Walking the Cumbria Way in the Lake District has been in my head for about a year. I’m often looking out for new long-distance walks and trails as they are a brilliant way of exploring an area and I love going on a journey from start to finish.
I first walked a small section of the Cumbria Way trail in August 2019. It was a late-night hike up High Pike to spend a night in Lingy Bothy and on the map, I spotted a small section of the Cumbria Way route and instantly thought it would make a brilliant walk.
After talking about the idea of doing a winter adventure with some friends, we settled on the Cumbria Way. None of us had done the hike, even though we had all done sections of it, including recently when I did a small section on the Bob Graham Round.
Here I will share my plans for my winter adventure including the Cumbria Way route, how we are planning to break the walk down into stages and a few other useful tips as well as my winter wild camping kit list!
Winter Cumbria Way Walk
About the Cumbria Way
The Cumbria Way trail starts from Ulverston to ends in Carlisle.
Ulverston is about 5 miles/8 km from the south Lake District border and the route heads north to Carlisle, about 15 miles/24 km from the south border of the Lake District National Park. As you can see for most of the route, you’re hiking through the beautiful Lake District, what’s not to love!
The full route I’ve plotted via Ordnance Survey is 74 miles/118 km with 3,490 metres/11,450 ft of ascent. Traditionally the walk is done over 5 days, over the following stages, so on average, it’s approximately 15 miles/24 km per day.
- Ulverston to Coniston
- Coniston to Langdale
- Langdale to Keswick
- Keswick to Caldbeck
- Caldbeck to Carlisle
How to get to the start and finish?
There are train stations at both Ulverston and Carlisle, making it easy to do the route solo or with friends.
From Lancaster (the nearest direct train), there are a few options for starting your hike in the morning, it obviously depends on where you are travelling from as an overnight in Ulverston might be a better option.
There are regular trains arriving from Lancaster to Ulverston at 7.39, 8.17, 9.02, 9.40 then it jumps to 10.51. Check up to date timetables at National Rail enquires. You can also check the latest advice for travelling.
Cumbria Way route map
Our Cumbria Way hike
Who am I doing the hike with?
My hiking buddies and good friends who will be joining me for the Cumbria Way walk will be Nicola and Jess, if you follow me on Instagram there’s a good chance you’ll already be following their adventures too! If not, you can find them here @Adventurer.Nic and @JessicaMather_
We’ve all have a mix of experience, making us the ‘dream team’ or maybe the ‘giggle team’ would be more apt, as I’m constantly laughing when I spend time with them.
Jess is a qualified Mountain Leader and has done numerous hikes and wild camping adventures in the UK and abroad. She’s also exploring the Lake District via the Wainwrights and recently reached her 200th, only 14 to go! In September she did her first UK long-distance hike along the Anglesey Coastal Path.
Nic has done a couple of awesome peak-bagging challenges, including walking all the Wainwrights in a year and last year she hiked ALL the Scottish Munros in 6 months, wow! She also more recently completed her first long-distance challenge, #WalkHome2020, which I joined her on the 6-day section of the Pennine Way.
And me, well, I’ve done a few long-distance walks, my very first was Hadrian’s Wall in 2010 and longest (so far) was my 950-mile hike from east to west of Britain – the scenic route! My toughest challenge to date was my solo Bob Graham Round hike, a 5-day route over 42 of the Lake District fells.
About our walk
Instead of doing the traditional stages, we will be splitting the route up according to wild camp spots, which might mean adding some extra mileage to find better spots, since much of the route is low-level.
The entire route only goes over one Wainwright, ironically the one I first hiked over as part of the trail – High Pike in the far north of the Lake District. Other higher spots on the trail include walking over Stake Pass not far from Langdale but this is only 480 m so not high in comparison to some of the surrounding fells.
However, we are also planning to maybe detour from the route to include a few other hills and Wainwrights. We will adapt this based on how we’re feeling on the walk and also, more importantly, depending on the weather is doing.
Wild camping on the Cumbria Way
Our trip is still in the planning stages but we will be looking into suitable places to wild camp on the route and using those places to roughly plan the distance we’ll walk each day.
If you’ve not wild camped before then you can read my wild camping guide here.
We’ve decided to complete the route during December, we’ve all done winter hiking and wild camping but so far none of us have done a UK winter adventure.
There’s the obvious challenge, in the fact, it’s winter and of course, going to be much colder but that’s not the only issue!
But the other factor to consider is the daylight hours or the lack of! During December, sunrise is roughly around 8 am and sunset is roughly 4 pm. Ideally, we’ll want to at least wake up with some sunlight and also to have at least found a wild camp spot before sunset which only gives us 8 hours for de-camp, walk and then pitching up again. It might be a challenge, but that’s part of the fun!
Winter Wild Camping Kit List
Here’s the kit we’re planning on taking for the Cumbria Way walk since there are three of us doing the challenge we will be sharing a few items to help reduce the weight of our kit but I’ve included everything here.
The main items we will be sharing will be our tent, cooking equipment and first aid kit. As you’ll see we will be taking a very basic kit list to keep the weight of the backpack as low as we can. We will be carrying 5 days worth of food so any way we can reduce the weight will be welcome!
My trusted 65-litre Osprey Ariel backpack will be the one I’m using for this winter adventure. I’ve used on numerous long-distance hikes and find it comfortable and distributes the weight well. For a winter trip, I’ll be carrying warmer (and bigger) gear so I’ll need the extra space.
