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 nearly-new boots.
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 hood, not the “sack” style. Piling clothes on top of a thin sleeping bag 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 lot slides off anyway.
- Foam sleeping mat to provide insulation between you and the ground. “Thermorests” are more comfortable and more efficient. Air beds are heavy to carry if we’re camping any distance from our transport and not everyone likes them - your choice.
- 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 if we’re doing any serious walking.
- 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, cord, or cotton/polyester combat-type, but try and avoid jeans and anything made from denim because it’s very uncomfortable when it’s wet and drains body heat at a horrendous rate. 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 screen with a UV protection value 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 when you’re in your sleeping bag is also worthwhile as nights can be cool even in summer.
- Good quality torch, and spare battery. Headtorches are ideal and make good birthday/Xmas presents.
- Small day rucksack, 10 or 15 litre is plenty big enough.
- Whistle for emergency use. 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 medication you’re taking goes in it too.
- 1 litre water bottle - a Sigg aluminium bottle is the ideal solution, but a plastic coke or lemonade bottle also does the job as long as you keep it in a rucksack side pocket. If you put it inside your rucksack, don’t sit on the sack…
- Purse or wallet to keep personal money. It’s your responsibility to look after it and we can’t take look after it for you although we try and have a vehicle where you can leave phones, wallets, etc locked inside when we’re doing activities. Put your mobile (or home) number on a piece of paper inside the purse or wallet, but NOT your address.
- Waterproof overtrousers. These are a personal choice thing, some people find them too warm and uncomfortable and prefer to have trousers like Craghoppers which will get wet, but then 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 including bringing the dirty washing home from University or College. We have some available to borrow.
- 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 quality and won't stay sharp. It’s useful if it’s got a loop to attach to a belt.
- Silva compass - the type with a small magnifier lens built in and map scales around the edges.
- Compressor stuff-sack for sleeping bag which 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. Only necessary for serious walking such as DofE expeditions and competitive hikes
- Thermal underwear for winter use. Grandad's long-johns will do (ask first), 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 if the battery goes flat and can’t be recharged on camp you then have got neither a camera or a phone. The best plan is to only turn it on when you want to take a photo or pick up emails and txt messages, then turn it off again to save the battery.
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!