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Scotland in May: Gear for the Cape Wrath Trail
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Matt F
(matt_f) - MLife
Scotland in May: Gear for the Cape Wrath Trail on 04/23/2011 11:40:08 MDT Print View

OK All - I'm excited for this one. A few days ago I booked a ticket to Edinburgh and am planning to spend 11-12 days on the Cape Wrath Trail (more of a route?) in northwest Scotland in late May. There are lots of pieces to the planning and preparation for this trip, but for now I'd like to talk about a few gear-related questions. I'll be doing a little travel along with this hike, and will be hiking with everything I travel with and vice versa. Help would be most appreciated!

I've got a few primary gear questions:

1) Shelter. I've got a Go-lite SL3 and a myog sil/momentum bivy that i'll add a mesh zip to. I believe this combo will keep me warm and dry and handle wind well enough, but the potential need to escape from midges has me thinking I should either acquire an inner bug tent or even switch to a Scarp 1 as a potentially better all-around choice for the conditions with lots of bug-free space. Thoughts?

2) Footwear. I hike in Montrail Hardrocks (the old version). I'm thinking of pairing these with goretex or thin neoprene socks as a way to keep my feet a bit drier without reverting to goretex trail runners or boots. I'm planning to bring ~14" high rab event gaiters because in wet, brushy conditions in New Zealand a few years back I appreciated the protection similar gaiters provided. I could be talked into bringing shorter gaiters as well, though. Is there any reason I should rethink this set-up?

3) Water. I'm thinking tablets, but have yet to hear if folks even treat all water sources in the Scottish high country. Insights? I've also got a steripen.

4) Maps. If anyone has a good solution for obtaining maps of the trail prior to arriving in Scotland, let me know. It seems the best option I've found so far is subscribing to the Ordnance Survey GetaMap service and printing them out my self. Am I missing a solution? I'm ordering North to the Cape (guide book) today.

These are my most pressing questions, and I'll post my travel/hiking gear list for Scotland some time soon.



Edited by matt_f on 04/23/2011 11:40:54 MDT.

Roger B
(rogerb) - MLife

Locale: Here and there
Re: Scotland in May: Gear for the Cape Wrath Trail on 04/23/2011 11:51:09 MDT Print View

Hi Matt

Have you listened to the set of podcasts at Outdoors Cape Wraith Trail

Scroll down

Edited by rogerb on 04/23/2011 11:51:49 MDT.

Daryl and Daryl
(lyrad1) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest, USA, Earth
Couple of comments on 04/23/2011 12:16:13 MDT Print View

My wife and I hiked the Highland Way in Scotland last fall. We stayed indoors and did not campt out. Couple of thoughts might apply to your hike.

(1) We had no midges but were warned about them. Mosquito net shelter would be a must, I believe, if midges are out.

(2) I would treat all water or get it from an indoor source. There are sheep everywhere.

(3) Your rain gear has to be wind proof. Umbrellas wouldn't work much of the time, for example.

(4) If it rains heavily you'll need a really good waterproof floor. Some of the campsites were like bogs.


Chris Townsend
(Christownsend) - MLife

Locale: Cairngorms National Park
Scotland in May: Gear for the Cape Wrath Trail on 04/23/2011 13:08:16 MDT Print View

Matt, the Scottish Highlands are my home country and I know the North West well.

In late May the first midges might be around but they might not be too bad. In calm weather I'd look for high level, exposed sites with a bit of a breeze. In case the midges were bad I'd use either the SL3 and inner bug tent or the Scarp 1. I've used both in the Highlands and they should be fine for keeping out wind and rain.

Footwear. It can be quite warm in late May. I find waterproof socks too hot then. At that time of year I just wear trail shoes and merino wool socks. I don't carry gaiters or waterproof socks. My feet often get wet but this doesn't bother me.

I don't treat water in Scotland and have never carried anything to do so.

I can't help with maps. Printing them out sounds good.

I presume you've come across the trail website -

I hope you have good weather. It's a fantastic trail and an amazing part of the Highlands.

Nick Bramhall

Locale: Scottish Highlands
Some answers to your Scottish questions on 04/23/2011 14:13:54 MDT Print View

Hi Matt, like Chris I spend my hiking time in the Scottish Highlands and am slowly gaining experience backpacking and wildcamping. To answer a few of your questions:

2) Footwear/Gaiters - I don't like gaiters very much and generally don't use them if I know there is a good path all the way (common on the more popular mountains). However, going off piste can mean heather and bog, and gaiters are really helpful here. Another thing to watch out for is the tick which are getting quite bad on the west coast. Gaiters can help protect you against these as their favourite haunts are tall undergrowth like ferns and bracken. For footwear, if you don't go with waterproof socks then make sure your trail shoes are quick-drying!

3) Water - like Chris I have never treated water in the Highlands. Obviously you drink from streams at your own risk but I think as long as you are sensible about taking it from high up, checking upstream first, and only taking from fast flowing water, then you shouldn't have a problem.

4) Maps - an alternative to the new OS Get A Map service is to register (free) with the Walk Highlands website ( which offers access to OS Maps (both 1:50,000 and 1:25,000). You might have to play around a little to get maps printed but you can definitely plot and view your own routes, as well as using the routes already available on the website. Another alternative is a subscription service through a website called Grough ( or you might look at proprietary mapping apps/software such as Memory Map or Viewranger.

I hope that is of some help to you. Good luck with your trip. I'm sure the Cape Wrath trail will be an amazing experience

Matt F
(matt_f) - MLife
very helpful on 04/24/2011 07:29:20 MDT Print View

Wow - you guys are fantastic. This is all really helpful.

Thanks for the links to the podcasts - I made it through part of the first one last night and I think they'll be a solid resource. I'm sold on either acquiring a bug tent for my SL3 or getting a Scarp. I'm strapped for time, so i've contacted Bear Paw WD regarding some options. They seem great to work with so far.

I'll have to experiment with some of the alternative mapping options. I should be able to find a solution with one of those sites. Also, I've not used gore tex socks before and now I'm thinking I'll just skip them all together. Money saved. However, one weakness of my Hardrocks is that there is quite a bit of fabric that doesn't necessarily dry as quickly as some alternatives.

Chris- I recently purchased the digital version of one of your guidebooks (titled something like Scotland: the World's Mountain Ranges). Anyway, the point is its pretty cool to be getting advice from 'the guy who wrote the book' here on BPL.