What to Wear: Scottish Highlands edition

You’re visiting the Scottish Highlands in spring/summer — lucky you — and you’re wondering what to pack. Let me help you out here.

Two words: rain gear.

I just got back from Islay, a beautiful island in the Hebrides and, boy, was I glad I took my L.L. Bean rain pants. The weather wasn’t particularly cold but it rained like crazy and not dainty, I’ll just pop open my designer umbrella type of rain, either. Also: wind.

Here’s what worked for me:

North Face Hyvent Parka

IMG_6488This jacket, which I got a few years ago, is good in that it looks reasonably dressy for rain gear and can be worn in the city without screaming tourist. However, although it is waterproof I have got to tell you it does not compare to the L.L. Bean H2Off rainwear. It’s quite a bit more expensive, too. I wore this walking around in the rain for about four hours and when I was done it was rather damp on the outside. My H2Off raincoat (which I didn’t take on this trip because it’s ankle-length) comes out bone dry if you just give it a shake at the door. If I go rain-hiking again I’ll buy a Bean H2Off parka.

L.L. Bean Trail Model Rain Pants

rain pants

Not the most stylish item I have ever donned but performance wise could not be better. They were also perfect for keeping my limbs nice and warm even when the wind was blowing so hard we were bent double. (I’m the weird kind of person who likes that kind of thing better than broiling on a crowded beach.)

Uniqlo Ultra Light Down jacket

goods_55_133103Rolls up into a tiny pouch, weighs next to nothing. I stuck this in my day pack and pulled it out any time I felt a bit chilly to layer under the parka. I also wore it alone on sunny days — yes there were some — which was nice because you can get really sick of wearing the same jacket every darn day. Bonus: doubles as small pillow on the plane.

J Crew Chelsea rain boots

rain boots

This particular model has sold out but any comfortable ankle length rubber boot should do the trick. I find the knee-length boots hard to walk in, but if you don’t, you can save space by just buying gaiters to cover your knees and dispensing with the rain pants. If you are doing heavy-duty hiking and going later in the year I would go with a waterproof hiking boot. My problem was that I had to dress for the country and the city and, as always, was limited to a roll-aboard and backpack.

Underneath my rainwear I wore jeans or cords with a touch of Spandex, blessed, blessed Spandex, paired with fairly thin cotton sweaters and scarves. If I were going later in the summer I’d switch the sweaters out for T-shirts and cardigans/hoodies to be able to peel all the way down in the hottest part of the day. I would say capri hiking pants would be OK at the height of summer, but please, please do not wear those zip-off pants-shorts combos.

I’m begging you.

There was a formal dinner on my itinerary for which I took my fancy skirt, but to be honest, I would have been just as well off with my black knit dress and a nice necklace and could have saved myself the space and ironing hassle.

Still, all in all, a successful pack!

Cheers, sartorially.