New Year, New Mountains: 4 Days Wild Camping in the Knoydart Peninsula

wild knoydart stag, staring at camera in front of mountains

It’s 4am and it’s the first time I’ve been woken up by an alarm in 12 days. My body and brain aren’t quite sure what’s happening as I accidentally hit Ben in the face trying to stop my phone from wailing. When the internal panic subsides and my conscious brain realises it’s not work I’m getting out of bed for, the excitement creeps in. Instead of spending the ‘no mans land’ time between Christmas and New Year festering in a Baileys soaked Netflix hole, we decided to get one last wild camp in for 2018. After a very strong coffee, we started our 600 mile journey to one of the most remote regions in Scotland. 

The drive was incredibly smooth and we made good time, getting to the top of Loch Lomond by sunset. Passing through this national park made me realise that it holds a really special place in my heart. When we first visited Scotland back in June last year, driving around the loch was the moment I fell in love with the Highlands. The mountains, the forest, the eerie calm of the water, it grabbed my heart and choked me, sending shivers down my arms and spine. I was slightly nervous that when we returned the feeling would be different or that I had exaggerated it and the pictures I reminisced fondly over were nothing more than a highlight reel. As we followed the A82 through Luss and the imposing figure of Beinn Dubh came into view, I relaxed. The familiar feeling of home settled in that I can only explain as my heart knowing what’s right for me before my brain is capable of processing it. 

Moody Loch Lomond, mountains reflecting in the water

Typically, as with every road trip we seem to take, the last 10 miles are always the hardest. Optimistically we ignored a sign advising the only single track road leading towards the Knoydart peninsula was closed, due to a landslip. 45 minutes later we found ourselves doing a U-turn and praying for signal to plan a new, last minute route. After dropping a pin on the Glen Dessary estate and taking a beautifully scenic detour around Loch Arkaig, we arrived at a small and free-to-use car park. 

By the time we were ready to hoist our backpacks on and hit the trail, it was 9pm. Never mind, we’ll easily find a camp spot, right? As a handy tip, I’d avoid fording a fast flowing river after a 12 hour drive and 4 hours sleep if you can. Also perhaps scrambling at midnight by dying head torch light in heavy rain, but, in fairness, it does make for a good story. It’s 1am. We found a flat-ish pitch that didn’t appear to have any streams flowing through it and I’d never felt more relieved to get the tent up. I don’t think my head even hit my sea to summit inflatable pillow before I was asleep. 

Our first day was not an early start. Whilst finding a camp spot in the dark can be quite stressful, waking up to a completely unknown view is always exciting. When the sound of rain gently died away and the heat of unexpected mid-morning sun encouraged me out of my sleeping bag, the mountain range we found ourselves on the edge of, was breath-taking. Terra Nova Southern Cross 2 tent on the side of a mountain

We packed up lazily, after the previous nights escapades we were in no hurry to get moving. Our late start meant we crossed paths with the only other humans we would see over our 4 day expedition. After sharing a mutual love for the great outdoors, they pointed us in the direction of a bothy that was unmarked on our map, sitting near the base of Sgurr na Ciche. Armed with the knowledge that there was a fireplace waiting for us, we set our sights on Sourlies and made it our mission to get their before nightfall. 

Originally, our aim was still to concur Ladhar Bheinn. However, we were painfully aware that we would need to cover some serious ground if we were going to get anywhere close on this trip. Due to the reroute of our starting point, we had a whole new set of mountains in the way and a fair few extra miles to cover. By the time we reached the edge of Loch Nevis, the last blue light of the day was fading and we were still at least a day away from Ladhar Bheinn. We decided it was best to leave this remote giant for another trip. Refusing to give up on summiting our first Munro, we figured Sgurr na Ciche was a good alternative. Megan looking out over the Scottish Highlands

Whilst I love wild camping and am especially fond of our Terra Nova Southern Cross 2, I was excited to spend a night in a bothy. It was a first for both of us and I honestly didn’t know what to expect. I was pleasantly surprised by how well maintained and clean it was. Other travellers had left coal, tea lights and whiskey and a doe was calmly grazing outside the front door. Sourlies felt like a vestige of times gone-by, where community meant everything and our connections were human to human not human to device. We made ourselves comfy and bedded down for the night. 

I woke to the sound of rain and wind pelting against the corrugated metal roofing. It was hard to tell what time it was, as the days are short and the weather gloomy. With no real idea on the best route to Sgurr na Ciche, we settled on just going straight up. Suitably caffeinated and armed with an almond bounce ball, it was full steam ahead along the deer track running behind the bothy. 

