Absolute Guide to the Duke of Edinburgh Expedition Kit List
Founded in 1956, the Duke of Edinburgh Award (DofE) has provided some 5 million young adults in the UK with the opportunity to experience a range of self-improvement exercises; most recognisably through a series of hiking expeditions ranging in duration from one to four nights.
Working from the DofE comprehensive equipment list we’ve compiled a selection of products - plus a few of our own suggestions and alternatives - along with a handy guide in what to consider when making a purchase. From micro camping stoves and merino hiking socks to down sleeping bags and Gore-Tex waterproof jackets, this guide is intended to provide information in how to choose the best equipment for your Duke of Edinburgh Award expedition.
Preparing yourself for the outdoors need not be daunting. Follow our advice and you will not go wrong! Please phone during our shop opening hours or email a question any time. We are here to help.
When spending time in the outdoors you have to think about how your clothing will cope with both weather conditions and the physical demands placed on them. The key to staying dry and warm - or cool - rests in correct layering. While dependent on weather/activity the most common hiking set-up comprises of 3 layers: base-layer, mid-layer, and outer.
This is your thermal layer - both top and bottom, short sleeved or long. These are available in a variety of different weights (lightweight, midweight, thermal weight etc.). This layer serves to insulate you in colder weather and effectively transfer sweat away from the skin to keep you dry and comfortable. In this way a base-layer can be said to regulate temperature; keeping you warm when cold and cool when warm.
A number of materials are recommended from natural Merino Wool to synthetics such as Capilene and Argentium; with pros and cons to each type. While wool provides better insulation, synthetics are considered to dry faster making them great for higher energy activities in warmer weather. Merino's high-quality fibres make it more expensive than synthetic fabrics, although its natural odour resistance gives it a longer life span over polyesters which can accumulate odours over time.
Cotton should be avoided. Unlike Merino and polyesters, cotton absorbs moisture yet doesn’t transfer it. This leaves the wet layer next to your skin and unable to provide any level of insulation. The same goes for denim, corduroy, flannels and silks.
Click this link to view all of our Base Layer options for camping and hiking.
The job of a mid-layer is to insulate against colder weather and/or windchill. In some instances, your mid-layer will form your outer-layer. While some feature a DWR coating (durable water repellent) for light rain and showers, it’s far better to have a waterproof shell to protect against persistent rain.
Again, these come in a range of weights and constructions geared to the activity and climate. When choosing a mid-layer there’s no shortage of choice. From bulkier down and wool insulated pieces to lightweight breathable fleece with stretch panels for freedom of movement to suit more active outings.
Most mid-layers have a range of features for added comfort and convenience. Look out for hoods, adjustable hems (to seal out windchill) and pockets to keep smaller essentials close to hand.
This is your guard against the elements – be it wind or rain. Rain shells form the mainstay with differing levels of insulation available to suit the climate. The vast majority of good quality jackets on the market are technically water-resistant. A Wellington boot is waterproof and if you’ve ever spent the day yomping around in a pair you’ll know that the thick rubber shell keeps the rain and muck from getting in but on the downside creates its very own micro-climate; often resulting in a pair of soggy socks and sweaty feet by the end of the day. Nothing gets in, but nothing gets out either.
The trick with waterproof clothing is to prevent rain moisture from getting in whilst allowing heat moisture (perspiration) to escape. This transfer of moisture vapour from the jacket’s interior, through to the face-fabric where it can evaporate in the open air reduces the build-up of sweat, which keeps under-layers dry and allows you to enjoy high energy activities in greater comfort and warmth (see here for a more detailed Guide to Waterproof Jackets).
The more adjustment a jacket offers the greater the comfort it affords. Look for adjustment in the hem, cuffs and especially hood for added weather protection. Venting is also an important feature. Along with a breathable membrane, air vents help prevent overheating and condensation building on the inside of clothing which, if left unchecked, can leave you just as wet inside as exposure to rain.
