Frozen ground. Long dark nights. Minus temperatures. There are many reasons why most of us pack away the tent come winter. But what about the positives; no midges, more cups of tea and 17 hours of darkness for a lie in! In all seriousness, there is something magical about sleeping outside in winter – the adventure kind of feels more adventurous.
This last minute camping plan arose texting back and forth with my mum on a Saturday night. We felt we hadn’t been doing enough outside, we were fed up of the dark, all the usual winter moans. So I pitched the camping idea to mum, who laughed – and then realised I was being serious.
Neither of us are overly experienced in winter conditions, but we were confident we had the correct kit and with good weather on the cards, it was the perfect night to be outside.
For us, Glen Coe is the perfect halfway point between our homes. Initially we planned to walk partially up a hill to find a scenic spot with a view – but with snow starting to fall and the temperature dropping as the afternoon went on we decided sleeping lower in the glen would be more enjoyable and less freezing.
Pitching the new tent caused confusion, and a lot of hilarity. Our hands were freezing, and guess who forgot to pack the instructions? Or even read them! But we worked it out, set up camp and got a fire lit in the last hour before darkness. It’s true that energy is burnt much quicker when you’re cold, neither of us had eaten much during the day; and by 3pm we felt the effects.
Having a real fire was such a treat, credit to mum who brought all the fire lighting bits and pieces. I was all for a jet boil dinner, but once the fire was going I was so grateful for the heat. By this point the hunger shivers were intense, so we melted marshmallows and scoffed them while our sausages cremated themselves on our fire.
We were both worried we wouldn’t sleep, as the last log burned through and we were left in complete darkness the temperature was at -2. Not incredibly cold, but cold enough! The feeling of fullness certainly helped us to feel sleepy, and with no light left we climbed into the tent, layered up (again) and tried our best to get cosy.
I’m not convinced I did actually sleep. I must have dosed off a number of times, but it was broken and it felt like a long night. I was neither cold or warm, I had plenty of thermal layers on, and I didn’t feel the cold of the ground, or any chill from the tent (big thumbs up for the new tent) – but it felt as though I had a layer of cold trapped on my skin that I couldn’t shake. My mum said the same, and a few times throughout the night we squeaked ‘are you still awake’ to one another. So, not much sleep to be had, but I can’t say I ever sleep that well in tents even in the summer.
But – we did it! We made it through the night! Unzipping the tent to the view of the mountains, and River Etive was quietly satisfying. No big fanfair, but the sense of a small accomplishment felt really good. Although we zipped the tent straight up again and boiled up water for porridge before the hunger shivers returned.
After we packed down the tent, we followed the river to the head of Loch Etive – which is one of my favourite spots on a calm day. It’s rare to find a sea loch that comes so far inland and being surrounded by sky scraping mountains; the most incredible reflections are created on the water surface.
And, what’s the best way to round off an adventure? Of course, we had to go for a (very quick) dip.
In collaboration with Vango – my tent and sleeping bag was gifted.