Hillwalking is a highly rewarding, and cheap outdoor pursuit to get into. However, the Scottish highlands are a harsh environment and you are often a long way from help. It is therefore essential that you have a certain amount of equipment for both yourself and the group to be safe.

Many of you will already have the equipment you need to start. For those that don’t, the main items you need are a decent pair of walking boots and waterproofs.  If you are unsure about anything, don’t hesitate to come and speak to us at one of our regular socials. We’d be more than happy to help you!

The outdoor shops in Edinburgh often hold discount nights where you can find some fantastic deals on good quality equipment. Keep your eyes open for them. We will announce them on the website, mailing list and social media. Some outdoor shops also provide equipment hire. This is a very cost effective way of trying out hillwalking, before you commit to buying a shiny new pair of boots.

Essential Equipment

The following list of equipment is the minimum personal equipment you need to bring on any hillwalking trip. If you turn up without anything on this list we will turn you away:

  • Proper walking boots. Trainers or shoes without ankle support and good grip are NOT ALLOWED. See below for more details about boots.
  • Thick walking socks
  • Waterproof jacket with a hood. See below for more details.
  • Waterproof over-trousers. See below for more details.
  • Cotton-free trekking trousers, tracksters, breeches or track-suit bottoms. Jeans or Cords are NOT ALLOWED.
  • A baselayer (T-shirts) made from synthetic fabric or wool. Avoid cotton as it holds onto moisture from sweat and will cool you down. Wicking baselayers will help keep you dry.
  • Midlayers of fleece or woollen jumpers. Bring more layers than you think you need. Multiple thin layers are better than one thick one as the air in between traps heat and you can regulate your temperature by adding or removing layers.
  • Multiple pair of warm gloves (preferably a pair of waterproof gloves)
  • Wool or fleece hat and/or balaclava
  • High-energy food.More than you think is needed.
  • Rucksack with a waterproof liner or plastic bag to keep your clothes dry
  • Water bottle or flask. At least 2 litres, and more in summer.
  • Whistle to attract attention in an emergency
  • Headtorch for when it gets dark or in case you are on the hill for longer than planned
  • Survival bag to keep warm and dry if you are in an emergency situation. The large orange variety cost about £2.
  • Personal first aid kit. Plasters or Compeed are very useful in case of blisters. Duct tape always comes in useful.

Optional equipment

This a list of equipment that is not essential but will make your time in the hill much more satisfying:

  • Map. We usually use 1:50,000 Ordnance Survey Landranger maps. The club has a good collection but not always enough so if you have your own please bring them along!
  • Map case. The highlands are very wet, so something to keep your paper map dry is essential. Ortlieb map cases are the best – they are 100% waterproof, last a lifetime and make a handy seat when the ground is wet!
  • Compass. The club has compasses you can borrow, but not always enough. If you want to organise a walk you will probably need to have your own. A Silva Type IV is a good investment if you would like to learn to navigate.
  • Gaiters. They fit around your shins and keep rain, snow, mud and bits of heather out of your boots. They also keep your trousers clean for the pub afterwards!
  • Walking poles. These save your knees on steep descents and are handy for river crossings. But make sure you can put them away if you need to use an ice axe in winter. Walking poles should also have pole end caps for environmental conservation reasons.
  • Camera. How can you prove you’ve climbed a mountain unless you’ve taken a group shot on the summit? Not to mention all those beautiful views to capture…

Winter Equipment

Scottish winters (roughly November through to April) can be particularly harsh, with snow and ice encountered on most walks. Just because the mountains in Scotland rarely exceed 4000ft, do not underestimate how bad the weather conditions can be – temperatures as low as   -27.2 °C have been recorded in the Cairngorms! However, winter walking is extremely fun and rewarding, providing you have the necessary equipment. If you come on a trip in winter without the necessary kit, you will not be allowed to come on a walk!

Ice axe and crampons are essential in winter to provide additional traction on slopes with hard snow or ice. An ice axe is primarily used as a third point of contact with the hill, to improve stability. It can also be used to stop a slide. Crampons are spikes that attach to the underside of your boot, and provide additional traction on hard snow and ice.

The club provides ice axes and crampons, so you don’t need to buy your own. Using ice axe and crampons effectively is a skill which takes time to develop. Our experienced club members will help you learn how to use these items, but the best way to learn is to go on a professional training course subsidized by the club.

Crampons will only fit stiff soled boots, so stiff soled boots are essential in winter. ‘Stiff soled’ means that you cannot bend the sole easily in your hands. If your boots are too bendy you will struggle to create secure footsteps and your crampons could fall off. If you are not sure if your boots are stiff enough, please bring them to our regular pub meet and ask someone to check.

