Category Archives: West Highland Way

West Highland Way gear list

After reading lots of different gear lists for those people who are currently embarking on the TGO Challenge, I figured I would produce a comparable list for my trip along the West Highland Way.

I’ll be walking the 97 mile route over 7 days, and carrying almost everything I need, including food, for the whole journey.

The reason for this is simple. I’m poor. I find I’ve a lot less money than I had originally anticipated by this point. My original plan was to carry food to cover me until Tyndrum, then stock up there, but to predominantly eat at restaurants along the route. As it now stands, I’ll be eating at restaurants twice, and eating my own food the rest of the time.

So, here’s a list of what I’m carrying, and, as is normal for these things these days, how much it weighs.

Food

My plan is to have a meal at the end of day two, at Rowardennan, breakfast on day 3 at Rowardennan and meal on day 5 at Kingshouse Hotel. All other breakfasts and meals will be carried. Snacks to eat during the day will be purchased as I go (with the exception of the first two days, which I’ve packed)

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I have 5 x Oatso Simple Big Bowl porridge, coupled with 5 x Tesco Cereal Toppers for breakfasts.

For main meals, I have 1 Adventure Food Pasta & Ham, which I had in the cupboard, 1 home made tuna & sweetcorn pasta and 2 x super noodles (with added dehydrated vegetables and 2 cut up pepperami minis each)

For dessert, I have 2 x banana & custard (which is simply dehydrated banana, custard powder, sugar and powdered milk) and 2 x dehydrated cake (a new thing for me… Apparently, with hot water added, it tastes just like fresh, warm cake)

I’ve also 4 sachets of hot chocolate for the cold evenings (which seem likely as the forecast is showing!)

As I mentioned earlier, I’ve got lunch and snacks for the first two days included, in the form of 6 x snacking cheese from Tesco, a pack of cheese oatcakes, a Double Decker, a mint Kit Kat chunky and a Nature Valley peanut bar. That should easily see me through to the village store in Balmaha, when I’ll pick up snacks for the following day.

The total weight for it all, once placed in an 8l Alpkit Airloc bag – 1.955Kg

Cooking & Eating Equipment

With all that food, I’m gonna need to cook it and eat it somehow!

I have the following with me for that purpose:

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1 Alpkit MyTiPot
1 Steel Clikstand with Titanium windshield
1 MSR Pot gripper
1 Alpkit Titanium folding spork
1 Trangia burner (pre-filled with fuel)
1 Gerber Powerframe knife
1 Light My Fire Fire steel
1 refillable lighter
1 Light My Fire spice box, with salt, pepper & cinnamon
1 steel mug.

All of the components, with the exception of the mug, fit inside the MyTiPot. I plan on replacing the mug with a titanium equivalent in the near future.

The total weight comes in at 819g, of which 155g is the mug… A titanium one will shave at least 100g off that!

Clothing

I’m trying not to overdo the clothing, but I know I’ve got a little more than I need to get by. Unlike those on the TGO challenge, with the exception of 2 nights, I’ll have access to showers and the like, so a certain element of fresh clothing isn’t going to go amiss.

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We have:

2 x Finisterre Zephyr Boxer shorts
1 x Bridgedale Endurance Trekker socks
4 x Bridgedale Coolmax Liner Socks
1 x Rab MeCo 120 short sleeved top (wishful thinking that it’ll be warm enough to wear it!)
1 x Berghaus X-Static top, for evening/sleep wear
1 x Gore Mythos SO running tights, for sleeping in, and slight insulation on cold nights.

Total weight, in a 4l Alpkit Airloc bag is 1.097kg

Insulation

I suspect it’ll get cold while I’m out there, and if it drops below zero, I’m definitely going to need extra warmth in my sleeping bag. For this, I’ve got the following:

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1 x Rab Microlight Down Jacket
1 x pair Smartwool training gloves (much warmer than they look!)
1 x Buff Hood (the jacket doesn’t come with it’s own hood, and the buff hood really works at blocking wind and providing warmth!)

Total weight, in a Sea to Summit eVent compression sack (size xs), 674g

Waterproofs

Pretty much the standard waterproofs here, and judging by the forecast, they’ll probably be on my back more than in the pack!

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1 x Mountain Equipment Supercell Jacket
1 x Berghaus Paclite Pants

Combined weight of 624g (not bad for an XXL jacket and XL trousers!)

