The Duke of Edinburgh Award provides a way for you to personally achieve a set target. You can choose from hundreds of activities and the more activities you do and more time spent doing them, allows you to gain a better award. The current awards you can get are
The Bronze Award
This is the beginning level to help young and less experienced D of E members to get into the swing of the scheme. Basic skills, such as map reading, compass work, first aid, suitable food types, what to wear, safety when walking and other ranged topics. These are at a basic due to the most common age of entrants being around 14. Member with previous experience, such as cadets or have walked before may be given more challenging tasks.Another aspect of this scheme is the Service, Skill and Sport. These will run for three months. Direct entrants will require an extra three months onto one of those sectors. This has to be undertaken by all, as it is the beginning level. You will be asked to pay for your D of E books, which contain the relevant Service, Skill and Sport for your level. For example, Army Cadets cannot be a service at Bronze level. These areas will be discussed by your leader and you may be expected to do your own research and make your own arrangements. The final sector for Bronze level is the expedition. This is a two day 1 night camping trip in familiar territory. You will have most likely have been on a practise walk around that area. This will allow for small familiarities to help with your map work etc, if you're lost. You will be expected to carry all your required kit (excluding hair straighteners). The walking distance will depend on your centre expect it to total between 24 km and 32 km (15 to 20 miles).
The Silver Award
15 is the minimum age to start this level. As the latter was an introductory level, Silver requires a higher standard and a slightly more mature approach to your D of E input. Map reading and other skills show at Bronze level will be enhanced. You will be expected to do six months Service. Of the other, skills and sport one has to be completed for 6 months and the other for 3. 6 Months will need to be added to one of those sectors for direct entrants. This means, if you have not completed your Bronze level, you must add this extra time. The expedition is a three day, two night camping trip in unfamiliar territory. This is a massive leap from the comfort zone of Bronze. Leaders will still meet you, but you will be on your own, for the majority of the trip. For that reason, you will need to demonstrate that you can navigate using a map and compass competently before you start the walk.
The Gold Award
This is the highest and most mature level of the scheme. Entrants are required to act like young adults and behave so. Leaders will require more back from you as a member. The three S sections will require 12 months throughout two and 6 months for one. If, however, you're a direct entrant, then you must add a further 6 months onto one of these sections. This will be the final topping up of your knowledge with regards to kit to take and etiquette in wild country. The latter is vital as you will be conducting your expedition in Wild Country. This is unfamiliar and potentially dangerous areas. The correct approach to this expedition is vital for the safety of you and your group. For safety and experience purposes, you will conduct up to 4 practise expeditions before your assessed expedition. This will fully prepare you for the 80km hike ahead of you. There is also the option of spending one day of the final expedition on an eight hour hillwalk in which the group must take turns to navigate themselves, and sometimes assessors over a period of eight hours up some large hills (munros are generally used in Scotland). An important addition in the Gold Award which is not present in the previous additions of the Duke of Edinburgh Award is the Residential Project which each individual has to undertake. This takes considerable planning and is a difficult challenge to do successfully. Each person should ideally find something which is of interest to them, which will make it a more enjoyable and rewarding experience, otherwise standard activities can be undertaken. In this project one will spend at least 1 week (usually, nothing more than that, but sometimes out of interest more time is spent) giving back to society something. This can take form of conservation projects, helping orphanages or finding something unique which is approved by your co-ordinator.
Why Should you do the award
The award offers various skills that would not be taught anywhere else. It is also fun and offer lots of time that can be spent investigating and helping others. Lots of people enjoy doing the award and find that the skills learnt are very useful later in life. You have the opportunity to meet a variety of people and strike interesting conversation, especially on the treks if you meet other trekkers! You can learn more about fellow peers who are trekking with you, because a challenging situation does bring out the best and the worst out of each person. Some people think that it doesn't help in employment and university applications, whereas others think that it is a great achievement to have, especially at the Gold level. Regardless, the experience of the trek, the satisfaction in completing the activities leading up to it and the self fulfillment at the end of it make it worth all the effort and time spent in it.
The award is a nationally recognised achievement and shows that a person is willing to help others and push them selves the extra mile to do it. Employers have been known to choose people who have the award rather than the people who don't.
