Skills, equipment, climate and terrain

What skills do I need?

There are a few skills you need to have before you consider taking part:

  • Ability to navigate across pathless, rugged terrain using map and compass – digital or analogue. You must not be solely reliant on GPS.
  • Be able to carry personal/camping equipment with a minimum of 3 days provisions.
  • Previous experience of backpacking including ‘no trace’ camping in a wild environment with no facilities. One of these trips need to be in the last few years and at least 3 days long.
  • Capacity to be self-sufficient (including first aid skills) in remote areas where help may not be easily accessible.
  •  Be able to assess and deal with adverse weather (wind, rain and occasionally snow and excessive heat) and have the ability to assess and, when appropriate, safely cross unbridged river/burns in spate.

If in doubt please speak to the Coordinators (07786 628105 / 07769 952085 or who are always happy to help and advise, before you enter.


What can I expect on the TGO Challenge?

Any multi-day Scottish backpacking trip is a serious undertaking and you need to consider the following:

Photo: Tim Robinson

Terrain – If your main experience of mountainous areas is in England, Wales or overseas, you may find the terrain much tougher than you expect. Be prepared for rough, often wet, pathless ground. In many areas travelling at 2-3km/hr is good going with a full pack. Take a look at Sabine Zawadski or Dean Read’s 2022 (bear in mind this was quite a wet year), Andrew Cohen 2023 first day to find to how a Scottish path might not be what you expect and vetter, Colin Crawford’s Guide to Scottish Terrain.

Navigation – You will need to carry maps and compass and be able to use both.  GPS devices and digital maps are good as backups but can fail or run out of power so good old fashioned map skills remain essential. All members of a group must have these skills and their own maps  in case they become separated. Unlike Continental Europe or North America you will find few paths waymarked and some marked on the map are not evident on the ground.  Conversely there are also paths and estate tracks that aren’t on the map . . .

Climate – Scotland’s climate is notoriously unpredictable. High winds and heavy rain are common. You are likely to face unbridged burns (streams) which can be difficult or impossible to cross in spate (high water) necessitating diversions. There is often significant snow cover on the mountains in May and occasionally fresh falls at lower levels. If you plan a high route you may need winter equipment.

Shelter – The Challenge is designed to be a backpacking event so you should carry a tent or other suitable shelter capable of withstanding the extremes of Scottish weather i.e. high winds, heavy rain and frosts/snow. Whilst you might visit a town or village every few days where you can find accommodation, you should expect to be wild camping a majority of the time.

What equipment should I carry?

It is assumed that all applicants are experienced backpackers and do not need an equipment list. However, for your safety, the following items should be carried:

  • Tent or suitable shelter and sleeping bag or quilt
  • Cooking equipment 
  • Waterproof and windproof clothing
  • First aid kit
  • Emergency rations for at least one full day
  • Maps, compass and whistle for each member of the team

If snow conditions prevail, an ice axe (and the skills and experience to use it) is essential for higher-level routes.