A good fitting pair of walking boots lays the foundation of all good hikes – with an ill-fitting pair the source of many terrible ones. Don't rush when choosing footwear and be sure to buy ahead of time. Breaking in a new pair of boots can lead to a few sore spots. A few short hikes or even a trip round town can go some way to work out the kinks before setting out on a longer trip.
The humble walking boot has come a long way from the early days of stiff all leather boots that offered little by way of comfort. Advances in materials and technology mean a wide range of outdoor footwear is readily available. When choosing a walking boot you should consider the variety of terrain you expect to encounter.
Lightweight trail shoes with lower ankle support are great for fast moving treks over relatively flat and predictable terrain. They offer more flex in the sole, allowing your foot to move more naturally. Often made of synthetic materials their construction and design means they take less time to break in.
If you’re negotiating more challenging terrain – hill scrambles or fells with water crossings – then a more substantial boot with a stiffer sole and higher ankle support will give you greater control and stability. Though a stiffer pair of boots can take more time to break in the added support they provide can be a great boost to confidence and guard against injury in loose or steep terrain.
The hiking sock is often overlooked for the part it plays in your everyday comfort. From strategic cushioning to a blend of breathable fabrics, there exists a whole world of choice designed to support the foot and reduce the chances of discomfort.
Consider the climate you expect to encounter during your trip. The heavier the weight (thicker) the sock the more warmth it will provide. A heavy sock in the height of summer will struggle to wick away the sweat and leave you with a soggy foot more prone to chafing. As with layering above, avoid cotton socks as they'll become quickly saturated with sweat and rub against the skin.
Just like upper layers, your choice of a bottom layer will reflect the climate you expect to encounter. As your legs will be doing most of the work it’s important to choose a material that allows for freedom of movement with breathability to keep you cool. Zip vents provide a fast and effective way to cool down with some trousers converting to shorts for use in warmer weather. Adjustable ankles are a great way to seal out colder air and reduce flap and drag in windy weather. Reinforced panelling such as to the seat, knee and ankle areas help reduce wear and tear giving the garment a longer lifespan.
A good walking trouser dries quickly and often uses a Durable Water Repellent coating to offer light rain protection. Though useful in patchy weather conditions DWR is no substitute for fully waterproof over-trousers in heavy rain.
As with all outdoor clothing, avoid denim and cotton based materials (such as jogging bottoms) as these absorb moisture which increases weight, inhibits their ability to insulate, and quickly leads to soreness and chafing.
A must-have for any hike at any time of the year; it's important to keep your head covered to reduce heat loss. Camping in colder weather? Be sure to keep a warm hat close to hand should the temperature dip.
Protecting your hands in cold weather is a must. A good pair of gloves can make all the difference in changing conditions (or to protect against rough terrain) and can be stowed in a pocket when not in use. A good pair of wool gloves offer a low bulk solution without losing dexterity.
Like hiking trousers, a low weight and fast drying material makes for a comfortable next-to-skin feel. Mostly climate dependent, a good pair of outdoor shorts are a great addition to any warm weather kit list.
Just as when choosing a waterproof jacket, selecting a pair of over-trousers boils down to a balance of keeping rainwater from getting in while letting heat moisture out. See here for a more detailed guide to waterproof clothing.
Look for a pair of trousers that won’t restrict movement and that offer venting for quick cooldowns. Hiking in changeable weather? Look for side zips (doubling as vents) that allow you to quickly change in and out without removing your footwear.
A simple, often adjustable sleeve that protects the lower leg and prevents mud, snow or water from getting into footwear or soaking the trouser-leg. Great for breaking trail through wet/snowy terrain and wooded areas.
So, you’ve taken care of your clothing; you’re now lightweight, breathable and waterproof. Now you need to think about all that other stuff to see you through the trip. From rucksacks and sleeping bags to camp cutlery and wash kits, for a few days you’ll be carrying everything you need – often far from modern conveniences to fall back on.
As always, the weather plays a big role in selecting the right kit for the challenge. Plan ahead. Think about the terrain and temperatures you can expect to encounter and how you’ll cope should the weather deteriorate or a member of the group needs medical attention.
