The West Highland Way Part 1 - Training and preparation

This is a long blog folks but just think of it as the Directors Cut of Bowfell Blogs

The West Highland Way, a 96 mile hike from Milngavie to Fort William for us, a 16% off sale for all our customers while we were away.

That's what happened in the world of Bowfell Models during May.

As our regulars already know, each year we plan an adventure and run a big sale while we are away. This means that while you have to wait a week for us to get back to dispatch your order, you get a nice discount for your patience.

This year our adventure was The West Highland Way.

A 96 mile hike through the stunning Scottish Highlands starting at Milngavie and ending in Fort William. All while carrying everything we need on our backs.

So first is gear and training for this epic and very popular through hike.

We have experience hiking in many conditions over all kinds of terrain. We are not new to camping and already have most of the gear needed. So we were in a pretty good place to start from.

Bowfell Models R&D switched from model kits to outdoors kit

BUT, and yes it's a big but, we are new to multi day hiking. It turns out that hiking up and down mountains for a day does not fully prepare you for such a long journey.

So my advice to everyone no matter your level of experience, is get some practice in. Walk using the gear you plan to take as a few subtle differences can make a big difference over such a long distance.

 

Lets do a quick break down of the gear I had with me then we will go into my mistakes.

  • 60L Rucksack - Osprey Atmos if you are interested (awesome rucksack)
  • Tent - A Decathlon Forclaz something, something on sale can't remember
  • Inflatable sleep mat - Decathlon
  • Sleeping Bag - Berghaus
  • Waterproof Coat - Mountain Equipment
  • Waterproof Over Trousers - Berghaus
  • Change of clothes - Spare trousers, T-shirt etc
  • 3 pairs of socks - Darn Tough and 2 Bridgdales (highly recommend the Darn Toughs)
  • Stove
  • Food - Snacks, boil in bag camping food
  • Power Bank - Got to keep the phone charged for pics
  • First Aid Kit - standard outdoors kit with lots of added compeed blister plasters and KT Tape to prevent blisters
  • 2 Water Bottles - Lots of places to fill up along the way but would take a filter with me next time
  • West Highland Way Guide Book
  • Smidge spray and head net

None of our stuff was particularly high end light weight gear so we were running a bit on the heavy side with our packs.

My advice is to save weight where you can but don't get to caught up chasing every last gram. It can become very expensive swapping everything for ultralight versions.

If you like and trust your gear, then use it. Comfort and confidence in what you use is key. If you are comfortable carrying the extra weight then knock yourself out. Just be careful, that weight can seem fine over a short distance but part way through your 2nd day you may start to feel it.

We did regular practice walks along the canal paths. Now I know canals in Merseyside are not exactly a simulation for the Highlands but they were close by.

Regular and easy access allows you to try multiple load outs and options. Plus canals can often be a natural habitat for pubs.

First mistake I made was highlighted during said canal training walks. This is why if you are new to multi day hikes a few practices walks are great.

Someone was less than impressed with our first blister filled training walk.

Didn't move as I walked right past. Probably looked at me hobbling and thought I was no threat.

I have hiked a fair bit and my boots are broken in. So no problem with my feet, or so I thought. I think it was due to the extra weight on my back but I got blisters just walking the canal paths.

Not a good start to my training. My feet have been up plenty of mountains in these boots so this was not an area I expected to have trouble.

I think the extra weight I was carrying created more pressure on my feet and possibly altered the way I walked. It seems obvious to me now but it did not cross my mind at the time.

Maybe a little arrogance from me thinking I regularly walk with a rucksack on, this is just heavier.

That's why you train. Better to limp home with a blister on your foot and a damaged ego when you are a few hours away from your car.

Would not have been much fun in the Highlands on rough terrain with miles to go before the next stop. 

I made the jump from a much loved long serving Lowe Alpine Airzone 35:45 litre rucksack, to a now much loved Osprey Atmos 65 litre pack. A jump in size and weight but I needed the extra carrying capacity for a tent and more.

I'm not blaming the new rucksack for my initial feet problems, just the jump in weight I was carrying. The new rucksack was so comfortable on my back and carried the extra weight with ease. It is a heavy bag to start but once it's on your back it carries the load well. 

The larger rucksack felt fine on my back, but the extra weight I was carrying appeared to have more of an effect on my feet than I anticipated.

With a bit of KT tape applied to the hotspots on my feet and some more training walks, my blister problem was soon under control. 

I would have taken a pic of my feet as a waring but I did not want to scare you away. We want people to like Bowfell Models not have nightmares about messed up feet.

So after a slightly dented ego I was wiser and more prepared for what Scotland had to throw at me.

Sometimes Scotland would throw paths like this at you. Something to look forward to in the sequel blog.

Packs on our backs, train tickets in hand, website on Big Sale mode and we were ready. Next stop The West Highland Way.

 

If you got this far than hopefully you will be interested in The West Highland Way Part 2 - Boots of Glory coming soon

Every good sequel has a tag line. Not working? ok, how about

The West Highland Way 2 - Blister Wars

The West Highland Way 2 - The Empire Strikes Back-pack

The West Highlander Way  - There can be only one

The 2 West 2 Highland Way - It worked for vin diesel

The West Highland Way 2 - Into the Wild (to camp and leave no trace)

The West Highland Way 2 - I Know What You Did Last May (you saved big in the Bowfell Models Sale)

 Got a little side tracked there. 

Part 2 of this blog will be up soon, featuring details of the hike along with some pictures of the beautiful Scottish landscape.

I will also post pics on our Instagram page

Stay tuned for the next episode. 

 

AdventuresSaleScotlandWest highland way

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