Most people take sacks around 65 litres but how big you need varies some people get away with 35l for shorter expeditions (eg bronze or practice hikes) particularly if they put their tent outside of the pack (though i wouldn't recommend this). At the end of the day the best thing to do is select your pack once you know what else you are carrying so it is the right size. Too big and you will find yourself filling it with unecessary extra which will just weigh you down. Too small and it is difficult to get things in and out as you have to keep repacking to get to stuff and you will find yourself thinking about leaving important stuff behind to make space or dangling it off the outside where it is at risk of getting damage, falling off and being lost or just generally being annoying (its amazing how irritating a constant clank or squeak can get).
As well as size pay attention to weight- many "standard" packs weigh between 2 and 3 kg empty!! this can be about 10+% of the total carried weight. Once you have identified what size shop around and aim to find a pack at about 1-2kg. Comfort is important as an uncomfortable sack can ruin your expedition- make sure the back length fits and the straps and hip belt won't rub. It will also depend on how much you can comfortably carry (MAX of 25-30 % of your body weight) and your body type. A good store will load up the pack with heavy items eg. ropes or sandbags so you can get a feel of how it will carry the weight.
Most manufactures offer a ladies fit back system, with narrower spaced shoulder straps and a differently shaped hip-belt. The hip belt should take most of the weight, with the shoulder straps keeping the bag upright and close to the body. Because everyone has a different shape it's a good idea to try on a few different types with some weight in them; bags feel different when loaded as opposed to when they're empty. A decent shop will also show you how to adjust the harness to give the best fit.
When packing the bag line it so that the contents are water proof. Rubble sacks are ideal as these are very strong. You can use bin liners but you need to double them up so that they are stronger. Also try to keep the centre of mass of the bag close to your back and pack heavier items lower; this will be more comfortable over long distances and more stable.
Lightweight sleeping bag, does not need to go to extreme temperature but it does need to be small
Generally, look for a mummy style synthetic bag. The mummy shape keeps the bag close to you so there isn't much extra air to heat up; it also has a hood area to keep your head warm. There should be a baffle (extra material) inside the zip to stop a cold spot developing.
Synthetic fill materials are cheaper and if they get wet will keep some warmth, as opposed to down fill (the softer feathers from ducks or geese) which is lighter, warmer and packs down smaller but is MUCH more expensive and will flatten out if wet - giving no warmth at all. Look for some kind of hollow fibre (literally the fibres are hollow, giving more insulating air) with 200-300 gsm (grams per square metre) of filling. Heavier bags are warmer but take up more space.
Most bags are rated in seasons or temperatures, usually a comfort temperature and an extreme temperature. The extreme temperature should really be ignored, it's a "you won't die at this temperature" reading, while the comfort should be the temperature at which an average person will get a decent uninterrupted nights sleep. This depends on the individual and to further confuse matters the European ratings are different to the British Standard tests. For general use in the UK a minimum temperature of 0 to -3 (a two to three season bag) will be fine unless you're a cold sleeper. If your expedition is taking you into the Highlands in February you'll need an higher spec but you should have more idea of what you need by that point.
To keep the bag small in your pack get one with compression straps on the stuff sack, or get some extra straps to compress it further.
If you can, use a liner, either of cotton or silk. Cotton is cheaper but heavier while the more expensive silk liners are lighter and both will add 2-3 degrees extra to the rating of the bag (despite certain manufacurers claims). When you want to wash your bag, you just pull out the liner and wash that, rather than the whole bag.
Where possible, get into the bag before you buy it. All the manufacturers have different ideas of the idea body shape for a bag and most people will find some bags too tight and some bags too loose.
Think about which side you want your zip on. Most bags come in both right and left side zip models. In general go for a zip on the opposite side to your dominant hand (ie for a right handed person get a zip on the left) as this is often easier to use but test it out when you get in the bag to try it and decide what you find most comfortable. Also look for a zip that glides easily without snagging as this is annoying at the best of times and can rip your bag at worst.
Can be wrapped in bin liner and strapped to outside of your rucksack.
Although it will give you a softer surface to lie on, the purpose of the roll-mat is to give insulation from the ground. When lying in your bag you're compressing the insulation beneath you so it won't give much warmth, resulting in faster heat loss to the ground, hence you put another insulating layer between yourself and the (cold) ground.
