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Great Glen Canoe Trail Day 4 – Along Loch Ness

We woke up early and after a simple breakfast of porridge oats washed down with a coffee we broke camp, eager to make some miles on what we expected to be a long, hard slog of a day. Loch Ness was notorious for it’s changeable weather and so we fully expected to be battling swells and headwinds all the way.

A light southwesterly wind blowing as we broke camp

The weather was calm and there was nothing but a slight southwesterly wind as we set out in our boats. Soon though the wind began to pick up and it was time to rig up our circular canoe sails!

Gone with the wind..

The wind filled the sails and almost immediately we were pushing a steady 5 km per hour without paddling at all! I opted to use my paddle as a rudder, steering the boat one-handed as I sailed. Mark wasn’t comfortable with the technique so instead kept hold of his paddle with both hands, paddling where necessary to straighten the boat.

Using my paddle as a rudder.

What followed was 2 hours of utter sailing bliss. We glided along effortlessly, passing houses, lodges, rivers and inlets, all the while taking care to stay within 20 metres of the steep shoreline that flanked us on our left. The sun was beaming down on us and soon mark and I both had to don our silly hats to keep from getting too sun-burnt.

As time wore on we both began to get peckish and decided to find somewhere to stop for a bit of lunch and to stretch our now stiff legs. Landing spots were few and far between, but eventually we happened upon a perfect little beach – flat, pebbled and protected from the wind.

Pulling our pack-rafts out of the water on one of the few flat sections of the Loch Ness northwest shoreline

We grabbed a quick lunch of instant noodles, together with some trail mix – an essential ration for any trip of mine.

Having a swell time

The wind had been building steadily throughout the morning and the swell was beginning to develop – this afternoon’s sailing was going to be even more fun than the morning!

The stronger winds provided a great deal of fun in the afternoon, especially when the combined with the wake of the passing ships. We were tossed about merrily for a good few hours as we steamed on down towards our goal and the winds only died as we reached the ruins of Urqhart Castle, which marked the end of our day’s journey.

We paddled the last few hundred yards (I was a little upset that I didn’t to sail all the way!) read the entrance to the bay and took our boats out next to the remains of a derelict jetty. The jetty had once been the main landing place for those visiting Drumnadrochit, but as the craft sizes grew larger a new harbour was built on the opposite side of the inlet.

We packed up our boats and hiked the half a mile journey from the jetty to the campsite. Upon arrival at the campsite we attended to the most important item on the agenda…a shower! After 4 days paddling both Mark and I were beginning to smell pretty fruity, so a hot shower was an absolute godsend!

After freshening up we headed into the village to find some pub grub and beer!

Route Information

Canoe take out

Grid: 524 291 – By the derelict Jetty at Drumnadrochit

Great Glen Canoe Trail Day 3 – Loch Oich to Loch Ness via the River Oich

Day 3 was the day I was really looking forward to, and for good reason – the river Oich! In favourable conditions it is possible to run the 8km of the river Oich down to Fort Augustus instead of paddling along the penultimate section of the Caledonian Canal.

The river run had two key advantages. Firstly it meant that we could use to current to carry us along down to the head of Loch Ness instead of having to paddle. Secondly the river has a number of continuous grade 1 and grade 2 rapids that make the journey exciting but not too hazardous.

All of this was of course dependent on the water level in the river. Too low and we would keep bottoming out in the shallower sections of the river, with all the risk of damage our boats. Too high and the grade 2 sections would turn into grade 3+ sections, a level of danger that we were keen to avoid. There were only two of us and we have only limited experience in tougher white water conditions and so would be foolish to attempt the river in spate conditions.

We rose soon after sunrise and took advantage of the calm sunny conditions to have a leisurely breakfast and coffee. It had dropped down to 3 degrees in the night and I hadn’t slept too well – my Static V2 was had an r-value of 1.4 and so was only rated down to 8 degrees, so my back was cold in the night. On the good side, the cold kept most of the midges away in the morning so I was able to enjoy breakfast relatively hassle free.

We packed up slowly and it was 10 o’clock before we were out on the water, heading straight across the narrow lake towards the northern shore. I had spotted an intriguing shipwreck the previous evening and wanted to take a closer look at it. Also the ruin of Invergarry Castle was on the north shore and I wanted to see if I could catch a glimpse of it.