The following list sets out some essential kit components for trekking and camping.
Next to hiking boots, the choice of backpack plays an important role in your trekking comfort. The quest to create the most ergonomic and comfort driven pack with all the necessary carry features is never-ending. There are a few core things to consider when choosing the right pack for your trip:
Size: The size of the pack (often determined in litres) is dependent on your needs and duration of the trip. DofE recommends a pack size of at least 60 litres. Look for packs that feature adjustable volume – such as 60+10. This gives you the option to ‘roll’ out the main compartment should you need more room - great for the start of a trip when carrying more food.
Adjustment: The more adjustment a pack offers the better the fit. Rucksacks with adjustable back systems allow you to centre the load to suit your body size with hip and chest straps in support. Things like load adjustment straps let you secure and distribute weight efficiently. These systems allow you to direct the weight towards the hips and lower body putting less strain on your spine. The better the fit and distribution of weight the greater the comfort which reduces fatigue – especially if you’re not used to walking long distances with a heavy load.
Need it in a hurry? Chances are it’s at the bottom of the pack. Look for a bag with multiple points of access; often a top zip opening and a panel in the base, back or front that lets you get to the bottom of the pack without having to remove everything. On the outside, external carry systems keep smaller items close to hand with daisy chains, stretch pockets, and compression straps letting you fix water bottles, tents and sleeping mats.
Looking for weather protection? While most pack material offers a degree of durable water resistance, exposure to prolonged rain may cause them to leak. Look for a pack that offers an integrated rain cover for quick and convenient rain protection.
Even with a waterproof cover, it’s never a bad idea to add a little extra insurance to your kit by placing it in waterproof bags. A wet day on the trail can be further compounded by a night spent in a soggy sleeping bag – not to mention the time it takes to dry your kit.
What should you look for in a sleeping bag? Firstly, it depends on where you’re going and when. A summer hike along the Dorset Coast shouldn’t require a 4-season fully insulated bag. On the flipside, a lightweight 2-season bag would likely be unsuited to a winter trip in the same location. In our opinion it’s safer to equip yourself for the lowest temperatures you could expect to encounter for your trip. Better to have a bag that’s too warm and not need it than a bag that’s not warm enough when you do.
Click to see our Complete Guide to Sleeping Bags for further information regarding terms and technology. At Absolute-Snow we hope to help you find the perfect sleeping bag to suit your next adventure – summer or winter, big or small.
Alternatively, follow this link to view all of our Sleeping Bag options.
It’s worth remembering that a good quality sleeping bag goes only so far in keeping you warm. In every case, they should be coupled with a suitable sleeping pad to insulate against ground temperature. The most common types are foam pads, air-sprung mats and hybrid designs that combine the best of both for comfort and weight.
A typical foam pad will cost less than an air mattress and though lighter they can be bulkier - usually fixed to the rucksacks outside to save space. Air mats (mostly self-inflating) can be compressed to much smaller sizes. Placing a layer of air between you and the ground provides greater insulation than a foam mat. Though smaller and easier to pack their construction can make them slightly heavier.
A good dry bag forms a waterproof seal around the contents during heavy rain, a river crossing or when your trusted river-guide decides to take the ‘fun’ line through that class 4 rapid…
Click this link to view all of our Dry Bag options.
Sleeping Bag Liners
This handy item gives you that extra level of warmth; helping to take that 1-2 season sleeping bag towards a 3 season with greater insulation. Where the weather proves warm enough they can be used by themselves to keep cool on a hot night.
When you’re heading into remote areas where the prospect of rescue could be hours away it’s a good idea to pack a survival bag. These lightweight one+ person shelters give you rain and wind protection to help keep you warm and dry in an emergency situation.
A torch or headlamp forms an essential piece of kit for any overnight trip into the outdoors. Many different varieties exist from simple battery powered hand-held torches to lightweight rechargeable LED headlamps featuring emergency strobe and night-vision functions. A powerful torch need not weigh you down. Plenty of good headlamps offer a low weight with a compact size that fits in a pocket.
