Cape Wrath Trail: Winter Equipment List

by Peter Berrecloth
8th February 2017

In February 2017, I completed the Cape Wrath Trail in 18 days. Here is a breakdown of the gear I chose to take.

The Scottish Winter Can be both difficult and unpredictable, requiring some special thought into what gear to take. My kit list for The Cape Wrath Trail was very minimal, comparing more to a 3-season setup. But there were some big differences too.

I did not go “ultralight”, as I do not believe lightweight materials could withstand a Scottish Winter (my trip coincided with Storm Doris). My gear choices were based around practicality, reliability and safety.

I also chose gear that I knew and I was comfortable using — familiarity is an important factor, as it would be foolish to take untested gear out into the wild only to discover it doesn’t work for you.

All of my gear was tested for a weekend-hike in Snowdonia prior to the trip. Everything that failed or was unused was taken out.

Pack weight

A normal Winter weight for this kind of trip should be around 16-18kg. Whereas, a typical summer weight is normally around 8-12kg. The additional weight is down to the fact you need greater calories, insulation and fuel to survive Winter.

If I had tackled the Cape Wrath Trail in Summer, I would have probably gone stoveless and taken half the clothing I took on this trip. I would have taken a frameless backpack with lightweight shoes. There are plenty of people who have written about ultralight systems for Cape Wrath, but I went heavyweight.

My final pack weight was a massive 22.6kg. Over 3kg of this was a heavy 3-man tent I found on the route.

As a 6ft4 male weighing 96kg this load was just about manageable, but by the final day I was sustaining some inflammation in my knees and ankles.

Points of interest

  • I used a hooped bivvy shelter, but only because my tent broke in my test run. If I were improve this setup, I would have taken a poncho-tarp, this would have afforded me greater shelter from the elements while camping and on the move.
  • My favourite bits of kit were my Lowa Renegade boots, which protected my ankles on several occasions and are the comfiest shoes I have ever worn.
  • I had never tried trekking poles before, but they possibly saved my life and certainly my joints on many occasions—they are essential for this walk.
  • You will get wet feet, it is inevitable, so don’t bother with gaiters or waterproof socks, they hold in as much water as they hold out.
  • A remote gas canister stove (Primus Spider) was favourable over a Trangia-style alcohol stove. This was convenient, reliable and stable, giving me a brew in 5mins in -7°C conditions (compared to 12mins for the Trangia). Both fuel types (gas or meths) could be sourced in the few shops on the route.
  • I used an external frame backpack. These have fallen out of fashion since the 1980s, but humans have been using them for centuries to carry extremely heavy loads (the frame acts as a rigid extension to your skeleton). It is still lighter than most modern internal frame packs at just 1.6kg.
  • Ice axe, crampons and snow goggles were not required as the trail follows mainly lowland routes.

Be prepared

Although 2017 had a very mild Winter, the weather in Scotland is unpredictable so it is important to be prepared. Check forecasts and don’t pick over-ambitious routes.

The list below is what I finished the trek with. If you have questions about Winter equipment for the CWT, please leave a comment below and I’ll try to help.