Besides stiff soled boots, ice axe and crampons, there are several other items that are lifesavers in sub-zero temperatures:

  • Flask with hot drink. Water can freeze on a cold day, especially in the pipes of hydration pouches! Hot juice is better than tea or coffee as they will dehydrate you.
  • Extra food (such as chocolate, nuts and sweets) as you use a lot more energy staying warm in the winter
  • Extra layers of warm clothing. Always add a layer or two when you stop to eat or drink to avoid getting cold. A close fitting non-cotton base layer, a few light breathable mid layers and a good waterproof outer layer are what you want to aim for, if you get cold it’s not only uncomfortable but dangerous so think carefully when packing!
  • Gaiters. Although these optional in summer, they are essential in winter when there is deep snow. Without these, your boots will fill up with snow.
  • Spare woolly hat or balaclava. Keeping your head warm is important, so bring a spare hat in case one blows away.
  • Good quality warm gloves and spare gloves. Cold hands can lead to hypothermia and frostbite. Gloves are easily lost, so a spare pair is essential.
  • Ski goggles and/or sunglasses. Bright sunshine reflected by snow can cause snowblindness so tinted glasses or goggles are useful. In high winds, having snow and ice blasted into your eyes is very painful – so snow goggles are essential in winter.

Further details and advice

Walking Boots

Walking boots must have good ankle support to prevent strains and have strong uppers to protect your feet from stubs and scrapes. They must have good soles to provide a grip on rough and slippery surfaces.


Trail or approach shoes (which lack the ankle support offered by walking boots) are unsafe on the terrain we frequently encounter and are NOT ALLOWED on trips. Doc Martens, Timberland, CAT or other fashion or safety boots provide no grip on wet rocks and grass, snow or ice, and don’t have proper ankle support. These are NOT ALLOWED on trips. If you come on a trip without proper footwear, we will refuse to take you on a walk due to the risk it poses to your safety and the safety of the group.

With these criteria in mind, you need to find a pair of boots that actually fit you – at least if you want walking to be a pleasant, blister-free experience! If it’s your first pair, go to a specialist shop with a good range of boots and spend a some time trying on lots of different models. Wear your new boots indoors before you commit. Leather boots may need to be broken in so start by going up some smaller hills such as Arthur’s Seat or the Pentland hills near Edinburgh.

If you don’t want to buy walking boots, you can hire them from the Leith branch of Tiso. As a member of the club you can hire them for a discounted rate of £5 per weekend (usually £10 per weekend). Please phone them to check they have them in stock and bring along your EUHWC membership card.


A waterproof jacket with a hood and trousers are essential. They must be taken on every walk even if it is sunny when you set out as Scotland’s weather is extremely changeable! The weather in Scotland can be very wet. If you get wet on a walk you will get cold quickly and, in poor conditions, could be in danger of hypothermia.

A quality jacket with a breathable membrane (such as Gore-Tex or eVent) are not only waterproof and windproof, but the breathability means sweat can evaporate which will keep you even dryer. However, as a minimum, a completely waterproof cagoule is sufficient.

Showerproof or water-repellent jackets are NOT ALLOWED as they will leak in prolonged rainfall. Cycling capes or ponchos are also NOT ALLOWED because they are dangerous in strong winds. You don’t want to turn yourself into a kite…


What you eat on a walk is very important. You will use a lot of energy so you need to have plenty of high-energy foods with you. Take a mix of slow-release carbohydrates (such as sandwiches, nuts and cereal bars) and fast energy foods (such as chocolate, cake, dried fruit and sweets). Bear in mind that walks can last for anything between 5 and 12 hours. Depending on the intensity and length of the walk, you will use anywhere from 1000 to 3000 calories in addition to your usual daily expenditure It is best to eat frequently. You will probably not be stopping for a long picnic.


You will need at least 1 litre of water or juice (2-3 litres in summer). Even though Scotland can be very wet, there may not be a drinkable water source from which you can refill your flask. It is also very satisfying to have a flask of tea, hot chocolate, hot juice or soup.

Why do I need stiff soled boots for walking in winter?

Stiff soles are essential when walking in snow, as you will often have to kick steps into hard snow or dig the edges of your boots into the slopes to gain a secure footing. Rounded heels are also no good because you can’t create a secure footing when descending. Don’t be fooled into thinking that stiff soled boots are only needed on steep slopes. Many slips and falls occur on relatively easy angled slopes on popular routes.

Stiff soles are also essential when using crampons (which are used when crossing hard snow or ice). If the soles of your boots are too bendy, the crampons can come off or even snap – which is very dangerous if on a steep icy slope.

