Expedition FAQs

Below you will find general expedition frequently asked questions. Specific FAQs for the new changes can be found here.

What is the DofE’s position on the use of mobile phones by Supervisors and Assessors?

A mobile phone is an extremely useful tool for Supervisors and Assessors supporting Bronze and Silver teams in normal rural and open country, but can be more limited in wild country, coastal waters, outside of the UK and some other areas of the UK.
An expectation of mobile contact in unreliable areas of reception can increase the anxiety of Supervisors or Assessors. This has led to unnecessary call outs to mountain rescue for teams who are in fact in excellent condition and needing no assistance. This is an inexcusable waste of the mountain rescue team’s time.

Establish the Supervisor or a base contact as a hub for all phone communication, ensuring they have mobile reception with a landline back up available. This ensures fast and accurate information updates and allows the team to call for emergency assistance. This hub can get updates from staff and Assessors as they see participants, relay information in an emergency situation and let parents know if teams are running late to the pickup point on the last day.

It is unacceptable, at any DofE level, for Supervisors and staff to rely on text messaging or phone calls with participants for updates rather than seeing the team. A text or phone call cannot provide the same level of understanding of a team’s morale, attitude or physical ability as a face-to-face discussion and observation during a Supervisor’s visit.

Groups must adhere to a mobile phone policy use policy as agreed (in advance of starting their expedition) with their Expedition Supervisor and Assessor.

Are there any guidelines on upper heat limits allowed for the Expedition aspect of the DofE to ensure that participants aren’t likely to suffer from heat exhaustion?

We don’t set an upper heat limit as some DofE expeditions are completed in very hot environments around the world such as deserts and jungles, and it would be difficult to set a ‘limit’. However, guidance can be found in the Expedition Guide which says “participants need to be aware of the risk of exercise-induced heat exhaustion and ensure they take on frequent and adequate fluid throughout the day. Every participant should set out…carrying at least two litres of water with them, more if it is a hot day. If necessary, this can be topped up by the Supervisors”. If necessary, Supervisors can position themselves at points throughout the day with water to help ‘top-up’ the groups’ supplies. As with all expeditions the Expedition Supervisor must also ensure that they follow the Health and Safety requirements of their Licensed Organisation and ensure participants have the training and equipment to deal with the weather and temperatures they might encounter (e.g. wide brimmed hats, sun cream etc).

In what situations can staff be aboard the vessel for water-based expeditions?

For sailing and yacht expeditions, teams can have staff aboard the vessel. The Expedition Guide states “…staff may be aboard the vessel. The Supervisor and Assessor should not be involved in the skippering, crewing, navigation, control or management of the boat, except in an emergency for reasons of safety”.

Can a practice expedition be done with an organisation that is not an AAP, as long as the qualifying is?

No, as the practice expedition is part of the DofE expedition section at Silver and Gold levels, it must be completed with an AAP or LO.

What is the maximum rucksack weight limit relating to body size/weight/stature on a DofE expedition?

The DofE Expedition Guide states: ‘All rucksacks must be weighed before departure and packs should not be more than one quarter of the participant’s own body weight.’

Can practice expedition teams have more than seven people in them?

No. The Handbook for DofE Leaders states that ‘practice expedition(s) must replicate as closely as possible the conditions of the actual expedition.’ This is covered in more detail in The DofE Expedition Guide.

Can cycling expedition teams use main roads?

No. This is covered in the cycle chapter of The DofE Expedition Guide. On page 227 it states: ‘Expedition routes should involve minor roads, lanes, tracks and bridleways. Teams need to avoid more major roads and towns. Many routes will pass through villages and hamlets, but teams should plan their rests in more isolated areas.’ At Gold level this still needs to be in DofE wild country.

Can teams use recreation rooms if the camp site has them?

Absolutely not. This statement has been added to The DofE Expedition Guide ‘DofE expeditions are about solitude and independence, so DofE teams are expected to use only very basic campsites. DofE teams may use basic facilities such as drying rooms and toilets/showers. Use of other facilities (usually found on larger tourist sites) such as games rooms, bars, cafes, shops and swimming pools are not in keeping with DofE expeditions. Teams need to remain as isolated as possible while on public or busy campsites.’ At Gold level the campsite should be much too basic to have these.

Could participants do a power boating expedition?

No. In accordance of the Expedition Requirements, Journeying must be by participants’ own physical effort, although mobility aids may be used where appropriate to the needs of the participant.

