Cape Wrath Trail backpacking kit list

I thought I’d share my kit list that I took for the Cape Wrath trail earlier this year, and also some notes on what items of gear worked and what didn’t.

The walk took 15 days.  My pack came to 28lbs when fully packed and would vary depending on how much food we had eaten.  I found this comfortable and manageable for a heavy pack.  My pack itself is great.  I used to have a lightweight one by Golite that I took on a coast-to-coast backpack across Scotland a couple of years ago, but the trade-off between lightweight vs comfort did not suit me – I was in a lot of pain and ended up with bad weals on my hips and shoulders where it dug in.  The Osprey one is a little heavier because of more padding but so much more comfortable and I really don’t notice any difference in weight.

The silk sleeping bag liner is great too.  I used to get quite cold in just the sleeping bag but this has made a big difference.

I also love my Patagonia base layer.  This is super light, made from a mix of merino and polyester.  It wicks, doesn’t smell after continued use, is warm when it’s cold and cool when it’s hot (although I also wore a merino t shirt on top most days – I get cold easily and we didn’t get the warmest weather on the trip).

The Hi-tec Zuuk trainers were brilliant for river crossings, lighter than my crocs and not as bulky, and also acceptable to wear down the pub (unlike crocs 😉 )

The many pairs of gloves explanation – I have Raynaud’s syndrome which means my hands get cold and blue from a lack of circulation, and I need to have a layer system of gloves because there really is no one pair that helps stop an attack.  I have found though that the Pearl Izumi claw mitts are brilliant.  I bought them initially for cycling in cold weather and found my hands never got cold with them on, so they have now found their way into my walking kit.  They have just enough dexterity for me to be able to function zips and clasps etc due to the ‘claw’ design.  Since then I bought a cheap pair of thick fleece wrist warmers in one of those Himalayan clothing sales that pop up in village halls now and again.  These have been a bit of a revelation in keeping my circulation going and I now find I often don’t need gloves.

For food we had bought a new Jetboil and committed to only eating dehydrated food that required only boiling water.  This worked fine because we ate our tea in pubs or hotels where we could, to give us a break from the dehydrated stuff.  It meant water boiled in 2 minutes and we didn’t have to take extra pans or cooking gear.

Most of the gear I took was tried and tested beforehand and I knew worked great for me so there was very little that didn’t, but I’ve never been happy with my Asolo boots.  I stupidly got carried away reading the brilliant reviews and ordered a pair over the web.  I’ve had them for 3 years, and still got blisters and hot spots after continued use years later.  They also started leaking after a year.  They were quite grippy and good on rock but pretty useless in bog and muck, which makes up the bulk of Cape Wrath routes ground.  Maybe they just weren’t right for my feet.  I’ve since bought a pair of Meindl Burmas which have been absolutely brilliant and comfortable from the start – but this time I had a foot fitting at an outdoor shop and tried on lots and lots of different pairs before I bought them.  It has shown me the value of going to a shop and getting this done because all feet are different and what works for someone else doesn’t necessarily work for me.

I recommend boots on the Cape Wrath Trail, despite recent views otherwise.  It is rough and generally pathless ground whatever route you take – where there is a path it is often the boggiest ground you will ever encounter.  Trail shoes would be no fun, especially in the conditions we had; trenchfoot less so, plus I like the ankle support of boots on rough ground.

Also my Rab base layer was OK but a bit whiffy after more than one day and not as cool on hot days.

We ate Mountain Trails dehydrated meals.  These we found generally much nicer than Mountain House, plus made by a UK family company who are also mountaineers. ( http://www.mountaintrails.org.uk/About_Meals.htm )

I did not take any item of gear I did not use, save for the midgie net – but that would have been a necessity if there had been midgies, and it is tiny and weighs nothing.

Pack & Sleeping

Osprey Ariel 55 rucksack

Rucksack cover

Thermarest mat

Mountain Hardwear Lamina 20 Sleeping bag

Silk sleeping bag liner

Rucksack liner dry-bag

Osprey rucksack clip-on pouch

Food & Water

Water bottle

Small hip flask (filled with whisky)

Clothing

2 x pairs Smartwool hiking socks

Asolo Atlantis GTX boots

Underwear (2 x pants, 2 x bras)

Base layers:

– Patagonia long-sleeved base layer

– Rab base layer

– Smartwool merino vest

– 2 x Icebreaker merino t-shirts (I always wore one over a Patagonia long-sleeved one, I’m a cold fish, hence 4 x baselayers)

Mid-layers:

– Haglofs Lizard Q softshell top

– Mountain Equipment windproof top

Trousers:

– Mountain Equipment walking trousers

– Mammut walking trousers

Sleeping – I sleep cold so….:

(oh the glamour…)

– 1 x pair cashmere socks (sleeping)

– Merino leggings

– Merino long sleeved top

– 1 x merino beanie

For the cold:

– Woolly/fleecy hat

– Buff

– 2 x silk liner gloves

– 3 x regular Black Diamond gloves

– Pearl Izumi ‘lobster claw’ mitts

For camp/bothy:

– Mountain Hardwear down jacket

– Hi-tec Zuuk lightweight trainers (also good for river crossings)

Hygiene

Quick dry micro towel

All purpose shower gel

Toothbrush & mini paste

Tiny brush

Sun cream/midge spray (combined)

Face wipes

Tiny tube of moisturiser

Wash bag

SPF lipbalm

Tissues

Tiny mirror

Miscellaneous

Midge net

Ear plugs

Book (purposely chosen for weight)

Waterproof wallet

Phone + charger

Dry bags

Compass

Head torch & spare batteries

Pen & waterproof notepad

Itinery (maps, plans, etc)

Blister plasters

Tape for chafing

Waterproofs

Berghaus GTX trousers

Goretex shell over-mitts

Mountain Equipment Lhotse GTX jacket

Mountain Equipment GTX gaitors

Lowe Alpine waterproof hat (I bought this during the trip, otherwise would have left my woolly hat behind)

Cooking/Food

Jetboil Sol titanium stove

2 x 230g gas for Jetboil

Food pouch cosy

Mountain Trails x 3 dehydrated food day packs (www.mountaintrails.org.uk ) (we took 3 days’ worth at a time and sent parcels at various stops to pick up along the way).  Day packs included 1 x breakfast, 1 x dinner & 1 x pudding)

Teabags, instant coffee sachets (the kind with with sugar and dehydrated milk)

Lunch:

A bunch of Clif bars

Packet of oatcakes & tube of Primula cheese

Occasional apple, bag of sweets, bar of chocolate etc

We shared the weight so Ally also took:

Golite Eden 2 tent

2 Alpkit titanium mugs

Penknife

Sporks

Lighter

Firelighters

2L water bladder

Cape Wrath Trail – Day 15 – Friday 30th May – Sandwood Bay to Cape Wrath

Our final day of the walk dawned with a mixture of excitement and sadness.  Sandwood Bay was twinkling in the morning sunshine as we packed our tent and headed up over the sand dunes, looking round every now and again to etch the view in our memories until next time.

Looking back to Sandwood Bay as we left it behind

Continue Reading

Cape Wrath Trail – Day 14 – Thursday 29th May – Rhiconich to Sandwood Bay

We set off from Rhiconich towards Kinlochbervie along the road.  Although the road walking itself was hard on the feet, we were treated to a gorgeous day and lovely views out over Loch Linchard and the coast.

At Kinlochbervie we stopped for a quick bite to eat and headed back along the road towards Sandwood Bay for another few miles.  Along here we met a woman who informed us alarmingly that there were ‘no toilets at Sandwood Bay, not even a bin to put your rubbish in!’  I guess that mindset comes from stunning Sandwood Bay attracting people from far and wide, but it’s a shame they arrive with these kinds of expectations of remote and wild land.

Continue Reading

Cape Wrath Trail – Day 13 – Wednesday 28th May –Glendhu bothy to Rhiconich

The day dawned in Glendhu bothy to a dull morning with a high wind.  This was a shame as we were really looking forward to the views today.  We set off right, along the LR track towards Kylesku to the hydro works, turning right just past them to climb for about 3km.

DSCF0459

We then descended the Bealach nam Fiann to Achfary Forest down to the A838 road and followed this to Lochstack Lodge.  Here, we turned left to follow a track past the lodge for about 4km, crossed the Allt an Riabhach and headed across rough, boggy ground for about 1km to the head of Loch a’Garbh-bhaid Mor and continued on the right hand side of the loch for another few kms.  This was very strength-sapping, and as the cloud was so low we did not see much.

Continue Reading

Cape Wrath Trail – Day 12 – Tuesday 27th May – Inchnadamph to Glendhu bothy

We woke to blue skies, had a good breakfast in the Inchnadamph Hotel, packed our gear and headed off, turning right up the track past the hostel and then left to climb up another, smaller track marked by a cairn.  This climbed steadily up over the bealach, past Beinn Uidhe.

