For this blog, I hand over the baton to Mark (@mullionvagrant) as he plans for his trip up north to tackle The Outer Hebridean Way.
"As my next trip approaches to The Outer Hebrides hiking The Outer Hebridean Way in the next few weeks, my thoughts are turning to planning what I will be taking.
When I plan any long hike, I like to consider 3 main areas. This is particularly important as I will be travelling solo on this adventure and into some wilderness areas.
These considerations are:
- What to expect
- What I will need
- How I will get there and back
What to expect - Spanning nearly 200 miles across 10 breath taking islands, the route boasts rugged hills and dazzling Atlantic coastline. There are aspects of the geography that I will need to consider when packing and choosing the right gear.
- Sunshine is definitely not a given with persistent heavy rain looking likely.
- The islands are exposed with strong winds highly probable. Atlantic weather systems make their first contact with the Outer Hebrides.
- The conditions are likely to be cold and can be harsh.
- Approximately 40% of the hike will be through peat and bog.
- There is around 40% road and firm path.
- 20% of the hike and potential camp spots will be on sand dunes/beaches.
- There is minimal shelter on the islands with trees and limited accommodation.
- Wild camping is permitted on the islands. This is reinforced by the Scottish Outdoor Access Code.
What I will need - When considering my actual packing, I like to break this down in to 6 key areas. These are:
- Shelter and Sleep System
- Clothing and Foot wear
- Water, food and waste
- Emergency, navigation, health and first aid
- Technical items
Shelter and Sleep System
As there is minimal shelter and the islands can be exposed with strong winds, I will need to consider a strong tent. A strong tent that is light enough to carry a long distance with and a decent vestibule. A good groundsheet is a possibility due to peat and bog land. I also need a decent vestibule as I need to stash my backpack and potentially cook out of the wind and rain.
I will likely be taking the Wild Country Zephyros 2
Pegs are an important consideration and I will be taking extra long pegs to cope with the wind. These will be the Easton 9" Backpacker Stakes. I'll also be packing 6 MSR Blizzard stakes due to the fact that 20% of the camping spots will be potentially on sand dunes and beaches and I want to ensure my tent is fixed down well.
A good sleeping bag, appropriate to the conditions is a must! I'm taking a decent dry bag too to compactly stash it in to to ensure that I don't have any damp nights sleep. I use the Sea to Summit eVent Dry Compression Sacks.
Along side your sleeping bag, you really do need a good sleeping mat and this is important. Im taking a mat by Klymit as it offers incredible comfort and insulation. Look at a high R-Value if you want a truly all year round sleeping system.
Clothing / Foot Wear
Obviously I will be placing a huge emphasis on good waterproofs. Always check before a trip that they are still waterproof and give them a re-proofing!
Understand the layering system and take sufficient clothing.
Gloves, beanie and Buff are a must and a good insulating layer for camp.
I'm still undecided on whether I'm taking hiking boots or a pair of trail runners. What is certain is my feet won't stay dry with the bogs so a waterproof sock is a must.
Water/Food & Waste
I always like to carry lots of water as I'm never sure when I can fill it up next. A good physical filter is a must so I use my Platypus Quickdraw. Although I do also carry water purifying tablets like the Katadyn Micropur as an excellent backup.
I will need to be carrying more food than normal as there are minimal points on the island where I can re-supply. Some villages offer the opportunity for re-stocking but this is by detouring off the trail and can significantly increase the distances.
From my research, there seems that there is good mobile signal and network coverage across the islands hopefully allowing calls and texts!
The route is way marked along the way, but having read some reviews, some sections are not great.
I will be using a range of electronic navigation devices. A Garmin Fenix 3 watch, my mobile phone with Hiiker App and a Satmap 10 GPS. I always take a compass and map and never solely rely upon technology.
Health wise, I will be taking a range of products to cope with midges and ticks! I found that on my Arran Coastal Way hike that Smidge was a great range of products to take. I take a tick remover, Smidge Spray, a Smidge headnet and some sterile wipes.
Due to the nature of the hike, I will be off grid for prolonged periods, so I need to maximise charging opportunities. I've bought a fast charge plug and cable to maximise speed. I will also be taking a solar panel by Powertraveller, which I will mount on my back pack but there's no guarantee with the weather that I can rely upon this for charging.
I will also be taking a headtorch that I can recharge from my backup battery packs.
I will be taking a good ruck sac cover to ensure that the contents of my bag remain dry. There's nothing worse than soggy gear!
A range of dry bags is essential. I prefer to pack my bag using the cube packing technique rather than having one large bag.
I'll be taking a taking pair of binoculars as there is a great opportunity to spot Golden Eagles, Red Deer and Sea Otter along with a multitude of Wading birds.
Music is a nice luxury to have so I will be packing a portable waterproof speaker.
Having the right kit and being prepared is essential in a successful adventure. Jim at Valley and Peak is always at hand to offer excellent advice and will happily discuss all the options available and whether he feels that kit will be suitable for your needs.
Getting to the outer Hebrides is a major undertaking. I have chosen to fly into Glasgow from Bristol and then catch a small plane to Barra, before hiking across the islands. I will then get a ferry back to the mainland and a bus to Inverness where I will catch a return flight.
Road-The distance by road from Oban to London is roughly 500 Miles. This is the same distance as London to the French Alps.
Ferry-Caledonian MacBrayne Ferries run all the ferries linking Scottish Mainland to the Outer Hebrides. Oban is the mainland port for ferries to Barra and Castlebay, whilst Ullapool is the mainland port for ferries to Stowaway and Lewis.
Air-at the Southern tip of the Outer Hebrides is the airport of Barra famous for having the only scheduled air service landing strip on a beach. I will be arriving this way, which has it’s own complications as I can not carry camping gas on the plane and have to source some on arrival-no mean feat."
I'd like to say a big thank you and a huge good luck to Mark as he sets off on his trip!
Jim - Valley and Peak