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Tis the season for the TGO Challenge where 300’odd (read that as you will) folk walk across Scotland on a variety of routes from the west coast to the east coast of Scotland. ‘Organised backpackers’ doesn’t apply to this though as the organisation is minimal and everyone does their own thing, choosing their routes then changing them on the fly. This is (I am told) somewhat frustrating for the minimal safety organisation that exists.

No, by organised backpacking I mean the remarkable organisation of some of the Challenge Tweetpackers (Backpackers on Twitter). Some have already tweeted that their gear for the Challenge is already sorted out and Paul started musing on gear as early as November 2014. Fitness regimes have been discussed – David is roaming the Lakeland Fells with a rucksack full of baked beans and John is yomping over all of the Welsh hills in a weekend. Next week, I expect he’ll report on his weekend walk to Nepal and Sunday hike up Everest.

Lots of Challengers are packing boxes with spare maps, food and clean underwear and are sending them on to various pick-up points across Scotland. Judith has produced a long and impressive list of things to do and check before she sets off. Some of these it’s fair to say would NEVER have occurred to me. Louise, who has a reputation for ultra-organisation claims to be more relaxed about planning. But ‘relaxed’ is clearly a relative term as planning a dry run still seems to me to be pretty high on the organised scale.

Andy is dehydrating dinners on an INDUSTRIAL scale. Andy is something of a gourmet so I have visions here of an enterprise something like Willy Wonkas chocolate factory but producing dried fish soup, boeuf bourguignon and small pellets of apricot pavlova.

Not only are these folks super-organised but some of them at least are gainfully employed and not a retired old codger like me who doesn’t set the alarm in the morning. Where do they get the time? I am genuinely truly impressed that people can be so organised as it’s completely beyond me.

I pretended on Twitter back in February that I was starting Challenge training but really I was just going out for a walk, which I do most weeks. And it has never occurred to me to spoil a perfectly pleasant walk by carrying a heavy rucksack when I don’t need to do so.

I don’t spend any time choosing gear cos I only have one of most things. However, I will be colour coordinated this year with a new black jacket (Polartec if you must know) to match my skinny black Terra pants and I’ll choose a fetching black buff as an accessory.  I could perhaps be taken for an outdoor hipster except I believe that they never actually go outside.

I love the idea of dehydrating food but I don’t think that it works if you shop the day before in Tescos and I did consider (once) posting on a box of stuff. Then I found that we’d recycled all the Amazon boxes so gave up on that idea too. I justify my approach to food provision by expressing my wish to support Highland communities but, to be truthful, it’s because I’ve spent a lifetime winging it at the last minute and can’t seem to change now.

When I first signed up for the Challenge a couple of years ago, I did wonder if my lack of organisation would mean ignominious withdrawal as I had forgotten some essential item of equipment or, worse, starvation as I didn’t have enough food. But I muddled through, although I would not like to depend again on trying to restock at the Well of Heads store.

So if you’re like me and lack the organisation gene, be thankful for the work of others.  We can simply use their to do lists and gear checklists without feeling guilty about not making lists of our own.  But don’t plan to take the last train north just in case (as happened to me) you forget something and  have to go home for it. I missed the Mallaig train and it was nearly midnight by the time I arrived.

4 Responses to “Oh to be an organised Challenger”

  1. AlanR says:

    Hi Ian, You say you have a lack of the organisation gene, but i wonder. Your quite a laid back person from my encounters with your good self and looking at your pre retirement “Job” you must have a good organised mind. I doubt that anyone could be involved with the workings of “The Cloud” without having a natural ability to organise. I, like you, find it interesting to read other backpackers gear lists, not to copy them but to find interesting odd bits. The lists do have the ability to memory jog but they also have the ability of enticing you into packing something you may not need. Just having one choice of each piece of kit is in itself an organisation that many others can only aspire too. Me included.
    Have a good crossing Ian and we will look forward to reading the adventure.

  2. Louise says:

    Very amusing read Ian, and I promise, I am far more relaxed about being organised, not less organised. Getting close now!

  3. JohnBoy says:

    Unfortunately permits for Everest were sold out for the coming weekend, and at $60,000 a pop I’m not sure my meagre finances would stretch to it.

    Without a To Do list I would forget to turn up in Lochailort on the 8th May. I set off for a backpacking trip a few years ago and forgot my boots and map.

  4. Judith says:

    Inspiring post, Ian. I’ve done two Challenge-related planning tasks in the last two days and neither of them were on my list. Does that mean I am VERY organised or NOT AT ALL organised? Or maybe I just need to make some more lists.

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