The shipwreck sat tucked inside a small wooded inlet, only a few metres from the shore. It was half submerged and was listing over at about 30 degrees. The starboard deck and half of the cabin were protruding out of the black water, and we could see inside. All the radio and other equipment were still clearly visible inside the boat, even though the boat had clearly been there for years. Either the equipment was worthless or not worth the risk of salvage, or people don’t loot boats up here!

I circled the boat, giving it a wide berth so as to reduce of the risk of hitting any hidden protrusions, and then headed off to join Mark, who was heading off in the direction of the castle. Sadly as we paddled further along the loch it became clear that we weren’t going to be given a clear view of the castle from our boats and we would have to park up and walk up on foot if we wanted a good look. We felt we didn’t have time for this so we reluctantly paddled off along the loch.

The paddle along the remaining kilometer or so was calm and pleasant. Thick woodland lined the banks, shielding us from noise from distant roads. The occasional large boat passed us by in the centre of the loch, far from the shallows that we were paddling through.

Paddling the River Oich

Eventually we arrived at the weir that marked the entrance to the River Oich and we cautiously inspected the state of the river. The main chute ran on the left, hard against a small cliff, and followed the river round the bend to the right under some trees. It looked easy enough to run this first section of rapids – choppy and fun in places but unlikely to cause us any hassles.

River Oich Spillway Canoeing Pack Rafting Whitewater
The spillway from the Caledonian Canal to the River Oich. 20cm depth at the top of the spillway(outside of the main channel) was perfect for canoeing down.

We payed particular attention to depth of water running on the spillover that ran 50 yards to the right of the main chute. Advice on the internet indicated that we should only run the Oich if there was water running over the spillover, as otherwise we would likely bottom out in the shallower areas further down.

I tried to gauge the depth of water passing over the spill and it looked to be about 15cm deep – enough to keep us from hitting the bottom of the river but not too much flow to risk the rapids turning from grade 1/2 to grade 2/3. Normally we would be happy to tackle grade 3 runs but we were fully loaded and there were only two of us – not enough people to execute a rescue should shit hit the fan.

We sat mulling over the situation for a minute in silence before we turned to each other and nodded – let’s go for it.

I let Mark go first, partly because he had a spray-deck on and partly because I wanted to capture footage of him running the first set of rapids. He paddled out into the lake, lined himself up, and the accelerated into the chute. As soon as he crossed the weir lined be began bouncing around in the white water, but he had no problems at all.

After Mark cleared the rapids I adjusted my Akaso Brave 4 action camera, a cheap but functional clone of a Go Pro, and set off, following his line of attack.

What followed was an hour of pack rafting pleasure. The grade 1 rapids continued for another 500 yards under the main road bridge, followed by a small suspension footbridge. After that conditions flip-flopped between short but exciting sections that were easy and forgiving, interspersed with calm but fast moving sections.

The final set of rapids on the River Oich – Grade 2/3 depending on the water flow. Great fun for less experienced paddlers.

Only the very last set of rapids provided any semblance of challenge, but even then that section was short and followed immediately by a calm section that would have provided an easy opportunity to rescue.

Eventually the river flowed down through Fort Augustus itself, finally casting us out into the south-western end of Loch Ness. We tired and hungry by this point and decided to go mooch around Fort Augustus for an hour or so, grabbing a hearty all-day breakfast and stocking up on supplies.


A view of Loch Ness from Fort Augustus

Our next key decision was whether to take the north or south shore along the loch. Given the width of the loch (1km of open water) and our near-terminal adventure on the first day, it was clear that once we picked a side we would have to stick to it.

I favoured traversing the south-east shoreline, on the grounds that it is much flatter and therefore there would be many more wild-camping locations available.

Mark on the other hand wanted to follow the north-western shore, as there was a village with a campsite half-way along the Loch, which meant that we could finally take a proper shower. Mark had also googled the local area and apparently there were a couple of decent pubs where we could have food and beer.

We mulled it over for a few minutes and decided that beer and hot food trumped wild camping – the north shore it was!

By mid afternoon we were ready to rock again and we bimbled back down to the head of the Loch and began the process of unpacking and re-inflating our pack-rafts, which by now we had down to a fine art and were able to be up and running within 10 minutes.