Using a headlamp keeps your hands free to perform other tasks - great for already low-light situations. The strap can also be used to suspend from inside a tent to provide a night-light. Whenever a battery operated device is relied on, be sure to pack plenty of spare batteries.
A light source is measured in Lumens, that is the total amount of visible light visible to the human eye. The higher the lamp's lumen rating the brighter the light and greater its projection.
A must have for any trip into the outdoors where medical aid might not be close to hand. Always check the contents to make sure it meets the requirements for your particular activity and take the time to familiarise yourself – and companions – with the contents. Most kits provide space for additional supplies and personal essentials. Handy tip, always pack your medical kit close to hand; either in a separate external compartment or at the top of your pack.
Staying hydrated is essential. Stainless steel insulated bottles give you a hard wearing and abrasion proof water container. Hydration reservoirs with drinking tubes offer greater volume and convenience but can take up more internal pack space. Whichever you choose, it’s important to keep them clean and close to hand to avoid dehydration.
Nothing beats a good hot meal after a long day’s hike, except maybe a steaming cup of tea as the sun rises over mist-shrouded hills… Either way, you’ll need something to eat and drink out of on your adventure. Choose from our range of durable, lightweight and compact camping cutlery sets.
From minor kit fixes and preparing meals to shaving kindling for a fire, having the right tool for the job is essential and the more tools the more essential you’ll be. Look for a tool that features a carry system, either something that can be clipped to a belt or pack and kept close to hand.
Lightweight range of water-resistant and waterproof organiser bags for all your personal toiletries. Not only will they keep moisture out, they'll keep it in should your shower gel spring a leak.
When it comes to venturing into the British outdoors the emphasis often falls on keeping the wind and rain at bay, but it’s important to remember to protect yourself from the sun. Always pack some sunscreen along for the ride and don’t forget to top-up throughout the day.
That’s you taken care of. You’re now durably weather-resistant and partly laden with camp and personal essentials. But there’s still a way to go before you can set-off on your hike. The first thing to consider when spending a night in the outdoors is the foundation of all camping adventures – the tent:
From the sheltered woodlands of the Newforest to the blustery peaks of the Lairig Ghru - wherever your destination it’s important to go prepared.
Picture a sea of mud-bound tents abandoned after a rainswept music festival. Chances are, few of those tents were up to offering any serious level of protection in poor weather. A cheap tent might look the part but if the weather turns you’ll soon find yourself on the soggy end of the sleeping bag with a howling wind doing its best to turn you into a 2 person tumble-weed.
Camping should be about fun; not running around in the dead of night searching out rocks to anchor your leaking tent in place. That’s why we select only the highest quality brands to ensure you spend your valuable free time enjoying all the outdoors has to offer.
Whether you’re planning your first trip or looking for a tent to see you through your Gold level expedition use our Complete Guide to Buying a Tent to break down a few key concepts to better inform your decision.
Unless you’re planning to live off dried ramen and granola you’ll need to pack a stove. Take time to plan your meals in order to use your fuel efficiently. For longer trips, it may be necessary to carry spare fuel canisters – running out of fuel halfway through boiling your morning cuppa can be a demoralising experience.
Single burner systems offer a lightweight and compact design which benefit from compatibility with a wide range of cookware. These employ a simple burner and pot stand that attaches to the fuel cartridge. Lightweight and highly portable, these offer good fuel efficiency and boil times (in calm weather). Look for a stove that allows you to regulate the flame size. This can help conserve fuel and allows for more versatile cooking options from simmer through to boil. Single burners range among the cheaper options available. Cooking sets and fuel canisters often need to be purchased separately but give you a wider range of meal options.
On the flipside cooking times can be affected by altitude and conditions. Where possible, it’s best to site your cooking area in as sheltered a spot as possible. For those venturing into higher altitudes, it’s worth noting output can be subject to pressure variations and colder temps.
