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Gear that Worked and Gear that Didn’t on the Cape Wrath Trail

Cape Wrath Trail Gear List Critique

I like to keep track of what gear worked and what didn’t on my backpacking trips for future reference. If you’d like to see the complete list of gear I brought for this, the southern half (140 miles) of the Cape Wrath Trail, it’s detailed in this (linked) gear list post. 

Gear that Worked

Feathered Friends Tanager 20 Sleeping Bag – This hoodless sleeping bag kept me comfortably warm during the entire trip despite the fact that nighttime temperatures were much lower than expected and below freezing almost every night. The top of the bag cinches around my shoulders and neck, so I wore a fleece hat, a Powerstretch hoodie, and my OR Baja Down Pullover with it every night and slept like a baby. Weighing 19 oz, I thought thought it’d be too warm for this trip, but the extra insulation was great. Read my review. 

Sea-to-Summit Etherlight XT Insulated Sleeping Pad – A new sleeping pad for me, but so much more comfortable than my old NeoAir Xlite or Xtherm. A full 4″ thick, it has a much softer feel with “air-sprung cells”, with a pillow lock feature so your pillow stays put at night. Read my review

Exped Schnozzel Pump Bag and Pack Liner – Another slam dunk. You can never have too many stuff sacks in Scotland, so having one that serves multiple purposes was a win. Of course, I really like the fact that I could inflate my sleeping pad with 2-3 bagfuls of air. That alone is priceless. I’m surprised at how many other people use a Schnozzel. Read my review.

Backpacking gear
Drying out a damp sleeping bag

Outdoor Research Baja Hooded Down Pullover – I’ve been wearing this hoody almost daily since last October. I wore it to sleep during the trip and around camp when cooking breakfast and dinner. It has a fully adjustable hood and kangaroo hand pocket. Read my Review

Ragged Mountain Equipment Highland Hoody – Ragged Mountain has a terrible website, but they make really good and inexpensive technical clothing that you can only buy at their store outside of North Conway, NewHampshire. The Highland Hoody is Powerstretch hoody with a half zipper, thumb loops, and a high collar that covers your face. It dries fast, it is easy to vent, and super warm. I wore it every day of my trip, usually all day, and all night in my sleeping bag. 

Montbell Versalite Rain Pants – These rain pants are a little delicate since they only weigh 3.7 oz. But they’re quite breathable and fairly easy to put on and take off without having to remove your shoes. I put them on over my long pants, often several times per day, to stay dry during passing rain showers and hail storms. Read my review. 

Montbell Tachyon Anorak Wind Shirt – A wind shirt is a must-have in Scotland. After the weather “warmed” up, I wore this wind shirt over a wool shirt when I needed a little extra warmth. It’s over 10 years old and going strong. Read my review.

Darn Tough Hiker Boot Socks – The grit and sand in Scotland streams eats through socks and quickly destroys them, which is a problem because frequent stream crossings are an unavoidable fact of life here. But my Darn Tough Socks weathered the onslaught without showing any wear and tear. Read my review

Hyperlite Mountain Gear DCF Shoulder Pocket – This waterproof shoulder pocket is just fantastic for carrying a phone and camera so they’ll easily handy. Read my review

Illustrate use of canister stove cookset
Soto Amicus Cookset – Two pots are definitely better than one

Soto Amicus Cook Set – This stove and cook set replaced my MSR Windburner on day 3 of the trip (see above). I quickly came to prefer this cookset over the Windburner. Having two pots made it easy to boil a one-liter pot of tea each morning and then decant cups of it into the cooler and smaller 1/2 liter cook pot to drink. You can’t really do that with a Windburner and have to wait around for the pot to cool if you want to drink out of it (which defeats the purpose of a fast boil). The one-liter Amicus pot is also large enough to store the Amicus stove and a 230-gram gas canister, making it far more space efficient to pack than the Windburner. The Amicus Stove is more powerful than the Windburner’s while being surprisingly wind resistant. Read our review. 

iPhone XR – Loaded up with the OS Maps and ViewRanger navigation apps, which are the best apps for UK navigation. I mainly used my iPhone for navigation (complemented by a compass) and would burn about 30% of the battery per day. I bought this phone with 256GB of onboard memory so I could store the entire 25k and 50k Ordnance Survey map set (in both apps) and not have to worry about downloading additional map tiles during my trip. The XR has an eSim capability so you can run two sim cards are once on the phone, to avoid paying long distance fees to your primary cell phone provider. I bought am Gigsky eSim for data, but it only ever worked in major urban areas and not in the countryside. I ended up relying on my Verizon Sim card and their $10/day foreign cell phone service when I needed Internet and wasn’t near a near wireless connection point. It all worked very well. 

Camping gas stove
The MSR Windburner wasn’t compatible with Primus gas canisters and stopped functioning

Gear That Didn’t Work

MSR Windburner Stove  – My Windburner Stove stopped functioning on the third day of my trip, necessitating a detour back to Fort William and a lost day to buy a replacement stove. I wasn’t going to walk into the highlands with a non-functioning stove in the winter conditions we’d been experiencing. I’m not exactly sure if it was the stove or an incompatibility with the Primus gas canisters which was at issue, although I suspect it was the latter since I’ve used that same stove many times with MSR, Jetboil, and Snowpeak canisters purchased in the USA. Primus gas is the only gas that I was able to find in Fort William and the Windburner would vent a worrying amount of gas whenever I screwed the canister on or removed it. That is, until the stove stopped functioning altogether, despite swapping in different canisters to see if the problem was specific to one of them and not the rest.  I couldn’t waste time trying to chase down the root cause, so I tossed the Windburner and bought the Soto Amicus cookset to replace it at Cotswold Outdoors in Fort William. I was lucky that the Windburner/Primus canister failed when they did, on the outskirts of Invergarry, which is a one-hour bus ride to Fort William. It would have been much worse farther north, where there are NO gear stores. 

