This North Coast 500 packing list covers the most essential items you’ll need to pack for this epic Scottish road trip. Even if you are not going to tackle it in a campervan, you can still adapt it to your packing needs.
Among the footwear, clothing and gadget must-haves, I’ve also included a few items that will help you make your rented campervan a cosy space.
Along with other tips and suggestions, you’ll find included the link to the official North Coast 500 route for your phone. Plus, a list of my top wild camping spots is in this post too. Save them one your map or put them in your notebook.
DisclosureBefore we start, I’d like to notify you, that some of the links in this post are affiliate links. This means that whenever you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you, I’ll earn a small commission. Thank you in advance.
The North Coast 500 Campervan Packing List – The Essentials
Let’s get you set up with the van essentials first.
Based on my experience of driving the North Coast 500 route in a van conversion, I’ve included a few practical and a few luxury (think hot chocolate) items.
These little things helped me (and Charlie) to have the ultimate road trip experience in the magical Scottish wilderness.
Map of Scotland | You’ll need a map of Scotland for your North Coast 500 road trip.
We used the Michelin Main Road Atlass (Great Britain & Ireland) to help us out when the signal was weak or non-existent. Here’s the newest version if you are planning your trip for 2020.
North Coast 500 Pro Tip: Before your trip, you will want to download the official North Coast 500 route on your smartphone. It can be a little clunky sometimes but is very useful. Here’s the link to the map. You can also mark all my favourite wild camping spots in advance. You’ll find them at the end of this post.
Reverse Camera | This gadget is essential if you are planning on tackling the North Coast 500 in a campervan/van conversion. Regardless of how experienced a driver you are, parking gets tricky in places. Especially if you are going to wild camp, which I highly recommend.
Cosy Hot Bottle | Yep, it can get that cold in the Scottish Highlands even in the summer. Pack a hot bottle for your NC500 trip. If you don’t have one at home, grab it here before it’s too late.
We did the North Coast 500 route in June and the temperatures dropped to +10 at night. That’s a pretty chilly night in a van.
If you can, spend a night at the top of Bealach Na’ Ba Pass. Wrapped in a cosy blanket.
When we ascended the twisty 626 metres high one-track road, it was pretty misty and we couldn’t see much. That’s why we stayed in Custard Cream, the van conversion, overnight.
At around 9 pm, the skies cleared revealing the magnificent panoramic views across the Applecross pass. It was epic.
Wool Blanket Throw | This is the second item after the hot bottle that I highly recommend adding to your North Coast 500 packing list.
If you are planning on renting a campervan, it will most likely have only the basic stuff. And only you can make your Scottish road trip cosy and memorable.
You’ll thank me for this tip when you’ll read a book cosily wrapped in a woolly blanket, with a glass of red or hot chocolate in hand.
And that brings me to another crucial packing item for your unforgettable Scottish road trip.
Bamboo Mugs | Bamboo mugs are such a great van item to have on the North Coast 500 route. Simply fill them up with tea, coffee or hot chocolate for the road.
They will help you stop your cafe brew cravings and keep the trip costs down. Plus, whenever you go for a walk along a misty beach, you can take a hot drink with you.
That’s exactly what Charlie and I did on our NC 500 trip: we filled the colourful mugs with hot chocolate and took them on our walks. The perfect road warmers.
Hot Chocolate | Hot chocolate is always a good idea. If you are planning on wild camping a lot, get one or two tubs of your favourite brand and have it handy. Maybe get a bag of marshmallows too.
Books or Kindle Reader | Yes, it’s a road trip but it’s a long road trip. And you will have evenings when you just want to chill out. And what a better way to relax than with a good book?
If you already have a Kindle reader, be sure to pack it. If not, maybe it’s time to invest in one. Check the prices here.
Honestly, Kindle reader was the item of the year for me. I’ve had it for a year now and still can’t stop admiring it. Each time I pick it up, I’m still amazed how convenient it is.
A Pen and a Notebook | Pack a pen and a notebook for this trip. When you are in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by incredible nature, you might want to put your thoughts on paper.
It’s also handy for noting down addresses, directions and places you want to see in case you lose signal. Which is very likely on the North Coast 500 route.
Levelling Blocks | Nearly forgot to mention these. Make sure you remember to pack them! Trust me when I say that this pair will make your NC 500 route experience in a van a luxury.
