Why should I go lightweight? 

Well the simple answer is to make your D of E trip easier and more enjoyable by carrying less and looking up at the view, rather than down at your feet wondering why the heck you agreed to do this award scheme in the first place!

The outdoors is there to be enjoyed and everyone from day walkers to young D of E participants, through to long distance hikers will enjoy their surrounds more without a cumbersome weight on their back.

Ultimately the heavier the load is, the harder a walk will become especially when you add into the mix the unpredictable UK weather. As a result, the idea of fresh air, rosy cheeks and simple pleasures can become replaced by sweat and toil leaving the young D of E participants with the association of outdoors life being synonymous with cold, wet, miserable memories.

Duke of Edinburgh

In fact travelling lightweight is nothing new. In 1974 Hamish Brown became the first person to climb all the Munros in Scotland in one continuous walk. He journeyed a total of 1639 miles in 112 days enduring typical Scottish mountain weather. This was long before the huge array of technical fabrics and hi-tech products that are on offered today.

No fleeces, breathable fabrics, cuben fibre, titanium and LED head torches for Hamish. So one would assume that his load and equipment were equivalent to the Roman Centurions maximum fighting pack weight of 80lbs (35kg) and he struggled with every step to achieve this first continuous round? Records show this was not the case. Not even close. His rucksack averaged about 23lb (10.5kg) including food and only went above 30lbs (13.5kg) twice in the whole trip.

So why not learn from those who have gone before us? The D of E award scheme is a fantastic opportunity for young participants to get a better understand of travel outdoors and have a sense of personal achievement from completing each stage, be it Bronze, Silver or Gold.

First it is important to look at the equipment on the kit list and how that affects the total pack weight. Those undertaking the D of E Award for the first time have very rarely carried anything more than a school bag before. Consequently placing a pack full of equipment which weighs 20kg and be asked to walk for miles is a huge shock, one which may put off our young outdoors enthusiasts forever.

The good news is that it doesn’t have to be like this and we hope the rest of the information on this website will help you think more than twice about what to take and why.

Here's a true story written by one of our younger customers Lorna, who completed all of her Gold D of E in 2008 in Chile.

Sometimes you assume something is going to be easy, and it isn’t. Take for example, walking up a gently sloping road to some holiday villas with only the weight of a bottle of water and some sun cream on your back. In my head this was something simple, but being at an altitude of 3,500m for the first time, the physical demands of this task made it difficult.

When it comes to trekking, I have discovered there is often this conflict of mental versus physical which can either make a trip very enjoyable or totally miserable. On my first journey for my Bronze Duke of Edinburgh Award I had made it very hard for myself physically; having to lug around on my back several outfits, heavy packets and even tins of food, and chunky, clumsily packed camping gear. All the enthusiasm had leached out of me within the first kilometre as I felt each step weighed down, and the back pains, aching shoulders and sore hips set in. The mental stamina I needed to keep going just wasn’t able to overcome what physical barriers I was facing, but I managed to pull through, ending dejected and exhausted.

Some people have the mental and physical skill to keep smiling and going even when they are pushed to their physical limits and are in great discomfort. This is a highly respected talent, but why put yourself through that, if it is unnecessary? Before I went to Chile to experience some trekking at high altitude, I discovered that ‘going lightweight’ is exactly the way to be able to accomplish demanding hikes and physical challenges, with a smile, because without weighty camping gear, and with a few nifty bits of kit which serve several purposes, you can greatly reduce the extra strain your body is undergoing just to carry your living essentials. It really is a load off your mind too! The niggling complaints are gone from your head and you can focus instead on the things that make journeys like that enjoyable and worthwhile, like a beautiful scenic view, which makes it a lot easier to keep going.

Sometimes you assume something is going to be hard, and it isn’t. I was amazed and delighted to find that the final expedition for my Gold Duke of Edinburgh Award was one of these times. Perhaps I thought this because walking at altitude was so much more difficult. However, I think it was more that when I compared walking in the days before I had a sensible lightweight kit, and the journey I had just done, with determinedly chosen minimal gear, there was a huge difference in how much of a challenge it was. Physically it should have been harder, but the mental relief I felt this time, at not having to constantly think about the weight on my back, allowed it to be fun! In effect, I have discovered a direct correlation between enjoyment and weight. The lighter it is, the more fun you have. And the more fun you have, the more your morale is boosted, so you are mentally prepared and the physical challenge will seem less!