The following article was written by Aspirant Instructor Rob Bashford about a recent coast to coast journey he undertook across the top of Scotland:
The plan was simple. To cross the Northern Highlands of Scotland on foot from West coast to East coast, a distance of some 65 miles.
Packing for a trip is an art and my girlfriend and I were striving to achieve the right balance between light pack weight, safety and comfort. This means thinking hard about what items are really essential and those which can be considered a luxury. On this note, we opted to carry bivi bags and a tarp, rather than a tent. As someone who has spent a lot of time under tarps in the woods, I know they are a fantastic way to sleep out and I was keen to experiment with pitching my new Hilleberg tarp in the open terrain of the Scottish Highlands.
We chose our equipment carefully and tried where possible to carry items that served two purposes, such as the walking poles that would later double as supports for our tarp. We anticipated low night temperatures at this time of year and for that reason we carried down jackets for use in camp, a decision we would be glad of in the days to come.
With all this in mind, we managed (just) to fit everything we needed for the four days into 50 litre rucksacks. Our trip coincided with high pressure over Scotland and we were greeted by bright if cool conditions on our arrival at the West Coast. We set off into the hills and as we ascended the views opened up, with the Outer Hebrides clearly visible out to the West. The cool air meant the visibility was excellent and we were to be rewarded with spectacular panoramas throughout the trip.
The next four days was spent winding our way across the hills and we were grateful for our light packs as we traversed the innumerable bogs and peat hags. In the evening we pitched our tarp wherever we could find a suitable a spot and despite some very cold night-time temperatures (-10 degrees on the last night), we slept soundly. I was very pleased with the way the tarp performed and to wake in your bivi bag with views of the mountains all round is an experience to savour.
Late on the fourth day we reached our destination on the East coast, tired but very pleased to have completed the journey. Our lightweight philosophy had paid off, without sacrificing safety or comfort. This approach can only work if the kit you carry is good quality and suitable for the task. This reinforces one of the underpinning values of bushcraft, which is to carry only those things that are essential and to rely instead on your skills and judgement to journey safely in wild places.
– Rob Bashford