“…. if it isn’t orange and called a survival bag you have the wrong thing”
There is a fine line on an expedition between joy and misery, the balance is normally tipped by the clothing you wear and the equipment you use. As tempting as buying cheap and new can be there are some common sense rules to follow:
- Break in your boots! Boots are the biggest cause of misery. They can turn a happy-go-lucky scout into a monosyllabic robot. Such is the power of sore feet and blisters. New boots need to be moulded to your feet before being suitable for expeditions, this can be a slow process. Always try boots on with the socks you intend to wear. Have a large supply of blister plasters or zinc oxide tape on hand as you walk them in.
- A pac-a-mac does not count as a waterproof coat. They are thin, and not breathable. As much as their light weight and small packaging might charm you don’t be fooled as you will turn into a soggy mess at the first sign of British rain.
- Layers rock! – 2-3 think layers will do so much more than 1 thick jumper. Consider thin t-shirts/long sleeve tops with a lightweight fleece on top. In cold weather, more layers are more insulation. In warm weather, layers can be removed as the day heats up then cools down.
- Hoodies are banned! Or in simpler terms, all cotton jumpers are banned. They get heavy when wet and offer no real insulating properties when even damp. Fleeces are much better, lightweight, quick drying and excellent insulators.
- Trousers should be synthetic. Cheap or expensive it doesn’t really matter. But they should never be cotton canvas tracksuit trousers. Point 4 says all that is needed on the cons of cotton material.
- Waterproofing is everything. Period. A roll matt though lightweight is a sponge ready to absorb anything and everything it touches… morning dew.. muddy puddles.. light sunshowers… but fear not all that water will be released after you then sleep on it with a nice clean sleeping bag.
- Rubble sacks are king. Need to line your Rucksack? Check. Keep your roll mat dry? Check. Segregate your part of the tent from the rest of your kit? Check. And so much more. At only £1-2 per roll, they are an affordable way to keep your stuff dry. If you are going to continue doing expeditions or need something to go on your Christmas/Birthday list, Drybags are the more permanent alternative. These come in different sizes and colours and fit every purpose you could need them for.
- Never judge a day by its dawn. As you exit your tent to frost don’t write off the day before it gets started. Miserable mornings can turn glorious, the same can also be said for bright mornings. Alway’s check the forecast before you start your expedition. Most campsites print out real-time weather forecasts to help you prepare. And be prepared for that change in the weather, have more layers on hand or space at the top of your back to stowaway unwanted fleeces.
- Survival situations are real. Hundreds of people are rescued by Mountain Rescue teams across the country every year. Just because you haven’t had a problem so far, doesn’t mean you will never be put in that position. A survival bag per person is essential, they are windproof, waterproof and highly visible. For larger groups, emergency shelters can be used instead. Emergency Rations should be able to sustain you for at least 3-4 hours (the average response time in emergencies). Food is energy, it is warmth, and is very important. 1L of water minimum, dehydration makes decisions difficult and having your wits about you in a crisis is imperative.
- Teamwork – you are all in this together, and will only get through it as a team. Help one another, remind one another and share.
These are only a few key points… As Explorers, we created our own Expedition Kit list. One that doesn’t recommend the most expensive or latest kit. Try not to ignore it?
The Duke of Edinburgh Scheme has recently brought out a new Expedition Guide in conjunction with Cotswold Outdoors, though useful reading it isn’t expected or advised for everyone to go out and buy an expensive new kit.
Read their guide here: DofE Expedition Kit Guide