Winter Wild Camp

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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And, what’s the best way to round off an adventure? Of course, we had to go for a (very quick) dip.

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In collaboration with Vango – my tent and sleeping bag was gifted. 

F10 XPD 3 tent & Ultralite Pro 200

 

 

Spontaneous Wild Camping Mull of kintyre

There are few experiences in life that can overrule the excitment and the freedom of sleeping in the wild. Sleeping outside, whether the experience is good or bad will undoubtably set the scene to be one of those unfogettable moments in your life. Camping in a campsite is fun too, but it doesn’t give the same buzz of being totally alone miles away from anyone the way wild camping does.

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Views of the Kilbranan Sound – looking across to Arran

Wild camping can be a bit of hassle if you’re not prepared, and this is exactly what happened when Emily and I jumped in the car for an adventure at the start of the week.

Shall we just go find somewhere to camp?

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We were pretty unprepared, and we ended up taking a TON of stuff we didn’t really need. You know when you panic pack and end up with a million bags and ten outfits you don’t need? We had ALL the kit in the world, for every kind of adventure and we were only planning to be away for 24 hours. I would also just like to say that this is not a female thing; all my male friends and family members are just as guilty of the panic pack.

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5 star bedroom views

So what was the plan? 

There wasn’t much of a plan. I made a kit list just to be sure I didn’t forget vital items, stuffed it all into the car and we hit the road. I had a rough idea of where we could camp so that made things a little easier. I grew up in a tiny village called Skipness on the Mull of Kintyre which is very remote and quiet – so I thought it would be cool spot to revisit and explore again.

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Basic Kit list 

  • Tent & sleeping bag & mat
  • Camping stove & gas
  • Torch & lighter
  • Sharp Knife & sporks
  • Pan & mug/bowl
  • FOOD & water
  • Small first aid kit

Extras (if your not walking far)

  • Fire wood
  • Bluetooth Speaker
  • Book & playing cards
  • Sketchbook & pen
  • GoPro/camera/tri-pod
  • Wetsuit & snorkelling kit
  • Quick dry Towel
  • Wine
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We didn’t have far to walk since we camped by the beach – so we took quite a lot of food & wine

Is it allowed? 

The beauty of Scotland is, you can almost camp wherever you like as long as you’re not causing any harm to the environment or people who live nearby. Wild camping is legal; however elsewhere in the UK you are supposed to ask landowners permission first.

The Scottish Outdoor Access Code says this: 

Access rights extend to wild camping. This type of camping is lightweight, done in small numbers and only for two or three nights in any one place. You can camp in this way wherever access rights apply, but help to avoid causing problems for local people and land managers by not camping in enclosed fields of crops or farm animals and by keeping well away from buildings, roads or historic structures. Take extra care to avoid disturbing deer stalking or grouse shooting. If you wish to camp close to a house or building, seek the owner’s permission. Leave no trace by:

  • taking away all your litter
  • removing all traces of your tent pitch and of any open fire (follow the guidance for lighting fires)
  • not causing any pollution.

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Side note – it is really important when lighting a fire in the wild that you do it somewhere that isn’t going to kill surrounding vegetation – and all your wood should be burnt to a fine ash to leave no trace. 

What else did we do? 

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We walked around Skipness, and visited the castle which has beautiful views of Arran from the top.

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We took lots of photos!

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We drank beers in the sunshine

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…and wine round the fire

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We also wrote a few bad poems

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…and took some really pretty selfies

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Then, on our way home we detoured for a swim at Westport Beach.

Thanks for a fun night away Emily –

R x @ronamcmillan

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