You won’t need everything on this list for every event and we’ll tell you if there’s anything special needed for a particular event, so it’s a reminder list of what may be wanted hence the splitting into essential, desirable etc. We have rucksacks and compressor sacks you can borrow, and usually some pairs of pre-loved boots, often with very little wear.
For DofE expeditions we have lightweight tents and cooking kit and we’ll give you detailed lists of what other kit you’ll need when you’re preparing - you have to carry everything for 2, 3, or 4 days so every gramme counts.
- Sleeping bag, 2 or 3 season. This needs to be the “mummy” type bag with a drawstring hood, not the “sack” style. Piling clothes on top doesn’t keep you warmer and actually does the opposite because they squash the insulation in the bag and reduce it’s effectiveness, at least until you turn over and the whole pile slides off. Separate silk bag liners work well and effectively upgrade a sleeping bag by one season, or if it’s really hot they can be a 1-season bag by themselves.
- Foam sleeping mat to provide insulation between you and the ground. “Thermorests” are more comfortable (and more expensive). Some people bring air beds but these are very heavy to carry if we’re camping any distance from our transport.
- Strong boots or shoes, ideally something with ankle support and some tread. Trainers are fine for most of what we do, so-called “Approach shoes” are a good compromise between trainers and boots.
- Thick socks, at least 2 pairs, to wear with boots.
- Waterproof coat, preferably with a hood that you can draw in around your face.
- Fleece or similar type coat. A "Puffa" type jacket is often too warm when walking, and bulky to carry if you take it off. The secret of keeping a constant comfortable body temperature is multiple thin layers which can be added/removed as required, such as T-shirts, sweat-shirts, fleeces, etc.
- Strong trousers - Craghoppers or cotton/polyester combat-type, but try and avoid jeans and anything made from denim because it drains body heat at a horrendous rate and is very uncomfortable when it’s wet. It’s also difficult to dry in camp conditions.
- Underwear and socks
- Shorts, depending on where we’re going and what we’re doing.
- Sleeping clothes - tracksuit, pyjamas, onesie, shorts………we don’t need details.
- Washing kit - including one large towel and at least one other, the large one also does for sitting on the beach. In summer, sun tan lotion to suit your skin is essential.
- Swimming kit. Many things we do involve water, so at least one coz, and ideally two in case the wet one hasn’t had a chance to dry. Wriggling into a wet coz isn’t a nice sensation.
- Warm headgear - woolly hat, fleece hat, etc. More body heat is lost from your head than anywhere else and something to wear on your head in when you’re in your sleeping bag is also worthwhile.
- Good quality torch, and spare battery. Head torches are ideal and make good birthday/Xmas presents (hint).
- Small day rucksack, 10 or 15 litre is plenty big enough.
- Whistle. For emergency use, and if there’s no mobile signal it’s still an effective way of summoning help.
- First-Aid kit. We have a list of what goes in a personal first-aid kit and any personal medication you’re taking goes in it too.
- 1 litre water bottle - a Sigg aluminium bottle is the ideal solution, but a plastic pop bottle also does the job as long as you keep it in a rucksack side pocket. If it’s inside your rucksack, don’t sit on the rucksack...
- Waterproof overtrousers. These are a personal choice thing, many people find them uncomfortable and prefer to have trousers like Craghoppers which will dry rapidly on you when it stops raining.
- 40-60 litre rucksack, get a good branded one with an adjustable back frame, look after it, and it will last you for years. It’s also ideal for bringing the dirty washing home from University or College.
- A good penknife - Victorinox Swiss Army is ideal, Leatherman or Gerber are also good, but don’t buy the cheap unbranded copies as the blade steel is poor and won't stay sharp. It’s useful if it’s got a loop to attach to a belt.
- Compass - the type with a small magnifier lens built in and Roamer scales around the edges. Silva and Suunto are both good brands.
- Compressor stuff-sack for sleeping bag, reduces the bulk considerably for carrying, and keeps it clean.
Nice to have but not too important:
- Small unbreakable Thermos Flask.
- Gaiters. Some gaiters clip onto the more expensive brands of boots, but it’s probably not worth the extra cost until you’re sure your feet aren’t going to grow any more.
- Thermorest type sleeping mat instead of foam.
- Thermal underwear for winter use. Grandad's long-johns at a push, but modern "wicking" materials are better, and in desperation a pair of mum’s/sister’s tights. We cannot guarantee confidentiality for any male Explorer trying this last suggestion, but they can be very warm (so we're told).
- Camera - not too expensive. You could use your Smartphone camera, but when the battery goes flat and can’t be recharged on camp you then have got neither a camera or a phone, so save the battery for phone use. Turn it off if you know you’re in a no-signal area to stop the phone cranking up the output signal in it’s search for a mast and draining the battery much faster than normal.
Not really worth bothering with:
- Pocket GPS systems - we teach navigation with map and compass, as these don't suffer from flat batteries or go blank as soon as you walk into a wood and lose the satellite signals (exactly when you need it most)
- MP3 players, I-pods, etc - Camp sites don't have mains electricity and often poor mobile signals too, so buying batteries can become expensive. Hopefully there are much more interesting things to do at camp anyway!