DofE Survival Tips
'Take it from me, it’s one of the best experiences of your life...'
Alex Burgar | 5 November 2016

Recently I got back from my Gold Duke of Edinburgh final expedition, walking the Lake District, and loved it! Having done a practice expedition a year ago, I found myself doing lots differently this time around, so I thought I would share some tips for having a fun and comfortable expedition.

Your group

I was in a really good-humoured group which provided some much needed entertainment, but the strong teamwork we had was equally important. Crossing a river where there was no official river crossing was particularly memorable, with a huge effort to get the backpacks across safely. My advice is find a group you like, because you are with them for four days, seeing each other at your worst (but arguably your best too).

Dry bags

On my practice expedition, I had one backpack liner, and a smaller bag I crammed my dry clothes into, whilst I used bin bags for covering other things. However, this time, I got some dry bags in a variety of sizes and they made all the difference. I had one for my sleeping bag, one for food, one for first aid kit, one for dry clothes, one for my roll mat, and one for small miscellaneous items. This was a good idea as it made packing infinitely easier (I did not have to take everything out to get something from the bottom of my bag) and when it rained, everything in my bag stayed dry. However, I did not: at one point I had to reach outside the tent in a momentary lull to wring out my rain-soaked underwear! On that note, invest in quality waterproofs – I had a good jacket and even then I was soaked through after two hours or so. I would suggest having three sets of clothes rather than two if you can carry them: you need a dry set, and putting on wet clothes the next day was far from enjoyable!

Camera

Disposable, GoPro, whatever. I took my trusty Panasonic, and the photos from the trip are quite something. Among the landscapes and valley views, there are some ‘attractive’ mugshots, along with the ever popular group shots. Linking back to the dry bags, make sure your camera is in one – mine got soaked in the rain (it was attached to my bag’s waist strap and I forgot to put it away). I have to admit that I had a bit of a panic as I turned it on to see if it still worked (it did, thankfully). Whilst we are talking about tech, get used to texting with an old phone (your emergency phone will not be an iPhone!)  

Sleeping bag on the coach

Not technically a tip for the expedition itself, but the coach journey to Coniston is long and tiring, and after your expedition you will be exhausted. I took my sleeping bag on the coach and it was the cosiest trip I have ever had. Definitely do this.

Water

My favourite item of kit was my filter bottle. Not one of the cheap ones for filtering tap water, but a proper one for stream water (it is crucial to check what you buy if you are drinking from a stream). Personally, I did not like the puritabs. With eight hours of walking daily, you need to stay hydrated. With this water bottle, I could fill it up and drink immediately (with the tablets you need to wait).

Early mornings and early evenings

Our morning record was 2.30am, to leave camp by 5.00am. It sounds horrible, but it makes such a difference: you will get into camp early, and have plenty of time to pitch your tent and eat. Then go to bed early (we were tucked in as early as 6.45pm one night). Remember to have lunch slightly earlier because you are shifting your body clock. The stars on the last morning were stunning (no light pollution at all) and something I will remember for many years. If you are in a campsite remember to be quiet!

Be open-minded

You might not be totally convinced about DofE, but take it from me, it is one of the best experiences of your life. It is four days in the mountains, with incredible views, great company, and lots of adventure and independence, so approach it with an open mind and you will find you enjoy it loads!

 

Original Images by Alex Burgar

James Routledge 2016