During the lockdown, the kit was unpacked and re-packed several times, all in an effort to find the most efficient way of carrying all your kit and equipment. For the Bike-packer, this means hours of tinkering with the configuration of bags to find the ultimate solution. There are many differing theories of where to carry your kit and most of this develops from experience and change of equipment. This became very apparent when I received my Six Moon Designs Lunar Solo, as I suddenly had more room in my front bar bag where I pack my sleeping system.
After several false starts, Scotland entered phase 3 and that was the time for wild camping to be allowed again under the Government guidelines. I decided to go on a micro adventure from door to door, as everyone was returning to the hills and the sudden surge of traffic didn't really appeal to me. I had wanted to try the Lunar Solo on higher exposed ground to test the single pole design.
I chose to use the fat bike and loaded my bags full of all my needs for an overnighter, checked the weather forecast one last time and then I was off. Since I had only 40 miles to cover I chose to leave after lunchtime so that I reached my camping spot for the night with only a few hours before last light. I prefer not to have to wait too long after setting up camp before climbing into my sleeping bag.
After winding my way through the quiet lanes and broken roads, I reached the gravel tracks of the Queen Elizabeth Forest and followed the Victorian water pipes towards Loch Katrine. The weather is warm and dry with a strong wind coming from the West, unfortunately on the more exposed sections, this was a block headwind. After a few hours I reached the track that climbs up and out of the Glen to my chosen spot for the night.
The track winds its way through some outstanding scenery, the light is dancing across the hillside either side of the Glen, providing a welcome distraction from the effort of the climb. Rain showers appear in the distance but are quickly upon me, but as soon as they appear they're gone. As I make my way up the final section of the climb I'm met with the full force of the wind but I can see my spot for the night and make the short descent to survey its potential.
Darker clouds are looming so decide to unclip my front roll bag containing my sleeping system and get the tent up. I'd practiced a few times putting the tent up but never in a wind. The beauty of the Lunar Solo is that its design featuring one pole and 5 tent pegs allow a very speedy operation. Within a few minutes all my gear is distributed inside the tent and safe from the elements. Once my sleeping mat and bag were in place and my cooking gear with food safe in the vestibule area, I walked a few meters to resupply my water.
It wasn't long before I was fully fed, in dry clothes and getting ready for a good night's sleep. The wind was gusting and giving the tent a good test, the floating floor and built in netting, made for a breezy night but never uncomfortable and I got a great sleep. I woke early the following morning hoping for a great sunrise, especially as the tent doors faced the East. The morning light raced across the hills and made for a beautiful backdrop to my morning coffee.
After a huge bowl of porridge with nuts and seeds, everything was packed away in my bags and loaded on to the bike. The Lunar Solo packs is easily and quickly stowed back into the bag despite the wind. The first part of the route back is a steep technical decent before meeting the West Highland Way and continuing towards the village of Balmaha.
The views are breathtaking but concentration is required, especially with a loaded bike. Once I reach the bottom and join up with the WHW, a sublime single track that follows the shoreline of Loch Lomond. One of the advantages of the terrain is that fresh water from streams is readily available, and I take advantage of this to make sure I'm as hydrated as possible after yesterday's efforts.
The trail is quiet and apart from the occasional runner or walker until I reach the main car park for the Ben Lomond path. Several of the large campsites are still shut, and although I welcome the quiet it's also a shame that people rant getting to witness this area of natural beauty. After a few comments about the size of the tyres and several customary waves and 'Hello's' I'm back on the trial.
Riding through the dense wooded area of the banks of Loch Lomond provides a respite from the wind and it's not long before I reach Balmaha. Due to the lifting of some restrictions, the village is a hive of activity with walkers, kayakers, bikers and families enjoying the local area.
At this point I rejoin the quiet roads and make my way back home, it's been an incredible 24hrs and although it seemed like I would never return to the outdoors this year, it was certainly better late than never.
Words and photos by Nick Tryon.
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