Winter deer stalking in Scotland – what to wear
I was lucky enough to be recently invited to join a group of friends stalking in Sutherland in the Scottish Highlands. It was the perfect opportunity to get away from it all in January after a busy Christmas and take on a new challenge, while taking some serious exercise on this awesome 96,000 acre estate in some of the most beautiful and challenging scenery I have ever been in.
It was also a fantastic chance to test some of the amazing products that we sell at ArdMoor and to take some photos of the breathtaking landscape.
As this was my first time stalking and having never been on the mountains of Scotland in January, I was very apprehensive about what to wear and what equipment to take to ensure I stayed warm, dry and silent with comfortable feet to get the most out of my experience. Needless to say I packed far too much stuff!
I have lived in Scotland all my life and know how challenging and changeable the weather can be particularly in the north west of Scotland. Investing in the right gear can be a life saver so I did some research and chose the best clothing that I could afford.
Working for ArdMoor allows us to try out lots of different brands and we can only offer expert advice if we too are passionate about being outside, so I was keen to try some new kit whilst putting some older products through their paces.
A jacket for all seasons in one day
I had the opportunity to test the prototype of Ridgeline’s forthcoming Ladies Monsoon Classic Smock, which was the perfect colour to blend in to the landscape and stay invisible to the deer.
Lightweight and totally waterproof & breathable, I loved it! The hood was perfect, with its stiffened peak keeping the driving sleet and wind at bay. I was able to cover up totally and stayed warm and dry in some pretty severe conditions including crawling through peat hags, burns and sphagnum moss.
The ladies’ version of the Monsoon Classic Smock is due for Autumn/Winter 2020, but you can find the men’s version here.
At the end of each day we put our kit in a drying room and I was delighted that everything dried out and was ready for the next day’s adventures.
What to wear on your feet?
Footwear is key to a successful & enjoyable trip. If your feet are sore and wet, it’s game over for the rest of the week as you nurse blisters, aches and pains.
Boots needs to be waterproof and strong with a great outer sole to ensure great traction and plenty of support around your ankles to help protect them on uneven ground.
I wore the Aigle Altavio leather lace-up boots, which were exceptionally comfortable with great grip, shock absorbency and amazing ankle support.
It’s always worth going up half a size to allow your feet to expand when they get hot hiking and to also stop your big toe ramming into the front of the boot on the downhill sections.
I also wore Aclima Warm Wool merino socks which were so comfortable and worked well with my walking boots and my feet stayed warm, dry and unblemished despite covering about 12 miles every day.
Trousers & Gaiters
I wore the Harkila Freja Lady Trousers with a Gore-Tex waterproof membrane which were so comfortable it felt like I was wearing pyjamas, and they did not let me down. It was as easy to hike up steep rock faces as it was to crawl through wet muddy peatbogs. The Freja trousers also have zipped ventilation in the thighs which were great to cool down!
Under all that I had several Merino wool base layers which worked a treat and despite a serious amount of effort remained odour free fresh and dry.
I found I didn’t need any gaiters, as the Harkila trousers have an adjustable hem which I tightened around my boots to keep out the grassy mud, stones and water.
What Equipment to Take Stalking
The stalker gave a me a well-used and much-loved walking stick which became my new best friend. I wouldn’t have stayed upright without it. It didn’t take long for the stick to feel very normal when traversing across the hillside.
I also took a waterproof backpack with my spare gloves, my camera, an extra layer, a spare pair of socks and of course my lunch.
Other things I wished I had taken!
Other than my own stick, I wish I had taken a pair of binoculars so that I wasn’t reliant on borrowing pairs from friends or from the stalkers themselves.
The stalkers all had “lone working alarm systems” in case of a problem on the hill (there was no mobile reception at all) and they were also radioed up so we would have had two means of making contact in the event of an emergency as we were literally miles from the nearest road.