Wild camping means the uneven surface and your van leaning sideways. Not much fun – we’ve tested it on ourselves. Even at expensive campsites, you are not always guaranteed an even pitch.
If you are going to tour the North Coast 500 in your van conversion – get them today. You’ll thank me later.
If it’s a solid rental company, then you might have the blocks included. Our rental in Sicily didn’t.
Insulation Blinds | If you are planning to tackle the North Coast 500 route in your campervan/van conversion, this tip is for you.
Touring the Scottish wilderness can get very drafty and it will not always be possible to shield your van from the wind.
Investing in a set of internal insulation blinds is a smart move if you want to stay warm and cosy on the North Coast 500 route (and other road trips too). They’ll keep the wind and cold out and the warmth in. Or vice versa (except the wind).
Rented campervans might have them, depending on the model. But be sure to measure your windows (they come in different sizes) and get them for your van conversion. Check them out here.
A Quick Tip: In windy open areas, park your van with the front into the wind. That way the blinds will stop the wind coming into the van. Even if you don’t have the blinds, if possible, try parking the back of your van (where you sleep) away from the wind.
Gas Bottles | Another North Coast 500 packing tip is to stock up on gas bottles if you are going to rent a van.
They burn out quickly and you don’t want to be stuck in the remote corners of the Scottish highlands without a hot drink.
Otherwise, if you are building your van conversion, get a gasman to install the LPG bottle. We have the yellow 11 kg Gaslow LPG bottle and it works great. Plus, it’s so much cheaper than buying the camping gas bottle.
If your van has an LPG bottle installed, use the park4nigh app to find petrol stations with LPG gas. They are hard to find in Scotland (and the rest of the UK).
North Coast 500 Packing List: Essential Clothing & Footwear Items
Regardless of the time of the year, Scotland gets cold and rainy within a blink of an eye. And to be honest, the highlands are pretty spectacular when covered in mist. There’s something magical about it.
The good thing is you have a whole campervan to pack your stuff. No need to worry about backpacks or suitcases. Hooray.
But don’t get carried away.
Less is more on this Scottish road trip. Only pack the tried and tested items. And don’t even think of buying new shoes that are going to rub your feet.
Short-Sleeve T-shirts | Layering is essential on the road. With the weather as unpredictable as in the Scottish highlands, lightweight t-shirts will be very handy.
A t-shirt underneath your windproof/waterproof gear will keep you prepared for those rare but possible sunny spells.
Woolly Jumpers | Even if you are going on the NC 500 road trip in the summer, pack one or two woolly jumpers to stay cosy in the van.
There will be lots of amazing and very windy viewpoints along the way. And even more epic sunsets to witness. Having something warm underneath will help to fight the cold.
Cosy jumpers will also keep you warm and fuzzy in the van on moody mornings and crisp evenings.
I got this hoodie specifically for the North Coast 500 trip. It kept me warm on many occasions.
Hiking Jumpers | On those days, when it’s not raining, you’ll want to walk along a remote beach wearing something less heavy-duty than a rainproof jacket.
A soft and comfortable jumper will do in this case. I got this one from an outdoor outlet and love it. It’s lightweight, feels very soft and looks flattering. A great item to have for your North Coast 500 packing list.
Yoga Pants | You might want to do some yoga on this trip too, but I am recommending these super comfy yoga pants for hiking.
They seem to be semi water repellent therefore great for rainy days. And if they get wet, they dry super quickly.
I wore them throughout this Scottish road trip and couldn’t be happier. Honestly, this is the best pair of yoga pants I’ve ever owned.
Hiking Trousers | Not keen on the idea of hiking in your yoga pants? That’s fine. Pack comfortable trousers. Preferably waterproof and lightweight.
Jeans | You’ll mostly see people dressed in their hiking gear throughout the North Coast 500 road trip. But you might as well have a pair of jeans packed for exploring.
Aside from the amazing scenery, there are many fab detours you’ll want to make and places to visit. And let’s be honest, exploring towns in a pair of jeans and a tee feels nicer than in muddy hiking gear.
Waterproof Jacket | This is another must-have item for the North Coast 500 road trip. It doesn’t have to be extra warm if you are planning the road trip in the summer.
Something lightweight and waterproof like Regatta jacket will do. These jackets also look pretty stylish with jeans.
You might need to look for something a little more substantial if you are thinking of road tripping in the winter months.
