There is an old Scottish saying that goes, “There is no such thing as bad weather, only the wrong clothes”.
Which, after leaning on both sides of this argument, galavanting around nature in both the right and horribly wrong clothing, I can definitely tell you that having weather-defying clothing will take your trip from drab to fab with a couple of key elements.
Hmm, maybe those Scots were onto something…
Scotland’s weather tends to run on the milder side year-round, but you want to be prepared for spring, summer, fall, and winter because you can experience all four seasons in a day… It sounds a little daunting, but you’ll be prepped to take on the seasons after I take you through this packing guide.
This detailed Scotland packing list is going to take you through all the essentials you need to stay warm and dry in Scotland. There will be no rain or weather getting in the way of your adventures, whether you’re sipping on a fine latte in the city or roughing it out in the highlands.
This guide will give you confidence when thinking about what to wear in Scotland as you pack. Let’s get into it!
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With Scotland’s diverse landscapes, the weather will inevitably change with them. You can be bathing in sunlight at one moment, drive for twenty minutes, and be soaked from rainfall the next, so it’s important that you prepare yourself for those spontaneous weather changes.
Wind, rain, and elevation changes can take the temperature from ‘not too bad’ to ‘it’s frigid’.
Because Scotland is situated high in the Northern hemisphere, the wind is no joke and it’s going to make the weather seem a lot cooler than it is. If you’re a midwesterner like myself, you’re probably familiar with the phrase that goes something like, “you know it wouldn’t be so cold if it wasn’t so windy“, or something along those lines. Keep that stowed away in your repertoire because even if you don’t grasp it now, you definitely will once you arrive.
I recommend checking an accurate weather service before you pack and head out. Whenever I was traveling around Iceland, to my absolute delight I discovered that they don’t play around when it comes to the weather. Their app, YR, is the most reliable weather app I’ve ever used, even when I am back home in Texas and I can’t recommend it enough.
HEY! You’ll be stoked to know I have a full guide on the best time to visit Scotland with a month-by-month breakdown of the weather in each month. It’ll be very useful when choosing what to bring with you.
What To Pack Your Things In
One of the most important things you want to consider when wondering what to pack for Scotland is mobility. Most Scotland itineraries involve a lot of movement between cities and towns. Pack light and thank me later!
CARRY-ON-SIZED BACKPACK: I have used the same carry-on backpack since my first solo international trip to Bali in 2017 and that is my beloved Osprey Fairpoint 40L Backpack. This bag has been THROUGH IT. 6 years of travel and it still looks BRAND NEW. It opens like a suitcase and is the perfect size for any length of trip. If you tend to go heavy on the packing, this backpack comes in a larger, 55L version.
CARRY-ON SUITCASE: I’m not huge on the roller-bag life but if I were to recommend one, it would be this carry-on suitcase.
PACKING CUBES: Travel and packing cubes are like peanut butter and jelly. These are a universal staple in any and all types of travelers’ arsenal because they make organization and outfit selection a breeze. I try to whittle all my clothing options into these three cubes and it helps me save space and travel lighter.
TOILETRY, LAUNDRY, + SHOE BAG: Look. I never thought I would see the day when I became passionate about a toiletry bag, or any travel bag for that matter but excuse me while I stand on this little soapbox, *ahem*.
This toiletry bag by Tom Bihn is my field-tested and approved toiletry bag no matter if I am camping, backpacking, on a city break, or even doing something local like spending the night at a friend’s apartment. This bag comes with four refillable containers for creams, lotions, etc., a hook so you can hang this bag anywhere, and a durable design, unlike a lot of other bags *side eye*. I like to pack reusable silicone bottles for my shampoo and conditioner. After a trip, I wash this and it looks brand new!
One of the biggest game-changers for my travel set-up was a laundry bag. If you only use packing cubes, then you end up mixing your dirty and clean clothes together, so I use a laundry sack to keep organized. I also recommend bringing along a bag or some type of shoe bag so your dirty shoes don’t get all over your clothes. These seem frivolous, but they actually do wonders for keeping your bag clean and organized.
