Bikepacking does not have to be limited to the summer months. Winter in Scotland can provide some excellent riding. The bracken dies back, revealing trails that have been hidden all summer. The midges and ticks are no more. Misty vistas, cold, crisp, clear days. Some of the most memorable bike rides can be experienced in winter.

Here are Emily's top tips for first time winter bikepackers

  1. Duration. For your first trip, plan to go for just one night. 
  2. Accommodation. Have you camped in cold temperatures before? Do you have a 4-season sleeping bag and a thermal sleeping mat? If it is your first winter trip, go easy on yourself, and plan to stay in warm, dry accommodation. Investigate:
    • Bothies - note that you may have to add coal to your packing list!
    • Hostels - there are some fabulous independent hostels out there.
    • Bunkhouses
    • Is the accommodation close to a pub?
  3. Route. Pick your route carefully. Think about:
    • Picking a route that is easily within your riding ability. The challenges can come on your next adventure.
    • River crossings - feet getting wet and staying cold.
    • How high or exposed sections of the route are, and what effect will this have on you?
  4. Daylight. Plan to ride during the day. In Scotland, daylight hours are severely limited during the winter. The shortest day gives us just over 6 hours of daylight. Plan to be riding by 9am and finishing by 4pm. However, taking a set of bike lights is essential. Even if you don’t plan to ride in the dark you may well be caught out. Riding in darkness with no lights is no fun at all.
  5. Kit & Equipment. What do you leave at home, what do you take? You need to accept that you cannot travel as lightweight as in the summer months. It is really important that you have the kit to keep you warm and safe. See picture of the kit list at the bottom.


  1. Weather. Think about the recent weather conditions, and how they may have affected your route choice, i.e. lots of rain will have caused the rivers to be high.
    • Check the forecast, in particular the mountain weather forecast There is no shame in postponing your trip if the forecast is bad; you’re doing this for fun right?
    • Height gain and windchill. Temperature decreases with height gain; as a general rule the air cools at roughly 2°C per 300m of height gained. It also gets windier the higher you go. Windchill and cooler temperatures can make the ‘feels like’ temperature well below zero.
    • Think! If you have an accident, or your bike has a mechanical, your temperature drops very quickly once you have stopped.
  2. Specific kit & equipment in case of emergency.
    • First aid kit - must include trauma dressing and tape.
    • Foil blanket
    • Duvet jacket
    • Warm hat
    • Spare warm gloves
    • Buff
    • Pad to insulate from the ground
    • Emergency shelter

3. Mobile phone. 

    • Make sure your phone is fully charged, and take a battery pack.
    • Cold temperatures affect battery life.
    • Register with the emergency text service. This allows you to send a text when you have poor phone signal. To register, send ‘register’ to 999.

4. GPS device and map reading.

    • You will highly likely be using an electronic navigation device. Remember that cold temperatures will affect the battery life of this device. What is your back up? What will you do if your primary navigation device fails?
    • Consider:
      • Using a navigation device with replaceable batteries and take spare.
      • Making sure your map reading skills are up to scratch.
      • Subscribe to OSMaps and download the app. Then download an offline version of your route to your phone. 
      • Download the location app OS Locate. This will help you give an accurate grid reference of your location quickly and easily.
      • Taking a hard copy of your route.

5. Tell someone your route and check in with them at the end of the day.

December 08, 2023 — Emily Greaves