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I intend to go camping in Scotland (mainly the Isle of Mull, that is Western, central Scotland) next week, i.e. last week of May. I have read quite a lot about the weather and know I should prepare for wetness, unexpected changes in cloudiness, midges, possible wind, and 2 to 15 °C temperatures at day. However, I could not find much information regarding the sleeping part of wild camping.

What kind of temperatures should I prepare for at night, and what kind of gear (sleeping bag grade) does it mean taking?

Considering the wind and rain, may I take a standard tent, or are the winds really strong at night? Is there any specific advice beyond securing all pegs and stretching strings far away?

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3 Answers 3

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Update on the sleeping side of things:

I would use a relatively light sleeping bag, at most a two seasons one. It doesn't get that cold in Scotland, as the north Atlantic drift keeps our climate pretty mild all year.

In terms of tents the key is to get one which can cope with winds as they can get pretty high. I wouldn't expect much over a force 4 for that week though, the forecasts seem reasonable. I have camped out west in everything from a cheap tent from Asda up to proper tents. Just take normal guy rope precautions, ensure there is a good groundsheet, and you aren't going to get water pouring in, and you should be fine.


Most importantly: wet weather gear. Scotland can be wet art any time of year, especially April and May. Also take layers. It won't get very hot but could range between 5 and 12 degrees centigrade.

Expect midges - lots of them. Nets and repellent will be a good idea.

When planning where to camp, expect either westerly (wet) or northerly winds (colder)

Sun screen is essential in Scotland- it often feels chill because of the wind so you can easily burn without noticing.

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Thank you very much :) We'll be going with very light bags (11°C min, Quechua S15) + shared bags (i.e. sleep at two people in two bags with shared zippers) + space blanket + pajamas (i.e. sleep-dedicated clothes that never get wet). The tent will be a Quechua T3 Ultralight. I'll come back next Tuesday to validate the answer, or have died either from cold or a wind blow :P –  MattiSG May 20 '12 at 21:44
    
Enjoy it! Let us know how you get on :-) –  Rory Alsop May 20 '12 at 21:45
    
In the end, it was actually… really hot (20-28°C during the day)! We got quite sunburned, even with sun screen. The ocean kept us indeed warm, but had to wake up twice each night (4AM to put on an additional layer of clothes, 7AM to remove them all since the sun had been up for 2h). We camped once in Edinburgh's vicinity (Penicuik), it got really cold there, had to wear polar fleece on the face to be able to sleep. Advice for future readers: go with warmer sleeping bags than we did, the temperature was apparently very unusual, so we got lucky. –  MattiSG Jun 1 '12 at 17:41
    
I took the family camping on Skye the week before last, and it was around 20-22°C every day. At nights I was sleeping in a pair of shorts with no sleeping bag as it just wasn't cool enough to do anything else - it stayed above 10°C at night. Wish it had cooled a bit more :-) –  Rory Alsop Aug 12 '12 at 21:43

I use a good quality (Rab) sleeping bag for 3-season camping in Britain, including Scotland.

It is rated to +2 or +3 degrees C without hood, can't remember exactly, but for comparison it has 200g of down, fabric-only bottom and no hood.

I then have my fleece balaclava and clothes apart from baselayer, which is hiking trousers and two thin 100wt fleeces to add if it should get cold.

As for shelter, I have used lightweight silnylon/nylon double skin tents (Hilleberg and Lightwave), but next time I will try a non-exposed site with a semi-closed tarp (Gatewood Cape) and superlight breathable bivy after finding it successful in North Wales.

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Based on last Wednesday (May 16th) in the Carneddau (Snowdonia, N Wales), I'd be well prepared for temperatures below freezing at night in Scotland, even in May.

I camped at Ffynnon Llyffant (at about 820m) and the temperature inside the tent was no more than 4 degrees C (measured by suunto core, suspended in tent), and when I got out of the tent in the morning there was around 1-2cm of snow covering it, and it was snowing down to about 700m.

Obviously it depends on how high you plan to camp (subtract 1-2 degrees C per 300m).

Anyway, specific recommendations, some obvious:-

  • Pack your bag in a compression drybag. I use the podsac ones with an eVent panel.
  • If possible, take a bag with water-resistant outer treatment
  • Use a good mat - heat loss to the ground is a major factor
  • Wear as much as possible while you sleep, as long as it's dry!

FWIW, I used a short NeoAir mat (with the platformat from my OMM pack under the feet), PHD Minum 500 down Bag, TarpTent Scarp 1.

I left my lighter Marmot Atom bag at home, which I think was the right call.

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It is interesting how Scotland is keeping warmer than further south at the moment. We have had a very mild (but wet) spring. Admittedly Ben More is at 966 metres, but you wouldn't want to camp at the top :-) –  Rory Alsop May 21 '12 at 13:30
    
@Rory: True - I did a Winter Skills course based in Ft Bill in early March, and the white stuff was in perilously short supply. (But Wales was bad, too...). As for camping on top of Ben More: Why not? ;-) –  Roddy May 21 '12 at 14:35
    
Damn. If your predictions are correct, we are badly screwed. –  MattiSG May 21 '12 at 17:24
    
@MattiSG, as long as you're flexible in your plans you'll be fine. Plan B might have to be this, though: tiroran.com –  Roddy May 21 '12 at 18:18
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@Roddy I'm just worried we might die freezing on the first night and never get a chance for our plan B :P –  MattiSG May 21 '12 at 18:26

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