Somebody once told me that "there is no such thing as bad weather, just poor choice of clothing". I don't necessarily agree with this; I mean a decent wardrobe isn't going to help you when you're getting battered by 100mph winds, perhaps that day it was just a bad choice to go hiking...should have gone to the pub.
Anyways, if you're going winter hiking in Scotland, one thing is guaranteed. The weather will impact your experience. Here's a quick blog about a few layers that have kept me somewhat comfortable in a whole range of crazy kung fu Scottish weather.
You want something snug and moisture wicking. I use merino wool but there's a huge variety of base layers available. The key thing is that they are close fitting, so they are able to move moisture (sweat) away from your body, eventually out through the rest of your layers.
I wear Odlo's Baselayer Pants and Supernatural's Merino Tee. Other great brands for merino wool clothing include Smartwool and Mons Royale.
You are looking to get fleeces/jackets that will trap warm air but allow that moisture to pass through. I wear a lightweight fleece which uses 'polartec's powergrid technology'. I cannot recommend this highly enough. On really cold days or slow paced days I opt for a synthetic insulator which has been with me through thick and thin.
I use a combination of fleeces but my favourite has to be The North Face power grid fleece. The new version is now called the 'futurefleece'. And my most used synthetic insulator is the Arcteryx Proton AR, this thing is simply outrageous.
It's an absolute necessity to have a jacket and trousers that are fully waterproof, windproof and breathable. Yes, you will get the odd dry day but waterproofs are essential for Scottish hiking. Fluctuating temperatures, quick changing weather and high winds are all good reasons to protect yourselves from the elements. It's definitely worth getting something that is breathable to allow all of that moisture, which if the rest of your layers are doing their job is vapour, to escape.
I have to admit I'm a Gortex kind of guy. It's just the only thing that I've found to keep out serious amounts of rain on those milder winter days and still be comfortable in the seriously harsh winds that we often get. I wear the Mountain Equipment Lhotse Jacket. This thing is bomber. I sometimes opt for a pair of Norrona Falketind Gor-tex pants, which are amazing, but I do like to have something super breathable on my legs so will occasionally wear Patagonia's Dirt Roamer Storm pants.
Hats and Gloves
You cannot underestimate the importance of a comfy hat and a good pair of gloves. Firstly, your head is your bodies temperature control room, so when it get's cold, your bodies going to follow. Vice versa, if you're getting too warm then removing the hat is also a great way to cool down. Look after your head!
Gloves. Gloves. Gloves. And more gloves. Gloves are so important and yet it doesn't even look like a real word anymore. Hmm. I'm sorry to say it, but you need more than one pair of gloves. Once your hands are cold you're going to struggle to do even the simplest of task, for example, zipping up your jacket. This can quickly develop into a big issue. What happens when the first pair of gloves are completely soaked? Bring a spare pair! The gloves that I use most are Mountain Equipment's G2 Alpine.
Different day, different kit.
What if it's a blue bird day? What if it's an absolute howler of a day?
Of course different conditions require different kit, but the most important thing is that you've got enough layers to stay warm for an extended period of time exposed to the weather. On those stunning days, I'm certainly not going to be waltzing around in full waterproofs; they just become a sweat box, no matter how breathable they are, but I will have them in my pack. On those baltic days I will have a few additional layers.
To use a sporting analogy. I guess you've just got to 'play the opposition that you face'.
Different person, different kit.
We are all uniquely and wonderfully made, so it makes sense that different kit is going to work better for some of us than it will for others. Whether it's down to sizing, preference, feel or aspirations we are all going to expect something slightly different from our kit. Therefore, its important for me to communicate that these are the layers that work well for me and they have certainly looked after me in some pretty harsh conditions but they won't be perfect for everyone.
Kit can be expensive.
I really believe that money should not be a barrier for anyone who wants to access the outdoors. Ultimately, however, safety has to be the most important factor and having the correct equipment does play a part. There are plenty of places now that you can purchase good quality equipment at a reasonable price. I'm thinking charity shops, facebook market place and ebay just to name a few. Be smart. Ask questions. Do a bit of research and you'll be on your way. One thing is certain though you can very quickly get an idea about the quality and ethos of a brand by checking reviews and asking people.
If you're looking to get out for an adventure but are not sure what to wear then please get in touch, I would love to have a chat about the kit that might work best for you.