I finally got all the gear together in one place for my trip across Scotland. Good thing, too, considering that I'm now less than a week away from go-time. If you like obsessing over gear selections and weights as much as I do, check out my GEAR LIST. Despite adding a relatively "heavy" tent to my quiver and needing to add quite a few more layers to my clothing system to account for the wet/cold weather in Scotland, I still managed to maintain a base weight (everything but food & water) of just under 11 lbs. Nice! Believe it or not, all this stuff fits into my pack with relative ease. I've even got extra room to bring home some nice big rocks if I want. I just hope I don't find a really nice one on the first day.
What’s this TGOC you speak of?
The Great Outdoor Challenge (TGOC) is an annual backpacking event in which participants backpack across the country of Scotland, West to East.
How did you hear about TGOC Scotland?
Many moons ago, while backpacking across the state of Oregon in 2014, I met a hiker who had just returned from completing the TGOC. We walked and talked for a few hours and talked about her experience in Scotland. Naturally, I was intrigued. I looked it up a couple weeks later and it stuck. I knew I wanted to do it someday. Guess what? The day has come!
How many people take part?
It varies. This year (2019) 400 lucky folks got the draw to participate in the event. Many potential participants didn’t get drawn, and will have to try again another year. Generally, due to a myriad of potential complications, ~350 intrepid souls actually take the first steps East heading from one coast to another.
What’s the route?
This is the best part. Route is totally up to you – there’s a handful of approved starting points in the West, and Challengers can end their trek just about anywhere on the East coast. You can plan a route through the valleys or, if you have sufficient experience, connect the summits and ridges along the way. There’s no designated “trail” to speak of for the most part, so challengers usually have an interesting combination of overland travel and shorter trails & roads pieced together.
Who plans the route?
You do! Challenge Control provides a vetting team to help make your crossing as safe and achievable as possible, but routes are completely the design of the people aiming to execute them. This made for a fun ’18-’19 winter. I poured over all kinds of maps and intel to put together a route that seemed dynamic and interesting. For us, that means a start at Shiel Bridge on the West Coast.
Can you go wherever you want?
Just about. This is one of the biggest allures of TGOC Scotland. The super unique, ultra awesome Scottish Outdoor Access Code permits responsible wild camping and passage through private property, so long as certain provisions are met. We’ll be (respectfully) hopping fences and moving through pastures as we work our way East.
How far is it?
Most routes cover between 180-200 miles Ours will be no different. We’re coming in right at ~200 miles total.
Can I track you?
Stalker Alert. Yeah, you can. My brother, Matt will be carrying a satellite tracker/communicator. Once we're mobile, it should be pinging about every 10 minutes as we move along towards the East Coast. Check it out HERE. Expect to start seeing activity on May 10th!
What will you eat?
Everything in sight. After that, I'll be eating a combination of freeze dried meals, bars, trail mixes, electrolyte boosters, etc. I'm bringing a stove this time, too. After a less than enjoyable experience going stoveless across Oregon and most of Washington State, I've decided that the extra weight of the stove is well worth it. Hooray actual meals!
Is there a prize?
Just the satisfaction of completing the crossing in the time given. That’s the challenge, that’s the “prize”. In our case, we start on the 10th and we have until the 24th to make it across the country. Our planned route has us finishing at Dunottar Castle on the East Coast on the 22nd, so we have a little bit of wiggle room, if necessary.
Is it a race?
Not at all. Because routes are as varied as the participants, a race would be meaningless. The aim is to experience the highlands of Scotland in the most unique way, not to race.
Where will you be sleeping?
Unlike my trips across Oregon and Washington, although wild, TGOC Scotland won’t be nearly as remote as portions of the PCT. We’ll be wild camping most nights, but will roll into nice little villages every few days for a proper shower, shave & bath. Just kidding about the shaving part. The beard must grow. We’ve got some fun accommodations booked for our in-town days. Between hostels, a “glamping” pod and an AirBnB, we’re set.
What type of gear does it take to do something like this?
This was one of the trickiest parts for me. But, as many of you know, a gear challenge is one of my favorite types of challenges. Main differences between this and either of my PCT conquests is the weather. I added a new Hilleberg tent to my quiver, which adds a little weight, but is pretty bombproof in expectation of high winds and relentless rain. Additionally, my layering game had to be stepped up BIG TIME. Saunter on over to my GEAR LIST to see what I'll be bringing!
Will there be bears/cougars/coyotes/wolves/bigfoot?
Besides Nessy, we won’t be too concerned about animals that could actually bite our faces off. No bears, cougars, coyotes or wolves. Besides this little fellow, the most dangerous animals we’ll encounter could include snakes, spiders and mosquitos. We can live with that.
How will you resupply?
Once in Scotland, we’ll have about a day to get some last-minute items and post resupply boxes to 4 different points along our intended route. We won’t be carrying more than 3-4 days worth of food on our back at any given time, making loads lighter and more manageable. We really hope they don’t throw our boxes away.
What will the weather be like?
We’re planning to deal with wet and cold for the duration. It will be a “character building experience” in that regard. That’s what we’re preparing for mentally. If it’s better than that, great!
Are you doing this alone?
Luckily, NO! My Brother and Nephew will be joining me for the duration of this adventure. This is great news for me and my wife, and one of the main reasons why I got the “green light” on this one. It’ll be great to have comrades along for the whole trip. We’ve been working closely the last 4-5 months as we prepare for this undertaking. With 100% confidence, it’s safe to say that we’re AMPED about this adventure.
Why isn't Jesse going with you?
Because the idea of backpacking in the rain for a couple weeks is the exact opposite of fun for Jesse. She'll be around family and friends for the duration. We have an incredible support system. It's all part of the success formula for a trip like this. Additionally, she'll enjoy almost 2.5 weeks of fart-free living. We both win when you think about it.
How do you convince your wife to let you do these stupid trips?
PowerPoint presentations. Lots of charts and graphs. Just kidding. Jesse is the most selfless person I know. I'm extremely lucky. I will miss her and the kids with every part of my heart.
The More You Know
Where: Coast to Coast
When: May 10-22 '19
Why: Because Life
Expected Days of Sun: 0
On May 10th, you'll be able to track us in real-time. Do us a solid and make sure we don't get stuck in any bogs. Click below for live tracking.
Click on map below to view a detailed map of our intended route.
Click on gear list below to finally discover how many ounces my toilet trowel weighs.