We set out on our trek with a slight tail wind and I quickly raised my mini-sail hopeful of a helping push along the Loch. Sadly it was not to be and a dead calm descended over the loch. It was looking like the sails were going to be pretty much redundant for the entire trip!

We carried on for a couple of hours at a leisurely pace, constantly on the lookout for a suitable camping location. As the OS map had suggested there were pretty much no suitable camping spots available. The land rose up as a steep angle straight from the water, making camping on the shore itself impossible, and the road hugged close to the water, meaning that we couldn’t look further inland for a location.

Eventually we found a small beach, no more than 2 metres wide at it’s deepest, and although it was within 20 metres of the road, it was quiet enough for the night. We dragged our boats out and began setting up camp, using rocks and sticks to stake out the fly sheet – a free standing tent would have been very useful.

We built a fire in the remnants of an old fire (this was obviously a well used location both for canoeists and car-based campers) and Mark set about cooking the meat that we had purchase from the butchers in Fort Augustus.

Mark Cooking some steaks…nom nom nom

After dinner we finished the last of the rum and beer we had brought along with us (another reason to spend the next night near a pub!) and settled down for an early night!

Route Details

Great Glen Canoe Trail Day 2 – Loch Lochy to Loch Oich

I woke up early and I listened for the sound of tent fabric snapping about but could hear nothing. Clearly the winds from the previous evening had died down and after crawling out of my tent I could see that the loch almost glass calm. No sailing excitement today!

I scrabbled about in the entrance of my tent for my titanium pot and stove and once I had found all the requisite gear, I set about boiling water for a cup of instant coffee.

By the time the water was near boiling mark had emerged from his tent and proceeded to offer me single use brew in the packet fresh Columbian roast coffee packet, on the proviso that was get to share it. These packets allow you to have real coffee but without the hassle of carrying a cafetiere.

I jumped at the opportunity to have real coffee and ditched my instant crap back in my bag!

After a couple of cups of coffee and some ‘just add water’ Momo porridge, we began the slow task of breaking camp. 30 minutes later we had finished packing and were ready to depart for the day. We were eager to take advantage of the calm weather and knock of some miles off the journey.

The objective for the day was half way along Loch Oich, near Invergarry Castle. We paddled back out onto the water, the first of many strokes of the day pushing our boats on wards towards the centre of the loch.

The north shore was much steeper than the south shore, the tree covered hillside falling at an angle of about 45 degrees right down into the loch. We realised that we were right to have stopped where we did the previous night. I would be about 5 km before we were pass another suitable camping spot.

Paddling along by the north shore of Loch Lochy

We paddled on for half and hour and finally spotted some movement in the far distance. One of the canoe groups that had passed us the previous day we beginning to load their gear onto the boats, ready for the day ahead. We have lost them in the storm the previous afternoon and were glad to see that they were okay. The open top Canadian canoes the were using are far more stable than our pack-rafts, but they could still be swamped or capsized in the wrong conditions.

We chatted with them as we passed and they agreed that things were a bit hairy the day before. They too had questioned whether to go round the bay but had decided to follow our lead…

The majority of the rest of the morning was spent hugging the steep coastline of the loch, neither Mark nor I daring to venture out more than 10 metres or so from the shore. The far shore grew slowly up from the horizon and by lunchtime we were at the head of our first loch!

I arrived at a line of pontoons close to the mouth of the canal, heaved myself out of the boat and then began walking along towards the lock itself. Suddenly a man came running down the embankment towards the pontoon, hands waving frantically.

It turns out that I had got out in a private marina area and if I continued to walk the 20 meters through car-park and up the towpath then the world would end or I would be shot, I forget exactly which. I apologised profusely to wavy hand man, got back in my boat and relayed the information to Mark. Mark was less than impressed the situation and was willing to risk damnation, but I eventually convinced him to row the 100 yards round the marina to a little slipway to the left of the marina.

Mark informed me that there was a pub nearby and that we should stop for lunch. We walked up the slipway, determined to find the pub – our first on route. It turned out the pub was actually located on a boat moored at the top of the locks which separated Loch Lochy from the second section of canal that we were to paddle.

We cross over the cancel via the little footbridge that sat on top of the lock gate and dumped our boats on the grass by the side of canal, taking care to deflate them slightly now that they were sat in direct sunlight (otherwise they might over-inflate and pop!).

Out boats in the sun before we deflated them a bit. About to burst!

