AtoZ Expeditions – FAQs
Read our comprehensive list of questions and answers to cover all your queries and concerns.
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.
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.
Take a closer look through some of the specific safety FAQ’s we get asked regularly here at A to Z expeditions.
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.
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?
If you are taking part in an expedition with your school, we will cover food during the pre-expedition training day. Whether you are doing an open or an expedition with your school, we will provide you with a copy of our Expedition Preparation Guide, which has detailed information about Expedition Food. We also stock a range of Expedition Meals which participants can order. You can find out more about the meals we stock and how to order here:
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?
You can find out more about the meals we stock and how to order here:
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.
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.