Could participants do a scuba expedition?

We don’t think there is any practical way participants could do the required three to four hours of journeying to make scuba diving the mode of travel. It’s just not feasible due to the amount of time needed to safely prepare for each dive, the amount of equipment or the amount of time that can really be spent scuba diving in a single day. The critical processes and time needed both before and after dives means that doing four hours in a day is simply not achievable.

However, if a team were to do a summer sailing/sea kayaking expedition with all the required kit to remain self-sufficient (probably a sailing expedition, due to the amount and weight of kit) then they could do a dive each day for their aim and project investigations.

More information is set out The DofE Expedition Guide and the DofE Expedition Training Framework available here.

Do young people at Gold level have to start their expedition training once they are 16?

The potential scenario is that a young person who has strong expedition experience and expedition skills is competent immediately at the age of 16 to undertake a practice expedition. As the training is a sign of competence, (the DofE does not record or assess hours unlike the other sections as the Expedition section is only comprised of the practice, qualifying expedition and the presentation), does it matter when the expedition skills were gained? In short, if a young person has the skills already, would the DofE make them complete a full training scheme before they could undertake their practice expedition just to satisfy the DofE? No, participants can use skills and training they have picked up from before their 16th birthday. When the skills were gained is not critical, as long as the competence is checked, evidenced and signed off when they are 16, usually after their practice expedition.

Is the guidance to avoid height gain of more than 500 metres climbed per day new?

No. A guide of a maximum 550m – 600m was set out in the 1987 Expedition Guide. This was revised to 500m in the 1996 Expedition Guide and this is what we have stuck to since. This ‘solitude not altitude’ principle is a core part of the DofE and refers to the principle of ‘through rather than over’ wild country, as set out in the very first Expedition Guide in 1965 which says ‘groups will be involved with journeys through mountainous country rather than over summit peaks… It should be appreciated that the recognised climbing districts of our mountainous areas are often completely unsuitable for Gold Award testing.’

It is up to the team, Supervisor and Assessor to agree the team’s route which the participants create. Between them they may agree that based on a team’s experience, training and ability, they might plan to complete a more challenging expedition which includes more height gain. In some areas this may be a precursor to choosing that expedition environment. However as stated in the guide, ‘All DofE expeditions are about solitude not altitude. Teams should pass through, not over, expedition areas. Setting out to climb peaks is not acceptable.’

Groups should look at the 500m advice and consider their own capabilities before planning to do more than this.

Can leaders use motorised transport on expedition?

Leaders can use motorised transport on expedition when required due to safety or access reasons. This could allow, for example, for participants to journey on rivers or coastlines where there aren’t campsites on the banks, or to use campsites that are close to busy roads without easy walking access. This should be outside of planned activity time.

How flexible is the expedition season? Would a UK November expedition that complied with our LO be acceptable?

The Handbook for DofE Leaders says, ‘the expedition will usually take place between the end of March and the end of October’. This condition deliberately uses ‘usually’, not ‘must’ to allow flexibility to be applied.

All expeditions must fulfil the safety requirements of the LO and be approved by the LO irrespective of when they take place. The DofE suggests the expedition season to promote safety and to help ensure that expeditions are enjoyable for participants. Expeditions teams will need additional training and equipment and to complete their practice expedition in conditions likely to be similar to those expedited in the qualifying expedition.

Can DofE groups undertake a ski touring expedition?

Yes, as long as it meets the Expedition Requirements.

When can I buy the Expedition Guide?

Go to DofE Essentials, accessed via eDofE.

Is wild camping a requirement at Gold level?

No, but it can be a very positive addition to many expeditions. The DofE Expedition Guide states that ‘DofE expeditions are about solitude and independence, so DofE teams are expected to use only very basic campsites….Wild camping can be an exciting, memorable and highly rewarding experience for young people. It is well suited to DofE expeditions and can teams an unsurpassed sense of independence and isolation.…At Gold level it should not be necessary for any Assessor to be present on the same campsite as participants overnight. Participants must be trained to this standard.’

How many staff should there be on a DofE expedition?

DofE teams, centres and AAPs need to follow the guidance set out by the Licensed Organisation the young people are registered to. Staff numbers and requirements vary between different organisations.

What is meant by proficiency in the mode of travel?