For great ideas where to go and what to see, check out this detailed North Coast 500 itinerary + tips for Campervans.
Cosy Socks | Pack a couple of pairs of warm and soft socks for cooler evenings in the van.
Hiking Socks | Hiking socks are essential if you are planning on doing a lot of hiking. They’ll help prevent blisters and no one needs them on a road trip as amazing as the NC500.
Pack a few pairs. At one point or another, you’ll get them wet. And having a dry pair of hiking socks is a lifesaver. I had to wring mine out after a very rainy hike to the remote Sandalwood beach.
Hiking/Walking Boots | Don’t leave without a pair of waterproof shoes or else you’ll have to get them on the road.
To be fair, there are plenty of outdoor shops in the towns along the North Coast 500 route, but you’ll be paying a premium.
Trainers | Your walking/hiking boots will get muddy. That’s why I recommend packing a pair of trainers. You won’t always be trekking in the mud.
There are so many cute little towns, castles, beautiful gardens and distilleries that don’t require hiking boots.
Flip Flops | Whether you are going to wild camp or stay at campsites along the Scottish 66 route, remember to bring your flip flops along.
Mainly because you’ll need them for showers. Unless you are going to stay in a hotel. But why would you when you have a campervan.
Underwear | This is a no brainer, but in case you are putting together a North Coast 500 packing checklist, add it in.
How many should you take? It depends on how long you are going to spend on the road. Also, bring less if you don’t mind handwashing your undies.
Most of the campsites will have a washer and a dryer if you are planning to stay longer on the route.
Swimwear | There are plenty of beautiful wild beaches in the Scottish highlands. I know, right. I never thought Scotland has so many hidden gems.
It does and they are gorgeous. Pack your swimwear, just in case.
A Woolly Hat | I am not joking. When you reach the Bealach Na’ Ba Pass summit, you might need a warm hat. And even gloves.
It was freezing up there in June.
It’s an amazing place to explore just be mindful of traffic and look where you are going. It’s also best not to hike in the fog and mist as you won’t be able to see the path.
Sunglasses | Pack your favourite pair of sunglasses. Because you never know when the sun comes out in the Scottish wilderness.
Backpack + Waterproof Cover | Last but not last packing item for your North Coast 500 trip is a sturdy backpack.
You don’t need anything too elaborate, but if you want an item that will last, I can recommend Osprey backpacks.
They are super durable, comfy and look nice and have an integrated rain cover. That’s exactly what you need for exploring rainy but magical Scottish highlands.
If you already have a backpack, be sure to get a rain cover in advance. And take it with you all the time. Even on a sunny day.
There’s nothing worse than worrying about your precious camera getting wet in an unprotected backpack (true story).
Quick Backpack Tip: Are you going on the North Coast 500 trip in a car and are looking for a good backpack? Then I recommend the 40 l Osprey Backpack. I travel light all the time and this backpack has been irreplaceable. It opens up like a suitcase so you can keep your stuff neat and tidy.
What Gadgets Should You Pack for the Scottish 66 Route?
The views in the Scottish Highlands are out of this world. On this trip, you’ll come across so many wild and unspoiled beaches, high viewpoints and, of course, the shabby Heilan’ Coos – the Scottish sweethearts.
And you’ll want to freeze these amazing moments with something a little more sophisticated than just your phone.
Camera | For smooth close up shots, I use my trusted Canon combined with 50 mm lens. And for those distant and dramatic landscapes, I switch to my Sony RX100 Mark III mirrorless camera.
This is an ideal camera if you are a beginner but still want to bring home impressive shots from the Scottish Highlands.
I love this camera when I need to grab quick shots on the go. It’s incredibly sturdy and takes stable shots when moving fast. When I have time on my hands, I’ll mount it on my tripod and take crystal-clear shots using the timer.
Check out my resources page for more info about my favourite photography gadgets.
Camera Memory Cards | Pack at least 2 memory cards. I like having an extra memory card in case one of them goes bust. Or, more likely, fill up, while far away from the van.
Tripod | Don’t risk bringing back blurry shots. There will be sunsets and sunrises and the scenery to die for on this incredible Scottish road trip. And you’ll need something to steady your camera on.
Bring your tripod with you and if you don’t have one, get this basic and very affordable tripod before your trip.
It’s easy to set up and fits effortlessly in a day bag. Perfect for hikes as it’s super lightweight.
