If you are thinking of visiting a Highland bothy, and if it’s something you’ve not experienced you definitely should take the opportunity for at least one bothy night, here’s a few tips on things that I’ve found it helpful to take. They are fairly simple things but it’s often the small things that make a difference when you are in wild places.
A bothy night without a fire is like Christmas without Santa, Laurel without Hardy, bacon without eggs, – you can do it but it’s just not so much fun. The hard, hairy men of Aberdeenshire delight in shouldering back breaking rucksacks brimming with beer, wine, whisky and huge quantities of coal. For them a boot melting fire is a must and the amount of fuel you can carry is the measure of a man. They spend long bothy nights sitting before roaring fires, downing their beers and muttering to each other in their strange, impenetrable Doric. I, however, a man of lesser metal, try to keep my rucksack to a reasonable weight. I’ve carried in coal and plastic sacks that call themselves A Fire in a Bag but a recent discovery for me has been Fire Logs. These only weigh one kilogram, that’s just over two pounds in old money. They burn for a good two hours and, although they might not throw out enough heat to keep an Aberdonian warm on a December night in the Cairngorms, for your average bothy night they are adequate, especially if you can supplement them with a little dead wood. Cost £1.50 to £3 per log.
No bothies provide cooking facilities and they are not supplied with electric power either so it doesn’t take a genius to work out that you need to take in to a bothy something to cook on. The problem is what to take, the outdoor world is supplied with a bewildering array of stoves that run on everything from alcohol to twigs. I used to carry in my old paraffin burning primus stove until, after a leg buckling walk in to Bernais Bothy one winter, I decided that, at 1.6 Kg, it just had to go. The little stove above I bought for around £15 at GoOutdoors. It’s never let me down and the gas canisters, medium size, last at least a couple of weekends. One important tip is to carry lots of matches. I always carry at least four packets in various waterproof containers. There is nothing more dispiriting than to arrive at a bothy, cold and wet and to discover your matches sitting in a soggy puddle at the bottom of your rucksack. The hope is that if one box of matches get wet then the others should survive. In the box with the little stove I always have a cigarette lighter and a tin opener. The lighter is for emergencies, I find that, for lighting fires and stoves matches are better than lighters as you can keep your fingers out of harm’s way with a match.
I was introduced to these light weight plastic clogs, I think they are called mules, by a couple of bothy veterans at Invermallie bothy. They only weigh 200 gm and cost about £4. They are great for river crossings and it’s nice to be able to have some bothy slippers to spend the evening in and rest your feet from a day in boots. The colour is optional. These, rather fetching pair are mauve, a colour that was outlawed in the 1970s at the end of the psychedelic era. These appear to have slipped through the net.
Thermal PJ Trousers:
I got these trousers from Lidl or Aldi, I can’t tell the difference. They came as part of a suit for £10. They are very light and incredibly warm. I find them good to sit in in the evening in front of the fire, especially if I’ve got wet. You can also use them as long johns under your trousers if you like. They would probably disintegrate if you took them outside but they are good bothy wear. I bought the extra-large size as I thought they would be likely to be rather skimpy in terms of their size at that money. However, it turns out they were quite generously cut with the result that I can get the waist band right up under my armpits. Together with my mauve bothy slippers and thermal armpit trousers I cut quite a dash, I don’t mind telling you.
Well, those are my top tips for bothy comfort. Do let me know if you have any special cunning devices for bothy comfort. Any tips for lightweight breakfasts would be a help, that’s a problem I’ve yet to solve.