After about 15 minutes of steep ascent I was knackered. The intense rain and unseasonably warm weather meant the ground was completely saturated and getting any purchase was a challenge. With very few hours of daylight, we didn’t have the luxury of slow lunch breaks or multiple coffee stops either. A hand full (or two) of trail mix would have to do. As is usually the way with mountains, they seem to have a climate entirely of their own. Whilst we could see the sun shining through onto Loch Nevis below us, we were marching firmly into the clouds. At 750m above sea level and just after 4pm, visibility was nonexistent. If the weather remained like this in the morning, getting to the summit of Sgurr na Ciche would be impossible with only one full day left in the mountains. Megan crouched down on top of a mountain looking out over Loch Nevis

Our trail mix sacrifice to the weather gods didn’t bring us much luck. We woke in the same heavy cloud we fell asleep in. Everything past arms length was grey, wet and shrouded in fog. With no idea on route, no view of the ascent and very little time, we had to abandon bagging our first Munro. Disappointing as it was, the extreme remoteness, rugged nature of the backcountry and intensity of the weather was still providing us with an epic adventure. 

Now the only way was off of the mountain. This was a slow process. One foot tentatively after the other, testing patches of loose scree and rocks with our walking poles. Scrambling on our knees to grappling at sheer rock faces, we tried to avoid looking down too much. 4 hours and 600 meters of decent later, we rejoined the river we followed on our first day out in the Knoydart peninsula. Inspired by a new found appreciation for bothies, we set A’Chuil on the edge of the Glen Dessary estate as our way point.  A’Chuil bothy tucked against the Glen on Glen Dessary estate

Tucked sombrely on the edge of the glen, the sweet, ashy scent of firewood drifted up to meet us as we drew closer to our home for the night. Previous tenants had left all sorts of outback luxuries from kindling to binoculars and even a spare sleeping mat. We busied ourselves about camp for a good few hours, filtering water, drying gear and getting a good fire going. I let my mind drift away, watching the flames dance hypnotically. The usual combination of melancholy and serenity sets in as our final night and trip all draw to a close. 

I walked out of Knoydart on New Years Eve with a renewed sense of purpose and a feeling of clarity that I had been missing for a long time. I’m not usually one for making resolutions, but I know that 2019 is going to be the beginning of a refreshing chapter for us. Thank you for having us Scotland, we’ll be back very soon. 

A beginners guide to wild camping gear

Shortly after our last wild camping trip to Dartmoor, we were lucky enough to go to Belgium for the 2018 Spa-Francorchamps Grand Prix. As we spent roughly 85% of our time when we were out on the moors hiking through rain, I made the fatal assumption that my 5-year-old North Face jacket would be up for a little bit of car camping on the continent. Unfortunately for me, one monumental thunderstorm through qualifying proved me very wrong. Whilst this made for an exciting starting grid, it also made me realise that if I wanted to go anywhere near the outdoors this winter, I needed to invest in a new hard shell. Now that I am at the point of upgrading a lot of my gear, it feels like the right time to impart my newbie knowledge and share my successes and failures with my kit.

Sleep System 

This one’s important. It’s hard enough getting up on a bad nights sleep to sit behind a desk for 8 hours, let alone to hike through all sorts of terrain and weather, pushing your body to its limits. 

2.5 Helium Mat – Mountain Equipment | RRP: £70
Mountain equipment Helium 2.5 roll mat in blue

This mat is a great lightweight, packable and affordable piece of kit to start getting you outside. It’s quiet and self-inflating, with a non-slip coating that’s soft to the touch. As it’s comparatively pretty thin and the main bulk of the material is foam, it doesn’t offer much warmth in colder climates or comfort on tougher ground. Pair this with a decent sleeping bag and you’ll be golden for most trips though. 

Aerolite 1000 Mummy Sleeping Bag – BLACKS | RRP: £70
two tone green synthetic mummy bag from blacks - 1000 aerolite.
BLACKS don’t appear to make any sleeping bags anymore. No great shame – buy a Rab one instead

Quite honestly, this was a terrible decision. This synthetic filled bag will suit you down to the ground for summertime festivals, but with the comfort limit at 5C, I struggle with this in Spring/Autumn meaning winter is a massive no-go. I have since stolen Bens old Rab Alpine 600 down bag, which is rated down to -14. Muuuuch better thank you, please!