I headed over to the boat and followed the ‘entrance’ sign down into the bowels of the boat itself . After clambering down a small set of steep steps my eyes adjusted to the dim interior light I could see that I had been teleported into a small but fully functional bar. There was the bar itself, with pumps attached, some leather couches that looked like they would swallow you if you sat in them, and affixed to the far wall there was a widescreen TV beaming a game of football. A small child, clearly a victim of the leather sofa’s embrace, sat transfixed and silent watching the game.

The barman took my order and then I took the rare opportunity to go to the loo in an actual toilet – a real luxury! Going to the toilet in a wet-suit is problematic at the best of times, but here in Scotland any exposed flesh is immediately assaulted by hundreds of midges and I already had several irritating midge bites on my bottom!

Afterwards I returned outside and we sat scoffing our sandwiches and savoring our cold beers, happy to have a break from the rowing and loving the sunny weather. After a good half hour we looked at each other solemnly and reluctantly got up to go. 20 minutes we were back on the water, heading on a pleasant tree lined section of the canal, a mere 2 km from Loch Oich.

Heading along the second section of Caledonian Canal towards Loch Oich

Eventually we reached Loch Oich, a small, picturesque Loch, barely 300m wide. We paddled along the tranquil waters following the southern shoreline and eventually found a suitable camping spot in a flat wooded area that jutted out about 30 metres into the lake. We were fortunate that we got there early enough – 5 minutes late another group of canoeists came ashore and were visibly disappointed that we had got there first!

We pitched our tents and then set about the task of trying to replace the calories we has burnt through rowing. I scratted through the jumble of packets I had in my food bag and settled on an Aventure Food boil in the bag meal that was calling itself chicken curry.

Sadly, upon eating it I can say with full confidence that while it was pleasant enough to eat and replaced 600 lost calories it had never met chicken curry in it’s life! A bit of a shame, considering that some of their other meals, such as the Pasta Carbonara and Pasta ai-Funghi are great!

Adventure Food’s rather bland Chicken Curry – 2 out of 5

For dessert I knocked together apple pie and custard, using a couple of the mini apple pies I had in a packet, combined with some instant custard. I felt a bit like I was back at school in the canteen, but it was just what I needed – easy to make, tasty and packed full of calories.

After dinner we search around for some wood and made a small campfire in a fire circle that had been used by countless groups before us. I built a small heat reflector up behind it using sticks and then we sat watching fire TV for an our or so before retiring to our tents, exhausted.

Portage and Route information

Laggan Locks Portage

Make sure you go round the left of the marina, don’t try to get out near the canal, you will get told off!

Day 2 Route

Banavie Lochs Portage Neptune's staircase

Great Glen Canoe Trail Day 1 – Banavie to Loch Lochy

We had a late start on day 1, largely due to a killer hangover from partying too much in Fort William the day before, and so we only set off paddling from Neptune’s Staircase at about 11:30 am.

Me double checking all my dry gear is waterproofed. Feeling a bit rough in this photo!

After unloading all our gear from the car-park at Banavie on the Northern Western side of the Canal, we slowly set about pumping up our boats and performing last minute gear checks. While we had a backup vehicle available in an emergency, we were determined to complete the route unassisted, so we made sure that we have everything we needed and that all our gear was fully watertight.

Next to us a father-daughter team were doing the same, they also have an inflatable boat but it wasn’t a packraft – it was a far heavier (16kg+) Advanced Elements inflatable canoe – far more stable, with better tracking, but not carryable over any kind of distance.

One of the 8 Locks that make up the Western entrance to the Caledonian Canal

Neptune’s staircase is an impressive feat of engineering, as a series of locks that raise boats 20 metres up from sea level in Loch Linnie, onto the first 10km stretch of the Caledonian canal.

The journey usually takes boats 90 minutes from start to finish, but as we were carrying our pack-rafts on our shoulders it took a mere 5 minutes of huffing and puffing to portage up to our first paddling point, about 20 metres beyond the top lock.

We set about putting our boats into the water, next to a youth group that were on an organised canoe tour. The group had hard open top canoes that were clearly faster than our own boats so we knew would have little chance keeping up with them on the canal.

