Special expedition advice
Hot weather advice
In light of the hot weather we have had recently, it is important that extra precautions are taken to ensure the safety of all participants, volunteers and staff on expeditions. In the first instance you must refer to your Licensed Organisation’s Health and Safety information, but please find some of our top tips for staying safe in the sun below.
Before the expedition
Ensure that all participants are fully prepared for the weather conditions. This includes:
- Bringing plenty of water
- Regularly applying high factor sun cream throughout the day
- Wearing a wide brimmed hat and sunglasses at all times when in the sun
- Wearing shirts with collars
- Training in recognising and treating the symptoms of heat exhaustion
- Taking electrolyte solutions in the First Aid kit such as dioralyte (if your Licensed Organisation allows)
Leaders should also remind themselves of the symptoms of heat exhaustion www.nhs.uk/conditions/heat-exhaustion-and-heatstroke/Pages/Introduction.aspx
Additional water bottles/jerry cans might be needed to ensure Leaders are equipped with a good supply of water to support the participants when they are out on expedition in the day.
Leaders may also want to purchase additional sun cream supplies, if their Licensed Organisation allows.
During the expedition
- Teams should try to start their day earlier, in the cooler part of the day.
- Leaders should be flexible with timings, allowing longer stops in shady areas, particularly during the heat of the day.
- Leaders should be flexible with route and distance in extreme heat.
- Leaders should carry additional water for teams.
- Ask all Leaders and participants to monitor each other for the signs of heat stroke
- Remind the participants not to be afraid to say something if they start feeling ill / strange
Make sure you get advice from your Outdoor Advisor as early as possible the safety of participants and Leaders are the single most important thing – Leaders will need to revise their risk assessment in the light of the conditions and take steps to mitigate against their impact. If they are are unable to do this satisfactorily Leaders should be prepared to take the decision to not go ahead with their plans. In the first instance Leaders must refer to their Licensed Organisation’s Health and Safety information
Is it OK to provide my group with additional water?
Absolutely: bringing plenty of water is essential : participants should start out with at least 2 litres each and leaders should meet groups at intervals to provide top ups. If top up points are not possible then you may need to look at adapting the route (see below) or adjusting pack weights by removing non-essential equipment which can be deposited at the campsite so the teams can carry more water.
Can routes be adapted to ‘compensate’ for the heat?
Yes : Adapting routes – in much the same way as you would adapt a route for foul weather, means that groups can take in shaded areas, avoid high peaks and generally reduce the exertion required each day. Remember there is no requirement to go over mountains, even at gold level, routes around hills may be longer but less strenuous and should be seriously considered. It’s likely that even if a revised route is shorter than the original route it will still be a significant challenge.
Can I adjust timings ?
Definitely: Start early,( it gets light at 5am!) rest in the shade– continue later, adjust timings so that groups can avoid the hottest part of the day, daylight hours are long so arriving late into a campsite should not be an issue.
Advice and guidance can also be found on page 80 and page 122-123 of the Expedition Guide.
Safety around horses
Horses can be volatile animals and may become spooked easily by noises and groups of people on bridle paths. When passing horses whilst out on expedition please do so with the following in mind:
- Be quiet so as not to spook the horse
- Allow the horse and rider plenty of room to pass
- Keep movements calm and steady
All participants should be made aware of how to pass horses and their riders should they come across them.
In addition, participants’ first aid training could include first aid for riders who have been thrown from their horse, including when it may be necessary to remove a helmet.
Safety in Lightning storms
With the expedition season starting remember to always use camping stoves, fuel and cooking equipment safely and sensibly. See our Stove Safety Instructions, advice in the Expedition Kit Guide and the Expedition Guide (pages 119-121), as well as a handy training video by Trangia here.
DofE participants and adults must be well trained and experienced in using stoves in the outdoors, and must always follow the instructions and safety guidance given by the manufacturer of the stove they choose to use.
“Is it just me or are cows getting more confident?” A DofE Manager recently asked me, her concern being an increasing number of cattle related mini incidents on expeditions. Stories of participants forming testudo to cross fields, adding extra miles to avoid a bull and calling emergency numbers to report nearly being eaten by cows bring amusement to a post expedition staff debrief. Contact with those cows however might be as new to a young person as the expedition experience itself and the only way to minimise the shock or influence their actions is through adequate training.
It isn’t just the impact of farms on our participants that we need to consider. A large proportion of our teams will be using rights of way through farms and fields and if doing so should be aware of their potential impact. It is disappointing to be on the receiving end of complaints about young people, assumed to be DofE groups, causing problems for farmers. As part of their training young people must be taught the countryside code but as DofE participants they should know they are accountable to the DofE’s Code of Conduct.
It would be naïve to suggest that young people won’t get lost or stray off a right of way unintentionally but I’d hope a quick apology to landowners and not damaging crops of fences to get back on track would be the norm. It is our job as Expedition Supervisors and Assessors to show leadership in this too. Considering our actions in how we supervise teams remotely, where we park minibuses and how we engage with the local community or landowners is vital.
Some considerations for when planning expeditions and training teams:
- Farmers crops might have a footpath through them, even if they have been widened by others these should only be walked single file.
- Reduce weight and potential litter by repacking food and make sure that what is carried in is carried out or disposed of correctly.
- With cows stay calm. Cows (particularly Beef cows and young cattle I am informed) are inquisitive and will show an interest in people, but you should always be very careful with the cows that have their calves with them. Bulls may well be put in fields but if there is a right of way through the field the farmer should be confident that it wouldn’t harm those passing through. Walk as quickly and quietly as possible around the herd.
- Horses can be high spirited but treat them the same as cows and certainly don’t try to feed them.
- The countryside code should always be obeyed but many areas have their own local codes that should be looked up and followed. For instance, the Forestry Commission has asked that drop cards or water drops are not used in the New Forest.
- Brief participants on where to go to the loo (or not…).
- Gates should be left as found.
- Leave no trace https://lnt.org/learn/7-principles
My plea to you is to consider how you train your participants and how you conduct your expedition. Help us to reduce the impact on the farms and communities into which we take an ever increasing number of young people.
For more information I’d recommend a recent article by the British Mountaineering Council (BMC) www.thebmc.co.uk/taking-care-around-cows
(article by Geoff Hurst, South East Regional Operations Manager)