The Ultimate Guide to the Duke of Edinburgh Award

At Winfields Outdoors, we think that taking part in the Duke of Edinburgh Award is arguably one of the best experiences you can have as a young person. This is an exceptional chance to embrace the outdoors, learn new skills, and have an impact on your community.

At Winfields Outdoors, we think that taking part in the Duke of Edinburgh Award is arguably one of the best experiences you can have as a young person. This is an exceptional chance to embrace the outdoors, learn new skills, and have an impact on your community.

But, we also know that it can be difficult to know what you need to do. So, to make your life easier, we’ve put together our ultimate guide to the Duke of Edinburgh Award. Here you’ll be able to find DofE Award requirements, activity ideas, and the all-important kit list for your expedition – after all, it pays to be prepared.

What is the Duke of Edinburgh Award?

However, before we get into the nitty gritty details, what actually is the Duke of Edinburgh Award? 

The Duke of Edinburgh Award is one of the world’s leading youth achievement awards – and is often done through youth groups like Guides or Scouts, or even through your school. Taking part in the DofE allows young people to participate in a variety of activities in order to build skills and push themselves to new heights. 

As an added bonus, having your DofE looks great on CVs and university application forms.

The DofE is split into three awards, and each has their own requirements that you need to complete to achieve your certificate – which we’ll explore in further detail below. These requirements are an opportunity for young people to positively engage with their communities, and learn valuable new skills for the future.

When was the Duke of Edinburgh Award started?

The Duke of Edinburgh Award was founded by HRH Prince Philip in the 1950s as part of a national programme to support the social and physical development of young people. It rapidly became popular, and has become one of the top programmes for young people across the world.

What age can you do the Duke of Edinburgh Award?

Your age will dictate when you can start (or finish) your Duke of Edinburgh Award. The Award itself is aimed at 14-24 year olds, with the following restrictions:

  • You must be at least 14 to start your Duke of Edinburgh Bronze Award.
  • You must be at least 15 to start your Duke of Edinburgh Silver Award.
  • You must be at least 16 to start your Duke of Edinburgh Gold Award.
  • You must finish the Award you’re attempting by your 25th birthday.

However, it’s worth noting that you don’t have to complete them in order. For example, if you wanted to jump straight into completing your Gold Award, you don’t need to have done either level beforehand (but there will be additional work required, as you’ll see below).

What are the Duke of Edinburgh Award requirements?

As we mentioned above, each Duke of Edinburgh Award is achieved by completing the requirements of each stage. These are broken down into four categories, which is shared across the levels, and include:

  • Physical – A focus on health and fitness, such as learning a new sport or refining skills in one you’re already familiar with.
  • Skills – Learning a new skill or improving one you already have. This could be anything from learning a musical instrument to baking cakes.
  • Volunteering – Making a difference in people’s lives by volunteering in some way.
  • Expedition – Getting out and about in the great outdoors by planning, training for, and completing a journey.

Requirements for each section depend on what level of Award you’re going for, so those doing a Gold expedition will spend more time away than those doing the Bronze Award for example.

As a side note, those attempting their Gold Award will also need to undertake a ‘Residential’ activity that involves time away from home working on a project with a group of people.

Duke of Edinburgh Bronze Award

Once you hit 14, you’re able to work towards the Duke of Edinburgh Bronze Award. This is the first stage, and takes on average about six months to complete. Your activity breakdown will look something like this:

Duke of Edinburgh Silver Award

Moving through to the Duke of Edinburgh Silver Award, the expected timescale is largely the same – with it taking roughly six months to complete. However, if you’re moving directly into the Silver Award, you’ll need to include an additional 6 months, moving the timeframe to approximately 12 months. Your activity split should be as follows in the diagram.

Duke of Edinburgh Gold Award

If you decide to continue onto your Duke of Edinburgh Gold Award, you should expect to be working towards the achievement for approximately 12 months. If you’ve chosen to go directly to the Gold Award, you should expect this timeframe to move up to around 18 months to complete the necessary requirements.

Top tip – remember that whilst the time for this is measured in months, you usually have to commit to at least one hour a week to fulfil the requirements. 