Peak Attack 42l – Lowe Alpine | RRP: £75
Black 42 litre backpack with orange accents from Lowe Alpine.
Lowe Alpine no longer make this pack, follow the link to the updated ‘Peak Ascent’ bag.

I actually love this pack and have no intention of changing it anytime soon. I find it super comfy, easy to adjust, hard wearing and has all the room I need for 3-5 days in the wild. Admittedly, Ben and I share a tent and cooking gear, so you’d likely want a slightly bigger pack if you’re heading out on your own. Being a mountaineering bag, it’s very streamlined and my only minor grumble is no hip belt pockets to store my trail snacks in. However, Ben being the clever little muffin that he is, found an awesome independent seller on eBay crafting hip pockets out of Cuban fibre. I’m yet to order any, but you can check them out here.

Ultralight Raincover M (30-50l) – Osprey | RRP: £26
dark forest green waterproof rain cover from osprey for 30-50l backpacks.

Not a hugely exciting purchase, but definitely a crucial one. My pack didn’t come with its own rain cover and hiking without one in the U.K. is insanity, unless of course, you enjoy everything being soaked. Comes with everything you need, adjustable elastic ripcord, a small clip to secure it whilst you’re walking and hip belt attachments.


Terra GORE-TEX Boot – Scarpa | RRP: £145
deep brown leather hiking boots from scarpa for women.

Anyone that has spent more than 15 minutes walking with wet socks knows the importance of warm, dry feet! My first trip in these boots was to Dartmoor over New Year 2016/2017 and to this day I am still super impressed with them! Being both GORE-TEX and leather they’re ace at keeping the water out and the padded lining means no blisters. My only gripe with these is the rock-solid soles. There really isn’t much flex in them, so after a long day of hiking, it does hurt. That said, I still think they’re great and they get a thumbs up from me.

Trekker Pants – North Face | RRP: £59.99
brown trekker pants from the north face

I really lucked out with these pants! I spent zero time researching them and bought them on sale the day before we went on our first trip. They’re light, inoffensive in colour, hard wearing, quick drying, easy to move about in, plenty of pockets and have a pointless roll-up hem. What more do you want from hiking trousers? Plus they’re pretty damn cheap. I’m sure at some point I’ll upgrade these, but right now – they’re dreamy.

Phase AR Base Layer – Arc’Teryx | RRP: £65
black high neck, zip top, arcteryx base layer

My new favourite outdoor brand! I am personally a big fan of Arc’Teryx and whilst the products are expensive, they’re great quality, look good and will last. This base layer dries quickly, it’s got a comfortable next-to-skin fit and wicks sweat – so you don’t stink when you’re out for a number of days in a row. 

Ultra Light Down Seamless Parka – Uniqlo | RRP: £69.90
black zip up down parka from uniqlo
Uniqlo no longer sells my exact down mid-layer, but this appears to be very similar just in matte colours!

This mid-layer is one of the few non-technical bits of kit I bought specifically to go wild camping with. I needed a cheap insulating layer and it was on offer in Uniqlo. My ONLY concern with this piece is the ethical sourcing of down feathers. Uniqlo’s parent company, Fast Retailing, doesn’t have the same high-level auditing systems as companies like North Face or Patagonia. They do, however, have a small supply chain and have ensured all their partners sign an agreement to treat animals humanely. If nothing else, it’s a good start, but it is a piece of kit I’ll consider upgrading in the near future.

TriClimate 3in1 Waterproof Jacket – The North Face | RRP: £200-210
black waterproof jacket from north face with zip in fleece.

I’ve had this jacket for over 6 years and whilst it’s now time for it to retire, it has served me very well. Used as a daily in the city, dragged through summer festivals, winter downpours, wild camps, hikes and everything in between, it’s had some decent mileage. The zip in and out fleece makes it a versatile year-round jacket and the pit zips offer quick heat relief on the move. With a bit of care the North Face own-brand, HyVent waterproofing system works pretty well too. RIP ol‘ faithful. 

In summary

When you’re just getting started, buying all the gear outright can be really expensive. All of the above RRPs add up to just shy of £800 and that doesn’t include other important pieces of kit, such as a tent or stove. Saying that, by buying in sales or second hand, you can save a lot of money. It’s also important to prioritise what’s important to you. Figure out what you need as a baseline, invest in those pieces and the rest can be upgraded over time. At the end of the day, just get out there. Not everything has to be perfect, you’ll wait an entire lifetime for that, it’s just important that you’re getting out and doing it. 

