To date, #TeamMontane’s Bee Leask has bagged over 235 Munros (out of 282), so it’s safe to say she knows what is needed to conquer Scottish mountains successfully. As days shorten and conditions become more demanding, choosing layers that protect, insulate and breathe are essential to your comfort on the Scottish trail.
Discover Bee’s versatile essentials this season and the gear she’ll be relying on as the weather in the highlands become more unpredictable…
Scotland: Preparing for all conditions
My name is Bee Leask. I am a Shetlander and a Scottish adventurer. I spend most of my time exploring the Scottish mountains, and further afield, whether that’s hiking, mountain running or scampering about. I love spending as much time as possible outdoors, no matter the weather or time of year. I like to try new things and push myself to see what I can achieve.
Scotland may be small but what it lacks in size, it more than makes up for with variety. From the rugged, jagged west coast with its ridges and scrambles, to the more rounded, extensive expanse of the formidable Cairngorm plateau. Not only are the landscapes varied, but the weather, well, that’s a whole other blog.
So where other places tend to have more settled weather as we head into autumn and winter, well in Scotland you have to be prepared for the change in seasons that little bit earlier. When the heather appears in August, is often a sign for me that it’s time to add a few extra layers to my bag, or to prepare my autumn/winter kit asap.
Autumn can be spectacular in Scotland, the hills are purple with the heather, especially in places like Glen Feshie in the Cairngorms, I highly recommend a walk in this area at this time of the year. We get crisp days, with blue skies and still enough daylight for some big adventures. But equally autumn often brings, wind, rain and lots of generally very dreich days, as we like to say up here. It often also has a combination of both within a matter of minutes, so having the right layers and being prepared is essential.
The first step to being prepared for those autumnal walks is a good rucksack like the Montane Azote Backpack. It has a bit more space to pack some extra layers, without being oversized and bulky. It has plenty of space for your normal summer kit, with all the other items you need to stay comfortable in the changeable Scottish weather.
Now the most important thing you’ll need for cooler climes in Scotland, and lets be honest, it’s as equally an important piece of kit for Scottish spring/summers aswell, is a good waterproof jacket. My current go-to is the Montane Woman's Phase. I have it in Saskatoon Berry and it’s the perfect autumn colour. I almost blend in with the heather, which I love.
Not only that, but this jacket is longer than any other waterproof I have, so gone are the days of a soggy lower back or bum from your waterproof creeping up under your rucksack. It has all the usual features of a good waterproof, yet it still manages to be relatively lightweight at 380g. Perfect for the transition from summer to autumn/winter kit.
Why layering is important
Another area of clothing you need to be prepared in Scotland in autumn and winter is layering. Whereas in spring/summer you can get away with t-shirts and a jacket if a downpour appears, when it comes to autumn you need to have a bit more in your bag. I normally like to wear a thin base layer like the Dart XT. It’s nice and soft on your skin, yet breathable, meaning you won’t overheat if you meed to put on another layer before your waterproof. We all know how cutting the Scottish rain can be, especially as its coming in horizontally and feels like its piercing every bit of your skin, so layering is a must.
Mid layers, like the Woman’s Fury Hooded Fleece Jacket are a great piece of kit for this. However I often find mid layers are the first piece of kit to get worn or tatty looking quite quickly, this is due to it being the one piece of kit I’m constantly taking off and putting back on again, with it either getting stuffed into my rucksack again, before getting pulled back out quickly in order to keep up with the changeable weather in the Scottish highlands.
Thankfully one of the key features of the Fury Hooded Fleece is the thermo stretch fabric, meaning its built for durable performance, and is abrasion resistance, making it the perfect mid layer, and perfect for throwing in and out your bag.
Other essentials for your hike
Finally I have to mention the Ineo XT Pants. I have been a fan of the Ineo Lite Legging Pants for years, and in fairness I don’t wear anything else when I’m out and about. I wear them running, hiking, trail running, Munro bagging and everything in between, but the Ineo XT are the perfect transition for autumn/winter. Putting them on is like a warm hug on your legs. Perfect for the colder weather or if you’re planning a bigger day up in the mountains.
Apart from clothing there are so many other essentials to have with you when hiking in Scotland in Autumn/winter. You not only need to be prepared for the changeable weather, but you need to be prepared for the shorter days, and the biting cold. It’s not all bad though, it also means no more midges!!
A few items that I always have with me are:
- Gloves. I get really cold hands, which is made worse by the really wet cold in Scotland, so I often pack at least 2 pairs, (sometimes 3), one tends to be a thinner pair with my 2nd pair being my Montane Prism Glove and if its super cold, then I pack a sturdy ski mitt. I also pack a pair of hand warmers, and on the colder days, when I know its going to be particularly cold up high, I pop the hand warmers in my gloves or mitts in my bag at the start, so they are nice and cosy when I need them.
- Beanie/Bobble hat. One of these permanently lives in my bag over autumn/winter. Nothing worse than losing all that lovely heat through your head, that you’ve created with all your layering. Plus it always helps to keep the wee ears warm.
- Emergency bivvy bag. It takes up no space at all in my bag, but I wouldn’t go up a hill without it. It packs down super small, is extremely lightweight, but could literally save my life if something were to go wrong in the mountains.
- Head torch. I have a smaller, more lightweight one for when the days are getting shorter and a brighter torch for the depths of winter. Coming down in the dark is nothing to be worried about, providing you’re prepared and have a plan.
- Small bag for rubbish. If you take it with you, then take it back out again. If I use tissues then they go in my bag and come back home with me. That includes orange peel, banana peels and excess food. It doesn’t belong outside, so take it home.
How to Hike Scotland this Autumn
For more Scottish hiking essentials, discover our Versatile Essentials collection to get started, including options for men and women. Keen to take on a Scottish adventure for yourself in the coming months? Discover Bee’s favourite munros so far to get started.