For the active traveler, any visit to the United Kingdom or Ireland should include a good long walk. The UK and Ireland have over 4,500 miles of national heritage trails such as the Hadrian’s Wall path, Offa’s Dyke and the West Highland Way. Not to mention thousands more miles of lesser known, but highly accessible trails all over the region. But you’ll need to pack carefully in order to support both hiking and sightseeing for a UK trip.
What follows is the ultimate active travel packing list for Ireland and the UK. It will cover you on the trail, on the road and in the cities. I used it to support a 3-week trip that included: a 4 day 40 mile hike on the Hadrian’s Wall path, several day hikes elsewhere in the UK, a roadtrip in Wales and sightseeing in Edinburgh, London, Dublin and Belfast.
This list assumes that you will have a larger bag and that you will hike with a day pack. You can stash your larger bag by either having it portaged from spot to spot or you can use a B&B/lodge as a base of operations for satellite day hikes. If you prefer to carry a light multi-day pack for the duration, check out my Camino de Santiago packing list.
(Some of the links below are affiliate links. This means that if you chose to purchase, I’ll get a small commission.)
Packing List for the UK & Ireland: Day Pack
The Pack Itself
- I have an day pack from REI. But a backpack is like a pair of pants, you should try a few on and see what fits. Features that I like include: 2 easy to reach water bottle holders, a large divided inner compartment, a smaller outer compartment with a bunch of little pockets, grab strap on top, chest compression straps and a thick (but not padded) waist strap. If your outing is in a rainy climate, make sure that it comes with a rain cover. Or you can buy an after-market cover here, or a poncho here. You can also check out this review of hiking packpacks.
Day Pack Core Items
- Safety items: compass, whistle, thermal blanket
- First aid items: small first aid kit incl: band-aids, first aid tape, 1x ace bandage, Compeed blister bandages
- Cleanliness items: pkg Kleenex, individual wet-wipes
- Remarkably handy items: small Swiss Army knife or the TSA-friendly Gerber Dime multi-tool, safety pin, carabiner, ziplock bags and a small roll of duct tape (handy for repairs, sealing food packaging and killing scorpions)
- Rain jacket like this one from REI. Look for a stow-able hood, chest pocket and pit zips
- Waterproof rain pants
- Light fleece cap
- Thin poly glove liners. I love this pair from Under Armour, they are light, warm and have little grippies on the fingertips that work with your phone’s touchscreen.
Protect yourself by getting trip insurance. It will help you in case of cancellation, theft and medical emergencies. Learn more here.
- Hiking boots. I’m currently sporting Montrail Gore-Tex boots. But I have also worn and liked Solomons.
- Hiking socks. I have blister prone feet and so prefer cushioned socks. I like the Fox River padded crew socks or the Thorlo padded walking socks
- Tragically practical hiking/travel pants. I have worn and liked these from Columbia. The nice thing about them is that you can also wear them for more urban settings on your trip. You can’t say that for convertible pants which are practical but look ridiculous anywhere off the trail
- Short sleeved performance fabric t-shirt. I have a dizzying selection from Under Armour, Mountain Hardwear and Solomon. Take a color that would not also look out of place for more urban parts of your trip
- Long sleeved performance mock-zip. Something like this one from Columbia. Much performance clothing is styled for some sort of boyishly figured rock climbing Goddess. The Land’s End clothing usually has a boxier cut and fits a real woman better
- Long sleeved light fleece like this one from Columbia. It packs down small, repels water and is warm without being too heavy
For the Hadrian’s Hike itinerary, I probably could have taken EITHER the long sleeve mock zip OR the fleece and been fine. But I did indeed wear both.
A word about rain. There’s lots of it in the UK and Ireland. GoreTex coats, shoes & day pack rain covers will only keep it out for so long. If it pours on you all day, you will get soaked through. So a word to the wise: triple protection for anything that you don’t want wet, like your camera or sandwich. If you’d like to travel with a bit more style, you can also check out this packing list for Europe in the autumn.
Ireland & UK Packing List: Big Bag
OK. That takes care of what pack for hiking. But what about clothes and gear for the the rest of your trip? This list includes the “hiking togs” and outwear mentioned above but not the daypack items.
- 1 pr jeans
- 1 pr stretchy something for hiking and lounging. These pants from Columbia function like yoga pants but they look nicer, don’t make your ass look huge and they have a zipper pocket and can also double as hiking pants.
- 1 pr black twill cotton pants.
