There’s nothing like being out on your own the wilderness – that feeling of isolation, surrounded by the nothing but the rugged beauty of nature. I can hardly begin to tell you just how beautiful Scotland’s Cairngorm national park is, but it can be really wild too: the weather can turn in a moment, and ‘four seasons in one day’ becomes more than just a catchy song lyric.
When you’re out for a multi-day hike you need everything to be light, but you also need it all to be reliable: there’s no popping back to the shops if something breaks.
I love this tent. It weighs in at just 1.45kg but is somehow plenty spacious enough for 2. I’ve used this tent in all kinds of conditions from a gale blowing near the top of Scafell Pike, to a starry night in the middle of the Sahara dessert. It’s freestanding which is great for beach camps, and can be erected without the flysheet, which makes it perfect for use in hot countries. It’s so small I can just cram it into a stuff sack, and attach the poles to the outside of my rucksack.
This is a piece of kit that I really should upgrade but I have so much attachment to it that I can’t bring myself to do so. You might wonder why I carry a tarp as well as a tent but I just feel it gives me so much added flexibility. There’s no way I would leave it off my my Scotland Hike Packing list.
When the weather turned nasty on the Great Moss plateau, we had nowhere to hide and the cold started to sap our energy levels. This tarp came to the rescue and provided us with shelter long enough to light the stove so we could get some food, and a hot drink, on board. I’ve modified it with with clipon eyelets and replaced the guy lines with 1.5mm dyneema cord to bring the weight down, but despite all that it still weighs in at a hefty 1kg.
I take sleeping mats very seriously because I often find it so hard to get off to sleep . For years I swore by my Thermarest Trail Pro mat (and still do), but the switch to an ultralight air mat was brought about by the need for something lighter and more packable.
650FP hydrophobic duck down – amazingly warm and comfortable. I use this with a liner to keep it fresh for longer.
- Comfort Temperature: -5
- Limit Temperature: -12
- Extreme Temperature: -31
I’ve had this pack for over 10 years and it has never let me down. After doing lots of research I’d almost resigned myself to spending £120 on a pack, only to come home to find a flyer for an Go-Outdoors (who I’d never heard of back then) on my doormat. This pack was £60 so both me and my best mate bought one.
Cook set: Micro burner combined with a heat exchanger pan set & windshield
Both the burner and the gas cartridge fit snugly inside the pan set. The heat exchanging grille on the bottom of the pan in combination with my homemade windshield means that the stove boils startlingly quickly, and as a result uses only tiny amounts of gas.
I used to shun walking poles but have discovered they are so useful for stabilising yourself in tricky situations – crossing streams, narrow paths, descending mountains – that I almost never leave them behind now. They’re also save you needing to carry poles for the tarp, which helps keep weight down.
- Survival tin
- Plastic cup
- Water can
- Purifier tablets
- First aid kit
- Swiss army knife
- Head torch
- Spare batteries for head torch and GPS
- Plastic Trowel and toilet paper
Merino wool is an amazing material, it’s warm and stays warm even when wet, it’s thin and light, quick-drying and doesn’t get smelly. If you only have space for one base layer make sure it’s merino.
Good warm, waterproof gloves are essential
This was very cheap and has been a good friend but it’s getting old and I’m the market for something a bit more purpose built. I love Rab’s insulated jackets but I just need to decide whether to opt for a hydrophobic down or synthetic fill.
A basic goretex hardshell but I really like that this jacket has a storm flap that buttons down over the zip.
My paclite goretex pants are incredibly light but unfortunately didn’t turn out to be very hardwearing. On their first outing I fell over on a sheet of Ice in the entrance to the Lord’s Rake and ripped some gaping holes in the seat. Clearly I need something stronger for my next trip.
I prefer Goretex ones though in snowy conditions even they sometimes let the wet in (which is why I always wear merino wool socks). The sole should be completely inflexible.
- Merino wool socks and underwear (+ clean pairs to sleep in)
- Zip-off trousers
- Wool jumper
We always prefer to use a map and compass for navigation but this is a great tool for backup when visibility is poor.
Cicerone guide to walking in the Cairngorms
The Cairngorms are pretty wild in parts and you’re often not following a marked path. This book was great for plotting our course in combination with the map.
Map: Ordnance Survey Explorer Map 403 (Cairn Gorm & Aviemore)
I spent ages researching the location of all the bothy’s in the Cairngorms and diligently highlighting each one on the map. I’m so glad I did after the horrendous day we had crossing the Great Moss. We hadn’t planned to stay in any bothies but we decided to extend our hike that day to the Ruigh Aiteachean bothy where we discovered a wood burner, an axe, and plenty of firewood.
I was really keen that we had plenty of energy for this trip – I think I aimed for about 2500 kcal/day. With hindsight we carried a bit too much but it was better to be safe than sorry.
- Breakfast: Porridge oats premixed with a little milk powder
- Snacks: Peanuts and flapjacks
- Lunch: Cheddars (biscuits), gruyere cheese, chorizo/salami.
- Dinner: ‘Adventure food’ dehydrated pouches (tried a few similar offerings and liked the taste of these the best)
- Morale: Chocolate
- Drink: Tea bags and milk powder (Peak milk is best if you can get it)
Full Scotland expedition blog:
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