How to join the Duke of Edinburgh Award UK

The Duke of Edinburgh Award is a registered charity, which has licensed thousands of organisations to operate the challenge. Here are some of the top places where you can sign up to complete your DofE.

  • Ask at your school, college, or university – even if they’re not already set up, they could start.
  • Join a youth group like Girlguiding or Scouts, as they often run DofE Awards for their members.
  • Contact your local youth club to see if they’re licensed to run it for you.
  • Join DofE Direct if you’re over 18 to complete your Gold Award.

Top tip – signing up through a licensed organisation means you can get plenty of support, encouragement, and advice when you need it, from leaders and other participants. 

Duke of Edinburgh Award activities

With all of this information in mind, the next step (once you’ve decided what level you’re going to enter in at) is to choose your Duke of Edinburgh Award activities. You have ultimate freedom of choice here – as long as your activity fits within a category, you can choose anything that interests you.

Duke of Edinburgh expedition ideas

Since we couldn’t resist the temptation – considering the outdoors is our field of expertise –  we’re going to be taking a look at the expedition part of the Duke of Edinburgh Award first. Your DofE expedition can take various forms depending on the level you’re at and the mode of transport you’re using, which can include any of the following:

  • On foot
  • By bicycle
  • By boat
  • By canoe or kayak
  • By wheelchair
  • On horseback

So, say someone decides to do their expedition on foot. They might choose to investigate Roman ruins, whilst videoing their experience and create a guide for others to follow. Or, they may want to complete a section of the Coast to Coast walk, camping along the way.

Top tip – if you do choose to camp during your expedition, make sure you have the right Tent and Sleeping Bag to keep you warm and dry at night. 

Alternatively, someone participating on an expedition by boat might monitor bird life along the coast or learn various types of knot whilst on board. As long as you choose and plan for a continuous route, the possibilities are practically endless!

Plus, whilst many people choose to undertake their expedition in the UK, there’s nothing to say you can’t do it abroad. Some participants have even been known to travel as far as Alaska, the Himalayas or India to complete their expedition. It’s entirely down to personal preference – and what works for you with regards to time and budget.

Duke of Edinburgh Award physical ideas

Doing a physical activity as part of your Duke of Edinburgh Award helps you become fitter, and spend time developing your skills within a sporting context.

According to the DofE website, your physical activity can be anything that ‘requires a sustained level of energy and physical activity’ such as ‘playing a sport regularly and showing personal improvement’.

So you could choose anything from Aerobics, to Ballet, to Tai Chi, to Wheelchair rugby – the choice is yours. If you’re stuck for inspiration, check out this DofE Physical Activity Programme for more ideas.

Note – this needs to be a personal physical activity for it to count in this section. If you were learning to coach a sport, this would fall under the Skills category, whilst volunteering as a coach naturally fits within the Volunteer section.

Duke of Edinburgh Award volunteering ideas

Volunteering is an incredible way to connect and give back to your local community, and engage with something you’re passionate about. You should always be motivated by helping to make a difference when you choose a volunteer position.

Whether this involves working with a local charity or food bank, or spending your time helping at a care home, you have plenty of options depending on your interests. You could even volunteer with local social action causes, like beach cleans and litter pick-ups to improve the environment, or work within your school to volunteer as a reading tutor for younger students.

For more ideas and inspiration, explore the Approved Activity Provider through the DofE website.

Duke of Edinburgh skills ideas

Alongside all of the physical benefits, part of completing your Duke of Edinburgh Award is about learning and developing new skills. Fortunately, choosing your skill is entirely up to you – so why not choose something you’ve always wanted to learn?

This could be anything from learning to play an instrument or speak a new language, to coding, to painting or dressmaking. However, this needs to be something trackable – as you’ll need to provide a record of your improvement over time. If you’re stuck for ideas, get more inspiration from the DofE Skills Programme.

Top tip – for all of your activities, make sure you keep a record of everything you do, as this is what will be assessed once you’ve completed the requirements.

What should be on a DofE kit list?

So, you know the requirements, you’ve sorted your Duke of Edinburgh Award activities – the last thing you need to consider is packing for your expedition. But what should be on your DofE kit list for expeditions? In this section, we’ll share our top tips and ideas for ensuring you have everything you need on your DofE kit list.