- 1 skirt (weather dependent)
- 2 light sweaters
- 3 long sleeved t-shirts
- 1 tank top
- 3 short sleeved t-shirts
- 1 “cute” evening top
- 2 performance fabric t-shirts
- 1 long sleeve zip-mock performance shirt (like this one from Columbia)
- Underwear & Sleepwear
- 6 per underwear
- 6 bras (incl 1 sports bra)
- 3 pr hiking socks
- 3 pr other socks
- Sleeping t-shirt (above mentioned stretchy pants can double as bottoms if it’s cold)
- Optional misc whatnot
A word about laundry– every 4-5 days, I leave free time in the itinerary for doing laundry. Many B&Bs will do a load for you (for a fee) and most AirBnb hosts will let you use their facilities. But be aware that the European washer/dryers are smaller and more ‘energy efficient’ than US versions. This is code for ‘the dryer doesn’t work very well’. So leave time to hang things to dry the evening before.
- Hair: Small bottles of shampoo and conditioner. Comb. I like using Go Toobs for my liquids– they pack well and they don’t leak
- Body: 1x small body lotion, 1x small SPF face lotion
- Teeth: travel size toothpaste, toothbrush
- Medication: anti-inflammatories, your prescriptions
- Loveliness: mascara, liner, blush, 3 pr earrings
There are millions of different kinds of toiletry bags so use this guide to help you find the right one for you.
- I have Olympus OM-D EM1 Mark II and love it. I use the 12-100 lens and a 17mm wide angle. The focus is sharp (even in low light) and the whole kit is so small, that it fits easily into my purse.
- I don’t like to carry boxy camera cases. They don’t fit well into hiking daypacks and they are conspicuous thief magnets in urban settings. But I do want to protect my investment. So I use little home made bubble wrap pouches for my spare lenses. And I have purchased a set of these neoprene camera and lens case holders. The neoprene material is very water resistant (but not waterproof) and the light cushioning protects my gear.
- Spare camera battery and battery charger
- Lens cleaning kit including this Nikon lens cleaning pen, and a lens cleaning cloth
- 2 spare cards. My primary card is a 32G Sandisk , which is more than sufficient even for RAW photos. But I also carry three extra cards.
- Card reader for iPad/iPhone
- iPad Air 128G w/ charge cord and Anker wireless keyboard. The keyboard allows the iPad to function surprisingly well as a quasi-laptop. Sophisticated photo editing and long form blog posts are difficult on the iPad. But for quick photo editing, light blog work and social media, it’s great. Speaking of social media, you can follow my travels on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest & Twitter
- Unlocked iPhone, ear buds
- Chargers for the phone, iPad, camera and keyboard
- Electrical plug converter
- Eagle creek packing cube for cords and chargers
UK & Ireland Packing List: The Suitcase
- eBags’ Weekender Convertible. This mis-named bag is much more than a weekender bag, its a true travel backpack. In it’s expanded mode, it holds a remarkable amount of stuff. It has comfortable padded shoulder straps along with chest and waist straps for extra support. The external compartment will hold books and a coat even when the main compartment is full. There are those who swear by the Tortuga travel bag– and it looks like a great bag. But it’s designed for someone taller than my 5’4″ (1.6 meter) self and the eBags product fits me better. My husband also uses the same bag so we travel around looking like twins, which is cute, but dorky. Best use for this bag: If moving locations frequently, riding a lot of trains, humping over rough ground and cobblestones or for a 4 flight walk-up.
- Briggs & Riley domestic carry-on expandable wheelie bag. This bag is slightly larger than the travel backpack. Briggs & Riley makes very high quality bags, like Tumi or TravelPro but they are less well known. The bags are expensive but they are the last one you will ever buy because they have a crazy forever warranty which means that you’ll own the bag and get free repairs on it until you are too old to travel anymore. It’s more rigid construction can protect your stuff better. The expando convertible zipper will enlarge it to a medium-sized checked-bag but you can choose a bag without that feature and it will weigh a bit less. Best use for this bag: If your packing list is longer than the above, or your clothing bulkier. If you are moving around less, have smoother ground, suffer from back issues or if you plan on shopping and need more space to take stuff home. You can find this bag on eBags or directly from Briggs & Riley.
If you are having trouble deciding between a travel backpack and a wheelie bag, check out this guide.
- Many people swear by Eagle Creek packing cubes. And I do use them to organize my electronics cords and for some types of itineraries. But I also really love the Sea to Summit bags. They are a drybag stuff sack compression thing all rolled into one light little package. You can stuff in socks/underwear or fluffy items like fleece and squeeze them down really small. I have also tried the Eagle Creek plastic compression bags. They are great if you want to compress down really bulky items like puffy jackets. But the plastic itself is bulky. So they are better for a winter weather itinerary than for other seasons. All that said, and despite my well-traveled life to 36 countries and 34 US states, my packing organization is a constant work in progress.
For more hiking and outdoor adventures, check out
- 4-day best of Hadrian’s wall itinerary
- A visual tour of the history and beauty of the Hadrian’s Wall path.
- Walking the Camino de Santiago solo.
- Hiking the Jurassic coast in southwest England.
- Experiencing ice caving and glacier walks in Iceland in the winter.
- Skiing in Salt Lake City.