When you’re trying to accomplish any level in The Duke of Edinburgh Award the first thing you want is to do it having fun! The expedition section to your DofE is something you want to get right, so whether you are trying to achieve your Bronze, Silver or Gold Awards we have put together our top ten tips to make your expedition that little bit easier.
1. Make sure your rucksack is right for you
When you go to buy your rucksack, take the time to find the right size and shape for you. It needs to have enough capacity to carry all your kit, but still be comfortable when you’re on the expedition, as you will certainly travel a good distance. The Vango’s Contour, Sherpa and Nanga Rucksacks are all part of the DofE recommended kit list. These packs have been tested by DofE Leaders and participants, they have proved to be performance led, easy to use and suitable for variable conditions. All three rucksacks have adjustable back systems and large padded waist belts, which are a must when it comes down to comfort.
The waist belt ensures that the load is transferred from your shoulders and dispersed across your back and hips. The adjustable back system allows you to change the rucksack to suit your height, by altering the distance between the shoulder strap and hip belt. Spending that little bit more time getting it right means you will find your trek much easier. Plus, if you stop for a short break try not to take your rucksack off, as it will feel heavier when you pick it up again.
2. Best ways to pack your kit
The DofE recommended Kit List has a lot of things on it. The best idea is to take only the essentials, as you don’t want your rucksack to be more than a quarter of your body weight. The way you pack your rucksack is important; pack each section in separate dry bags or plastic bags, i.e. Food, clothing, cooking equipment, this will not only help you to find things, but also keep your kit dry. Try to keep heavy gear in the middle of the bag and close to your back, this will keep your centre of gravity close to you and make it easier to walk.
Fill your rucksack in order of the things you will use them, so put your sleeping bag and sleeping mat at the bottom, and try to keep essential items accessible which includes; water, snacks and food, first aid kit and waterproofs - you never know when the weather will change. If the weather does turn, use the rain cover to keep your rucksack dry. On the Vango Contour, this is located in a small zipped pocket on the bottom of the bag .The rain cover is bright orange, for good visability in low light.
If you struggle with organisation, the Vango Nanga rucksack is a great choice as it allows you to unzip the whole front of your bag. If the unexpected happens, it is still easy to access what you need, quickly.
3. Comfy walking boots make a huge difference
Your walking boots are quite possibly the most important part of your kit and they need to fit well. Feet come in all different shapes and sizes, so make sure you have the right boots for your foot shape. Before you set off your DofE expedition wear your boots a few times to make sure that they are comfy, this will make a huge difference to you. When you are buying your walking boots, check that they are waterproof and breathable. You also want a pair which are comfortable and supportive on your foot. The Vango Contour Walking boot is part of the DofE recommended kit list, and is packed full of features such as a Protex waterproof membrane, and a soft suede and ballistic nylon upper which provides a comfortable fit.
Magic Socks and newspaper - this sounds silly but might make your camping experience. Plus, it will only add a couple of grams to your rucksack weight. Pop an extra pair of socks in your pack, then pull them out when you are all sorted with your campsite, put them on and enjoy the luxury of dry, warm feet after a long day walking. I know, you’re probably thinking why should I take newspaper? Well, you only need one sheet, then if your boots are wet through the day, before you go to bed pull out the newspaper and stuff it in the bottom of your boots. The newspaper will then absorb the moisture and your boots will be much dryer for the next day’s trek.
4. Clothing - Layer up and strip down
Depending on where and when you go on your expedition make sure you take enough layers so that you don’t get cold. You can always take layers off when you get to warm, but you can’t put layers on if you don’t have them. Keep your waterproof jacket and pants handy in your rucksack. We live in the UK, so you’re lucky if it doesn’t rain at least once during your expedition. Your jacket should be a have a hood, it should be lightweight, waterproof and breathable, this means that you won’t get too hot and will still stay dry. Waterproof trousers should work the same as your jacket keeping your normal trousers dry, whether that is from ground moisture or the rain.
A technical baselayer top is always a good idea as it will wick away the sweat from your body, whilst still keeping you warm. On top of this you could wear a lightweight fleece. Have a look at the clothes in your wardrobe for mid layers, I’m sure you will find something that is suitable. Another handy tip is if you stop for a break put another layer of clothing on, it will help to keep your core temperature up and you won’t have to warm up as much when you start walking again.
You should avoid jeans and tracksuit bottoms as they will take a long time to dry and can get very heavy when wet. Try and find a pair of lightweight trousers which will dry quickly. If you are away for a couple of days you will need to take a complete change of clothes. Remember, you will need something to sleep in, andhat and gloves are a always really good idea.
5. Camp as a group
Have fun! If you make a semi-circle of tents, with all the backs of the tents facing towards the wind, you can have a fantastic group atmosphere while you cook. Some DofE centres will already have tents that you can use, so check with your leader. If you are looking to buy a tent, a lightweight trekking tent is ideal. The DofE recommended Kit list details a number of Vango trekking tents: for example, the Vango Halo 2 man tent is a great shelter for two people plus kit. The tent can be split into poles and flysheet so that the weight can be shared between you and your tent mate. The Halo also has two porch areas so you don’t have to sleep with your dirty boots and rucksack. When you’re camping there is nothing worse than waking up with all your gear on top of you, or worse still your tent mate right next to you because you have managed somehow to pitch your tent on a slope. We know this isn’t always the easiest, especially if you are wild camping, but it helps – honest!
If you want to stay comfy overnight, rather than just removing the stones and pebbles from the area you plan to pitch your tent in and use a sleep mat which can give you up to two inches of pure comfort. The Vango Trek Sleeping Mats are lightweight, durable and affordable. Invest some time researching which is the right sleeping bag for you. A 3-season bagshould be ideal for your DofE, however, check the temperature rating of the bag against the night time weather forecast. A ‘mummy’ shape sleeping bag, designed with a narrow point at your feet and a hood, will keep you warmer by keeping the insultation closer to your body. Also ensure that it has a compression sack, which will reduce the size when you pack it in your rucksack. When you’re ready for bed, fill your stuff sack with dry clothes and you can use it as a pillow. DofE Recomended Sleeping bags include Vango Lattitude, Vango Venom, Vango Nitestar.
Taking a head torch is a great idea. Although a torch is fine, a head torch means that your hands are free. This means you can open your tent door, get into your sleeping bag and get changed, all without plunging yourself into darkness!
Although you are working towards achieving your Bronze, Silver or Gold Duke of Edinburgh Award, the main goal should be to have fun doing it!