By now the wind had picked up and the rain had set in (for the day!), but it made little difference as we were out on the water anyhow, protected by our army surplus Goretex jackets. The wind was blowing was gusting from the south west, which turned out perfect for us. Even without our little round sails raised(they aren’t allowed on the canal sections) we were given a 2-3km per hour speed boost!

Over the next 2 hours we made steady progress along the first canal section of the route. The were few boats travelling along this section and generally were on our own, with the exception of the occasional Canadian canoe groups who passed us with ease.

By mid afternoon the winds had dropped and we paddle the final 2kms unaided. We reached the second portage of the trip at Gairlochy, where the canal connected with our first loch of the trip Loch Lochy.

Gairlochy Lighthouse at the start of Loch Lochy.

The loch was dead calm as we rounded the corner above the canal and caught sight of the small lighthouse which marked the start of the loch.

Given the favourable wind conditions we were more than eager to test out our canoe sails – small round sails that attach to the front of the canoe. The sails offer the opportunity to take a rest from rowing when a good tail wind (8mph+) is blowing and you can also travel crosswind if you use your oar as a makeshift rudder / keel whilst sailing, something I had practiced with limited success a couple of weeks earlier on Thirlmere.

We had decided earlier in the day to travel up the northern edge of the loch, as it seemed that there would be more opportunity for wild camping. This did however present us with our first difficult decision of the trip – whether to follow the coast round a large bay that opened up about 1 km along the lake, or whether to cut across the lake, saving us about a half a mile of extra rowing.

Mark was eager to make progress and rightly pointed out that the conditions were ideal for the journey. I had some reservations about the hop. The wind had shifted slightly and was now blowing straight from the west, meaning if we capsized we would be blown out into the middle of the loch rather than over to the other side of the bay.

After some head scratching we agreed to risk it and we set off, sails raised into the bay. As we headed into the bay the wind rose steadily and soon we were making excellent progress, 500 metres out from shore, with spirits high. The winds continued to rise however, and within a few short minutes we were firmly in the grip of a brutal squall.

The winds whipped up the waves and soon my boat was being tossed around violently in the swell. I tried to drop the sail and paddle my way towards the shoreline but it soon became clear that I would exhaust myself or capsize long before I reached shore. The side wind was tossing water onto my bow, threatening to swamp the boat every time a wave crossed the boat.

Mark had been blown too far ahead to be of any assistance if I did capsize and my wet suit would only offer token protection against the icy cold water – if I went in I was in real trouble.

Given the seriousness of the situation I decided that the only sensible course of action was to scream random obscenities and at the wind and get very angry with myself for choosing such a stupid course of action. I looked ahead and saw that Mark was still rowing against the wind, making little if any progress.

My only hope was to ride the storm and sail across the bay as planned. I hoisted the sail back up, which was instantly whipped towards the bow, somehow resisting efforts to snap the straps that we holding it vertical. If took out my oar and dug it into the water – partly to steer and partly to reduce the leeward drag that was pushed the raft towards the wrong shore.

The storm was gathering force in this photo – my boatt had been spun around and I was now facing the way I had just sailed from…

The gusting gales still tossed the boat around but now I had a modicum of control – each time a large wave approached I could steer the stern of the boat to face it, minimising water ingress and reducing the possibility of capsizing. In the troughs between the waves I turned the bow to face the shore, allowing slow but steady progress.

For a long long time it seemed like my sailing tactic was a mistake, but gradually the shore grew larger in my view to the front. Dread and panic, slowly shifting to confidence and elation, fuelled by the adrenaline pumping through my system. I then realised that I had completely forgotten about Mark – I turned to see that he too hard chosen to sail through the maelstrom and was also approaching shore in parallel with me.

We crashed onto the beach, dragged our boats up out of the water and collapsed into a heap next to each other, both with shocked smiles on our faces. We had made it! Needless to say we had learned from experience and wouldn’t be taking the same chances again!

Our original plan was to continue along the loch for 3 more kilometres, but we quickly decided that we’d had enough of rowing for the day so we pitched up on the beach right where we were, using rocks to weigh down the pegs and guys.

My tent and pack-raft the morning after the squally weather – Much calmer than the previous day!

Information

Neptune’s Staircase / Banavie Put In Point

Neptune's Staircase Banavie Canoe Kayak Portage Put-in and parking point map
Parking is easy at the Neptune’s Staircase carp park (free but no overnight parking). Then a short 200 meter walk up along the tow path by the lock to the pontoon on the left after the top lock.

