DofE Dos & Don’ts From Cotswold Outdoor
A key aim of the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award Expedition section is to help young people develop a spirit of adventure and discovery, acquiring the skills and confidence to independently negotiate the wonderful world of the great outdoors.
Learning the ‘Dos and Don’ts’ of your DofE Expedition can be a very important lesson. Here, Cotswold Outdoor staff member James Parker, who helps schools with their Bronze Duke of Edinburgh’s award, used his experience as a seasoned hiker and mountaineer to get you on your way. Read on for his top DofE tips…
1. Take Time To Get Your Kit Ready
DO gather all your kit well in advance of your practice expedition, making sure it all fits correctly. Ill-fitting kit will be uncomfortable and slow you down.
DON’T grab kit in a hurry as this could cost you comfort in the great outdoors. Look to change any kit that didn’t fit well on your practice expedition in time for you assessed expedition.
For a full kit list read our DofE expedition guide.
2. Socks Are Your Secret Weapon
DO buy specific walking socks. Socks are to boots what oil is to engines. Get it wrong and neither work well. If you do experience rubbing or get blisters when walking, get your team to stop so you can apply blister plasters, change your socks and re-lace your boots.
DON’T leave this till you get to camp. Do it as soon as a problem starts.
Read our preventing blisters guide for more information.
3.Get The Right Boots
DO get the right footwear – in most cases this means walking boots with ankle support. You won’t get far if you get blisters, rubbing, and pressure on your toes. So make sure you get your feet measured properly and try on several different boots to find out which pair fits you correctly, feels comfortable, feels supportive and (for UK based expeditions) are waterproof. If you already have a pair of boots at home read our boot fitting guide to make sure they fit properly.
DON’T walk in ill-fitting boots, you can damage your feet as well as wreck your expedition.
4. Get Your Rucksack Fitted
DO make sure your rucksack fits properly.
DON’T take the weight on your shoulders, always make sure you have a correctly positioned hip belt which is where the load should be balanced.
5. Practice Makes Perfect (Camping)
DO remember that practice makes perfect. Put your tent up before your expedition, learn to put it up on a windy day, in the rain and in the dark. This is especially important if you have to pitch the inner and the outer separately.
DON’T forget when leaving a camp site to check nothing has been left behind; in particular count your tent pegs and poles and make sure nothing has been dropped.
6. Eat Well And Often
DO practice cooking using a portable camping stove like a Trangia and sampling the various forms of high protein energy foods you will be eating. There is nothing worse than after a long day trekking in the hills, finding out you don’t like the meal you have brought or you can’t make your stove operate in the wind.
DON’T forget to bring lots of high energy snacks to help motivate you during the day; anything from oat bars to jelly babies.
7. Navigate As A Group
DO make sure you can confidently read a map work with a compass and plan your route effectively. If you have prepared your trip well you should be able to follow your route plan even without a map. Mark on your route potential escape points in the event of really bad weather or other emergencies.
DON’T leave this to other team members. These are essential skills that all team members need to have. When in doubt about location, say in thick mist, a team judgement is always best. If the team gets a little lost, it’s never any one person’s fault.
8. Pack A Few Spares
DO take spare laces, spare batteries (for your head torch) and some gaffer tape for emergencies (this can be used to mend a rip in your tent or clothing, mend tent poles, act as a basic bandage, repair damage to rucksacks and so on). Put all your kit into dry bags and know where each item is packed so that you can find the right item at the right time, quickly and easily.
DON’T muddle wet and dry clothing in your rucksack. Keep them in separate dry bags. Warm dry clothing at night after a wet, cold day out is essential.
9. Dress For The Occasion
DO buy appropriate kit. “There is no such thing as bad weather only bad kit”. The advice is waterproof, wind resistant, warm and wicking.
DON’T start out wearing all your clothing just because it feels cold. “Be bold start cold” is good advice. You will soon warm up once you start walking. If you still feel cold then add a layer at a time until you achieve an optimum. This stops you from constantly taking layers off and then putting them back on again. Read this guide on the layering system for more information.
10. Pack Your Bag Correctly
DO learn how to pack your bag: download a ‘how to sheet’ from the DofE.
DON’T overload your rucksack either. Less is often better.
11. Obey The Countryside
DO look around you as you walk; you will see many interesting sights from historic monuments to wildlife and land use. Take photographs and point things out to team members.
DON’T ignore the Countryside Code and always close gates, look out for livestock and don’t leave litter behind.
12. Enjoy It
DO stop and take breaks and eat your lunch in picturesque, sheltered areas.
DON’T always stop and rest at checkpoints, they are often road sides and car parks, not the most interesting places to be spending time.
James Parker, Shrewsbury Store
JP has been out walking the hills since he discovered the Welsh mountains age 5. He has since walked and trekked all over the UK, and Europe as well as climbing Mount Kilimanjaro, around the Japanese Alps and in Australia not to mention doing the Great North Run in a suit of armour. He is currently working with a local school group doing their Bronze – Duke of Edinburgh's Award in the Shropshire hills where he lives.
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