By: Blonde Two

Fantastic news!

A young person in your care has decided they want to take part in a Duke of Edinburgh’s Award expedition or Dartmoor’s fabled Ten Tors Challenge.

Your first reaction?

‘That’s amazing, what an opportunity, really proud!’

Your second reaction?

‘Oh blimey. How am I going to afford all the kit?’


Why are the DofE and Ten Tors kit lists so long?

You can find the 2022 Ten Tors challenge kit list here.

And the 2022 DofE expedition kit list here.

At first glance both kit lists look really long.

Indeed kit lists for any outdoor education experience can be long. Even more so when, as on a DofE or Ten Tors expedition, your youngster has to carry enough clothes, shelter and food to keep them safe overnight.

There may be items on the list you think are unnecessary.

Some of the kit might be unnecessary for a day walk, or a family camp but I’m afraid this is a case of listening to the experts. The kit lists for both these challenges have been carefully created with both safety and carrying weight in mind. For example, you might not think a sleeping mat is important but in fact it’s a vital tool in both the prevention and treatment of hypothermia.

Yes, that rucksack is going to be heavy

Part of the challenge of an expedition is to carry a weighty rucksack but if you feel your young person may have issues with this, don’t be afraid to chat to their school or youth group leader as soon as possible. There are ways around most issues, and DofE expeditions in particular can be adjusted to suit the fitness level of all participants.

What if I can’t afford all the Ten Tors or DofE kit?

You weren’t the first parent or carer to ask this question, and you certainly won’t be the last.

But don’t let the kit list put you or your youngster off.

Outdoor kit can be very expensive but you certainly shouldn’t be letting those worries deter you from encouraging your youngster to take part in such a rewarding life experience.

So what should you do if money is a worry?

The good news is that there are lots of things you can do to make outdoor education, and expedition experiences more affordable. Take a deep breath, check out our top kit tips below, and most of all…

Don’t panic!


1. Voice your kit list worries

The first thing to remember is that everybody involved with your young person’s expedition journey will want them to succeed. That means that the people running the expeditions will be more than happy to answer your questions, and help you find solutions to any kit list problems.

To avoid any embarrassment, and to make sure you get coherent answers, we’d recommend talking to expedition leaders about kit concerns yourself. All schools and clubs have spare expedition kit they can lend out, especially more expensive items, and they’ll be able to advise you on any purchases before you make them.

If you decide to shop for new DofE or Ten Tors Challenge gear, make sure you ask about discounts before you buy. Good outdoor stores want to encourage young people, and most offer discounts of up to 20%. If they aren’t interested, well I would walk away but that’s up to you.

You can find Ten Tors Challenge 2022 discount codes here.

You can find out more about the DofE card and voucher here.


2. Think about second hand outdoor gear

Second hand gear isn’t just great for your pocket; reusing any clothing is also much better for the environment than buying new. On top of that, trying a new hobby out with second hand gear makes far more sense than buying new, and finding it doesn’t get used.

One of the first things you can do is ask around your circle of family and friends. You would be surprised how many people have favourite pieces of kit lurking around from their own expedition days. The chances are if they loved them enough to keep them, they’ll be only too pleased to see them being used again.

We’ve done some research into buying outdoor kit from charity shops.

There’s plenty of good news. Here are some Ten Tors and DofE kit list items you’ll find in most charity shops.

  • Long sleeved base layers (avoid cotton, it stays wet and can be chilly)
  • Thin fleeces (‘intermediate layers’ on the Ten Tors kit list)
  • Thicker fleeces (‘insulation layers’ on the Ten Tors kit list)
  • Leggings (great in multi layers, or underneath walking trousers for extra warmth)
  • Fleece hats (by far the best for warmth, quick drying, and staying where they are supposed to)

Think local if you’re buying second hand online

You might not be a Facebook fan but Facebook Marketplace is a great way to find second hand outdoor gear that you can have a good look at before you buy.

Why do you need to look at second hand kit before you buy?

Just like anything else, outdoor gear can wear out. Don’t worry if second hand kit looks a bit scruffy around the edges but do check it for functionality. Here are a few tips.