Gairlochy Portage Point

Take out point is the small grassy verge behind the pier posts. Follow the track up past the top loch and put in as the track follows round to the left (don’t go through the gates to the private area)

Lightweight dehydrated food for hiking

What’s the problem with boil in the bag meals?

Boil in the bag meals, such as those by wayfarer are an excellent choice for wild camping and Duke of Edinburgh expeditions. Simple to carry, cook and eat, they take away much of the hassle associated with camp cooking.

Boil in the bag foods like the Wayfarer meals are an excellent choice for shorter trips.

However on multi-day hikes and pack-rafting adventures, such as our recent Pennine Way and Great Glen Canoe Trail adventures, the weight adds up to the point where dehydrated rations are needed.

Wet rations typically sit around 150 calories per 100 grams, so if they were to be used exclusively then you would be looking at carrying at least  2.5 kg per day of wet rations. For a 5 day expedition your food would likely weigh more than rest of your gear combined!

Keeping the weight down

What is need then are foods with higher calorific counts:

  • 3 – 5 day journey – Greater than 300 Calories / 100 g
  • 5 + day journey – Great than 400 Calories / 100 g

. This can easily achieved through the use of carb-rich dehydrated foods and high fat, low moisture foods (e.g. cheese)

Breakfast

My main staple for breakfast foods are muesli or porridge, either of which can be made up using powdered milk. You can also carry normal breakfast cereal like cornflakes, but these tend to be quite bulky.

Moma Porridge packets don’t need milk, just add water!
  • Muesli – 340 Cal/100 g
  • Porridge – 360 Cal/100 g
  • Cornflakes 360 Cal/100 g

Lunch

Snack bars

On a long distance thru hike I rarely stop for a proper lunch. I tend to prefer to make a series of shorter stops where I might make a cup of coffee and have a snack bar.

There are plenty of options for snack bars. I carry a variety.
  • Muesli Bars – 380 Cal /100 g
  • Chocolate Bars (Snickers) – 510 Cal/100 g
  • Nature Valley Oat bars – 470 Cal/100 g

Wraps

Tortilla wraps make excellent hiking food and will normally last up to a week in your pack, depending on the filling. Because they are already flat you don’t have to worry about squashing them!

  • Tortilla Wrap – 310 Calories / 100 g
  • Cheddar Cheese – 400 Calories / 100 g
  • Mayonaise – 700 Calories / 100 g
  • Parma Ham – 260 Calories /100 g

Cup a Soups

Sachets of soup are incredibly tasty as a drink, but they can also be added to rice or pasta dishes to create a sauce.

  • Cup a soup sachets – 400 Cal/100 g

Nuts & Trail Mix

These are incredibly popular with long distance hikers and it is no surprise why – they are very high in calories! Banana crisps can also be added to muesli or porridge for extra flavour and a calorie boost in the morning!

  • Trail mix – 520 Cal/100 g
  • Banana Chips 510 Cal/100 g
  • Wasabi Peas – 470 Cal/100 g

Dinner

Where possible I try to stop off at a pub or restaurant for dinner in order to have a full meal and fresh vegetables. Where this isn’t possible there are a number of popular options.

Pasta

Quick to make and tasty, perfect for thru hiking. Make sure you bring powdered milk with you as most the packets need it!

  • Pasta n Sauce – 380 Cal/100 g

Rice / Cous Cous

Cous Cous is one of the easiest carb rich foods to make, it also uses up very little gas as you can simply add boiling water and then pop in a pot cosy for 5 minutes.


  • Savoury Rice – 380 Cal/100 g
  • Cous Cous – 390 Cal/100 g

Ramen Noodles

Instant noodles are really quick and easy to make, which means that I will often have a packet when I stop for lunch. If you can find some fresh vegetables to toss into the pan all the better.

  • Super Noodles -390 Cal/100 g

Soya beanfeast bolognese / Falafel mixture

These packets really add an extra dimension to pasta-n-sauce style dishes, as well as providing an added protein boost.

  • Bean Feast – 380 Cal/100 g
  • Falafel Mix – 400 Cal/100 g

Desert

Apple pie and custard makes a tasty, calorie rich desert. Easy to make too – just boil some water, stir in the custard powder and then finally add an apple pie or two on top!