Sleep System

This one is quite simple… Just a sleeping bag and an air mat.
I have the following:

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1 x Mammut Sphere Spring sleeping bag (650g, rated to 0°c)
1 x Hyalite/POE Peak Elite Air May (397g)

The tent

That’ll be the Scarp 1, then. It’s always going to be my choice of tent for every solo trip. It is without a doubt, the best tent out there for tall folks.

I’m going to take the crossing poles with me, too, as at least one forecast has suggested snowfall when I’m in Tyndrum or at Kingshouse.

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Total weight: 1.875kg (including spare pegs)

Gadgets and miscellaneous

No trip is the same these days without lines of communication and some form of entertainment to while away the hours in the tent.

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Kindle Paper white, in Aquapac case – 269g
Alpkit Glowy torch/lantern (a genius piece of kit, more in another blog post!) – 121g
Samsung NX1000 Camera, with 20mm pancake lens in Case logic case – 537g
MSR fuel bottle, with fuel (as I’d forgotten to put it in other categories!) – 658g
Samsung Galaxy S3, in OtterBox Defender case & Aquapac case, with 2 spare batteries – 300g

Let’s not forget…

First Aid Kit/Toiletries

As I’ll have access to showering facilities most days, I’ll be making use of them! As such, I’ve got more toiletries with me than I’d take for an overnighter or a wild camping trip.

I have:

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Medicines/first aid

1 pack Co-codamol (prescribed to me… Much better than paracetamol!)
1 pack Ibuprofen
1 pack Immodium Instants
1 pack Compeed blister plasters
1 pack waterproof plasters
2 sterile dressings
2 small bandages
1 tube Gehwol Extra foot cream
2 tick removal tools (different sizes)
1 styptic pencil
1 SPF15 sun lotion (I know, I know, I could safely leave it behind!)

Toiletries

1 Lifeventure Trek Towel, large
1 Colgate travel toothbrush
1 Colgate travel toothpaste
1 Dove deodorant spray
1 Dove Shower Gel

All fitting quite nicely into a 2l Alpkit Airloc, weight: 578g

Rucksack

I’ll be taking the Lowe Alpine Nanon 50:60 pack with me, weighing in at 1.4kg.

So, the total weight on my back adds up to…. 10.555kg.
Take off the food and fuel, and you get a base weight of 7.942kg. I’m actually quite happy with that… Particularly as it includes extras I wouldn’t take when properly wild camping (shower gel, deodorant, towel, so many extra socks, etc)

I’ve not weighed my worn items, but here they are, anyway:

Finisterre Zephyr Boxer Shorts
Bridgedale Coolmax Liner Socks
Bridgedale Endurance Trekker socks
Haglöfs Mid Flex Pant
Rab MeCo 120 Long-sleeved top
Montane Litespeed Jacket
Mammut Brecon GTX boots
Outdoor Research swift cap
Swiss Eye Slide Sunglasses (plus lenses… Both orange and smoke coming with)
Black Diamond Contour Elliptic Shock trekking poles

So, there you have it. For all those who thought the gear porn had ended when everyone set off on the TGO Challenge this morning, here’s a wee bit more for you!
I think this is the first time I’ve actually gone to the effort of breaking down my weights since in first attempted the West Highland Way 2 years ago. At that time, my pack weighed in at over 18kg, and in terms of the number of items carried, it wasn’t much different from what is above. The real difference comes in the weight of the items. My sleeping bag, for example, is 1kg lighter than the one I used then, my rucksack is more than 1kg lighter. The tent is about 1kg lighter, and so on. In contrast, though, all of my new items (with the exception of the rucksack, actually), were significantly more expensive than their originals.

I certainly wouldn’t recommend people spend the money required for the gear above on their first outing (I’m conscious that people will find this post when hunting for gear and weight info for the west highland way) on any major walk. There are much cheaper options out there!

Preparation for the West Highland Way and a change of plans

Well, things have changed a fair bit recently, in terms of the planning for theWest Highland Way. Currently, we’ve less than two weeks to go, and we’ve had to make a difficult decision.

We will be walking theWest Highland Wayas planned. Accommodation has been booked, train tickets purchased, etc. We’re good to go.

However, there is one slight change of plans. For health reasons, we’ve decided that we’re going to use one of the baggage transfer services. It’s not something either of us particularly wanted to do, but sadly, necessity dictates.