These give you an all in one integrated stove and cookware system. The main advantage is to enclose the flame which shields it from the elements. This gives you a more efficient burner for faster boil times and increased fuel efficiency. These are perfect for boiling soups and hot drinks – ideal for fast moving trips. On the flipside they can offer less choice on the accompanying cooking set with limits placed in the volumes that can be heated.
Think about group size and pack weight when choosing your kitchen set. Most cooking sets are built with a nesting design to take up less pack space and most give you a dual function in their design. For those that don't it's a good idea to spread the load between the group.
A staple for any hiker the compass can be your way out of a tricky situation. The route may be well marked but having a compass (and knowing how to use it) gives you a back-up - especially when poor weather lowers visibility.
Click this link to view all of our Compass options.
Additional Optional Kit
That’s you and your group sorted for the hiking and camping essentials. Now there are still a few items that should be considered depending on the duration of your trip; the terrain and climate you can expect to encounter and equipment care and comfort.
Available in a range of sizes, the hydration reservoir gives you a larger source of water than a standard bottle. Look for rucksacks that feature a hydration sleeve and drinking tube port; these are compatible with all hydration packs on the market. A drinking tube can be secured on the pack's shoulder strap and kept close for convenience. This saves you having to fish out a water bottle and more importantly encourages all-important hydration in being constantly close by.
When travelling into remote areas or hill and mountain terrain great care should be taken to check the forecasted weather. A sudden storm can reduce visibility and make navigation fraught with hazard. A storm shelter gives you a lightweight and compact rain/windproof shelter that can be used in emergencies to wait out bad weather or to protect an injured group member from the elements while you await help. Even in non-emergency situations, a shelter can be useful just to take refuge from poor weather to rest, adjust kit or to eat.
An essential if sometimes overlooked part of any outdoor kit. A good pair of eye protection is invaluable if heading into the outdoors - especially if venturing into a winter landscape where the sun's reflective glare off snow or ice can lead to temporary and even permanent damage to eyesight. A broad range of UV protection and styles exist with differing lens tints adding greater choice. Mirror lenses cut down on glare while polarised lenses - great for water-sports. If participating in sports such as climbing, biking or water-based activities it's a great idea to purchase a glasses retainer to ensure you and your new sunnies don't become separated.
Always check the location and season of your destination to find out the likelihood of encountering small flying bitey things. There's nothing quite as frustrating as discovering that perfect camping spot only to find it suddenly overrun with a small cloud of flying needles.
While no repellent can offer 100% protection they are effective in discouraging the likes of midges and mosquitoes from landing and biting and can make all the difference when siting your camp in or hiking through areas inhabited by biting insects.
A handy little device to have for outings into tick habitat. Always read the instructions before use.
Click this link to view Tick Remover for camping and hiking.
Waterproofing & Cleaning
Over time DWR coatings become less effective due to exposure to sunlight and the elements, and the accumulation of dirt, body oils, sunscreen and vin chaud! Try washing your jacket/pants and the effectiveness of the DWR coating could bounce back (but it depends on the exact coating used). Do not wash too often because water and the harsh chemicals used in most detergents degrade the fluoropolymers used in DWR. In addition, soaps often leave a residue which attracts water and dirt, further diminishing the effectiveness of the DWR coating. For best results always follow the manufacturer's washing and reproofing instructions.
Just like waterproof hiking shoes or a jacket, a tent’s waterproof coating can diminish through exposure to wind, rain and direct sunlight – not to mention dirt and grime. It’s a good idea to re-waterproof your tent once in a while in order to keep it storm-proof.
DWR – Durable Water Repellent is a polymer applied to face fabrics. It’s absorbed into the fibres and causes water to bead and roll off on contact. DWR coatings can wear off with repeated wear and the lack of an effective DWR means fibres can become waterlogged and clogged with dirt and oils. This greatly reduces the material's ability to breathe which leads to the build-up of condensation leaving condensation to build on the tent's inner walls.
Click this link to view all of our Tent Care options.
Additional Help & Advice
Use our Buying Guide Index to explore tonnes of useful information about equipment, clothing, footwear and more. These guides are not just for climbing and snowboarding - all of our sports are covered.
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