AtoZ Expeditions – FAQs

Read our comprehensive list of questions and answers to cover all your queries and concerns.

Take the right kit!

It is really important to take the right kit and not pack too much! You will be walking, canoeing or cycling so it’s vital you have the right pieces for your expedition.

General kit questions

What kit do I need?

We will cover this during the pre-expedition training and we will provide you with a copy of our Expedition Preparation Guide which has a detailed kit list. This can also be downloaded from your school website or we can email you a copy if you contact us.

What happens if I forget anything?

We bring a small stock of spare kit to each expedition so your instructor may be able to help. Alternatively you may be able to visit a shop before you start. However you will not be able to take part unless you are properly equipped.

Can I bring my mobile phone?

Yes – but it should only be used in case of an emergency. Please ensure that it is fully charged, has plenty of credit and is well protected from the elements in a tough plastic bag – a zip lock bag would be ideal

Can I bring an MP3 player?

No – we do not want to see or hear participants listening to music during the expedition. It is not in the spirit of the DofE, it is antisocial and it can even be dangerous to wear headphones whilst walking.

Can I bring a camera or video recorder?

Yes – this is a great idea, you will want to record all of those great DofE memories. They can then be uploaded onto your eDofE or used during your presentation. You might even want to consider entering your photos into our Snap Happy Photo Competition. If you do bring a camera or video camera, please ensure that it is well protected from the elements.

Do I need walking poles?

Some participants find walking poles very useful, when used correctly they take some of the weight off your legs and can help you to balance when walking on rough ground. They are particularly useful for participants who suffer from ankle, knee or hip problems.

What are Gaiters and do I need them?

Gaiters are a tube of material which fits over the bottom of your trousers and over the top of your boots. They will help to keep water, dust and grit out of your boots. Generally we only suggest using them for expeditions in Wild Country, however if you have a pair please bring them along.

Will I need a midge head net?

Generally these are only needed for expeditions in Scotland and North Wales. If you are likely to need one we will let you know on the pre-expedition training day.

Do I need to bring any money?

Yes – you may be able to buy some food and drink on the journey to and from your expedition and the end of the expedition. If you have forgotten anything you may be able to visit a shop before you start and it is also a good idea to bring some extra money with you in case of an emergency.

What fun item should I bring?

Whatever will boost your morale and keep you entertained during the expedition. Some people bring a ball, a pack of cards, a book, a cuddly toy, a Frisbee. For more ideas have a look at our instructors profiles on the About Us page for details of their fun items. No ipods, ipads or other electrical items please.

I lost or damaged a personal possession during an expedition, am I insured?

Your possessions may be covered on your house insurance, however we recommend taking out a travel insurance policy which will cover your personal possessions during the expedition. Your possessions are not insured through the DofE or A to Z Expeditions.

Will you charge me if I damage or lose any kit belonging to A to Z Expeditions?

That depends – if the damage or loss was accidental eg breaking a tent pole whilst trying to pitch a tent in stormy conditions, then we will not charge you. However we reserve the right to make a charge if we believe that the damage or loss was caused wilfully or by misuse or negligence.

Shoes & clothing questions

What kit do I need?

We will cover this during the pre-expedition training and we will provide you with a copy of our Expedition Preparation Guide which has a detailed kit list. This can also be downloaded from your school website or we can email you a copy if you contact us.

What happens if I forget anything?

We bring a small stock of spare kit to each expedition so your instructor may be able to help. Alternatively you may be able to visit a shop before you start. However you will not be able to take part unless you are properly equipped.

Why can’t I wear trainers or approach shoes for the expedition?

In order to safely take part in an expedition you must have proper walking boots which cover the ankle bone. These must have soles with good grips and heels. If you do not have proper walking boots you will not be able to take part.

Why must my walking boots cover the ankle bone?

You will be carrying a heavy load during the expedition so in order to prevent injury, your ankles will need extra support from your walking boots. If you do not have proper walking boots you will not be able to take part.

Do I need to bring a spare pair of trainers or flip flops?

This isn’t necessary, however if you don’t mind carrying a little more then you may want to bring a different pair of shoes to wear in camp. You should not walk barefoot around the campsite.

Can I wear shorts?

If it is hot you may wish to wear shorts, however we recommend wearing long trousers when walking as they provide protection from sunburn, from cuts and scratches from long grass and from biting insects such as ticks.

Why can’t I wear cotton?