  • Avoid sleeping bags with empty patches, check zips
  • Check all rucksack straps and fastenings
  • Don’t buy walking boots with broken eyelets
  • Go for foam mats instead of inflatable ones (less to go wrong)
  • Check that torches work with a decent level of brightness

My recent quick searches on Facebook Marketplace revealed some really promising DofE kit possibilities including rucksacks, sleeping bags and walking boots.

But are second hand boots waterproof?

The honest truth is that, unless you spend a lot of money, walking boots rarely manage to keep water out on really wet days. What’s more important, especially for that first expedition, is that your youngster’s walking boots are as comfortable as they possibly can be. They can carry on walking with wet feet, they might not be able to with really bad blisters.

Which is where second hand boots can sometimes be better than new ones.

New walking or hiking boots can be stiff, this makes them more likely to result in blisters. You can combat this problem by suggesting your youngster wears them as much as possible before that all important first expedition outing but you might find that the wearing-in process is a bit quicker with boots that have already had some hill time.

Can you rely on second hand waterproof jackets and trousers?

This is an interesting one. There’s no doubt that any waterproof gear is at its most effective just after you’ve bought it. Not such good news for second hand jackets and trousers. But that’s where waterproofing treatments come in. There are lots available, so try to look up the garment manufacturer’s recommendations before you buy.

You can also make second hand boots more waterproof and long lasting with a good boot polish or treatment.

Look for the tried and tested alternatives.

You might have noticed that the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award kit list suggests certain makes of gear. This is for two reasons, the first is that these makes have proved reliable in the past, the second is that the Award itself makes some money on sales of their official ‘DofE Recommended Kit‘. This money gets ploughed back into supporting the Award but that doesn’t help you if you can’t afford it in the first place.

The best person to ask if you want to buy alternative brands or products is your youngster’s expedition leader.

But there is one really easy Ten Tors and DofE kit substitution that will save you money.

For ‘waterproof rucksack liner’ (Ten Tors) or ‘rucksack liner’ (DofE) substitute RUBBLE sacks. These little beauties aren’t the same as bin liners. They’re much thicker, won’t rip as soon as the wind blows, and can be found at your local DIY store (not usually the supermarket). They remain my favourite piece of walking kit, I always carry at least one.

Rucksacks, even with rain covers, are never waterproof. Rubble sacks almost always are.


3. Ask questions about kit lists

Once again your youngster’s expedition leader will be the place to go with your questions. They will know what type of terrain and weather their teams are likely to be out in. They will also have a lot of sensible experience to share. Before you do though, we have the answers to some frequently asked expedition kit list questions below.


Ten Tors and DofE kit list FAQs

Why is a whistle on the kit list?

Blowing a whistle is an important way to get help if you fall, or are out in the dark. It’s easy to ignore a shout, not so easy to ignore the international signal for help (six blasts, one minute quiet, six blasts). You might not need to buy one though. Have a look at your youngster’s rucksack, most modern ones have a whistle conveniently installed in one of the plastic clips across the front.

What’s a survival bag?

A survival bag is a big (usually orange) plastic bag that an injured or cold person can get into if they are waiting for help (or just need to warm up a bit). You can buy them for around £5 at most outdoor stores, and they’re another good thing to pack when you go out for a family walk. You may well also find that your school or youth club has spare survival bags they can lend.

What’s the difference between a base layer, an intermediate layer, and an insulation layer?

Layering is a great way to keep warm because our temperatures change as we alternate between walking and stopping. When your youngster stops for lunch or camp, they will need to layer up but they might want to remove layers to walk up a hill.

Base layer – A thin layer that sits next to the skin, best if it’s long sleeved and made from a material that will carry moisture away from the skin. Merino wool can do this but synthetic base layers are usually cheaper. Avoid cotton t-shirts as these stay wet from sweat and any rain that gets through.

Intermediate layer – Still quite thin but warmer than the base layer. A thin fleece is perfect for this, light enough to walk in, cosy to sleep in, small enough to pack, and really easy to find second hand (you might even have one in your wardrobe).

Insulation layer – A thicker layer that will be what your youngster puts on at camp or if it is really cold. They may well sleep in it too. A thicker fleece will do (again really easy to find second hand). The ‘soft shell’ jacket mentioned on the Ten Tors kit list is likely to be more expensive but will keep the wind out better than a fleece (your youngster’s waterproof jacket will also do this).