A weekend in Dartmoor by a wild camping novice

It’s been a long week of sitting behind a desk. Sitting on trains. Waiting patiently and not so patiently after delays and cancellations and signalling problems. I am clock watching at 16:41 on a Friday but let’s face it, who isn’t? Perched on my sofa, clad in my North Face hiking trousers and Arc’Teryx base layer, both our packs loaded in Fonzie’s boot, I’m waiting for 5 o’clock to tick over so I can stop aimlessly rearranging my PowerPoint presentation and hit the road.

I’m pretty new to wild camping. I haven’t got that many miles under my belt, but I’m really getting into it. There’s something so wonderfully primal about spending the entire day walking until your legs burn, then finding somewhere cosy to sleep for the night. Admittedly I would definitely struggle on my own, but Ben has been going for years and is quite honestly the sole reason I haven’t yet contracted dysentery or pitched the tent in the middle of a marsh.

Megan eating trail mix in Dartmoor wild camping
Clearly trail mix has always been a personal favourite 

Despite this being the hottest and driest summer of my life, we managed to pick the one weekend where it’s absolutely pissing it down. We can just about make out the car in fronts left tail light and I’m pretty sure if we don’t keep moving along this road/river, we’ll flood the engine. Thankfully it’s another 60 miles to Dartmoor, so I’m forever hopeful that this weather will change.

This will be my first expedition to the South Moors, normally we stick to the remote and tough ground in the North, skirting around the military firing range just out of Fernworthy Forest. This time, we’re heading towards Postbridge and intend to hike as much of the Two Moors Way as possible before our now traditional camp fire on the Saturday evening.

Apparently whichever rain God I was praying too on the journey up, took pity on me and the skies were crystal clear, when we carefully selected the least threatening looking lay by to leave the car in for the weekend. Boots on, packs strapped, head torch on full beam, we made our way into an unknown forest to find a decent pitch. Albeit slightly tricky in the woods at night, we still managed to find a clear patch of ground to get the tent up and oh my. Those stars. This is the reason all the great love stories, the saddest tragedies and wildest adventure novels have been written. Unfortunately for us, however, rain is forecast from 2am onwards, so reluctantly the outer goes on and we bed down for the night. 

When we wake, I am greeted by one of my all time favourite views; mist shrouded forest. As much as camping when it’s sunny and dry is lovely, nothing is more magical than fog resting lazily between tree trunks. It’s not an early start, but it’s also not a late one and today is our best shot at getting some good miles down. After a quick coffee, we’ve got the campsite packed up and are heading out to find a trail. 

Good morning mysterious and beautiful forest!

Within the first hour, we’re both soaked. Our ‘waterproof’ jackets are the best part of 5 years old and despite some valiant attempts at re-proofing, are wetting out rapidly. I knew my North Face had seen better days but as it’s still about 15-20C neither of us are too concerned about hypothermia. I did however, use it as an excuse to eat all my trail mix before lunch to ‘keep my energy up’. 

I’ll review some of the gear I’ve been using as a beginner wild camper in another post, but if this trip has taught me anything so far, it’s that being dry is being happy. Before we go on a winter trip, a new jacket, waterproof trousers and a better roll mat are very necessary. Taking refuge from the wind and rain behind a Tor, we tucked into our pasta and scrambled egg with cheese for lunch. Perhaps in hindsight it was a strange combination of rehydrated meals, but it felt Michelin star at the time. 

Due to being on a tight time budget, we decided to loop around and find a more sheltered spot in the same forest we stayed in on our first night. Offering protection from the elements and maybe, just maybe, the possibility of a camp fire. 

We made good time. An hour before sunset, we’ve got our campsite set up, a fire roaring and dinner on the go. For the last 24 hours I’ve been carrying a bottle of red wine instead of water and after 25 miles, it tastes like liquid gold. Despite the contents of my bag getting a good soaking after not securing a bottle lid properly, I’m in remarkably good spirits. Perhaps it’s the Cote du Rhône, perhaps it’s accidentally melting one of Bens socks to my fire stick, but I feel overwhelmingly satisfied. 

Our perfect little pitch between the trees

Its been a short but successful trip. Tomorrow its back to civilisation and I’ll turn from outdoor forest warrior into office job wanker again, but I’m not thinking about that as I peel my damp socks off my feet. With the sound of the rain gently beating against the tent and the red wine creeping into all four corners of my mind, I drift off feeling content, wild and free. 

To keep up with all our outdoor antics, follow us on Instagram