Top Tips for Duke of Edinburgh Award Expeditions
All Duke of Edinburgh Awards are an outstanding achievement, but they're not always easy. We've compiled a list of our top 10 tips to ensure it goes as smoothly as possible, and most importantly, to make sure you enjoy your expedition as much as you can!
Duke of Edinburgh Award expeditions, whether its your Bronze, Silver, or Gold, are not easy. They are designed to challenge you, that’s part of what makes the award so impressive! Whilst the expeditions should be challenging, when they are difficult it takes away some of the excitement. It’s important to prepare your body for your expedition – this doesn’t mean go crazy in the gym and become fitness obsessed, but start going on regular walks in the weeks leading up to your expedition. It might also be a good idea to take a rucksack with you to get used to walking with some extra weight on your back!
- Be well-rounded.
Everyone has things they’re good at, or naturally excel at, and these strengths can be put to great use in your expedition team – maybe you’re an expert at putting up tents, love navigation and map reading, or are a great cook. Whilst these are all valuable skills that can be divided up between your team, make sure you’re not relying on one person to do all the tasks involved with one role. Be sure to be able to take on any role you may need to on your expedition, and if you’re a bit rusty or unsure, ask your team mates to teach or help you!
- Research your kit!
Whilst a super cheap tent, or a bargain pair of boots can seem like a great way to keep costs down when shopping for your expedition, more often than not they’ll end up causing you more hassle than they’re worth. Some Duke of Edinburgh essential kit, such as boots and a tent, are not cheap. However, it’s best to view them as an investment – a good pair of boots could see you through all 3 awards, and it’s far better to spend a bit more than you were expecting than to have to stop your expedition because your boots are broken and you can’t walk in them. Shop around, try and find a deal on a decent pair of boots, and be thankful later! Remember in many places, including Attwoolls Outdoors you get discount as a Duke of Edinburgh Award participate.
- Support and Communication are key.
Your expedition is all about team work. You can’t do it on your own, and your team members are who keep your morale up and help to get you through. It is so important that you support each other, and communicate too. Check in on your team mates, make sure that they know they can talk to you when they’re struggling, try and have a laugh and a sing-song as you walk, and make sure that you walk at the pace of your slowest member. Whilst these seem like straight forward, simple, friendly actions, they really can make or break an expedition. People form friendships for life with their teammates thanks to their unique experience together!
- Protect your feet!
When walking your Duke of Edinburgh expedition, your feet are your most valuable possessions. They’ll hurt by the end, but they’ll get you through. If you know you’re prone to blisters, or haven’t spent much time in walking boots then a great idea is to put blister plasters on your feet before you even start walking – there’s nothing worse than getting a blister half way through. If, however, you choose not to do this, then make sure there’s always a pack of blister plasters in your rucksack. They’ll be your best friend! Another essential is to overpack socks. If your feet get wet whilst walking, you’ll want to change them, if you get muddy or extra cold, a new pair of socks is a great idea, and for those evenings and cold nights at camp, thick socks will help keep you warm.
- Rest and relax!
Expeditions are challenging, and exhausting. It’s important to take regular breaks, and when you get to camp in the evenings let yourself relax. Schedule regular breaks, and let your team know if you need to take a break or sit down for a minute. When you get to camp, change into pyjamas as soon as possible, get cosy in your tent, and get an early night. Let your body recover and relax and get a great night’s sleep. You’ll be grateful for it on your next days walking, and after your expedition.
- Get to know your rucksack.
Your rucksack is an essential piece of expedition equipment. It’s also heavy! Learn how to pack your rucksack efficiently and effectively, learn where all the little nooks and crannies and hidden zips and pockets are, so when you’re on your expedition its easy to access what you need, and its straightforward to repack in the morning. Get to know the straps and sizing, and play about with the settings to make sure it fits you properly and comfortably. Perhaps the best tip, is to use your hip straps. Using them and tightening them takes the weight off of your shoulders and back and lets your hips and legs take the brunt of the weight. Trust us, you’ll be thankful you used them afterwards!
- Break in your boots!
Your boots have the power to make or break your expedition. Whilst we mentioned earlier how important getting a good quality pair of boots is, its just as important to make sure you break them in and they’re comfortable. Do some practise walks in them, wear them around the house, find out which socks are comfiest with them. You’ll be grateful you broke them in and they’re be comfortable when you’re the only one without blisters!
- Food is fuel.
Expeditions are challenging on your body. You will be exercising more than normal, so you should definitely be eating more than normal. Wayfarer meals are great for dinners and puddings, but for breakfast and lunch, you can pre-prepare porridge or brioches and hot chocolate sachets, and for lunch, sandwiches, cereal bars, fruits and other snacks. A great idea is to separately organise all of your meals in labelled Ziploc bags so you know what food is for when, and can put that day’s lunch at the top of your bag. Meals are not the only important food, snacks are just as essential, and make sure you have plenty. It’s better to take too many and bring some back home than to not take enough and be hungry and tired on your expedition.
- Treat yourself and have fun!
Finally, the most important part of your expedition is that you have fun and make memories. Take a camera to document the fun, try and keep spirits high, take cards to play games in the evening, sing along with your friends to pass time, and enjoy yourself. Whilst you need to enjoy your expedition, you also need to enjoy your food to make sure you eat – keep a bag of sweets in your coat pocket to snack on when you need a sugar rush, take hot chocolate sachets for a sweet treat with breakfast and before bed, and stock up on your favourite cereal bars.