What To Wear In Scotland
MOISTURE-WICKING TOP & BOTTOMS
When people bring along shirts, I always feel like that is the #1 thing that is always overpacked, so to keep it on the simple side, I recommend packing three hiking tops, 1 pajama shirt, and two more casual t-shirts that you can pair easily with hiking gear or a more casual outfit. For me, these were just simple cotton tees that I bought from Alternative Apparel. On my trip, I only had two long sleeve hiking tops and I was really wishing that I had a third packed with me. For the most part, I mixed and matched everything, but I would use my Patagonia Capilene Lightweight Thermals as a base layer and then depending on how hot or cold it was, I would layer a t-shirt on top and then one of my sweaters. This way I could strip down if I needed to, but I was able to bundle up at the same time without getting too hot. For pajamas, I packed one or two tie-dye t-shirts for pajamas. I shower before I go to sleep, so I feel like my pj’s don’t really get dirty and I was just fine alternating between the two tops.
I don’t own a fleece zip-up, and this one that I am eyeing from Patagonia wasn’t in my travel budget after buying all my camping gear, so I chose to pack along a couple of sweaters to use in place of a fleece zip up. The only downside to this is that you can’t just zip them on and off, but other than that, they both do the same job, so if you have a fleece, bring it, but if not, pack some sweaters. Or both, you do you.
Jeans are a bit of a debated topic for a Scotland packing list since the country is so wet, but I got away with wearing them a couple of times throughout my trip. Personally, it didn’t rain too much while I was in Scotland. I got extremely lucky, but it might rain every day on your trip when you go and that’s kind of why these are an optional item. I think they’re a great option to “dress up” a little bit more and get a break from hiking gear, so I would take along a stretchy pair that you can move around in. Europeans tend to dress a whole lot more ‘done up’ than us Americans, so you’ll fit in a bit better with something as simple as jeans!
A lightweight scarf or sarong of some sort is more of an optional item for this Scotland packing list, but I found it to be really useful for my summer trip! It’s a great way to protect your neck from all the harsh winds and overcast rays, or to use it as a blanket in the car or on bus rides!
LIGHTWEIGHT RAIN JACKET
Your waterproof jacket is going to be the outermost layer that you’ll be wearing practically every day of your trip depending on what the weather looks like. Personally, I didn’t have my own raincoat/waterproof jacket, so I opted in for the stylish RAINS Classic Jacket. They’re high-quality rain jackets made out of England, I believe, so if you want something that photographs well and has a range of colors that aren’t too saturated, these are a great option. On the other side of the coin, you can also opt for a hiking-specific rain jacket like the Patagonia Torrentshell or the Northface Venture 2 Jacket. Both of these are great options to keep you dry!
WATERPROOF HIKING PANTS
If you don’t have a pair of waterproof hiking pants, trust me, you’re going to want a pair if you plan on doing some hiking. If you try and tough out the rain in leggings and/or jeans, you’ll be a soggy mess. I trust my Mountain Hardwear Stretch Ozonic Pants to keep me dry and since they run on the bigger side, I am able to wear leggings underneath and not feel like a sausage! I only brought along one pair of these pants since they were more of an outer shell than my actual pants so they actually stayed moderately clean for a huge portion of my trip.
You want to hug up your feet with wool since they are microbial, and stay fitted to your foot which aids in avoiding blisters. Cotton socks are quite infamous for causing blisters, so avoid those if possible. Scotland’s weather is known for being spontaneous, so you definitely want the moisture-wicking properties of wool on your feet. Darn Tough is a cherished brand of wool hiking socks by the outdoor community, but I personally ALWAYS hike in these!
