What Do I Need For A Duke Of Edinburgh Expedition?
You don’t need to have the latest and greatest kit in order to complete the expedition section of your Duke of Edinburgh Award but making sure you look after what you do buy will ensure it lasts for adventures beyond even your Gold. Buying the right kit and using it appropriately, in particular when it comes to boots and a backpack, can mean the difference between thoroughly enjoying the experience and simply tolerating the pain until you get back to the comforts of home.
Our kit list is by no means exhaustive but aims to give you an idea of what you should be thinking about and the reasoning behind our suggestions.
Borrow or Buy?
The Duke of Edinburgh Award can be a gateway for young people to discover a lifelong passion for exploring the outdoors, for others they may participate in the award and leave it at that. With this in mind, for your very first expedition, you may be able to borrow certain pieces of kit from previous participants you may know, you can then accumulate your own kit over time tailoring your collection to exactly what you find useful.
Walking boots are possibly the most difficult to get right but also most important to get right. They should be supportive at the ankle and through the midsole and be comfortable enough to wear for long days trekking over a mix of terrain. Learning how to properly lace-up walking boots can make a huge difference to their performance while a little care and maintenance after use will make them last for many more adventures.
A great pair of walking socks will wick away the excess moisture from your feet and provide cushioning in key areas to help reduce premature fatigue and reduce the chance of getting blisters. Feet can be very personal and you may prefer to walk in lightweight socks and just take a single pair of thicker socks to wear in the evenings or vice versa, either way, your footwear must fit comfortably with whatever you choose.
This is a key piece of your wardrobe so it should be comfortable. Wicking is important as it will draw excess moisture away from your body allowing you to feel more comfortable and help you regulate your temperature more effectively, especially when it gets cooler. For more information see our layering system buying guide.
The temperature outside varies all day every day. It’s important to have a good layering system consisting of multiple thin layers so that you can adjust accordingly along the way. A fleece jacket will offer warmth in the evenings but also be breathable enough that you can hike in it during the day. Synthetic fleece has a better warmth to weight ratio than a cotton hoody and will also offer better moisture management, both things are pretty important when you are limited to what you can take with you. For more information see our layering system buying guide.
Another key item of clothing, your walking trousers should be lightweight and able to wick sweat away effectively in order to keep you feeling comfortable. Trousers that can be easily turned into shorts by zipping off trouser leg sections are fantastically versatile and will allow you to switch between shorts and trousers easily and conveniently. Convertible trousers made with sun protection and insect repellent offer an advantage.
A breathable waterproof jacket is a must for added protection from the elements. It should be a good fit: big enough to have a fleece layer or two underneath but not completely oversized. A suitably sized hood can be cinched in around your face to protect you against wind and rain while pit zips are an added bonus that can be used for extra ventilation while hiking.
Waterproof trousers are a must-have when hiking in variable conditions, they'll keep you dry in a downpour but also add a little extra warmth in cold, windy conditions. Take a look at our waterproof trousers buying guide for more information.
As with any outdoor adventures, a hat and pair of warm gloves is a must. They'll keep you cosy when it's cold and won't add too much weight when it's warmer. For extra versatility or as an additional item, you could opt for a neck tube; Buff do a huge range, each is highly versatile and can be worn in a multitude of ways from beanie to balaclava, to headband to scarf.
As you are carrying all your own kit you’ll need a large multiday pack that fits your frame and is comfortable to carry, it’s important to get this right as carrying heavy loads can lead to injury if not done correctly. Fitting it correctly and packing it with consideration will ensure better comfort and even weight distribution for stability. Take a look at our backpack buying guide for more information.
Your sleeping mat acts as a shield between you and the ground. The ground will steal all your warmth and can often become damp if you don’t use a sleeping mat. In warm conditions, a classic foam roll-mat will suffice but during cooler times of the year, you might need something a little more substantial such as a self-inflating mat. The more a mat is engineered towards minimal weight and maximum warmth/comfort the more expensive it will be.
The type of sleeping bag you need will depend on what time of year you are going as well as your own personal preference. Down insulated sleeping bags will usually have a better warmth to weight ratio but can be expensive in comparison to synthetic sleeping bags. You can rent sleeping bags locally if you know you won't get much use out of it after but many prefer to have their own for hygiene reasons. Our sleeping bag buying guide offers more detail to help you make a more informed decision.
Your tent should be lightweight and compact but suitably sized to accommodate those sharing it along with their kit. It’s important that you practice putting it up before you head out on expedition so that when you are tired, after a long day hiking, you can put your tent up confidently and with ease.
A reliable stove will ensure you can enjoy a warm meal at the end of the day but be sure to take along the right fuel and enough of it. The pot you take should sit on your stove comfortably, if you take a pot that is too big it will be unsteady and could potentially fall over leaving you without a meal for the evening, if you take one that is too small the heat will be lost up the sides reducing efficiency and you run the risk of it not being big enough to give the group a substantial meal.
Food is an important element of an expedition. Getting the right nutrition to keep your body fuelled can be a challenge in itself but knowing that you have limited food preparation supplies means you have to be organised. It’s also important to make sure that everyone’s tastes and dietary requirements are catered for when joint meals are prepared. Time is of the essence too, breakfast and lunch shouldn’t take too long to prepare and eat, porridge or even cereal bars will ensure you can fuel up and start the day swiftly while sandwiches made at home will ensure you have a lunch to look forward to.
A torch should always be taken when outdoors but a head torch will offer better convenience. Hands-free lighting allows you to go about your business without having to struggle balancing a torch. Even if you are confident you’ll be tucked up in your sleeping bag by the time darkness falls, it never hurts to be prepared for all eventualities.
A first aid kit should provide you with all the essentials to treat a minor injury until you can get off the mountain or help can arrive. It's also important to know how to administer the kit for an injury; a first aid course or essentials booklet would be useful. A key item on Duke of Edinburgh expeditions is quality blister plasters, make sure you know exactly how to use them whether they are for yourself or your teammate.
You may not feel like you are thirsty but staying hydrated during any form of exercise is important to keep your body functioning as it should. A lightweight and tough bottle will keep your drink secure and minimise your pack weight. It’s worth making sure you have the capacity to store at least a litre of water while on the move, however, if you know there is nowhere to top up with safe drinking water along the way, air on the side of caution and take a little more. Hydration reservoirs offer a fuss-free way of storing your water with a tube to drink out of for easy access without having to stop and reach for a bottle.
A suitably detailed map of the route you are taking along with a compass and the knowledge of how to use both together to navigate your route successfully. A map case will protect your paper maps from the elements while your compass should be kept well away from anything magnetic.
Sun protection is important when enjoying the outdoors, even when it’s cloudy harmful rays can still be present and you can burn without effective protection. While it’s worth considering a higher SPF factor than you might normally use, the most important thing is that it works and you feel comfortable using it. If you don’t like it because it leaves you a greasy mess, you are less likely to reapply appropriately.
There will be insects on your expedition, some more irritating than others and some with the potential to cause harm. Using insect repellent will help to mask your presence but at their most active times, dawn and dusk, it's worth covering up with clothing. Securing cuffs, hems, and collars will mean they can’t get inside your clothing to bite or sting. Read more about insect repellents in our buying guide.
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