Why are jeans not recommended?

Denim jeans (or any clothes made of cotton) aren’t recommended because they are hopeless at keeping the wind off, and takes ages (I’m talking days here) to dry when wet. If you’re looking for trousers your youngster already has, consider a couple of pairs of leggings, one on top of the other. These won’t keep the wind off but fit really well under a pair of waterproof trousers (which will).

Do they really need a hat and gloves for a summer expedition?

Good question but yes. You would be surprised how chilly an evening and night at camp can be, especially to a youngster who has used up all their energy walking all day. A woolly hat and warm gloves can make all the difference but don’t forget a sunhat as well for summer expeditions.

What can I do to help prevent blisters?

Blisters aren’t inevitable but they do happen, and can be really uncomfortable. Encourage your youngster to wear their walking boots as much as possible before the expedition (including around the house). Toughen feet up a bit by taking them on some longer walks, and experiment with two pairs of thin socks instead of one thick pair. Blister plasters such as Compeed (cheaper brands are also available) are much better at protecting blistered (or about to blister) feet than plasters so perhaps include some into their first aid kit.

What are emergency rations?

Your youngsters shouldn’t need their emergency rations because they will have planned their meals and snacks. However, if they end up spending more time out than planned, these high calorie snacks will be what keeps them safe and happy while they wait for help, or plod that last bit of the expedition. In most cases expect to see the emergency rations come home without being touched but always make sure they are available, just in case.

Why are water purification tablets suggested?

When teams are walking in more remote locations (particularly for Ten Tors and Gold or Silver DofE) it might be necessary to fill up water bottles from streams. Water purification tablets make water safe to drink, and therefore help stop issues with dehydration and cramps, that can come from running low on water.

Why are two bottles of water better than one?

Proper hydration is essential to expedition success. If one bottle fails, your youngster will still be able to carry water in the other. Because purification tablets take some time to work, two bottles will allow for one to always be drinkable.

Are drinking bladders a good idea?

Drinking bladders split expedition opinion (and sometimes split inside a rucksack). On one hand it’s great to have water always available without stopping, on the other it’s difficult to keep track of how much has been drunk. If your youngster is insistent on using a water bladder for hydration, we would always recommend taking a stronger bottle as well as bladders can (and do) easily fail.

Is an inflatable sleeping mat better than a foam one?

Whilst an inflatable sleeping mat can be more comfortable than a foam one, they do have disadvantages. Foam mats are much cheaper, never deflate because of a puncture, can be strapped to the outside of a rucksack (wrapped in a RUBBLE sack of course), and can do the most important job, that of keeping your youngster warm at night (the floor is a very chilly place to be in a tent).

What on earth are gaiters?

Gaiters wrap around the top of walking boots and shins, and do a good job of keeping trousers clean and dry. They aren’t vital but can make a big difference if your youngster is going to be walking across boggy or wet ground (which they will be on a Ten Tors or Gold DofE expedition).

Will I need to buy a tent, a map, a compass and a stove?

Almost certainly not. Most schools and youth groups have this kit available to lend to their expedition teams.

Do they really need to carry all of this kit, all of the time?

That’s the big question. The answer is yes but not because Ten Tors or DofE want to make things difficult or strenuous. It’s a question of safety. The outdoor gear on the Ten Tors and DofE kit lists is everything your youngster needs to stay safe whilst on expedition. Whatever happens, whenever it happens, with that gear, they have the ability to stop, put up a tent, heat a hot drink, and stay warm and safe until help arrives. Major incidents on expedition are few and far between but that’s because the young people and their leaders are so well prepared. Minor incidents happen more often, and it’s often the kit being carried that stops situations from becoming more serious.


Ten Tors and DofE Success

We hope that’s helped you with your worries about Duke of Edinburgh’s Award or Ten Tors Challenge kit lists. Both challenges offer amazing life experiences (we think some of the best).

Don’t forget, there are a lot of people out there who want your youngsters to succeed. We certainly do!


Ten Tors or DofE?

Cheap outdoor gear… How to kickstart your outdoor life on a budget