Chances are if you’re visiting Scotland you’re going to be hitting up Edinburgh or Glasgow along the way, even if it’s only for one day. More than likely, that’s going to be either Glasgow or Edinburgh OR if you’re really getting off the beaten path, you’ll be in Aberdeen, but regardless, you want to pack a comfortable pair of walking shoes. Ideally, you’ll want this to match all of your outfits so a pair of timeless white sneakers like these are a great option or if you have a favorite pair of shoes that are comfortable to walk in all day works also. It depends on your personal style so just pack what you’re comfortable in. However, countries in Europe and the United Kingdom tend to dress ‘nicer’ so keep that in mind.
If there is one thing I am not a fan of, it’s soggy feet. I prefer my toes to not resemble a raisin or be chilly, so I rely on my KEEN Targhee III Hiking Boots to keep my feet dry, warm, and comfortable on hikes. I have put these bad boys through the wringer, stepped in multiple rivers, and they have consistently pulled through for me in volcanic, desert, and mountainous terrains. If you’re looking for a great pair of hiking boots that don’t cost $300, these are a great, water-resistant pair! They’re also lightweight and they come in different colors, so whatever your aesthetic is, they have a color to match!
Toiletries, Laundry, & Other Essentials
I am a very visual packer, so this will help give you a good overview of the basic essentials. I also sprinkle in some of my favorite recomendations if you’re looking to change things up. Also, don’t forget, all of these things are readily available in Scotland if you forget to pack them.
SHAMPOO & CONDITIONER: I like to pack my favorite hair products in these silicone tubes that are carry-on friendly.
CASTILE SOAP: I present to you the swiss army knives of soap, castile soap. This stuff cleans a n y t h i n g. Plus, a little goes a long way, even with your laundry!
MOISTURIZER: Those Scottish winds will dry out your skin with the quickness. This protective cream helps keep my skin moisturized and helps protect my skin from sun damage.
STAINLESS STEEL RAZOR: Why spend fifteen to twenty dollars a month on crappy plastic razors that suck after one use when you can buy a quality stainless steel razor that will last for the rest of your life? One caveat, you cannot bring the blades in a carry-on and they must be checked.
DEODORANT: I’ve tried probably every single eco-friendly deodorant on the planet, suffering through extreme BO in the process, so believe me when I say this natural deodorant is field-tested and actually works.
MENSTRUAL CUP: A menstrual cup has dramatically shifted the way that I travel. They’re not for everyone, but I love mine. I feel much cleaner, am taken care of for 12 hours, and I don’t have to worry about leaks.
TRAVEL TOWEL: This will come in handy in a variety of scenarios whether it be a makeshift napkin, surprise rain shower, strenuous hike, or dip in a loch. This microfiber towel folds up into a tiny square and dries almost instantly.
What To Pack To Stay Safe & Healthy
TRAVEL INSURANCE: I never go anywhere without travel insurance, so having this with me while I was wandering Scotland kept me feeling secure throughout my entire trip. Shit can really hit the fan at any moment, so don’t write it off your travel budget! My go-to for travel insurance, like many fellow travelers, is World Nomads! I rave about them on a lot of my other packing list and safety tips on my website, but check out the link below to learn more about travel insurance, why you need it, and why I recommend World Nomads.
TRAVEL CREDIT CARD
One of my favorite ways to save money for traveling is by using my Chase Sapphire Preferred Credit Card. Every purchase earns me points to use for booking future trips or cashback. The card comes with plenty of perks but what I am most grateful for when I travel are protection for trip cancellation and delay, flight interruption, lost luggage reimbursement, and car rental insurance. I wish I would have traveled with this card sooner because it has changed the way I travel! Earn free travel with the best travel credit cards!
One of the best ways I stay connected when traveling to other countries is with an unlocked smartphone. This just means that my cellphone isn’t tied to a specific cell provider, so I can use any SIM card on my phone. Normally there is a shop inside the airport where you can buy/set this up, but you’ll have to go to a shop in Edinburgh to get yours. These allow you to make calls and texts on local towers, so you can call the police if needed and still text your family and friends.