I think the two previous hiking weekends were a bit of a wake up for us. When walking the first two stages of theRob Roy Way, Janie really struggled with the weight of the pack. I also had a bit of back pain the following week.

Then, 2 weeks later, we had a weekend at the Glen Affric Youth Hostel. This one was a shorter walk, with lighter loads (though we still needed to carry food, sleeping bags, etc for the weekend), and again, Janie had real problems with this.

It was at this stage that we realised that the West highland Way was simply not going to be possible with the full weight of the pack.

So, we’ve decided to use the courier service. We’re having 1 rucksack taken by the courier, at £40 for the week. During the actual hike, I’ll be using a 40l rucksack and Janie will be using a 20l rucksack.

As I still feel a bit like it’s cheating to go without the full weight, I’ll still be packing a fair bit into the 40l rucksack. The plan is that I’ll carry the meal kit, the stove, food for both of us for the day, as well as all my waterproofs, complete change of clothes, etc.

Janie will simply carry her waterproofs, drinking water and general bits and bobs.

The way I see it is that by carrying the stove and food for the day, I feel like I’m at least carrying part of the load (and making sure the rucksack we send through the courier doesn’t breach the 20kg limit per bag!), and if we decide to take our time, stop along the way and have a meal, that option is open to us. Best of both worlds, really.

So, we’ve now got less than two weeks to go until the walk itself, and the plan is to have most of the packing done this weekend – as it’s probably the last time we’ll be seeing each other until the morning of the walk itself. Having to co-ordinate to pack (and unpack every day!) a single rucksack for two people could definitely be a bit of a pain, but if it means that we’re both able to complete theWest Highland Way, it’s got to be worth it!

Just a reminder – you can sponsor either of us on the walk by clicking on the links to the right. Any donations will be gratefully received by the respective charities.

The West Highland Way – a Learning Experience

Well, the fact that I’m at home writing this should most likely be an indication of how the walk went. I failed, rather miserably, and in the end, I’ve nobody to blame but myself, really.

It started out well enough. I arrived at Milngavie, just before 9am, stopped for the obligatory photo at the start, then off I went.

The walk actually went quite well for quite some time, and I really enjoyed it, too. Some of the scenery was stunning, and there was plenty of wildlife to be seen.

As you leave Milngavie, you go through Mugdock Wood, on the edge of Mugdock Country Park. It was full of singing Willow Warbler, just arrived from Africa, along with resident bird species, such as Blue Tit, Great Tit, Blackbirds and the like.

The path carries on for a bit, then there’s a small section of road that you have to walk along. I have to admit, when I came to this section, I was instantly concerned – I don’t have a good history with walking on tarmac, particularly in my walking boots. I was more than a little worried that this was going to have a negative effect on my Achilles Tendon, and force my out of the walk. As a result, I deliberately took this section as easily as I could.

As it turned out, I had nothing to worry about. I had no problems with my Achilles at all during the walk.

Just after this, the scenery started to get more impressive, and I really started to get into the swing of things. I was walking a reasonable pace, was feeling comfortable and generally having a good day.

After another few miles, I passed the Glengoyne distillery. This part is one long straight section of path, running parallel with a main road.

At this point I was feeling so good that I was having visions of completing the walk in 5 days, rather than 6! I have to admit, I really enjoy being in the outdoors, walking. There’s really not much that can compare with the sense of freedom you get when out walking.

5 or 6 miles later, the West Highland Way trundles into Drymen. A lovely little village – and had I been walking over 7 days, most likely my stopping point for the day. I was feeling quite good at this stage, too.
However, it wasn’t my stopping point for the day (although in hindsight, I really wish it was). My stopping point was 9 miles further on, at Milarrochy Bay.

Pretty much as soon as I left Drymen, the problems began.

Just as I was entering Garadhban Forest, I started to feel a reasonably sharp pain from my left hip. It was quite intermittent. It came and it went, so I tried to ignore it, and adjust for it by putting more weight on my right side.

That turned out to be a mistake. The more I walked, the worse it got, and as I was trying to compensate for it, it started affecting my right side, too. Both my hips and thighs were crying out in pain, more or less constantly by the time I left the forest.

I came to the junction where you get the option of taking Conic Hill, or the easier alternative route. For the first time since the problem started, I made the sensible choice – I took the easy route. (Although grudgingly, as I really wanted to see the view from Conic Hill and the Highland Boundary Fault).

