Wild Camping in Scotland: What NOT to do
Posted on May 05, 2015 by Alex Kendall
Sometimes things do not always go as smoothly as they could.
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Alex Kendall, one of our Wilderness Guides has (luckily for us) endured a variety of horrible wild camping Scotland experiences. Thanks to these, he is now able to ensure we don’t do the same and so shares his Wild Camping in Scotland: What NOT to do tips.
1. Do not get lured in by nice flat places right next to streams.
That gentle bubbling brook you thought looked so nice in the sunshine may well, after a bit of rain uphill, turn into a torrent. It’s the law of the hills that this will happen at 2am, and you’ll wake to find the nice flat patch flooded and that you’re sharing your tent with several crayfish and a few hundred litres of water. This does happen. Look at the height of the stream – if it’s nearly overflowing anyway that’s a good sign to find somewhere a bit higher or further away. Also watch out for reservoirs that form part of hydroelectric schemes. I once camped next to one only to wake and find the water had risen by five metres, silently, in the night. It was now very close to the tent.
2. Do not camp on cols.
Cols are those flat-ish lower points between peaks. They provide great relief from the rocky heights, but can also funnel wind. It may not seem so bad when you set up your tent, but after several hours of roaring gales keeps you awake it won’t seem so nice, as happened to me once near Ben Cruachan on the west coast of Scotland. Cols can also be boggy so it may be worth descending on either side into the valleys, which can provide better protection from the wind.
3. Do not assume all tents are created equal.
They’re not. I have seen a tent from a well-known supermarket literally get ripped to pieces and all the poles broken in what was only moderate wind. The last thing you want if you’re away for a few days is nothing but a shredded once-waterproof sheet to wrap round yourself after this happens. You may look like a bad-ass but will probably just be cold and close to suffocation. Have a look around and ask for recommendations. And no, the tent you have always used for car-camping may not survive gusts in the Cairngorms!
4. Do not forget that you have to carry everything.
Wild camping comes with a lot of extra kit to carry. Your tent, sleeping bag, mat, cooking equipment, more food and sleeping bag liners can all add up. The one thing you really do have control over is the food; this sounds obvious but don’t take tins, cans, glass jars, or anything that doesn’t crumple down. Yes I do know people that have carried cans of soup on camping trips, and no that 500 gram block of cheese you thought was a great idea two days ago is not looking so great now. Remember you also have to carry your litter! Also, trying to be ultra-light is fine but sort your priorities out; there’s little point cutting your toothbrush in half to save weight when you’ve crammed in that hardback of War and Peace you’re not going to touch other than on the train.
5. Do not plan everything!
Wild camping is about the experience of being self-sufficient, of taking the path as it comes and discovering new places. You cannot and should not try to plan exact camp-sites beforehand. Give yourself a rough area, but it’s very hard to tell a good camp-site until you arrive. The above rules can sometimes be ignored. If you’re on a dry col and the weather forecast is great and you know there’s going to be a stunning view of the Western Isles when you wake up, then go for it. People that stick to too many rules and try to pinpoint exactly where their ‘wild’ camp-sites will be in advance are probably terribly boring. See what happens. But don’t carry tins of soup.
Not sure about venturing into the wilderness alone? Well worry not – why not try our canoeing and sea kayaking expedition trips that include wilderness camping. Our expert guides will be happy to show you the ropes, so you can relax and enjoy camping in Scotland. Share your own tips in the comments below.
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