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    The Essential Guide to Wilderness Expeditions

    By Meike Burgess, Content Manager
    More by Meike

    The Ultimate Adventure Experience

    We incorporate multiple days of expedition-style camping on some of our canoeing and sea kayaking adventures. Wilderness expeditions can be quite an undertaking, yet they are a remarkable experience you won’t soon forget.

    Although it does not suit all tastes, there are undeniable benefits. It’s pure adventure. The thrill of packing everything up yourself and traversing land and water to pitch your tent and appreciate areas of remote wilderness inaccessible to others. Whilst out on an expedition, you’ll triumph over distance and all weathers, travel under your own steam, and walk away with a sense of fulfilment and beautiful memories.

    Having a good time on wilderness expeditions and being responsible requires a bit of planning and know-how. We’ve got years of experience running expedition holidays, and our highly qualified guides will support you and teach valuable tips and tricks to take away on future adventures.

    We’ve gathered some helpful information on wilderness expeditions ahead of your travels. We’ll share advice on best practices, highlighting what you can expect from travelling with us and providing useful insider knowledge if you’re heading out independently.

    What to Bring on a Multi-Night Expedition

    A wilderness expedition group looking at a beach from their campsite at sunset.

    Ultimately, what you bring on an expedition has to tick a couple of boxes. Do you need it and can you carry it? You have to consider essentials like camping equipment, appropriate clothing and food. What do you need to be safe? Warm and dry? Remember, everything has to fit in your boat and can be carried by yourself to your campsite. Weight and bulk are everything when evaluating what to take with you.

    Wilderness Expeditions

    What to bring on a multi-night canoe or kayak expedition can be divided into four lists: Non-Negotiable Activity Kit, Expedition Essentials, Creature Comforts, and Extras.

    If you’re travelling with Wilderness Scotland on a sea kayaking or canoe expedition, we take care of the ‘Non-negotiable’ list in its entirety, and for ‘Actual Essentials’ we arrange for the camping, cooking and toilet equipment. We expect clients to plan for their own clothing and outdoor accessories.

    On our trips, ‘Creature Comforts’ will be provided by Wilderness Scotland. If travelling independently, these items are optional.

    ‘Extras’ are just that. While they are not essential to your safety, and you can do your trip without these items, they can make your experience just that bit better! We’ve listed a mobile phone as an extra; however, any expedition benefits from a GPS location device in case something goes wrong and you need assistance. Mobile phones cannot always serve in this manner, so we recommend you bring a dedicated device.

    These lists are designed for travellers on our guided Wilderness expeditions, but we hope that even if you’re embarking on your own adventure, this outline will help you with your independent efforts. Going on a multi-day expedition is a serious undertaking that requires a lot of equipment and preparation to be safe. Provided is just an outline of the kit; it ultimately depends on where you go, who you’re with and what you’re doing.

    Non-Negotiable Expedition Kit

    When preparing what you are bringing yourself onto a Wilderness expedition, here are some top tips when considering quantities:

    • Take what you can physically carry. You will have to carry your supplies from the boat to your campsite.
    • Remember that you will be expected to carry a share of the team supplies, such as food, equipment and water, in your boat as well as your own affairs.
    • Pack a small comfort bag that can be left in the van that you can use on accommodation nights if your expedition trip features one or post-trip.
    Sea Kayaking Equipment - Provided by Wilderness Read More

    Sea kayak, paddles, split paddles, boat repair kit including hatch covers, hand bilge pump, float bags, dry bags, buoyancy aid, spraydeck, cag, flares, first aid kit, tow lines, GPS location device, maps of the area. The quantity of items depends on group size.

    Open Canoe Equipment - Provided by Wilderness Read More

    Canoe, paddles, spare paddles, poles, bailers, bow lines, sponges, float bags, waterproof barrels, dry bags, wrap kit (boat rescue kit), throwlines, tow lines, straps, boat repair kit, a kneeling mat, buoyancy aid, helmet, cag, GPS location device, maps of the area. The quantity of items depends on group size.

