will prevent you from seeing all the summits along the way you can be certain of spotting the lesser – prepared backpacker. Usually spotted at the ends of the sections in youth hostels complaining about the weather and tending to sore feet. They can be easily spotted on the way due to their habit of carrying far in excess of what’s really needed on the trip and thus set a pace that means they arrive at their destination around dusk.
Of course, this isn’t something that need spoil your trip and if you seem to think that such a hardship is par for the course then skip to the next section. Still with us? Good, you’ll enjoy the walk a little more then.
1 – Carry only what you have to. If you’re staying in youth hostels then you should fit everything in a large daypack. Go by the rule of wear one, wash one with socks/pants, or at the most take a second spare. Keep a set of clothes for the evening, but make them a light set, and ideally your only spare set. Avoid jeans like the plague as they’re heavy and can’t be used on the hill as an emergency change of clothing. We provide guidance on what to carry in the Kit section and how you can keep any weight down.
2 – Keep within your limits. If you’re going to struggle to walk 25km + a day, reduce your distance and perhaps do it in two stages?
3 – Use the facilities. Eat at pubs and cafes where possible and use hostels and hotels instead of carrying camping gear.
4 – If you want to camp, then don’t be fooled by gear that calls itself ‘lightweight’ or the dreaded ‘ultralightweight’ when it clearly isn’t! Keep weights of the essential kit below: 2kg for one man tents or 1.5kg per person for larger tents, 1kg sleeping bag and packs. This is a generalisation and in winter you will need to go larger. There are some excellent bits of kit available at the budget end of the spectrum and you should be able to pick up a tent, sleeping bag, pack and stove for under £150 if you choose wisely! This means avoiding those £10 supermarket dome tents to start with, but once you get into the £30 price range then the likes of Gelert, Highlander and Coleman sell tents that are perfectly robust enough for the job.
5 – Train for the walk! Don’t expect your feet to thank you when you set off on consecutive 25km walks. They will complain and blister and you will walk into the YH at the end of the day complaining like 90% of the walkers in there of sore feet. Get a few weekends on local long distance paths, as soon as you can and then as close to the trip as possible – this gets you used to the boots asap – and time to recover from serious blisters, while the walks just before will condition your feet and yourself to the days on the trail.
6 – Finally – and you may well determine this from the last point yourself, is to ensure you’ve got proper kit for the walk. This is especially true for boots and the socks that go into them. A few training walks will ensure that they’re comfortable. You’ll also need proper walking kit for the trail, which is detailed in the …. section…