Cotton absorbs lots of water and dries very slowly so if your cotton t-shirt, hoodie or tracksuit bottoms get wet, you will be cold and uncomfortable. Fleece and quick drying synthetic materials are better. A woolly jumper will also keep you warm while wet.

Why do I need to bring woolly hat and gloves in summer?

Even in the middle of summer it can be very cold on the hill or at night. Therefore it is essential that you can keep yourself warm.

How many spare clothes do I need?

This will depend on the length of your expedition, but as a minimum, in addition to the clothing you are wearing, you will need a spare warm jumper and a complete change of clothing.

How many pairs of socks do I need?

As a minimum you will need 2 pairs, one to wear and a spare pair.  However some participants prefer to have a fresh pair of socks for each day of their expedition.

Saftey & staying in touch

Take a closer look through some of the specific safety FAQ’s we get asked regularly here at A to Z expeditions.

Keep in touch

Can I bring a Mobile Phone?

Yes – but it should only be used in case of an emergency. Please ensure that it is fully charged, has plenty of credit and is well protected from the elements in a tough plastic bag – a zip lock bag would be ideal.

Will I be able to contact friends or family during the expedition?

Your mobile phone should only be used to contact your instructor during the expedition. You need to save your battery and phone credit. Phone signal may be poor in the expedition area and friends and family may worry if they are expecting you to call them and you cannot.

Will my parents be able to contact me during the expedition?

You should tell friends and family not to call you during the expedition. You need to save your phone battery for emergencies. You may also be in an area with poor phone signal and they may worry if they cannot get hold of you.

How can I get a message to my son or daughter during an expedition?

If your message is urgent please contact us and we will contact your son or daughters instructor.

My son or daughter has called me and is lost or upset, what should I do?

Please reassure them, and tell them they need to speak to their instructor who will be able to help. Instructors make regular checks on the groups progress and participants are all given contact numbers for their instructor and A to Z Expeditions HQ. Phone signal may be poor in the expedition areas, so if participants cannot get hold of their instructor they should leave a clear message and send a text giving their location and information about the problem.

If you are concerned please contact us and we will pass a message to your son or daughters instructor.

Please try not to worry, expeditions are challenging and participants may want to call parents if they are tired and upset. They often forget to call you back to tell you that everything is OK later on.

Stay safe

If I have a medical condition illness or injury, can I still take part?

We will try to accommodate your needs wherever possible; however expeditions are very strenuous and often take part in remote areas so we need to consider whether it will be safe for you to take part if you are not fully fit.

It may be possible to apply for an exemption from the DofE 20 conditions so that we can assist you in some way, or we may recommend that you need to undertake further training or wait until you are fully fit before taking part.

What happens if I am ill or injured during the expedition?

Our instructors will be on hand to give you support and first aid. If necessary you will be seen by a medical professional. If you are unable to continue with the expedition then we will contact your DofE leader and/or your parent/guardian to arrange for them to collect you.

What happens if I get bitten by a tick?

Ticks are common in some of the expedition areas. You can prevent tick bites by covering up and using insect repellent. We include Tick removers in our first aid kits, and our instructors will show you how to use these. If you get bitten by a tick during your expedition please let your instructor know. If you find a tick when you get home then you can find advice on safe removal and information on the signs and symptoms of Lyme disease in this leaflet: Just a Tick…

Food & water

Food

How will I cook my food?

Your group will be given a number of trangia stoves – typically 1 for each 3 participants. The stoves are fuelled by gas which is safe and easy to use. Each stove has 2 pans, a lid and a handle, so you will be able to boil or warm food. You will not be able to fry, toast, roast or oven cook food so you need to choose what to bring carefully.

What food do I need?

We will cover this during the pre-expedition training and we will provide you with a copy of our Expedition Preparation Guide which has detailed information about Expedition Food. This can also be downloaded from your school website or we can email you a copy. We also have a stock of Expedition meals which participants can order you can download an order form here: Expedition Meal Order Form

Should I avoid any foods?

Yes – do not bring any raw meat, poultry or fish. Anything which needs refrigeration should be eaten within 4 hours, so ham sandwiches for lunch on day 1 are probably ok, but after that to avoid food poisoning please eat dried, preserved or long life foods only. If someone in your group has an allergy you should also avoid bringing food they are allergic to, so as to avoid making them ill.

I want to order some expedition meals, how does this work?

The order form can be downloaded here: Expedition Meal Order Form

Water

How much water should I carry?