The most common type is a closed foam mat which won't absorb much moisture but can still become water-logged. If you've got a generous friend/relative there are also thin self-inflating mats (such as the ubiquitous Therma-rest) that are more comfortable and pack up as small or smaller than foam mats but these tend to cost at least £25 (and go up to £110) compared to £3 - £20 for a foam mat.
Some mats come in shorted lengths- about 120cm. These can be as comfortable as full length ones but with an obvious weight saving.
Camp Stove & Pans
This is what you need to cook your tea/dinner on. Something akin to this for one person. If you're cooking as a group the stove will need to be bigger and make sure you've practised cooking with it so you've got an idea how long cooking takes and what's possible.
You'll also need lighters/waterproof matches but take care if you get lifeboat matches, they don't go out underwater and can have an unfortunate habit of staying alight and burning things.
Take a couple of pan cleaners and a tea towel with you and use them! Rubbing some washing up liquid on the bottom of the pans and letting it dry on before you go is said to help them stay clean but using easy clean pans can do the same. Many pans use a removable handle rather than have a fold-down design. This is fine but every group will, at some time, try to pass a pan around, slip slightly and the food will go all over the floor. As a result, take a bowl/plate and dish the grub out. Lexan resin is pretty much unbreakable, metal ones are also tough but please, for the sanity of your supervisor, don't take china or other breakable crockery.
You'll need a mug as well and the same goes here, don't take breakables. Thermal mugs are usually taken by instructors (expect them to nick some of your hot water in the morning) and they're great unless you're walking. The liquid inside will stay hot for a couple of hours but you can't really drink from them for the first 40 minutes or so, which limits their usefulness. Having a thermal flask is a good idea, but again, don't go for breakable ones, ie. not one that has a glass liner. Stainless steel ones are a bit heavier but much more sturdy.
Obviously you'll need something to eat with as well. This can range from grabbing a knife, fork and spoon from home, to getting an ultra lightweight titanium spork (a spoon with fork tines) and using the blade from your lightweight multitool. Some people will also have a lexan resin teaspoon permanently sat in the top pocket of their rucksac (you wouldn't believe how often a tea spoon is useful!), while other swear by sets of cutlery joined together, although using a knife and fork that are linked is not so easy.
Food and drink
Best using British army ration packs or any other such boil in the bag food. However building up your own menu for the hike is also a good idea cost and variety wise.
These are excellent, with 24 hour ration packs providing 4000 calories and will be a steady base for your stomach.
Food can be shared amongst the group for carrying and for cooking and if you're not using rat packs look for food that won't spoil on the trip, that gives you good high calories and a balanced diet, and, most importantly, that you like! It's not much fun at the end of a 20 km day sitting down to high energy pack of re-hydrated cat vomit. Psychologically, you will feel more energized and satisfied with your meal if it looks and tastes good, unlike having something which looks bad. If you've ever tried the old style Raven meals, you'll know what I mean. Flavours are important, and a well sealed container of various herbs/spices can really perk up a dull meal. Try not to use too many dried foods (e.g. dried pasta). It will mean increased fuel consumption, hence more weight.
This is for if you get wet or dirty on the walk.
A good idea is to wrap them in a plastic bag (without any holes in) just in case your sack gets soaked, you'll still have some dry clothes.
As with your main clothes, try not to walk in cotton base layers (the one next to your skin). Cotton gets saturated quickly and stays that way. Silk, wool (especially Merino wool which is so smooth most people don't realise it's wool, and it doesn't stink after a week of constant wearing!) or synthetics like X-static, Dry-fit or the like, will give you a breathable base layer that moves sweat away from the body quickly, reducing the clammy, cold and uncomfortable feeling. This action is a bit like the wick of a candle drawing wax to the flame, hence the base layer is known as the "wicking" layer. Once you've stopped for the evening though, it's a very nice feeling to strip off your sweaty base layer and slip on a cotton t-shirt to relax around camp. Keeping your camp clothes separate can give a bit of a boost after a long days romp.
Obviously to sleep in
Can be split up over the group so no-one is carrying too much weight. The tent you use will depend on the conditions you're expecting and the number of people in it. Do NOT go for a "pop-up" style tent, there's no structural strength to them. Dome or geodesics are better, ridge or tunnels can be good but require more careful pitching.
Ideally the tent should have storage room for your bags/boots etc and be erected so the door can be used safely in the winds you're expecting.