Hiring gear from the Club

We have a lots of equipment in our gear room at the CSE gym and, as a member of the club, you can borrow any item for a club trip or for a private trip, as long as it doesn’t overlap with a club trip. Please get in touch with our Gear Secretary Esther Fletcher (estherhf@virginmedia.com).

Please specify:

  • What items you need
  • What days you will be using the gear
  • Whether you can get to the pub on the Tuesday before your trip to pick the gear up
  • Whether you can get to the pub on the Tuesday after to return the kit

Club kit available

  • Crampons – Grivel G10’s and Mont Rosa (Both C1)
  • Ice axes
  • Map cases and compasses
  • Maps – mainly 50,000’s but some 25,000’s and Harvey’s
  • Emergency shelters – 4 or 8 person
  • First aid kits
  • Books – including walk guides and winter skills guides

Outdoor Shops

There are lots of shops in and around Edinburgh, as well as many online retailers, where you can buy all the equipment you need to go hillwalking.


One of our club sponsors – all members receive a 15% discount off full priced items when using the code printed on their membership card (in any of their stores as well as online). They have a wide variety of reasonably priced kit catering for all abilities, and staff are knowledgeable and helpful if your not sure what you need. They have a great range of walking books and offer a free expert boot fitting service to make sure you get the right boots. Their Fort William shop also hires out winter boots and equipment for small fee – Contact the Edinburgh shop for more information.


Tiso are another of our club sponsors – all members can apply for a free ‘Outdoor Experience Card’ that gives a 10% discount (normally costs £20). They also run discount nights in the spring and autumn for all outdoor clubs.

They are the largest retailer of outdoors equipment in Scotland, with two large shops in Edinburgh. Their staff are very knowledgeable and helpful and they stock a wide range from professional kit and good quality basics. Their own brand is good quality and excellent value. They are also very good for climbing equipment and winter gear. Their boot fitting service is excellent.

The Leith branch also hires out boots.  As a member of the club you can hire them for a discounted rate of £15 per weekend (usually £20 per weekend). Please phone them to check they have them in stock, and bring along your EUHWC membership card.

  • 123 Rose Street, Edinburgh, EH2 3DT
  • 0131 225 9486
  • 41 Commercial Street, Edinburgh, EH6 6JD
  • 0131 554 0804


Another large chain (their original shop in Fort William has its own café and pub)! Nevisport have a habit of heavily discounting certain products, especially some of the top models of boots. They have a good selection of climbing, camping and walking gear, though stock is sometimes a bit thin. Come the winter they stock ice axes and crampons.

They give a 10% discount to all EUHWC members with an online code – contact one of EUHWC Committee to get the code.


A chain that does great gear for beginner walkers. They have a variety of outdoor equipment, and if you are just looking for basic waterproofs or base layers then you can find them there for a very reasonable price.

They give a 10% discount to all EUHWC members with an online code – contact one of EUHWC Committee to get the code. Trespass also donated a multitool as a prize from https://www.trespass.com/walking/accessories for the Club’s 30th Anniversary Scottish Mountain Rescue Fundraiser.

  • 27/29 Frederick Street, Edinburgh, EH2 2NF
  • 0131 225 7456
  • trespass.com

Go Outdoors

A large warehouse-style shop,  with just about every brand and item you could want. The staff generally know what they’re talking about too. However, the place is down by the waterfront, as long way from central Edinburgh.

Leith Army Stores

A great place to go for cheap, good-quality, hard wearing outdoor gear, especially camping kit; stocking lots of things the mainstream outdoor shops seem to overlook. A separate footwear shop next door is great for your first pair of boots but steer clear of the toecaps and Doc Martens.

Newington Army & Navy Store

A very small shop that’s far too easy to miss on the way home from uni. Not a huge range but it’s great for all the things you remember you’ve forgotten on the way home from town – bootlaces, hats, flasks, bottles, whistles, compasses etc.

  • 10 Clerk Street, Edinburgh, EH8 9HX
  • 0131 667 8963

Mountain Warehouse

A discount warehouse store, found on both Princes Street and the St James Centre. They offer heavy reductions on mid-range clothing and accessories, and if you’re very lucky you might find a good pair of boots much cheaper than elsewhere.

  • Unit 12, St James Centre, Edinburgh, EH1 3SR
  • 0131 669 9080
  • 126 Princes Street, Edinburgh, EH2 4AD
  • 0131 226 3183

Charity Shops

Edinburgh’s charity shops can be useful to source cheap yet good gear. They can be especially good for finding cheap insulation layers, hats, gloves and scarves, and occasionally a reasonable waterproof or pair of boots.

Second-hand Gear

A great way to get gear on a budget is by buying it second-hand! There are lots of Facebook groups you can join where people buy and sell it.