After walking and wild camping the West Highland Way last year, I decided that I needed a new tent for winter use. The Zephyros 1 was just too small inside and it has terrible ventilation, which meant I continually woke up in a soaking wet sleeping bag. I deliberated for months and eventually decided on a Force 10 Xenon UL 2 tent. It is reasonably light weight for a 4 seasons tent, much larger inside than the Zephyros and it wasn’t too expensive (in comparison to a Hilleberg Soulo which I was drooling over) . I had been itching to use it for months and I finally planned a wild camp last week.
My brother has recently taken an interest in wild camping and bought himself some gear this year, including another Force 10 tent, but he opted for the Hellium 2. We decided last minute that we would head out together and test our new gear. It would be the first time I’ve company on a camp and the first time he has ever wild camped.
I finished work at 3pm and my brother drove up to Glasgow to meet me. We only had a few hours before sunset and we still hadn’t chosen a destination. We eventually decided on Beinn Dubh, which is 725m Graham on the west side of Loch Lomond, directly behind the idyllic village of Luss.
We arrived at Luss car park an hour later and swung our heavy packs onto our back. Both of us had our camping equipment, DSLR’s and tripods which added a fair weight! We set off up the grassy ridge rising up from Luss and were rewarded with stunning views over Loch Lomond and eventually over towards the Arrochar Alps. It’s a fairly easy walk and we arrived at the summit after approximately 90 minutes of walking. By now the wind had picked up and it quickly became very cold. As usual, my hands went numb within 5 minutes and I had to wear my big Gore-Tex army mitts to regain feeling in my fingers. We set about finding a pitch and set up both our tents for the first time (not advisable!).
Thankfully both of our tents went up without any problems and only required minor adjustments. Unfortunately the forecast was for overcast skies, but occasionally the clouds dispersed enough for us to see some stars, giving us the chance to practice some astrophotography. It was still very windy which made it virtually impossible to get a sharp photograph, but I did the best I could in the conditions.
After a few hours of taking photographs we were both frozen to the bone and decided to retire to our tents. We both shivered through the night, despite trying the best we could to warm ourselves up before getting in our sleeping bags. I also had a new sleeping bag with a comfort rating of -13 and an extreme rating of -30, but I was still cold! But… I must have managed a few hours sleep between shivering, it didn’t feel like it, but my brother assured me I was snoring, haha! He on the other hand didn’t get a winks sleep the whole night. I’ve yet to have a solid sleep whilst camping high on the hills, which is so frustrating, but I think I now know where I’m going wrong;
Sleeping Mat: My sleeping mat is a Thermarest NeoAir X-Lite, which is only designed for three season use. I use a car windscreen cover beneath it in winter, but it still doesn’t have the thermal properties of a proper winter matt. It’s also too narrow and I end up rolling off it during the night. I’ve now ordered a Thermarest xThem in large and I can’t wait to try it out!
Sleeping Clothing: I went to sleep wearing a t-shirt, fleece, socks, trousers, gloves and hat and I was still cold! But I’ve since read that wearing too many clothes can actually have the opposite effect. I also purposely didn’t pack specific sleeping clothing to save weight, which was a mistake. From now on I’m going to make sure I have a dry pair of thermal base layers to wear in my sleeping bag.
Anyway… We woke up (or got up) just as the sun started to rise over the hills in the distance. I looked out my tent and the sun was shining directly onto the Arrochar Alps. It looked incredible, but it only lasted for 20 seconds before it disappeared behind a sheet of low lying cloud hanging just above the horizon. By the time I got my camera set up most of the good light had disappeared.
I was really impressed by the tent; it held up very well in the wind and it has plenty of room inside. I will take some more photos of it on my next trip and write a short review for anyone who might be considering buying one.
We both had some breakfast and packed our stuff away just as it started to snow. We got back to the car in just over an hour and treated ourselves with a roll ‘n black pudding, friend egg and haggis – it was incredible!