Sunday 22 September 2013

Scottish Watershed Gear

Camping somewhere on the Watershed

I'm currently writing a trip report on the gear I used on my Scottish Watershed Walk last June and July for the November issue of The Great Outdoors magazine. Before the walk I wrote a piece about the gear I was planning to take, which I've posted below.  I did make some changes before the walk, particularly in clothing so this isn't a list of what I actually carried though it's fairly close.

Scottish Watershed Gear

Late in May I’ll be setting off to walk the Scottish Watershed from the English Border to Duncansby Head, a distance of some 1200km (though I’ll walk more with side trips for supplies). The average elevation of the route is 450 metres and it crosses 44 Munros and 24 Corbetts as well as many other tops. I’ll need gear to cope with everything from hot sunshine (optimistically!) to heavy rain and strong winds. And of course midges.

My gear selection is based on what has worked on other long distance walks, especially the TGO Challenge. Gear that works well on a two-week walk across the Highlands should prove just as good on a two-month walk the length of Scotland. After the walk I’ll report on whether I was right and how well everything worked. In the meantime here’s a rundown of the main items.


Having worn Inov-8 Terrocs on several TGO Challenge walks and on the Pacific Northwest Trail I know these ultralight trail shoes are excellent for backpacking so I shall be wearing them again, with Superfeet footbeds. As back-up and for really hot weather I’ll also take Hi-Tec Owaka sandals (my Best Buy in the sandals review last year) as these are light and comfortable. Having had to buy sandals on a previous TGO Challenge walk and on the Pacific Northwest Trail I know it is false weight-saving not to have spare footwear.


My biggest dilemma has been in choosing a pack. I’ve oscillated between the Lightwave Ultrahike 60, Montane Grand Tour 55, Lowe Alpine Nanon 50-60 and the original GoLite Quest that I used on the Pacific Northwest Trail (I don’t like the current Quest – it’s heavier and not as comfortable). After much deliberation I’ve settled on the 1230 gram Ultrahike, which I think a good combination of toughness, comfort and light weight. It’s just about waterproof too – though I’ll still pack sensitive gear in waterproof stuffsacks. My only reservation is the lack of a big pocket or pouch on the back but I’m sure I can cope without this.


After its superb handling of the big storms during the first week of the 2012 TGO Challenge the Mountain Laurel Designs Trailstar was the obvious choice. I love the space and the wind resistance. As there are likely to be midges later on in the walk rather than just a groundsheet I’ll pair it with a mesh inner, the Oookworks Trailstar Nest. My Carbon Fibre Pacerpoles will be used to support the Trailstar. The total weight, including pegs, is 1157 grams.

Sleeping Bag & Mat

Last winter I was very impressed with the Rab Infinity 500 down sleeping bag, which has amazing loft for the weight. However I think it’ll be too warm for a summer walk so I’ll be using the Infinity 300, which weighs 650 grams and has a comfort rating of +3ยบ. If it’s like the 500 that rating will be very conservative.

My mat will be a NeoAir XLite Small, which weighs just 230 grams and packs into a tiny bundle. I have had a few failures with air beds in the past few years but as this is a summer trip I’ve decided to take the risk again, reckoning I can just sleep on the ground if it fails (after all, Hamish Brown did the first continuous round of the Munros without a mat at all – and he started in April).


Having used it successfully on last year’s TGO Challenge and on the Pacific Northwest Trail I’m sticking with the 225 gram Caldera Ti-Tri Inferno, which I hope to use with wood in any fine weather but will probably mostly use with meths. As I may not be able to get the latter everywhere I’ll also carry the tiny 3 gram Gram Cracker stand for solid fuel tablets, which I’ll put in my postal supplies.

With the Ti-Tri I’ll use my now 22 year old Evernew 0.9 litre Titanium Pan. An MSR 0.6 litre titanium pot that nests inside the Evernew one will double as a mug and a second pot. The two together weigh 220 grams.


