Scotland’s The Great Outdoors Challenge

Scotland’s  The Great Outdoors Challenge is a west coast-to-east coast cross-country backpack across Scotland. Three hundred participants are selected each year to participate in the event with only a handful from the United States. My husband, Dan and I made the crossing  in the annual event in May 2014. The Challenge is sponsored by The Great Outdoors Magazine (much like Backpacker Magazine in the United States), in partnership with the outdoor company, hanwag.

The fun and difficult task of Challengers is the responsibly of planning their own routes across the entire country passing through Scotland’s Highlands, Monadhliath Mountains, and Cairngorm Mountains.

The TGO is entirely non-competitive (although, on finishing, Challengers receive a special badge, certificate and T-shirt). A maximum of 15 days is allowed for the crossing. Most people take between 12 and 14 days to cross, and the average length for a crossing is about 180 miles. The Challenge demands a good level of competence in navigation, survival techniques, campcraft and general hillcraft that requires crossing rivers, climbing Munros (peaks over 3,000 feet), walking through peat bogs, bad weather bypasses, mud, and boulder fields. There are no pre-blazed trails, just hill walking.

Great Outdoors Challenge Route

Rockin’ and Dan’s TGO Route Stats:

    • 13 days
    • 218 miles or 351 kilometers
    • elevation gain – 43,566 feet or 13,279 meters
    • Start point – Shiel Bridge – May 10
    • Finish point – Stonehaven – May 22
    • Munros climbed (mountains over 3,000 feet) – 12



All our gear and clothing systems worked perfectly. I wouldn’t change anything. Some of our favorites:

  • Gossamer Gear Mariposa and Gorilla backpacks
  • New Trent Powerpak 11.0 External Charger
  • Chrome Dome umbrella
  • Zpacks Hexamid Duplex Tent



We loved our system of combining paper maps with technology. This is what we used:

RouteBuddy software on my mac to plan and create gpx. files of our route to upload to iPhone.
Viewranger gps iPhone app to view our route, location, and to navigate. We also used the BuddyBeacon feature to share our location on a  map.

We carried the beautiful and accurate Ordinance Survey maps. We also carried Harvey British Mountain Maps in the Highland and Cairngorm mountains. Before the trip, Dan cut the maps down to size we needed along with the surrounding area and ticked off mileage marks.




  • View all photos from the trip on Flickr

Trail Journal