  • Apple Pies – 350 Cal/100 g
  • Custard – 350 Cal/100 g

Condiments & Extras

I always bring a few extra condiments to use to inject some flavour into meals.

  • Garlic Granules – 350 Cal/100 g
  • Milk Powder – 400 Cal/100 g
  • Hard Cheese – 510 Cal/100 g
  • Coconut Butter – 700 Cal/100 g

Dried expedition foods

Although they are expensive (about £5 each packet!) expedition rations are a really hassle free dinner option, especially if you are running low on gas. You simply pour in boiling water up to the line, close the zip and leave it took cook inside for 8 minutes!

How much food to bring?

Looking at the food above it is clear that there isn’t a huge variation in the calorific values per 100 g – on average about 400 Calories. Given that on an average expedition we will be burning a minimum of 4000 calories per day we will be needing 1Kg of food per day if we are planning on solely eating the food we bring with us.

This makes planning very easy – chuck in a mixture of dried foods and weigh the bag to see if you have the right amount of days!

Got any recommendations?

What other dried food do you bring? What works best? What’s cheapest? Add a comment below with suggestions!

Wild Camping: Wild Boar Fell, Yorkshire Dales

Near Kirkby Stephen, Yorkshire Dales

I have wild camped twice on this qiuet fell, both times in winter and both times it snowed heavily! It makes an excellent winter camp because the access road is regularly gritted in winter and because the route up is easy to follow, even in poor conditions.

The route sets off from just down from Kirkby Stephen train station and heads due south over the fields. After a couple of miles through fields you arrive at the fell proper and begin the long gentle ascent up the shoulder of the mountain.

The final 100 metres or so is a bit of a lung buster but for the most part it’s pretty gentle!

Once you reach the summit it plateaus out and you can take your pick of locations, depending the strength and direction of the wind. If visibility is limited it would be recommended to stick away from the edge of The Nab!

Heading out towards Wild Boar in the early evening. It would be dark and very windy by the time we arrived at the summit!

OS Map Route

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Details

  • Start: NY 761 067
  • Finish: SD 760 985
  • Distance: 9.2km
  • Ascent:499m
  • Time: 2 hours 45mins
  • Camp Altitude: 702m

Features

  • Water can be retrieve from the numerous small ponds on top or as you cross the stream at Moor Pot.
  • Very quiet fell, especially in winter
  • Rail access via Kirkby Stephen station and the Settle – Carlisle line

Views

  • Gorgeous views along The Nab and down towards Kirkby Stephen

Parking

  • Parking is safest opposite the houses near the train station
  • You can park closer to the fell near Pudding Howe Hill, but it is very isolated.

5 essential pieces of wild camping gear

1. Map and Compass

A cheap compass will often do just as good a job as an expensive one.

I mostly navigate using OS Maps and GPS on my phone, but I always carry a map and compass as a backup. GPS devices are incredibly useful but are prone to failure or malfunction, especially in cold conditions – as I found out all too well on my recent Pennine Way thru-hike.

Rather than carry a full 1:25,000 map of the area I print out and laminate A4 or A3 maps of the area instead. It’s far lighter, less clumsy to use, and waterproof!

2. Flint and Striker

Flint and strikers are reliable and last a very long time!

Matches, lighters and built-in piezos are great for lighting gas stoves, but when the weather turns nasty they can all fail. A flint and striker will always work in any conditions!

3. Mini Tripod

Mini tripods are absolutely essential for night photography

One of my favourite part of wild camping is taking photos. While you can sometimes get away with asking a friend to take a photo or just resting your camera on the ground, it is much easier to bring a small tripod instead.

If you are just using your phone for photography then a mini like this will be perfect.

4. Mini Spade

Not the most exciting piece of wild camping equipment but very important – a poo spade!

Simply putting a rock over your poo won’t do the trick, animals will bury under the rock. Always carry a little spade and dig a hole 6 inches deep.

5. Hip Flask

This last one is optional, but a small hip flask with your favourite tipple (mine is Tallisker whisky) can make all the difference when you are chilling out watching the sunset!

Wild Camping: Castle Knott, Yorkshire Dales

Wild Camping Locations Yorkshire Dales Castle Knott

We often camp on the high fells of the Yorkshire Dales instead of those in the Lake District. While the scenery is less epic than that of Lake District, it has a bleak, weathered charm. The fells are also generally much quieter than those of the Lakes and parking is much easier.