Solar Battery | One thing you need to check when renting a campervan for your North Coast 500 trip is whether it has a substantial solar panel. This way you’ll be able to charge your mobile devices in the wilderness.
Otherwise, pack a good charger with you like this portable power bank.
Chargers | Gather all the chargers you can think of: a camera charger, phone charger, Kindle charger, laptop charger. Pack them neatly.
Packing Toiletries for One of the Most Beautiful Road Trips in Europe
Skincare | If you’ve never done a road trip or wild camped in a campervan before, I recommend the hot cloth technique. It will keep your skin clean and fresh.
To remove makeup and road dust, you can use oils and muslin cloth. The way it works is you massage the oil into your skin and remove it with the cloth soaked in warm water. Easy.
If oils don’t sound appealing, Liz Earle has the perfect duo for keeping your skin clear on the road. It includes a cleansing cream and a muslin cloth. The cream gets all the dirt out while the hot cloth polishes your skin. Spa effect in a van.
The Usuals | You don’t need anything special in your toiletries bag. Just pack your usual stuff: shampoo, shower gel, face cream etc.
Minimalist Tip: If you want to be super minimalist, forget about the shower gel. Use shampoo to wash your hair and body instead. If it’s good for your scalp, why wouldn’t it be good for the rest of the body? Plus, the ingredients in both shampoo and shower gel are nearly identical.
Toiletries Bag | One thing you want to include in your North Coast 500 packing list is a wash bag. Especially if you are planning on staying at campsites.
It’s just more comfortable to have everything in one place. Plus, many showers at campsites have very little space for toiletries. And anyway, a cute wash bag is fun to have.
Smidge Spray | Those pesky little creatures! They are everywhere in Scotland.
Midges are the most annoying in the evenings so be sure to pack an insect repellent. I recommend Smidge Spray, it saved our van from serious midge infestation. It wasn’t pretty.
The spray also helps for braving the outside world when taking sunset or sunrise photos.
My Top 9 Wild Camping Spots on the North Coast 500 Route
Wild camping is one of the best things about the North Coast 500 road trip in a campervan. It will, of course, be amazing even if you only stick to the main route.
But, detours are what make this trip unforgettable.
And most of the detours we took, had incredible wild camping spots. These are my favourites.
Bealach Na’ Ba Summit | As I mentioned earlier, this is a very cool spot to wild camp on the North Coast 500 route. You’ll find a relatively large car park at the summit but remember to pack warm clothes and a blanket.
Red Point Beach | Lovely wild camping spot far away from the main road. The beach is located between Applecross – Ullapool. You’ll have to take a detour to get there, but it’s worth it.
There’s a small carpark suitable for campervans, a few minutes away from the beach.
Achnahaird Beach | Between Ullapool and Durness, you’ll come across an amazing wild camping spot. The parking lot is minutes away from the unspoilt Achnahaird beach. We enjoy it so much we ended up spending two nights here.
Clashnessie Bay | Between Ullapool – Durness, you’ll find a few camping spots. There’s a very big campsite in Ullapool and a small carpark at Sandalwood Bay.
Sandalwood Bay is quite beautiful but requires a long detour and an even longer, 8-mile (both ways) hike to the beach. We didn’t stay overnight but filled up our water tanks there.
Clashnessie Bay and the B869 stretch road, on the other hand, was spectacular. There will be a few little spots to camp overnight. Just choose the one you like.
Dunnet Head & Noss Head | There are two heads between Durness – Wick. Both have large carparks where you can stay overnight.
Dunnet’s head gets busy with campervans as it’s a popular spot to spend a night. But it’s quiet at night.
I especially loved Noss Head. There’s a spooky 16th-century castle ruin that you can go explore. The wind was howling loud through the empty walls as I was taking pictures of the castle early in the morning. It was just me, my camera and the ghosts.
Hollandale Inn | You can stay overnight at the inn’s carpark if you buy food or drink here. We didn’t wild camp here but did enjoy their fresh and tasty Fish & Chips. This pub is also located en route Durness – Wick.
Littleferry beach | This is my top spot to wild camp between Wick – Inverness. This place is especially convenient if you are planning to visit the fairytale-like Dunrobin Castle.
Clootie Well – A tad spooky but a very peaceful spot near the legendary Clootie Well in the forest just outside of Inverness.
What other items are you going to pack for the epic North Coast 500 trip? Let me know in the comments below.