The easy route wasn’t particularly easy for me, it has to be said. 3 miles of walking next to a main road, all the way into Balmaha was hard work, and because I have an inherent sense of pride/idiocy, I had to at least create the appearance of someone who was not in pain, for the benefit of all the passing motorists.

Just after leaving Balmaha, the walk takes you up the side of a hill. This was excutiating for me, it has to be said. Not only had my thighs been complaining, but now my groin was being stretched on the uphill, which was especially sharp pain.

Don’t get me wrong, the view from the top of the little hill (shown below) was lovely, but I was more than a little unhappy, when getting to the bottom of the hill, at the other side, to find out that there was a route around the hill, rather than over it. That could have saved me a whole lot of pain!

With less than 2 miles to go to reach the campsite that was my destination for the day, you’d think it would take about 30-40 minutes to get there. In truth, it took me just over an hour and a half. I had to stop to take the weight off at least 5 times in that short distance. The little walk up the hill had really ruined me.

Once I arrived at the campsite, I pitched my tent and settled down to make myself some food. I actually went to bed around 9pm that evening, which for me is crazy early. I was hoping that a good night’s sleep and time off my feet, with no weight on my hips or back would help overnight.

It did, too. I woke up the next morning, feeling better. I was still sore, but nowhere near the extent that I had been the night before. I decided that I’d be sensible and walk as far as Rowardennan before deciding what to do. I knew this would be the last point where I’d be able to get picked up easily.

With that decided, I got showered and dressed, made myself some porridge for breakfast, then cleaned and packed everything up.

Pretty much as soon as the boots were tied and the rucksack was on my back, the pain returned. Not as extreme as it had been before, but enough for me to know that I wasn’t going to be going any further on the West Highland Way this time round.

I managed the walk back to Balmaha (in only 45 minutes – the advantage of the lower path!), where I met Janie, who provided me with transport home.

So… I failed to walk the West Highland Way, but I don’t mind too much. I consider it a learning experience. There’s a part of me that feels like I’ve let people down (Those who sponsored me for the walk), but even that isn’t too much of a concern, as I’ll be walking it again in August, when I’ll be fitter, and I’ll have sorted out the weight distribution of my pack. I’ll also be doing it over the 7 days, so that the problem is less likely to occur.

So, what caused the problem? Quite simply, it was most likely the pack. Although I’d been walking with weight in my pack, it was a much lighter weight, and more importantly, it was a different pack, with a different weight distribution. I suspect the fact that I had the tent on the outside of my pack (as I’d over packed and couldn’t fit it inside), and it’s position was more or less directly behind my my hips, I suspect there was a bit too much weight focused on such a small area.

In future, I’ll be changing the contents of the pack, and the way it is packed, to ensure that the tent fits on the inside and the weight is more evenly distributed.

I’ve also now got a few months to build up the stamina and work on my general fitness levels. The plan is to go on weekend backpacking trips as often as possible, maybe twice a month, so that I’m becoming more used to carrying a full pack while walking distance. When not backpacking, I plan on doing as much hillwalking as I can, to build my fitness levels.

When I try again in August, I don’t intend to fail again. One thing this has taught me is that I REALLY enjoy the escapism that backpacking offers, so I suspect it’ll become a regular occurrence for me. Not only is it a challenge, but it’s a chance to see parts of the country you wouldn’t normally see, and to see it in relative solitude (although not so much on the West Highland Way)

The Day before the West Highland Way

Well, the walk starts tomorrow, and I have to admit to being more than a little bit worried about it. Will my Achilles tendon hold out? Will I be able to cope with the weight of the pack? How well will I cope, walking solo, etc?

There’s only one way to really find out, and that’s to go ahead and try it!

I’ve now tried everything that’s going in my pack, and I’ve adjusted the pack to be more comfortable for me specifically, so there shouldn’t be any hidden surprises along the way.

My biggest concern is the weight of the pack. It currently weighs in the region of 17.5kg. I’ll give a breakdown of what I’ve got in it, so that you can see that what’s there is more or less all necessary.

I’ve broken the contents down into categories, so you can see what’s in each

Health/Hygeine


 Ok, in here we have the following:

  • First Aid Kit (including Tick twister and extra medicines)
  • Compeed blister plasters
  • Antibacterial Hand Wipes (small pack of 15)
  • Giant Travel Towel
  • Gelert Washbag – containing shampoo, shower gel, deodorant, toothbrush and toothpaste

Total weight of this comes to 1.26Kg. Not a massive weight, but it all adds up in the end.

