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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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26 comments

  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?

    -JJ

    • 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.

  14. Phil,

    Great to see an AAR about gear for the Cape Wrath Trail (agreed, it is not a trail at all; should be called a route, at best!). We completed the CWT in June this year, and we had some rather strong positives and negatives with our gear as well. Fortunately, no stove failures with our Snow Peak Gigapower, even with the Primus gas canisters; however, it’s good to know we should be careful next time! We already wrote you about the 100% FAIL of the Anti-Gravity Gear fake rain gear, and our close call with hypothermia in a steady downpour from Barrisdale to Kinloch Hourn Farmhouse caused by that faulty gear. On the other hand, we absolutely LOVED our Tarptent Stratospire 2 tent, both for its waterproofness, wind proofness, roominess, its large vestibules, and its ability to set up in the rain with the tent inside the fly. We also loved using OS maps dowloaded into the VewRanger App on our iPhone. Great navigation! We kept my iPhone absolutely dry and shock protected with a Lifeproof cover, that survived downpours and hailstorms, several accidental plunges into swirling streams, and being dashed against hard rocky surfaces. We seem to have a different opinion of gaiters: loved our OR Verglas gaiters, especially in difficult moor and bog terrain, or splashing across smaller streams without getting wet. We also loved our OR gloves with waterproof outers that stuffed into a zippered pouch on the back, but I don’t think they make them anymore (and they don’t work with touch phons screens). If Ibex were still around… we both have their merino hooded woolies and tees, which we pretty much lived in, rain or shine. Nothing beats a down sweater for nights in bothies or tents, and we loved our Patagonias every night. We are rather much cozy sleepers, so not so fond of quilts, thus we took lighter weight REI Helio Down 45 sleeping bags and were warm every night too. We switched to lighter weight (for us) sleeping pads this time, but we used the ones you didn’t: the Therm-a-rest NeoAir XTherm, and loved those too. I had a really bad time with boots (I know, these are very personal choices), Asolo boots I had tested in a large variety of locations and terrains for years, that destroyed my feet in a few days of Scottish terrain and weather. We ended up ordering a new pair of slightly lighter, more flexible, and wider Merrell Moabs wide (miraculous one day delivery in the north of Scotland! Though later discovered a great outdoor store in Ullapool), and my feet recovered sufficiently to complete the trek. We learned a ton about foot care on this trip, and very strongly recommend Compeed advanced blister care cushions. Miraculous! As for rough terrain being hard on feet, we also highly recommend Black Diamond hiking poles. The terrain is extremely rough and unpredictable, so poles definitely help. As for food, we have not used commercial freeze dried dinners for ages, but for this trip, since we had to plan ahead so carefully, we found a company we loved: Good-To-Go, and especially their more spicy meals, were great. We make one pot meals with them, additional freeze dried veggies from North Bay Trading Company, a little olive oil (added calories), some jerky, and a shallot. Cooking that way (mostly boil and let sit), for two of us, a 230 gm canister of gas lasted six days. As for packs, neither of us really can handle the lack of padding on the most ultra-lightweight packs, so we use a 45 liter REI pack and we never carried more than 30 lbs., and that was only on the section of the trip where we needed 4 days of food. We agree about waterproof pack covers, liners, and stuff sacks: you can never have too many of them in Scotland! Overall, we had a blast on this challenging route, and the good gear helped make it much easier!

    • Oh, a few other things: Headnet! Essential for midges! I used a newer Ben’s with elastic straps that clipped under my arms. Also agree with you about Darn Tough socks. I use the newer, thicker trekking ones. Amazing. Never wear out. Water filter: we filter too. That said, our Sawyer mini clogged pretty regularly, not sure why. It always seemed to be some gooey reddish-brown tannic acid derived substance when we backflushed it in a hotel with hot water. By the way, your original gear list has Band-Aid Hydroseal bandages. We found they did not stick well in the wet conditions of Scotland, and, as I said above, Compeed worked a million times better. Headlamp: it never got dark on our trek in June, but we found these useful in the bothies. We wore REI soft shell pants, and with our gaiters, almost never needed rain pants. That said, Scotland is as you describe it, so worth carrying them anyway.

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