The DofE Expedition Guide says the following: ‘Participants must be properly prepared and competent in their chosen expedition mode of travel, to allow them to safely complete their planned journey. Each Licensed Organisation and AAP will stipulate the level of competence they require from the participants under their care. Some Licensed Organisations will have their own training frameworks they follow to ensure and evidence competence. The DofE sets out the minimum levels of training that participants need to complete. These requirements are set out in Expedition Guide and detailed in the DofE Expedition Training Framework.’ Available here.

Can young people who have mobility difficulties undertake an expedition by narrowboat?

No. DofE participants who have mobility difficulties may use motorised wheelchairs as outlined in the expedition requirements. However, a team of participants who have mobility difficulties or additional needs might undertake an expedition along a canal and use a narrowboat as a support vessel. The narrowboat might provide care facilities, accommodation, carry additional equipment and be used to facilitate a range of expeditions aims and projects.

What should the Supervisor do if there is a really bad weather forecast when a team is due to be out on expedition?

The safety and welfare of participants should always come first when assessing poor weather conditions, but it is also important to consider the likely enjoyment of the team as well. Supervisors will need to follow their LO health and safety/risk assessments, but here are some suggested actions they might take:

– If the weather is forecast to be poor, check the local forecast for the expedition area, as it may be different to the DofE centre’s weather.

– Contact the Licensed Organisation and see if any special weather warnings or decisions have been put in place. The Supervisor must follow the LO policy and procedures for expeditions in poor weather or winter conditions.

– Consider the team’s training and experience of expeditions in the expected weather conditions.

– Consider the team’s expedition equipment and if it is adequate for the expected weather conditions.

– The Supervisor should review their supervision plan to ensure they are confident they will be able to still remotely supervise their team, whether they will have to supervise more closely at certain points and if they can move around the area effectively on both roads and the expedition terrain.

– The Supervisor should review their risk assessment, the team’s alternative weather routes, emergency escape routes and emergency procedures to ensure that they are all still adequate for the expected weather conditions.

– It can be helpful to contact the planned campsites, are they open, can they be reached; do they have running water and so on. National Parks may also have information up on their websites, or try to contact them directly for local information. DofE Assessor Network Co-ordinators may also have some local knowledge that could help.

– The Supervisor needs to make a decision, if they decide to postpone the expedition then they should follow their normal communication procedures to ensure everybody is informed.

Where does the DofE set out what first aid training DofE participants should complete for their Expedition section?

All training requirements, including first aid, are set out in the Expedition training frameworks which can be found here and in The DofE Expedition Guide.

Could a Bronze expedition be spread out over three days to do three hours during a Friday afternoon, six hours on the Saturday and three hours on the Sunday morning for example?

No. It is essential for facilitating the outcomes of the Expedition section that participants complete a full day (six hours for Bronze level) of activity away from the campsite. This is to ensure that they have sufficient time to have to work together knowing there is a full day ahead of them whilst being remotely supervised. Three hours does not allow sufficient time for meaningful outcomes to be fully developed. Spreading the expedition out over three days is less demanding than completing it in two days

Can we use a bothy on expedition?

A bothy is an open shelter that can provide protection in bad weather and during emergencies. Bothies open to the public are run by the MBA in Scotland, Wales and Northern England, these are open for anyone to use, and are not bookable. There are also closed bothies which are managed directly by landowners and not open to the public – anyone wanting to use one of these must seek permission from the landowner, conditions of use will vary, and whether this is appropriate must be considered on a case by case basis.

For MBA bothies the bothy code is clear that groups of 6 or more or commercial groups must not use a bothy. Anyone using an MBA bothy must be aware that there could be other users wanting to use the bothy on the same night, and therefore there may not be enough space for everyone. Therefore teams can never rely on using Bothies. Leaders must also consider their safeguarding policy as unknown adults may arrive at any time. For these reasons, most DofE teams will be prohibited from using MBA bothies for accommodation.

It will usually be more appropriate for DofE teams to use MBA bothies for breaks during the day, and as potential emergency shelters. You can find information about bothies and a suggested session plan to teach teams about using them here. Any teams planning to visit an MBA bothy on their expedition must check the MBA website for any closures or restrictions on use. For teams interested in bothies, planning a route around visiting bothies and submitting reports about their condition to the MBA makes a great expedition aim.

Opportunity Finder

This link opens an external site. All content is not affiliated with DofE. Please click proceed if you understand these risks.