Castle Knott is a prime example of a perfect Yorkshire Dales wild camping location. It’s 30 minutes drive from the M6 and parking is a doddle. The route up the hill is straightforward to follow in any weather and the view over the Lune valley and Morecambe Bay is gorgeous.

OS Map and Routes

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Details

  • Start: SD 629 824
  • Finish: SD 656 841
  • Distance: 3.9 km
  • Ascent: 449 m
  • Time: 1 Hour 30 Minutes
  • Camp Altitude: 533m

Features

  • Very quiet fell
  • Small tarn nearby for water
  • Bardon has a lovely pub that does food on an Sunday lunchtime 🙂

Views

  • The Lune Valley
  • Bardon Fell to the south
  • Morecambe Bay across to the Lake District

Parking

  • Park in the quiet village of Bardon by the green.

Wild Camping: Blind Tarn, Coniston.

Consiton, Lake District


 © Copyright Michael Graham (CC BY-SA 2.0)

This lovely little tarn is possess all the qualities needed for a year-round wild camping spot near Coniston. Parking, navigation and access are all straightforward, even in inclement weather and the view over Coniston Water is more than worth the modest climb to 550m.

Torver has all the right attributes for a perfect wild camping parking location – busy enough but quiet enough. Your vehicle won’t be exposed and isolated over night(as it would if you parked at the Walna Scar car park) and the nearby pub means that you can grab a drink at the beginning or end of your trip.

Banishead Quarry Waterfall

The hike up to the tarn is worth the walk in itself, as it passes through a number of abandoned quarry works. The picturesque waterfall at Banishead Quarry makes a perfect rest stop on your climb up the hill. The waterfall itself only flows when the stream water level is high enough. The rest of the time the stream simply bypasses the quarry, heading straight down the mountain.

After the waterfall the path meets the Walna Scar road, a historic route linking the central lake district with the Duddon valley and Barrow-in-Furness

OS Map and Route

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Details

  • Start: SD 283 941
  • Finish: SD 262 966
  • Distance: 4.8km
  • Ascent: 501m
  • Time: 1hr 45mins
  • Camp Altitude: 570m

Features

  • Reliable year-round water source nearby
  • Shelter from prevailing westerly wind
  • Scenic hike up via disused quarry works and stream
  • Easy to access path any time of year.

Views

  • Consiton Old Man
  • Coniston Water
  • Grizedale

Parking

  • Safer parking is available at Torver, not at the isolated Walna Scar car park.

Optional Route / Return 15km route via Old Man & Consiton Water

Here is an much longer but more scenic route that takes in the major nearby fells as well as adding a bit of lake side walking.

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Wild Camping: Red Gill Head Moss Tarn, Coniston

Location : Coniston, Lake District

Red Gill Head Moss Top Wild Camping Location Coniston Lake District

Credit: Ian Greig / A little tarn above Red Gill Head Moss / CC BY-SA 2.0

 

I discovered this beautiful wild camping location completely by accident. I was supervising a Duke of Edinburgh gold expedition and the group ran into trouble while ascending the Western flank of The Old Man of Coniston.

The weather conditions were deteriorating, group morale had taken a hit and they needed some encouragement. I intercepted the group, gave everybody Jelly Babies, and then accompanied the group down the technical descent along the Prison Band ridge.

Once down onto a gentler path I let the group get on their way and decided to descend to Coniston via Wetherlam, on the grounds that it sounded a bit like Weathertop a fictional location featured in the first of the Lord Of The Rings trilogy.

After rounding the summit I began to descend along the South shoulder and stumbled upon this lovely little Tarn!

OS Map & Route

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Details

  • Start : SD 302 975
  • Camp : NY 292 002
  • Distance : 3.75km
  • Time : 90mins
  • Ascent : 602m
  • Final Altitude : 640m

Features

  • Small Tarn nearby, perfect water source for cooking.
  • Shelter from prevailing westerly winds
  • Easy to follow descent path

Views

  • Langdales to the North East
  • Coniston Water to the South East.

Parking

  • Park in one of the quieter side streets in Coniston for free.
  • Parking is sometimes difficult during the daytime in July/August

Notes

  • You can combine this camp with a climb of Old Man (via Prison Band) and returning via Dow Crag or Copper Mines Valley.

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