Temperatures are not usually very low in Scottish summers but rain and wind can make it feel very chilly. Good waterproofs are essential. Having been impressed with Polartec Neoshell the last few years I’m taking the new lightweight 430 gram Rab Myriad jacket in this material, paired with an old pair of GoLite Reed overtrousers, which weigh 110 grams.

Good though Neoshell is I still prefer a light windproof top in dry breezy weather. One adds a surprising amount of warmth when worn over a base layer too. My choice here is the Montane Lite-Speed, which is made from Pertex Microlight and weighs 170 grams..

For warmth I’m taking my well-used 215 gram Jack Wolfskin Gecko microfleece top, a veteran of many long walks, plus a Patagonia Ultralight Down Shirt, which at just 158 grams won’t add much to my load but which will be really welcome on chilly nights.

My main legwear will be Paramo Merapi Active Trousers, which I’ve been wearing recently and have found to perform well. They’re made from very soft comfortable polyester and weigh 308 grams. I’ll also carry some running shorts for that fabled hot weather. These will double as underwear.

On my top I’ll wear a Rab MeCo zipped base layer. I’ve used this merino wool/Cocona polyester top on the Southern Upland Way and the TGO Challenge and know that it can be worn for two weeks without smelling or failing to wick. On this walk I might found out just how long it stays acceptable!

Other clothing will consist of my cotton Tilley Hat for sun and rain, a Buff for warmth and Teko merino wool socks.


  1. I'll be interested to read your update on this. Incidentally, what was your total weight carried? I ask because I tried lightweight shoes for a 60km trek with a 19kg pack in Spain's Sierra Nevada earlier this year and my feet were in tatters after two days.

    1. Hi Ian, on this walk my maximum load was 18-20kg. I've carried 25kg on other walks while wearing trail shoes and had no problems though. In fact back in the 1980s I carried 30+kg on some long distance walks while wearing shoes.

    2. Hi Chris,

      When you say maximum load, were those the parts of the walk where you had to carry most food? What would you say your load was minus food?

      Looking forward to reading your full report on the gear.

      All the best,

    3. Yes, maximum load was with the most supplies. The weight without supplies (fuel, maps, batteries as well as food). Without any of the variables my pack weighed around 8-10kg depending on what clothing I was wearing and carrying outside the pack (trekking poles, cameras) and which items I was carrying (not everything went the whole way). On the walk the actual lowest weight was around 12kg.

    4. Thanks Chris. Out of interest re. maps, did you use paper versions or the OS Active maps (presumably a bit heavier), or some other system?

    5. I used paper 1:50,000 OS maps - some of them dating from the late 1970s!

  2. I'm impressed Chris! I don't think my Merrells had enough cushioning for the long stretches of forest track that I encountered so I'm looking at the Inov8 range. From what I've read, the Roclites may be better for heavy loads and big guys like me, especially on hard surfaces.

    1. Inov-8 shoes don't have very thick cushioning, they're designed to keep your feet close to the ground. I really like Inov-8 shoes but for cushioning other makes are better.

    2. As a boot fitter whether a shoe is comfortable or tears your feet to bits has got very little to do with specific brands but more to do with what actually fits your foot and also the quality of manufacture. Sadly you can almost never find this out in a shop. If you find a pair that fits get a few pairs in before they change the design i.e. I have had 4 pairs of La Sportiva Raptors now discontinued.

  3. Chris, I've been toying between the purchase of the Lightwave or the Montane, can you advise how the Lightwave is bearing up with usage and wear and tear? I've seen a Montane shop model on display and was disappointed to see the hip belt fraying

  4. The Lightwave is holding up well, despite being dragged through a few dense forests. The pack was almost new at the start of the walk. All the stitching is fine. There's one tiny hole in the lumbar pad but no other damage, just stains and superficial scratches.

  5. Great List, Good Luck on the watershed, it sounds like an amazing trip!!

  6. I really appreciate your athletic sense and these wears are so impressive.Good work.
    Weatherproof WP2821