Cooking/Eating

 

In this lot we have:

  • Waterproof Matches
  • Lighter
  • Trangia 27-1 Stove
  • Trangia Fuel bottle (full)
  • Light My Fire Meal Kit, Including (full) Spice Box
  • Metal Mug

Total weight for this is 2.03Kg, the largest item of which is the stove, coming in at 850g

Electronics/Gadgets

In this lot we have:

  • Freeloader Globetrotter Solar Charger
  • Freeloader Case with cables/adapters to charge other devices
  • Kandle reading light + case (including spare batteries)
  • Amazon Kindle (with protective case)
  • Spare battery for Google Nexus One phone

Total weight for this comes in at 1.2Kg. This section is probably the one that is most likely to be considered a luxury, and I don’t deny it. However, for me to blog my progress each day whilst out in the field, I need a charge on the phone. As I’m going to be walking solo, it’ll also be nice to have the Kindle and an ability to charge the iPod (not included, as it’ll not be going in the rucksack)

Clothing

 

In here we have:

  • Berghaus Deluge Overtrousers
  • Keela Stashaway Jacket
  • Bear Grylls Expedition Microfleece
  • Bear Grylls Survivor Trousers
  • 1 pair Brasher 3-season socks
  • 1 pair Sealskinz waterproof Trekker socks
  • 5 x Bridgedale Coolmax Liner
  • 2 x Bench Boxer Shorts
  • Berghaus Relaxed Fit Zip Neck Baselayer

Total weight for this section comes in at 2.52Kg. I think it’s fair to say that most of this is completely necessary. You’ll note the only thing that I’m changing every day is the Liner socks. I think it’s extremely important to keep the feet fresh and clean. I had originally planned on changing underwear every day (now every other day), and base layer every other day (now every third day), but the weight this was adding was just too much. 

Food/Drink

In this section we have:

  • 2 x small packs of Beef Jerky
  • 3 x Pepperami
  • 6 x Blackfriars Flapjack
  • 2 x Super Noodles
  • 2 x Wayfayrers Meals
  • 10 x Scott’s So Easy Porridge Oats
  • 2 x 750ml H2Onya Water Bottles (full)
  • 7 x PSP22 Fuel energy drink sachets

Total weight for this section comes in at 4.5Kg, although the heaviest of this are the water bottles, which have a combined weight of 2.03Kg when full. I’ve got enough main meals there for the first 4 days, and breakfasts to last the whole trip (2x porridge sachets a day). The flapjack adds a whole lot to the weight, at 125g per bar, but at 500 calories a bar, approximately, they’re too good a source of fuel to be parting with. Most of the food in my list is high in Carbs to give me energy whilst walking, with just a little bit of extra protein from the beef jerky, etc.

Add the sleeping bag and the tent (1.6Kg and 2.8Kg respectively) and that comes to a total of 15.65Kg (ok, when you add those figures up, it might not – but I was rounding off for the blog). The downside of that is that it doesn’t include the Rucksack itself, which is another 2.5Kg – so realistically, we’re looking at an 18Kg pack

After calculating that, I decided to remove a few bits to drop the weight down a bit. The metal mug has now gone, as has the waterproof socks, the Pepperamis and a small dental first aid kit I had in the washbag. This only saved me about 500g, but every little helps, really!

I’ve been looking online, and most things say that you want to aim for a weight of 15kg or less, so I’ve been panicking a little. Until this morning. I’ve now read a couple of articles, which point out that the weight of the pack is relative to the person… after all, I’m a big guy (6′ 4″, and larger than average), so I tend to eat more, and my clothes tend to weigh more. My actual pack weight at the (revised) 17.5Kg is proportionate to an average person carrying  15Kg.

Additionally, for the first 2 days I’ll be using 2 x drinks sachets (1 sachet a day after that), 1 Flapjack, 2x Porridge sachets and 1 main meal – in total about 600g a day off the weight of the pack, not counting the actual drinking of the water (because i’ll be filling that up at the start of the next day) By the time I finish walking on the first day, my pack will be down to about 15.5Kg – but pack up to 17Kg the next morning.

Here’s hoping it all goes to plan! I’m fully packed now – I’ll be leaving home at about 7:30am tomorrow, with a view to starting the walk at 9am. I’ll hopefully be at Millarochy Bay at teatime tomorrow!