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2014 TGOC Scotland Cross Country Hike

What is it:

The Great Outdoors Challenge is an event hosted by The Great Outdoors Magazine each year. It is a challenge, not a race, to cross from the west coast of Scotland to the east coast on foot in two weeks. TGOC is a really unique event in that there is no defined route. There are many possible starting and end points. Challengers must create their own path on existing trails, jeep roads, and cross country through the Scottish highlands. Scotland is a wide open country with few trees, so you can walk almost anywhere. You can even walk across private property legally in Scotland. The only limitation is your route must be vetted and approved to make sure it is safe and realistic. Practically no two routes are exactly the same, but you will still cross paths with many other challengers along the way. The average route length is around 200 miles. Participation is limited to around 250-300 challengers each year.


The event is held in May each year. I hiked it with Matt Favero, and our friend Steve Kaiser from May 9th to May 21st 2014. We completed in 13 days.

What it is like:

The hardest part of TGOC is probably planning it. Since you have to create your own route it takes a fair amount of time pouring over maps, Google Earth, and prior year challenger's blogs. Matt did all of our planning so Steve and I got off easy!

The hike itself was alot of fun. Our route was a mix of trails, dirt roads, and cross country high routes. There are no markers or anything, so we were just following our maps and we occasionally had a peek at Matt's GPS to make sure we were on track. On the cross country sections we could walk almost anywhere we wanted. The landscape is wide open with grass, soft shrubs, and 'peat hags' which are like muddy pits where the soft ground has eroded away. The ground is very wet and squishy most of the time. A fellow challenger suggested that Scotland is not a country, but rather a giant sponge floating in the North Sea. Our route passed a fair amount of ruins, castles, and other historical landmarks including Loch Ness.

Logistics / Resupply:

Our route came down into villages to ressuply every 2-4 days. Part of the adventure is visiting quaint towns, and socializing with other challengers at the local pub. The main logistical challenge is planning it all out. Navigation is all up to you since there is no trail. Water is everywhere so you don't have to carry much.


TGOC is what you make of it. We did alot of high routes including summiting Scotland's second highest peak, Ben Macdui. Our route involved peat hag jumping, fence climbing, and steep ascents, however it was broken up by less strenuous sections through scenic valleys. Some challengers try to stay up high and bag as many munros (peaks) as possible, while others road walk the valleys and stay at Bed and Breakfasts almost every night. If your planned route is up high you have to also plan foul weather alternatives down low in case the weather is too bad.


May in Scotland has notoriously crummy weather. A typical day might be between the 30's and 50's F, and it is often rainy or even snowy. I was expecting to be walking in 40F rain for two weeks, but we lucked out and it only rained about half the time! We even had a couple bright sunny days to dry out. It can be really windy on the exposed peaks, and you need to be prepared to camp in that. It can be foggy making route finding difficult. It went below freezing a couple times at night. Other years they have had snowy days.

The Great Outdoor Challenge Scotland Gear List:

This is the gear list that I would take if I were to do any three-season thru-hike today.
OuncesPacking System
21 Arc Blast Backpack
1Pair Shoulder Pouches
1.5Pair Belt Pouches
OuncesShelter System
14.8Plexamid Tent
2.18x Carbon Tent Stakes w/ stake sack
OuncesSleeping System
18.7Zpacks 20F Slim, Long Classic Sleeping Bag
1.7Medium Pillow Dry Bag
8Neoair Xlite Pad, size small
OuncesCooking System
3.3.6L Evernew Pot
.2Titanium short handle spoon
.5Lightload Towel
.4Mini-Bic Lighter
2.3Soto Windmaster Stove
1.4Roll top Food Bag
OuncesWater Storage
1.51 Quart Powerade Bottle
1.51 Quart Powerade Bottle
0No water treatment.
OuncesMiscellaneous Items
6Galaxy S9 Smartphone / Camera
6Anchor 10,000 mAh PowerCore battery
1.5Pak-Light w/ homemade headband
.7Victorinox Classic Pocket Knife
.5Silva Compass / Thermometer
.7Zpacks Travel Toothbrush
1Passport, Credit Card, License, Cash in Travel Zip
1.750ft 2 mm Z-Line cord
.44x Mini-D Carabiners
.3Chap Stick
.01Ear plugs
OuncesGear Repair
.63x strips of DCF Repair Tape
.16x Large safety pins
.35Sewing repair kit
OuncesCarried Clothing
6.2Vertice Rain Jacket
3.6Vertice Rain Pants (Optionally substitute Rain Kilt in warmer weather).
1.0Vertice Rain Mitts
.9Zpacks Fleece Hat
2Zpacks Wind Shell Jacket
8.9Zpacks Climashield insulated Jacket
1Medium-Plus Dry Bag
OuncesOptional clothing to add for colder weather
1.4Possum Down Gloves
2.5Possum Down Socks
OuncesWorn Items (Not part of base weight)
10.2Columbia Silver Ridge II Zip off pants
7.3Long sleeve, breathable shirt w/ hood
.9Ultamax Triathlete low cut socks
3.5Patagonia boxers
2.4Zpacks Trucker Hat
23Teva Grecko Sandals (discontinued model)
7.3Zpacks Carbon Fiber Staff
OuncesTotal Base Weight
1247 lbs 12 ounces (3.5 kg)