Camping gear – winter set up
Next is the camping gear. I’ll be using my winter tent with Groundhog stakes, you can see my initial setup via YouTube (I was bored during lockdown haha). I’ve now used on campsites and wild camping during September and October. And I will also use winter sleeping set up as December can be a chilly month!
I tend to get very cold at night so I have a super warm down sleeping bag that has a comfort rating of minus 10 and a limit of minus 18. If you’ve never wild camped in winter as well as upgrading your gear here are a few other tips for keeping warm here.
- Winter tent – MSR Access 2 (1.9 kg)
- 4-season sleeping bag – Thermarest Oberon (1.1 kg)
- Winter sleeping mat + repair kit – Thermarest X-Therm (430 g)
- Sleeping bag liner – Silk liner (130 g)
- Camping pillow – Thermarest Air Head (145 g)
Total weight of winter tent and sleep system = 3.7 kg
Camping gear – summer set up
For comparison, I’ve included my summer set up, in case you fancy doing the trip in warmer weather! You can see the winter camping set up adds an extra 1.3 kg of weight, but the winter tent is a 2-person so I’ll be sharing the weight.
- Summer tent – MSR Hubba NX (1.3 kg)
- Sleeping mat – Thermarest Uber Lite – (250 g)
- Sleeping quilt – Thermarest Corus Quilt – (560 g)
- Silk sleeping bag liner – Silk liner – (130 g)
- Pillow – Thermarest Air Head – (145 g)
Total weight of winter tent and sleep system = 2.4 kg
Read my review here on my MSR Hubba NX. It’s a brilliant lightweight tent for 3-season camping trips.
I have the MSR cooking stove kit which included the stove, cooking pot and bowl – similar to this one from Cotswold Outdoor, however, this is the standard set. I have the Deluxe which has a self ignitor which is very handy.
Or alternatively, check out the Pocket Rocket standard stove on its own – Base Camp Food currently have a brilliant deal on the stove.
I’ve used this cooking set up on many trips, including my Bob Graham Round hike which was very windy. It is lightweight and combined with the windshield means you can use in windy places.
- Cooking stove – MSR Pocket Rocket Deluxe – 83 g
- Cooking pot + bowl – MSR one-person cooking set – 130 g
- Windshield – 135 g
- Titanium mug – 54 g
- Titanium Spork – 21 g
- Medium-sized gas – 385 g
- Swiss army knife – 119 g
- Lighter – 10 g
Cooking gear weight = 0.9 kg
Clothes + footwear
Since the trip is a couple of months away I’ve not 100% decided on the exact kit but here’s roughly what I’ll be taking/wearing.
Footwear + waterproofs
- Hiking boots – Salomon 4D Quest or Salomon Outback GTX (not decided yet!)
- Microspikes – (see the ones I have in my winter gear post)
- Waterproof jacket – Mountain Equipment Nanda Devi
- Waterproof trousers – Rab Firewalls winter trousers
For my long-distance hikes, I generally have one set of clothes for hiking and one set for when I get to camp (thermals, warm socks and a down jacket).
- Base layer – long-sleeved top
- Thin layer – zipped top (for hiking)
- Mid layer – Synthetic or down jacket (for hiking)
- Warm down jacket (for camp)
- Sports bra
- Underwear x 3
- Socks x 3 (waterproof socks + 2 x hiking socks)
- Warm hat – beanie
- Gloves x 2 – Thin gloves + Sealskinz
- Merino wool top – Helly Hansen (for camp/sleeping)
- Merino wool bottoms – Helly Hansen (for camp/sleeping)
Merino wool are perfect base layers, they both keep you warm and don’t smell, especially for multi-day hikes! I have a few different ones that I wear for winter hiking and wild camping – you can read more about choosing a base layer here.
Other hiking gear
- Hiking poles
- Watch + cable
- Water bottle – Water-to-Go – 176 g
- Hydration pack + tube – Platypus
- Water filter – Platypus
- Toilet kit – trowel, wipes, tissues, bag for rubbish – 277 g
- First aid kit – 239 g
- Head torch + cable – 97 g (LedLenser rechargeable torch)
- Lake District paper maps (minus covers) x 2 (OL 4, OL 5 + OL 6) – 388 g
- Waterproof map case – SealLine
- Compass – 38 g
- Small tripod – 76 g
- Phone + cable
- Waterproof phone case – Aquapac 43 g
- Power bank x 2 (Anker 359 g + smaller one 192 g)
- Toiletries – Toothbrush, toothpaste, hanky + lip balm
- Hand warmers
Food for the hike
Here’s a rough idea of the food I will be taking for the 5 days, shopping trip will happen nearer the time!
Visit Base Camp Food for a range of different freeze-fried food, instead of buying one brand you can select different meals from their range of brands, including Summit to Eat, Firepot and Expedition Foods.
- Porridge x 4
- Peppermint tea bags x 10
- Coffee sachets x 5
- Freeze-dried meals x 4/5
- Lunch x 5
- Snack bars/breakfast bars x 10
- Chocolate/Kendal mint cake x 5
- Trail mix x 5 (own mix include dried fruit, nuts, sweets)
More questions about the Cumbria Way?
Let me know if you have any more questions about the Cumbria Way hike let me know in the comments below. I’ll be updating more information about what clothes and gear I’m taking near the time.
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