There are a few different ways to complete the WHW, from running it in a day or two to paying someone to carry your bags and massage your feet at the end of the day*. However, one of the classic ways is by camping on the West Highland Way. So here are some top tips to make the most of your camping on the West Highland Way.
Where to Camp? Wild camping in Scotland is a right enshrined in law, unlike the watered down Right to Roam (but only here, not there – no – not THERE EITHER!) present south of the border. Unfortunately, the popularity of camping next to the roads by people who know nothing about camping and leave an absolute mess has been mistaken by Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park as wild camping. Neither those who practice either the camper van version of wild camping, or the proper wild wild camping responsibly are in this group, but are still part of the ban, rather than actually stopping those who are causing the problem. Ho hum! On the plus side you can book to camp on the designated pitches on Loch Lomond and pay £3 for the privilege. Of course, you also have the choice of regular campsites which become essential on some sections. You can also wild camp in front of the King’s House Hotel in Glencoe, but the hotel is currently closed until 2019.
Keep the weight down! If you’re super fit, then carrying an overweight pack might be great practice for some other superhuman challenge you’ve got planned. For the rest of us, you really need to consider the impact a heavy pack will have on your experience. You can get reasonably lightweight kit for lightweight camping for around £100 which Mud and Routes tested out on a mountain wild camp in Snowdonia. While not the best kit money can buy, the Yellowstone Matterhorn 1 tent was functional and cheap at just over £20, but might be the one item we’d consider spending a bit more cash on. Budget sleeping bag and sleeping mats by Vango – the Vango Wilderness 250 and the Vango Trek Short, are excellent quality and seem to be designed from the ground up to be designed for DofE or WHW backpackers. That is; cheap, tough and bulk enough to get that oversized rucksack look. Remember to keep a keen eye on the weight of the actual pack as well – some budget and even premium packs can weigh in at an astonishing 2 kilos!
Make the most of local facilities. When camping on the West Highland Way, just think of all that money you’re saving on accommodation and spend it on a breakfast and evening meal, which is even less food to carry. All of the sections we outline will end in a village or near a pub, it would be down sight rude not to support these local businesses!
Be prepared for the midge! You’re in a tent and usually the big fat highland midge can’t get in, but of course you need to get in and out of the tent. Each time, a few more of the bat nasty fastards will sneak into the tent to ensure that all that’s left of the poor backpacker is a blood drained emaciated shell. Ok, we exaggerate (A LOT) – but midges are the bane of anyone walking the West Highland Way from May/June onward. We’ve heard nothing but good stuff about Smidge – so you’ll probably need to stock up!
Other than that, you’re best trying to camp high and where there’s a breeze to try and minimise the midges. Or walk the West Highland Way in the spring before the little beggars appear.
*no, baggage transfer and walking holiday companies don’t offer this service. Not that we’re aware anyway!