The Duke of Edinburgh award is a really popular activity for young people across the UK to take part in, and many schools will run it for whole year groups. It’s great to develop a huge range of skills, from teamwork, to resilience, and even basic first aid. As well as three activity sections – volunteering, skills and physical – you have to complete an expedition stage. This is physically demanding, typically involving hiking across rural areas with only basic supplies. Therefore, you may have heard about people going on practice expeditions to prepare for the real thing. But are these compulsory?
There are three stages of DofE – Bronze, Silver and Gold. In short, the practice expedition is compulsory for Silver and Gold, but not for Bronze. However, for all three levels, there is some form of expedition training that you must complete before going on your real expedition.
Keep reading for more detail about practice expeditions, what they involve, and what training you need to do before your DofE expedition!
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Are practice expeditions compulsory for DofE?
The short answer is this: practice expeditions are not compulsory for Bronze DofE, but they are for both Silver and Gold DofE. If you aren’t sure which stage of DofE you are doing, you can check this on your eDofE page, or alternatively, ask your DofE leader.
This information, as well as a quick guide to expedition requirements, can be found on this page of the official DofE website.
While a practice expedition used to be compulsory for Bronze as well, this was changed in the 2018/19 season. This helped to make the award more accessible. You can read more about the changes they made on the DofE website here.
That being said, the centre you are doing DofE with may still run a practice expedition and expect you to attend. It’s worth checking with your specific DofE leader – or potential leaders, if you have not yet enrolled – whether they normally run a practice Bronze expedition.
How long do practice expeditions have to be?
The higher the DofE level, the longer the real expeditions are. However, the timing works slightly differently for practice expeditions.
As discussed, Bronze doesn’t require a training expedition. The real expedition will be for 2 days and 1 night.
For both Silver and Gold, the training has to last for 2 days and 2 nights. However, the real expedition is longer for Gold – 4 days and 3 nights, in comparison to 3 days and 2 nights for Silver.
These requirements are set out on this page of the DofE website, as well as other guidelines for your expedition.
How similar do practice expeditions have to be to the real one?
The point of a practice expedition is to prepare you for what to expect, so it makes sense that it’s supposed to be fairly similar to the real expedition. We’ve mentioned that the time length is slightly different, however, in most other cases, the same rules will apply for the practice and real expeditions.
For instance, the practice expedition still needs to be run by an Approved Activity Provider (AAP). This is an organisation that’s been approved by DofE to run activities for the award. You can read more about AAPs on this page of the DofE website.
Other rules for the expedition will also need to be followed, for example, each group should contain 4 to 7 people.
Is expedition training compulsory for DofE?
As well as doing a full practice expedition, you may have heard about DofE expedition training, which is a separate thing. This training is compulsory at all three DofE levels.
It involves learning core skills that you will need to successfully complete the expedition and will be run by the same organisation running the expedition itself.
For instance, you will be following a certain route through the countryside, without the use of things like Google Maps! Therefore, one part of training involves navigational skills like map-reading and using a compass.
Other training you will have to complete includes basic first aid and camping skills like correctly putting up your tent.
As an example, you can check out this document from DofE which outlines the training you need to complete for Bronze DofE.