It's worth practising putting the tent up a couple of times before you go, the worst time to find out that you're not sure where the poles go is when you get to your campsite three hours late in the dark with a gale hitting you and you know you've still got to get dinner sorted.
Final point, do not cook in the tent. If you're going to cook in the shelter of the porch be aware that heat extends above the stoves and many designs of stove can flare to three or four feet above the burner. Some tents have flame retardant properties but that doesn't mean that it's fire-proof. A normal nylon tent will burn to the ground in about thirty seconds, leaving molten nylon falling on anything inside the tent. Cooking outside may be colder but it's safer.
Overcoat is definitely needed and waterproof trousers are recommended to provide a full outer shell to protect you from the rain
The cut of the jacket should be comfortable and give enough cover that, for example, your lower back isn't exposed. The number and position of pockets will vary and it's worth looking at something that you can use with a ruck-sac on. Extra layers around the shoulders can be good with ruck-sac straps. Draw-cords around the waist and hem will stop the jacket flapping around but look for what the excess cord does, some designs leave it loose which can catch on things and generally be annoying. Make sure you're happy with the hood, preferably look for one with some stiffening on the visor to prevent it sitting flat on your face in the rain. The zip should have some kind of storm flap (preferably two) to stop rain being blown through it.
Trousers are a bit of waterproof kit often overlooked, the cut again will change how much movement is available. Draw cords on the waist and at the ankle are a good idea. Check the pockets as well, some have zipped pockets that allow access to the inner trousers, others have their own pockets on the outside. Some of the better trousers have longer zips from the ankle up to allow them to be pulled on over boots without having to take the boots off.
The first time your friends are struggling to pull tight trousers over boots or frantically taking their boots off without getting their socks wet and they see you calmly pulling yours straight over boots the benefits will become clear. Having a spare plastic bag to slide over the boot will make the process smoother and keep the insides of the trousers clean.
Go for a breathable membrane of some kind. Gore-tex/eVent are generally seen as the best but are pricey. Own brands can be good enough. Look for at least 5 metres water proofness, preferably 10 m. This measure (called the hydrostatic head) is the height of a column of water that the fabric will withstand without leaking. 1.5 m is legally waterproof but 5-10 is better, and generally should keep water out in wind, over 20 m is effectively totally waterproof. For reference, Gore-tex is rated as something like 48 m.
Gaiters (short coverings that go over the lower leg and boot) can help keep feet dry, providing they don't cause too much sweating on the leg.
It is essential to ensure that you have the correct footwear whilst walking to protect your feet from blisters and provide your ankles with proper support. Obviously boots are ideal. You could use standard british army footwear as an alternative to proper hiking boots, but if you're going to do gold it is better to pop down to Blacks or any other good hiking retailer and pick yourself up a good pair of hiking boots.
Which ever boots you get make sure that they are broken in - wear them until they become comfortable. New boots, especially leather, will crease rather than flex, which can cause pressure areas to build up. This can be helped by changing the lacing to reduce pressure on sore areas, but ultimately time is the best way to get the boots comfortable.
Treating your boots will help them to be water resistant. Lined boots (Gore-tex/eVent etc) are water-proof and will remain that way unless damaged (for example by long nails digging into the lining) but the exterior surface will eventually loose it's water repellancy, allowing the outer fabric to become water logged, which will make the boots heavier, colder and will stop them from breathing, resulting in sweat building up inside and your foot feeling wet and uncomfortable. When treating your boots, use something designed for the material, but try to avoid things like dubbin or wax. These will make the boot waterproof but will stop it breathing, again, making it uncomfortable.
When you dry out your boots, stuff them with paper and put them somewhere warm but away from a heat source. Sticking them in front of a fire or on a radiator can dry them too quickly which can make the leather/fabric outer crack.
Easiest way to make walking more comfortable for £10 is to buy yourself a good pair of socks.
They should be seam free, have a good level of padding underneath, be of good quality materials and manufacture and be suitable for purpose. For example, three season socks like Bridgedale Trekkers, Falke TK3 or some of the better own brands are great for normal walking. It can be worth using a liner sock (such as the Bridgedale liner sock) to stop friction build up; 1000 mile socks have a liner built in, the sock is basically two layers joined at the ankle and mostly loose for the rest of the sock, so friction is removed between the layers and not your skin.
When trying on boots take the socks you'll be wearing when walking, otherwise the fit will be wrong.