    The Expedition Essentials

    Clothing - Bring Yourself Read More
    • Waterproof jacket
    • Waterproof over trousers and quick-drying walking trousers
    • Weather permitting shorts/swimwear
    • Insulating layer (Ethical/Synthetic Down) for upper body
    • Moisture-wicking base-layer (Merino wool or synthetic) for upper & lower body
    • Fleece mid-layer for upper body
    • Warm socks, could opt for wetsuit and/or waterproof socks
    • Neoprene shoes, trainers, crocs or wellies
    • Warm hat & sunhat
    • Waterproof gloves
    • Change of shoes for on-land activities
    • Change of clothes for on land/spare clothing
    Outdoor Accessories - Bring yourself Read More
    • Sunscreen
    • Sunglasses
    • Midget net
    • Midge spray
    • Anti Bacterial Hand Gel
    • Travel towel (microfibre is the best option as it’s lightweight and fast drying)
    • 1-2 litre water bottle (Nalgene bottles can also double up as a hot water bottle)
    • Headtorch
    Camping Equipment - Available upon request Read More
    • Lightweight tent
    • (Lightweight) Sleeping mat
    • (Lightweight) Sleeping bag
    Cooking Equipment - Provided by Wilderness Read More
    • Camping cooking equipment (gas canisters & stoves)
    • Round cooking pots with lids and handles
    • Cooking utensils (spoons, knives, chopping board, tin opener)
    • Plastic bowls & cutlery for eating
    • Washing up equipment (bowl, sponge & biodegradable washing up liquid)
    • Travel tea towel
    • Light & matches
    • Cooking essentials (oil, salt, pepper)
    • Ingredients to prepare breakfast, lunch and dinner
    • Recyclable bin bags (separates for food, general, glass, cardboard/cans)
    Toilet Equipment - Provided by Wilderness Read More
    • Trowel
    • Biodegradable toilet paper
    • Durable waste bag (if packing out feminine hygiene products)
    • Antibacterial hand gel

    Creature Comforts

    Dining & Campsite Accessories - Provided by Wilderness Read More
    • Travel coffee press & ground coffee
    • Folding seats
    • Folding tables
    • Thermos flask
    Outdoor Accessories - Bring yourself Read More
    • Portable off-ground fire pit

    Extras

    Camping Extras - Bring yourself Read More
    • Travel pillow
    • Chargers & Rechargeable Battery Packs (if bringing items that need to be charged)
    • Plastic lunch box
    Tools & Technology - Bring yourself Read More
    • Mobile phone
    • Camera
    • Binoculars

    Packing for an Expedition

    How to Pack a Open Canoe for an Expedition

    How to Pack a Sea Kayak For An Expedition

    Expedition Camping Dinners

    It’s a question we are often asked – what will I eat when I’m on an expedition trip? People are often concerned about there not being enough and the food not being varied.

    We’re here to address those worries. Breakfasts can be porridge, cereals or cooked, lunches are picnic style with wraps or bread and plenty of sandwich fillers, and dinners include pasta, curries and stir-fries. Each evening meal is different, with at least two courses. We pride ourselves on providing a large selection of food, locally sourced and as fresh as possible.

    Please be aware that expedition meals get progressively more vegetarian depending on the duration of the trip, as we eat the perishables such as meats and cheeses first.

    Any dietary requirements can be catered for.


    Campfire Best Practise

    Campfires are wonderful things in the right setting. The dance and flicker of the flames in the darkness, the radiance of warmth into the cold night, the sharing of tales between friends, the quiet contemplation.

    However, in the context of today’s world, when the landscape is coming under increasing recreational pressure and nature itself is under threat, we must learn to walk the line between our desires and our responsibilities. If we do not do so, our campfires can cause real and lasting harm to the landscape. With that in mind, we’ve prepared this blog on campfire best practices to help inform you about the rules and responsibilities of having a fire outdoors in Scotland.

    Learn more about campfires in Scotland and the best practice to safely enjoy them below.

    Campfires in Scotland

    Toileting Outdoors

    Unlike doing your business outside, there is no discreet way to discuss the principles of going to the toilet outdoors. Yet, conflicting advice online and in the outdoor community can make it challenging to ensure you are prepared when you have to go whilst out in the wilderness. To keep our bodies healthy and energy up when out exploring, we must eat well and stay hydrated. Inevitably, you will then have to address the issue of toileting outdoors.

    When you have to go, it’s pretty vital that you do, but there is certainly a right and wrong way to go about going to the toilet outdoors.

    Learn more about the best practice of using the toilet outdoors below.

    Read More

    Wilderness Expedition FAQs

    What is phone signal like in remote areas of Scotland? Read More

    Phone signal can be very poor or surprisingly good in remote areas of Scotland, depending on your provider. On our river-based expedition trips, you are more likely to have a signal in the evenings as we usually camp near settlements. However, on trips where we overnight on islands, it’s very unlikely that you’ll have a strong phone signal.

    Make sure that before you go on one of our guided wilderness expeditions, your contacts know that reaching you will be difficult and that your reception may be sporadic. In the case of an emergency, all of our expedition guides carry satellite communicators, and they will introduce you to this at the start of your trip.

    If not travelling with us, we recommend carrying a GPS location device, ideally with inbuilt satellite communication functionality. It’s also best practice to inform people about where you are going and how long you expect to be away if anything happens.