Yama Mountain Gear Rain Mitts – The wrists are too short and expose your wrists (where the blood flows close to your skin) to the cold and rain. I’ll probably buy some Sealskin waterproof gloves for my next trip. Your dexterity with rain mitts is too poor. Review forthcoming.

cuben fiber tent
The Dirigo 2 was prone to heavy internal condensation

Hyperlite Mountain Gear Dirigo 2 Tent – The Dirigo 2 is quite susceptible to internal condensation because it doesn’t have enough ventilation. Luckily I brought a camp towel along, so I could wipe down the inside of the tent every morning. I thought this tent would perform better, but I’ll bring a different shelter next time, probably an MLD Trailstar w/ a nest or a Tarptent Stratospire One.  Scotland eats single wall tents alive. A double wall shelter is far preferable. Read my review

Ragged Mountain Intervale Gaiters – I hate wearing gaiters when there’s no snow and well, I still hate them. I ditched these gaiters, the first chance I got. They were too hot and made my calves sweat/socks damp. I prefer muddy legs. 

First Aid Kit – I’ve always prided myself on carrying an ultralight first aid kit, but I need to go back to the drawing board on this one and augment my kit with more bandages and antiseptic wipes. I cut myself fairly badly on the second morning of the hike and didn’t have what I needed to patch myself up. It was messy. I was lucky to run into someone who had better first aid supplies and insisted on dressing the wound properly. 

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  1. I love trip debriefing blog posts like this one. Thanks.

  2. Interesting article Phil ?

  3. Yes good article. And glad you got that cut dressed.

  4. Thanks for this. I love these types of posts.

  5. How are you liking your HMG pack?

  6. dominique mclean

    Thanks Philip! Great descriptions, i learned a lot. My first aid kit definitely needs some tweaking! i would love to hear more ideas on that.

  7. Very much appreciate you taking the time to write up such a useful and concise gear report in addition to the trip report elsewhere on your site. Both were good reading with morning coffee and started a longing to get out and go somewhere soon.

    I feel your pain regarding the first aid kit. I’m sometimes envious of the lightness of other people’s kits, but I’ve found that carrying things that are actually useful and used means mine is going to weigh an ounce or so more. That ounce was a small price to pay on a recent Foothills Trail hike where I used every blister bandaid I had with me. When I got home I doubled my supply for next time. The pain of not having enough is much worse than the fatigue from carrying that little bit of extra first aid (within reason).

  8. The good thing about augmenting a first aid kit is that it doesn’t weigh much. I recently added a couple of 4×4 non-adhesive bandages, some roll gauze and what-not and have much more flexibility in what I can treat with virtually no weight penalty. I’m also reminded of Andrew Skurka’s comment on the subject: “I’ve never weighed my first aid kit.”

  9. I’ve known for a while that my well used, but very out dated Bluet Camping Gaz stove needed replacing. I purchased it in 1970 while living in Denmark. That stove traveled with me while bicycling from The Schwartz Wald through Europe and saw many hiking trips. But yeah, 1970! This weekend I finally decided it was time to take a picture and kiss the stove goodbye. It failed while on a bikepacking trip. Fortunately I had an alcohol pellet stove as back-up. After reading reviews here and elsewhere I ordered an Amicus Soto from REI.

  10. Am new to distance hiking, will do my first after I retire next year (Austin, Texas to Terlingua Ranch, about 460 miles). I read all these reviews and appreciate the people sending them.

  11. Regarding … “… different shelter next time, probably an MLD Trailstar w/ a nest […] Scotland eats single-wall tents alive”

    Any particular reason[s] why MLD Trailstar rather than MLD DuoMid, at about the same weight?


    • Because I’ve logged about 400 miles in Scotland with a duomid and want to try something different. Plus I have lots of friends there who rave about it.

      • Martin Wayne Rye

        Good gear review and critical points made Philip. Just read your trip report. Glad you had an ok trip – plus I found the Fox also, but much further along the trail than when you meet William.

      • Plans to bring a first timer – good friend/mountain guide – on next years TGO. I expect we’ll run into you…:-)

    • The Trailstar has many advantages over other UL shelters for Scotland when used with an inner:

      1. Superb wind resistances. Way better than any other none tent shelter.
      2. Lots of space to organise kit. Huge porch area is ideal in bad weather to cook and dump wet kit away from the inner.
      3. Inner offers bug protection, dry space to relax in and sort kit.
      4. Inner can be lowered and the Trailstar lowered to 90cm for, or I suggest rarely rivalled storm worthy performance for an ultralight shelter. Just sleep on top of the inner once unclipped from the outer. Lower the TS and be secure it will survive very strong winds.

      I just used mine for 2 weeks in Scotland. Faultless setup for the conditions. No treeline to offer protection. So wind resistances is the key requirement.

  12. Great write up. Thanks for sharing.

  13. Ragged Mountain no longer has a website.

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