For the planning of Cape Wrath Trail, I use a similar approach to Te Araroa. An unofficial Trail Guide as well as maps allow me to roughly estimate the times I need to walk the stages and thus planning my resupply points, which are fairly rare, and the amount of food I'll need for each stage. For the sake of simplicity and the limited time, I like to plan and prepare as much as I can from the comfort of home, giving me additional capacity, which I can well use to deal with the unexpected.
After some extensive multi-day-hiking in the Alps this summer as well as my usual running exercise, physically I should be adequately prepared for the hike. However, my navigation skills by map and compass have gotten a bit rusty over the years and definitively need some revitalization. A day or two should be enough to get used to this old-school navigation method. Certainly a good thing to know since, I speak from personal experience, a mobile phone with GPS and maps on it can quickly checkmate a phone. Even a waterproof one...
Still, to make my live easier, I will primarily use my phone to navigate using Great Britain Topo Maps ATLogis, an app I made good experiences in New Zealand with. The route will be pre-loaded using a gpx file. For weather, booking of accommodation and transportation as well as other updates along the route I use a Vodafone prepaid card.
Trail access and route
As already mentioned in the intro of my hike, firing activity at Cape Wrath range force me to hike the trail southbound. So after landing and sorting out some last minute stuff like getting a SIM-card and posting my food parcels, I'll take a train from Edinburgh to Inverness, where I will stay for the night. Another train the following morning to Lairg and a connecting bus are taking me to Durness. All pretty straightforward. However in Durness things are getting a bit more complicated, as the ferry operation to the other side of the firth and the connecting shuttle bus are depending on the weather and the motivation of the guy running the ferry. If one of these factors are against me, I need to walk to the trail head, which will add an additional day of walking.
Cape Wrath Trail is mostly unmarked, leaving the hiker several options. My aim is to stick to the "main" route as much as possible, heading into towns only when it's time for resupply or if my grumbling belly wants an additional feed. Bothies, the Scottish equivalent of a back-country huts, are free to use but not that frequent and might unavailable to use to due stag hunting. Therefore my primary accommodation will be my tent.
I'm the type happy camper rather than the ultralight thru-hiker. Thus I will take a cooker with me as a warm meal in rainy cold weather is priceless for me. Like already mentioned: Resupply point are rare. So a bit of pre-planning regarding food will make my life a bit easier.
To not waste too much time to shop for groceries on the trail, I send food parcels ahead, which I can simply put into my backpack. The tricky part here is finding places that will keep the parcel until my arrival. Therefore I contacted several hostels along the trail in advance. Luckily several hostels offered their help so that in the end I even was spoilt for choice.
My final resupply strategy look as follows: Starting with 6 days of food at the Cape, which will comfortably take me to Inchnadamph, where (hopefully) at the local hostel, a parcel with another 6 days worth of food, a warm bed and power for my electronic stuff will await me. The food should last me until Gerry's Hostel, another warm, dry place to sleep. A small food parcel hopefully awaits me there. Its content should be sufficient for a short three day hike to Shiel Bridge, my last resupply. Initially I was planning on skipping this resupply point. Since I might take it a bit slower towards the end, if I have the luxury of some spare days, the extra food stop might come handy,
As I only have max one warm meal day, I carry one gas canister, which will just so last for the whole trail. Otherwise I hope to get a spare canister at one of the gas stations. Worst case is a cold feed on the last few days, which I will survive.
There is the odd small shop or pub along the trail. Nice to have some unexpected snacks or meal at these places but I don't count on them being open for business when I pass by. Hence I decide to carry all the food for the three stages.
Gear is always a very personal matter, hence I don't go into detail too much. I'll stick to the gear, which has proven itself well during Te Araroa and my recent hikes in Switzerland and Italy. A grossly incomplete list:
-Nemo Hornet 2P Tent
-Bedrock sandals and Merrell trail runners for the boggy bits
-4-layers-clothing (t-shirt, long sleeve shirt, merino jacket, rain jacket and rain pants)
-smartphone with pre-loaded maps
Since photography is my big passion, a bit of extra weight will be added by
-full-frame camera and lens
The only item, which needs careful weighting is the sleeping bag: Should I go with the down sleeping bag or the synthetic one. Each one has it's advantages especially considering the possibly very wet Scottish weather, where a synthetic sleeping bag might come handy. However, being slightly heavier, bulkier and less warming, I decide on taking the risk and going with the down sleeping bag.