I always make sure that I have proper locks on my bags at all times, especially if I am staying in hostels. I can’t imagine what would happen if my camera gear or even clothing were stolen, so it’s my biggest priority to keep my things protected. My favorite locks are the ones that have a flexible bridge in them like these since you can connect multiple zippers together and manipulate them to fit wherever you need it to, and set your own code to unlock them. They’re awesome for travel and TSA approved for the airport!
REUSABLE WATER BOTTLE
I am a huge advocate for not paying for water when I travel. One, because it’s wasteful, and two, because I am cheap, so I always ALWAYS travel with a reusable water bottle. This will save you a ton of money over time and keep you hydrated whether you’re tackling the infamous Royal Mile in Edinburgh or hiking in the Isle of Skye.
The most important item that you should pack for Scotland is sun protection because the overcast may fool you into thinking you don’t need it, but trust me, you do. And this is coming from someone that got sunburnt on my trip in July one year. I recommend some type of baseball cap or a sun hat to protect your face, minimum SPF 30 sunscreen, and lip balm with SPF.
What To Pack To Stay Connected
In a perfect world, I could travel cell phoneless, with only a film camera in my bag, hanging onto each fleeting moment, but nowadays I have to run this blog and that comes with lugging around an obnoxiously heavy camera bag. You don’t need to have a bunch of different gadgets for this Scotland packing list, but here are some travel-friendly essentials I think you’ll want to bring with you.
The last thing you want to happen when you arrive in Scotland is to get to your hostel or guesthouse and not be able to plug in any of your electronics because you didn’t pack an adapter. Other countries and regions have different plugs, so you want to make sure your adapter is compatible and can handle the wattage differences. This universal adapter has always worked wonders for me and it keeps me covered no matter where I travel to.
My cellphone is one of the most important items on a packing list because it allows me to stay connected. However, when I am pulling up language translations, maps, travel documents, directions, email confirmations, etc., my battery tends to run out faster than I’d like, so an external battery is super important. When I travel, my phone feels like a safety net in some ways, so keeping it charged gives me peace of mind, especially as a solo female traveler.
I am one of those pretentious-looking people that travel with their overpriced Macbook, but I have to run my blog when I travel so that’s why this is necessary for me to lug it along, unfortunately. Looking down the road, I would love to get something a little lighter like a Chromebook. It weighs so much less and it’s way more under the radar than a shiny, and rather large, Apple computer. That apple logo is like a massive bat signal for “steal me”. Chromebooks are pretty inexpensive and kind of come with built-in theft protection because let’s be honest, who is going to steal a computer worth only like $200? Probably like two people.
When I am looking to pack for any trip, my camera is always the first thing on my packing list. These days, you don’t need a fancy camera by any means because the quality of smartphone cameras is kind of insane, but I am someone that enjoys photography, so I always bring my DSLR Camera. On a Scotland road trip, something small and lightweight is going to be your best friend, coming from someone that lugged around a 20-pound camera bag for ten days. The Canon G7 X is an amazing little camera for land adventures. I recommend a GoPro for any other adventures that require a more rugged camera.
Be sure to pack extra batteries, charging cables, lenses, and your favorite travel tripod!
WATERPROOF CAMERA BAG
My all-time favorite waterproof camera bag is this one by WANDRD. It’s won many awards for its design, specifically with travel in mind, sustainable business practices, and overall durability. It’s my main camera bag and fits all my necessary gear with absolute ease, while also protecting it from those classic downpours Scotland is known for.
If you’re heading to Scotland and you want some awesome photos without having to ask someone to take your picture, a wireless shutter is going to be your new favorite thing. This wireless shutter helps me take my own solo travel photos all around the world! I never go anywhere without it.
LOOKING FOR MORE SCOTLAND TRAVEL RESOURCES? CHECK THESE OUT AFTER THIS SCOTLAND PACKING LIST:
RESOURCES FOR VISITING EDINBURGH:
DO YOU HAVE ANY QUESTIONS ABOUT WHAT TO WEAR IN SCOTLAND? LET ME KNOW IN THE COMMENTS BELOW!
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