You should carry 2 litres of water with you when walking. But you will need to drink more than this during the day to stay hydrated, so we recommend drinking water in the morning before you start and more when you arrive at your campsite in the evening.

Will I be able to top up my drinking water each day?

Most campsites will have taps with drinking water. If you are wild camping then we will either deliver a supply of drinking water to you or in more remote locations you will need to purify stream water by boiling it.

In very hot weather we may be able to meet you with a supply of water during the day, but as you need to be self-sufficient you should plan to carry all of the water you will need.

Do I need water purification tablets?

No – at most campsites you will have access to clean drinking water. Where you need to take water from streams we recommend you purify this by boiling rather than using purification tablets. If this is going to be necessary during your expedition our instructors will give you appropriate training on this

Can I use a camelback, platypus or other hydration system?

These are good as you don’t need to stop and take you bag off to drink, so they can help you to stay hydrated. The downside is that you also can’t easily see how much you’re drinking and it is easy to drink a day’s supply of water in a couple of hours. Hydration systems are also prone to leaking so in addition you should bring a 1 litre water bottle with you too.

At the campsite

What sort of tent will I sleep in?

As standard we use Wild Country Hoolie 3 tents. These are lightweight and simple to pitch. Each tent can sleep 2 or 3 people and you will be able to choose how many tents your group takes on their expedition.

What will the campsite be like?

This will depend on where you are doing your expedition. Occasionally we use commercial campsites, but mostly you will be camping in a farmer’s field or on a scout or guide campsite. On some of our expeditions you may even wild camp. Most campsites do not have showers, some have hot and cold water and flushing loos, but most are very basic with only cold water taps and portaloos. On a wild camp you will not have access to any facilities; if you are going to be wild camping we will cover camp hygiene during the pre-expedition training. At some wild camps we supply clean drinking water, in more remote locations you will need to purify stream water by boiling it.

Will I be able to shower?

No – most of the campsites do not have showers. You will be able to wash, athough there is unlikely to be hot water. We suggest either bringing a flannel and small bar of soap or using wet wipes.

Will there be a toilet at the campsite?

Most of the campsites we use will have toilets – some may be proper flushing toilets, others may be more basic portaloos. If you are wild camping then you will not have a toilet, but we will provide you with a trowel and our instructors will discuss camp hygiene with you during the pre-expedition training.

Should I bring toilet roll?

Yes – you need to be self sufficient. Some campsites do not provide toilet rolls or you may find that other campers have used them before you arrive. We recommend Andrex “on the go” which is a compact, coreless toilet roll or packets of tissues. Remember to protect you loo roll from the elements – it won’t be any use to you if it is soggy.

Expeditions

The expedition programme

What if I miss the training day?

You cannot take part in the practice expedition unless you have completed appropriate pre-expedition training. If this happens your DofE leader will discuss the options with you. Alternatively please contact us.

What if I miss the practice expedition?

You cannot take part in the qualifying expedition unless you have successfully completed at least one practice expedition. If this happens your DofE leader will discuss the options with you. Alternatively please contact us.

Can I do my practice expedition when the rest of my group do their qualifying expedition?

No – a lot of training still takes place on the practice expedition, so it would not be appropriate to include a participant who had not completed a practice expedition in a group who are undertaking an unaccompanied qualifying expedition.

If I drop out of the programme will I get a refund?

No – payments are non-refundable. We therefore recommend that you take out insurance to cover you for cancellation or curtailment. Suitable travel insurance policies are widely available.

What happens if I drop out of a practice expedition before the end?

If you do not complete the practice expedition then we cannot sign you off to go forward to the qualifying expedition. You will therefore need to repeat all or part of the practice expedition. On very rare occasions someone may become ill or injured on the final day of a practice expedition. If they have already demonstrated they have acquired all of the necessary skills and are competent we may be able to sign them off.

What happens if I drop out of a qualifying expedition before the end?

You will have to repeat the whole expedition.

Can I fail a practice?

You cannot fail a DofE Expedition. However at the end of a practice expedition we occasionally have to recommend that some groups undertake further training and practice to ensure that they are fully prepared to safely undertake an unaccompanied qualifying expedition. This isn’t failing, some groups just take longer to pick up the necessary skills.

Can I fail a qualifying expedition?