DSCF0433

Continue Reading

Cape Wrath Trail – Day 11 – Monday 26th May – Duag Bridge to Inchnadamph

The relentless heavy rain still battering the bothy in the morning made us faff about and procrastinate.  We chatted to the mountain bike guys for a bit, then headed out.  At least it was an easygoing LR track to Oykel Bridge.  There were lots of estate vehicles passing us all the way there.  We made our way along the banks of the lovely River Oykel, one of the best salmon fishing rivers in Scotland.  And it showed, as we passed lots of fishing huts and men out fishing.  We walked past Loch Ailsh and Benmore Lodge on the LR track and then began the climb up Glen Oykel, following a clear path to some pretty waterfalls.  Here the path faded out and we climbed over rough ground to the Bealach Trallgil.  At the top we then descended the last 5k into Inchnadamph where we had booked a room at the basic but very friendly hotel.

Continue Reading

Cape Wrath Trail – Day 10 – Sunday 25th May – Ullapool to Oykel Bridge

Ahh, we had a great breakfast at the B&B and it took a fair while to get going again.  After tanking our whisky supplies in Shenevall bothy the other night, it was imperative that we re-stocked since we would be passing no shops in the next few days.  What a pair of desperate dans we must have looked, going into Tesco first thing in the morning with full packs on, to buy a bottle of the finest Benromach!  We decanted it to our hipflasks and poured the rest into a water bottle to save weight, and finally left at 10am, the main job completed!

Continue Reading

Cape wrath Trail – Day 9 – Saturday 24th May – Shenevall to Ullapool – halfway!

This was the halfway day, so we had booked a B&B in Ullapool for a bit of luxury.  We got up and ready, chatting with the others in the bothy, and headed out by 9am, straight up the hill behind the back of the bothy to the bealach.  This was fairly steep with a clear path, but presented the usual bog horror.  The weather was dry but overcast at least.  It was a steady, steep climb, highlighted by the folk we met along the way that stopped for a chat.

Continue Reading

Cape Wrath Trail – Day 8 – Friday 23rd May – Kinlochewe to Sheneval bothy

After a nice breakfast of bacon and egg rolls (very welcome instead of the usual rehydrated porridge) at the bunkhouse, Ally and I headed out of Kinlochewe past the school and then turned right on the LR track along Gleann na Muice.  This was a bit of a climb but easy going, revealing fantastic views as we got higher.

DSCF0399

We ignored the green sign at a junction pointing us up the wrong way and carried on left, down past Loch Gleann na Muice with a lonely white swan floating in the middle, and then down to Loch Fada.  This is a jaw-dropping spot – truly world-class scenery and so utterly remote and lonely.

DSCF0400 DSCF0401 DSCF0403 DSCF0402

We stopped for a quick break at the loch’s beach (again, another great wild camping spot) and then struck out north over the boggy tussocks to cross the Bealach na Croise.  We had read reports to avoid the boggy low ground so stayed high and very quickly picked up a clear path to almost the summit.

DSCF0408

After that it got trickier with a pathless section to cross the bealach where we contoured gradually round and down to pick up the stalker’s path.

DSCF0409

This was a lot easier, but still rough going with plenty of bog and muck, and the path fading out and in, and lots of little diversions.  However, the scenery was stunning, despite being overcast.  We walked through the Fisherfields, turning left at Loch an Nid where we crossed the river easily, and sat there to have lunch.

DSCF0410

We then carried on the path on the other side which wasn’t much better.  It was hard going but there were great views of An Teallach ahead.

Eventually we picked up the LR track at the bend in the river and turned left to continue to Shenevall bothy.  We were starting to tire now and the ground was very boggy and wet with a few river crossings (although they were OK).

DSCF0411

DSCF0412

DSCF0413 Shenevall

We finally reached Shenevall, sharing the bothy with 1 Dutch guy, 4 guys from Stirling walking the Fisherfield munros, 2 guys walking the CWT in stages, 4 guys climbing some Corbetts nearby, and 4 others who came in but camped down the glen.  A busy night!  However the bothy is nice and roomy and there was plenty of firewood and candles.  It turned into a really great, memorable night with plenty of whisky, fire, stories and good crack.

Cape Wrath Trail – Day 7 – Thursday 22nd May – Craig to Kinlochewe

Ally and I lingered at Gerry’s, chatting to him in the morning.  It turned out I knew two good friends of his.  We admired his comfy homemade beds and fixed his record player (the arm wasn’t lifting properly).  With another dreich but drier day, we left, walking along the road for a bit and then turning right at a Scottish Rights of Way sign pointing us up the pony path (where a helicopter flew past, below us!) to meet the Coulin Pass track, a fantastic path taking in marvellous views across to Ben Eighe and Liathach.

The view up from the pony path towards the Coulin Pass

The view up from the pony path towards the Coulin Pass

Continue Reading