    How can I charge my gadgets whilst away on a multi night expedition trip? Read More

    We highly recommend bringing a power bank/power pack or two with you, depending on the length of your trip. If fully charged, you can get 3-4 full charges of your phone out of it, less if you also charge other devices like watches, cameras, tablets and music players. Our guides will take pictures during the trip so you can conserve your phone battery during the day and set your phone to flight mode.

    You could bring solar chargers, but quality here highly impacts the effectiveness, and there’s only the morning and evenings that you can set up your chargers in optimum conditions.

    What canoe barrel size should I use for a multi night expedition? Read More

    On a Wilderness expedition, we provide clients with one 60-litre barrel each. This fits comfortably inside the canoe and allows you to bring various camping supplies and clothing. There are also shared group barrels for communal supplies.

    Do I need to pack everything I need for the entire trip into the boats? Read More

    Yes, depending on the itinerary, you will not be returning to the location where you started for several nights or to the same camp spot every night. We recommend packing a separate bag with everything you’ll want when you’re staying in accommodation during or at the end of your trip.

    How many dry bags do I need, how many does Wilderness supply? Read More

    We provide our clients with three dry bags: small, medium and large. You should be able to pack everything you need in these, but you’re welcome to bring more if you want to have some more flexibility in how you pack. Please remember that space is still limited in your boat.

    How much daylight is there in Scotland during the summer? Read More

    Lots! Between May and September, expect between 15-18 hours of sunlight a day, peaking in June. There is plenty of daylight to enjoy your expedition with plenty of stops, and also have daylight time for cooking breakfast and dinner.

    What if there is an emergency on the trip? Read More

    Our guides are experienced outdoor professionals with a lot of training on how to deal with emergencies in the wilderness, including first aid. Furthermore, all of our wilderness expedition guides carry satellite communicators, and they will introduce you to this at the start of your trip. Hence, you will know where to find it and how to use it in the extremely unlikely circumstances that your guide might become incapacitated, although our wilderness expedition trips will always feature two guides.

    What sort of camping equipment can we receive from Wilderness? Read More

    If signing up for one of our wilderness expedition trips, you can request the use of a tent, sleeping bag and roll mat. We can also provide liners and pillows, but we have a limited supply of these, so it’s on a first-come, first-serve basis.

    We supply two-man tents, which are comfortable for couples and spacious for solo users.

    Please let us know if you’ve requested sleeping equipment and then changed your mind. Otherwise, we will have a surplus in the van, and it’s easy for equipment to get mixed up.

    What do we do if it rains? Read More

    Scotland is known for its temperamental weather and it does rain in Scotland. But it rarely rains all day and all night continuously.

    During the day, it’s a lucky thing that you’ll be on the water and in waterproof equipment, so the rain should not hamper your kayaking or canoeing.

    In the evenings, we’ve got a large bell tent that’s big enough for a whole Wilderness group to sit in, with room to cook and eat your meals. We also have tarps to provide additional shelter outside the bell tent.

    Do we have campfires on a Wilderness Scotland expedition trip? Read More

    If it’s suitable and safe, we have campfires on our expedition trips and follow Leave No Trace best practice. Read more here.

    Please note, we always bring stoves with us for cooking and are not likely to use a campfire for that.

    What if there are a lot of midges? Read More

    You’re unlikely to be overly bothered by midges during the day as you’ll be moving. Yet, you could encounter midges when stationary during lunch stops or at the campsite in the evenings. We recommend our travellers to bring midge nets and your own supply of Smidge (even though we will always supply some as well). Worried about midges on your trip? Read more here.

    Can I get a disease from insects in Scotland? Read More

    Midges are not vectors for disease, so you have no reason to worry there. Ticks in Scotland can carry Lyme’s disease, but this is very manageable with appropriate precautions and awareness. Read more here.

    Can I bring a blow up airbed on my Wilderness expedition trip? Read More

    The short answer is no. Airbeds are bulky, and there’s limited space to transport them. Additionally, if your airbed breaks halfway through the trip, we won’t be able to replace it quickly. We recommend lightweight blow-up roll mats, which pack up small and are actually quite comfortable.

    I have dietary requirements, is this an issue on a wilderness expedition trip? Read More

    We can cater to most dietary requirements, including vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free. If you have severe allergies, please inform us at the time of booking. We do our absolute best to ensure you’ll be well catered for, especially in the case of allergies. We also recommend bringing your own snack bag. This ensures you have snacks that you can definitely eat and that you enjoy.

    Our Wilderness Expedition Trips

    Meet the Author: Meike Burgess

    “Having grown up travelling across the world I've developed an addiction to all things spice and to travel! When it was time to go to university I wandered off to Scotland for a new adventure and now 10+ years later I've not managed to leave yet. Scotland's welcoming culture, beautiful scenery and a Scottish man captured my heart. Moving to Scotland has made me develop a passion for the outdoors and I love heading out for an explore.”

    View profileMore by Meike

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