As some of us have found out through painful experience, the wrong socks can be crippling. In the summer, avoid winter weight socks; your feet can overheat and sweat, causing real problems and pain. Carry a spare pair of socks that you will be happy to wear while walking, and if your socks get too wet, stop and change them.
Hat and gloves
Warm (preferably wind-proof) in cold conditions, sun hat in hotter climes. It's worth sticking a fleece hat in your bag in all conditions, if the night is colder than expected a hat will keep you warmer than anything else. Some assessors consider it unsafe to be on the hill without a hat of some kind.
First Aid Kit
Need a group one (one per group) and a personal one (one per person). Any medicines must be in the personal one, generally plasters should be kept in the personal one as well to stop any problems with allergies. Your trainer will give you more information. There are some great kits on the market but it's usually cheaper to put your own together.
Make sure that every member of the group knows where everyone else's first aid kit is and what, if any, medical problems people may have, e.g. asthma (where's the inhaler?), diabetes (insulin?).
Mosquito repellent is essential if trekking is taking place in an Asian country where there are a lot of mosquitos. The bites can be harmless and just itchy, but in the worst case diseases such as malaria can spread. They can also be bad in Scotland, mainly midges but not much difference. People react differently to different repellents and different after bite treatments so if you can, try a few different ones to find one that works. Mostly they work by evaporating into a haze around the body and most use Deet (diethyl-meta-toluamide) of concentrations of 10, 20, 30, 50 or 95 (called 100) %. Over 50 % there isn't much difference in effectiveness, it just lasts longer. Wash off previous applications before re-applying. Don't use on children under 6 months. There have been a few cases of people reacting badly to is but the insidence is about 1 in 100,000,000 users. Word of warning about Deet though, DON'T USE IT WITH SYNTHETIC MATERIALS such as nylon, it melts. Cotton, silk and wool are fine but plastics and nylonds can melt on contact.
Bite or sting relief gel or cream is also worth having, the Boots own one seems to work very well but has anti-histamines so if anyone is allergic to that they must be careful.
Also in the personal kit, it's worth sticking in a pack of blister plasters such as Compeed and treat any blisters quickly, before you end up with a sore that covers half of your foot.
Map and compass
Maybe not one each but at least a couple per group. Know how to use them. This is very important, from experience, it can be a problem if none of the team know, and it is essential at least one person in the group knows how to use compasses. BTW GPS is not an alternative to a compass as far as the D of E is concerned.
A map case to keep the map dry is a good idea, and cheaper than getting all laminated maps. Word of warning, some cheap cases can rip in high winds and a loose case flapping around on you neck can be very annoying so look at where to store the map while walking.
Also in this section, have a whistle with you and a knife/multitool. These are safety features and you're most likely never to use them, but if you need them and they're not there, the consequences can be literally fatal.
Need spare batteries/bulb. Head torches recommended (your hands are free when using the torch). LED torches are also a good idea as they have lower power consumption so batteries last longer and the bulbs don't break.
Make sure you're happy with how to change the batteries/bulb and can do it in the dark. This may sound silly but if you suddenly find that the batteries have died, chances are it's dark. Some groups will do this as a standard training thing, others won't.
CHECK WITH YOUR ASSESSOR! Some assessment panels like the group to have a mobile in a sealed, signed bag that can be checked at the end of the trip to make sure it hasn't been tampered with (ie used!), others don't want any phone taken at all.
Emergency rations/survival bag
The rations are purely for emergency use and many assessors will require the rations to be intact at the end of the trip, otherwise your meal planning is likely to be called into question. Gives you something nice for the ride home as well. The rations are usually chocolate/high energy bars and a hot drink.
At least one survival bag per group. The bag should offer protection from the elements in the case of an emergency while help is fetched. In addition the bag may provide an instant shelter for lunch/navigation breaks.
This includes teeth cleaning, personal hygine, and the like. A small container of alcohol based hand wash, used before preparing food can help prevent food poisoning, something that happens all too often on the hill. Many groups (admittidly mostly guys) see an expedition as a time not to bother washing in any shape or form but being able to is good. Many supermarkets have a travel section in the pharmecy area and the little travel bottles of stuff are great. While it's a cliche to warn against carrying a full vanity case full of beauty products, it does happen. The personal wash kit should include just the basics but enough to stop your group staying up wind of you by day three.