You cannot fail a DofE Expedition. However not all of the participants who start a qualifying expedition will complete it successfully. If they have not taken care of themselves they may drop out before the end. We also reserve the right to ask a participant to leave an expedition if we believe that they pose a danger to themselves or other members of their group. If you do not complete your qualifying expedition first time, then you can try again at a later date. You have until your 25th Birthday.

How far will I have to walk?

At bronze you will need to plan 6 hours of activity each day, 7hours for silver and 8 for gold. This roughly equates to 14km, 17km and 20km per day for walking expeditions.

How fit do I need to be?

The fitter you are the more you will enjoy your expedition, walking up hill will not seem so much of a slog and you will be able to enjoy the view rather than puffing and panting. The more training you do before your expedition the better. Expeditions are about endurance rather than speed, so walking is ideal training, you could walk to school or the shops rather than getting a lift or catching the bus. Walking with a rucksack is even better, put some tins of beans in your rucksack and practice walking with it, gradually increase the weight as you get fitter. Don’t forget to wear your boots as this will help to break them in, ensuring they are comfortable for your expedition.

How hard will it be?

DofE expeditions are supposed to be challenging, so you will find it hard. You may even feel like giving up at some point during your expedition. But you will have your team mates to encourage and help you get through, and at the end the sense of achievement and good memories will definitely outweigh the low points.

Open expeditions

I am not part of a group, can I sign up?

Yes – lots of the people who come on our Open Expeditions are on their own so you will quickly make friends.

I have done my training and practice can I just come on an open qualifying expedition?

Yes – although we will need to see evidence that your training and practice have been signed off. A photo copy of your record book, or print-outs from eDofE will suffice.

I haven’t done any training yet, can I come on an open practice expedition?

Yes – the open practice expedition also includes all of the pre-expedition training and we will send you a joining pack before the expedition with all of the info you need to prepare.

I haven’t done bronze or silver, can I come on an open gold practice expedition?

Yes – direct entrants are welcome on our expeditions. However you may find that you have to work harder than other participants to learn lots of new skills.

Will I need to do more than one open practice expedition?

You need to demonstrate to our instructors that you have acquired all of the necessary skills and are competent to go forward to an unaccompanied qualifying expedition. Most participants are able to do this on their first open practice, however very occasionally we have to recommend further training and practice to ensure that a participant is ready for their qualifying expedition.

When will we get together to plan the routes for the open expedition?

For the first two days we will be based at a bunkhouse so there will be plenty of time to plan your routes before you start walking.

What food should I bring?

On our open Bronze expeditions all expedition food is provided, however participants may wish to bring extra snacks and treats. Open gold participants need to provide all of their food for the 6 days. At the bunkhouse there is a full kitchen with fridge, microwave, oven and hob. You may also be able to get a pub dinner or a takeaway on days 1 and 2. Once you depart on your expedition you will be using trangia stoves, we will send you a copy of our expedition preparation guide which has lots of info about suitable expedition food. Obviously it is hard to plan meals when you haven’t yet met the other people you will be walking with. We suggest you bring some of your favourite food and then trying to mix and match this with your team mates. You will also have the option to visit a supermarket on day 2 so that you can buy any extra food for your expedition.

What is a bunkhouse?

A bunkhouse is basic accommodation for walkers. The bunkhouses we use have dormitory rooms with bunkbeds (males and females are accommodated in separate dorms), well equipped communal kitchens and a communal living room. They also have hot showers and flushing loos.

Can I bring extra kit that I don’t want to carry during the expedition?

Yes – we can store a small bag with kit that you want to use in the bunkhouse but don’t want to take on the expedition. We would suggest you bring a couple of changes of clothing, a towel and some toiletries. Please don’t leave any valuables in your bag.

I am booking with a friend, can we be in the same group?

Yes – we don’t put you into groups, you will be able to pick who you want to walk with at the start of the expedition.

Will I be able to contact the other participants before the expedition?

Yes – we encourage this. If you have ticked the “pass on my info” box on the application form we will circulate your email address to other participants. We also have a facebook page for each of our expeditions so you can chat to fellow participants.

How do I get there?

4 weeks before your expedition we will email you a joining pack with directions. We have carefully planned the expeditions so they are accessible by public transport, however the expedition areas are quite remote so you may have a short walk (or taxi if you prefer) to get you to the bunkhouse. You may wish to contact other participants to share transport costs.

Can I leave my car at the bunkhouse?

Yes – if you are driving to the open expedition you will either be able to leave your car at the bunkhouse or nearby. Cars are parked at the owners risk.