Before you pack

There’s no sugarcoating it, there’s quite a lot of stuff you need to take with you as part of your DofE expedition kit list – especially because it pays to have a little more than you need in case of emergencies. So, before you start packing, here are some of our top tips and tricks to make the most of your equipment.

You don’t need to spend a fortune

There may be a fair bit of gear that you need but that doesn’t mean you need to spend a fortune. There’s a good chance that many on the expedition will still be growing, so obviously you don’t want to be spending too much.

Top tip – shop around for deals or even borrow kit from friends and family to cut down on costs. 

Don’t forget to explore our excellent selection of Outdoor Walking and Hiking Clothing here at Winfields Outdoors.

Check the weather/climate

It’s imperative that you check local weather and climate before you go, as this can have a big impact on what you pack. You may need to take a drybag or extra waterproofing with you, or you may even need to take sun cream if the weather’s going to be particularly nice.

Top tip – don’t always only plan for bad weather!

How long are you going for?

You will need to alter what and how much you pack depending on how long you’re on the expedition for. If you’re doing your Bronze Award, you won’t be away for as long as those doing Gold, so you won’t need to take as much with you.

Top tip – try to pack sensibly for your timeframe. However, a few extra pairs of Walking Socks will never go amiss.

Your DofE kit list

Making a DofE kit list is essential. This way, you can tick things off and ensure you don’t forget anything important.

As a guideline, this is what we think a basic DofE kit list should look like:

  • Hiking boots
  • Walking socks
  • Waterproof clothing
  • Underwear
  • Rucksack
  • Tent
  • Sleeping bag
  • Sleeping mat
  • First aid kit
  • Towel
  • Cooking gear, eg. stove, cutlery, pans, etc.
  • Toilet roll
  • Face and body wipes
  • Any allergy or important medication
  • Sun cream, sunglasses, and a hat (for hot weather)
  • Gloves and a hat (for cold weather)
  • Food (see more below)

Of course, you’ll want to take a couple of spares of things, such as socks and underwear, in case it rains and you need to change. Likewise, you may want to consider packing an extra shirt or two during the summer as you sweat.

Top tip – for a more in-depth list, check out the DofE kit list from their website.

Choosing your DofE food

You’ll also need to take food with you on the expedition, but you need to be quite picky about what you take. Since you’ll be on the move pretty much all day, you need to keep your energy up. This means you’ll probably need to consume more calories than usual, with carbohydrates and proteins being your most important food types.

Store cupboard staples such as cereal bars, rice, pasta and porridge are excellent DofE foods because they’re filling and provide plenty of energy. They’re also long-lasting and don’t need to be refrigerated.

Top tip – instead of fresh fruit, try to include dried ingredients like dried banana chips or mango. These have a longer shelf life, and are easier and cleaner to eat on the go.

Similarly, you shouldn’t shy away from taking treats such as chocolate bars with you. They’re high in calories and, importantly, are enjoyable to eat, which can really help if you’re finding the expedition tough going. Just don’t live solely on chocolate!

Top tip – consider making your own trail mix. This could include chocolate, nuts, dried fruits and pretzels – these combinations are high in protein and energy, easy to eat, and make a delicious treat.

Space is a serious consideration when it comes to choosing the right DofE food, too. You don’t want to be packing snacks that take up too much room or have lots of unnecessary packaging, so avoid things like big bags of crisps.

To make your life easier in the evenings, check out our delicious range of Camping Foods. These are smartly packaged, and are simple to make up when you’re tired in the evening.

Top tips for preparing for your DofE expedition

When it comes to your DofE expedition, you need to be prepared for most eventualities. Fortunately, the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award website has a wealth of information regarding how you should train for the expedition part of the requirements – which you can find through their Resources and Tools page.

Some of the top tips we’ve found to help you get ready for your expedition:

  • Check the level of proficiency you need for the mode of transport you choose – this is essential to keeping you safe.
  • You should have a reasonable level of fitness to get through the requirements.
  • Learn some basic survival skills, like navigation, route planning, and basic cooking.
  • Make sure you know basic first aid.

Get DofE ready with Winfields Outdoors

At Winfields Outdoors, we know how fantastic of an opportunity the Duke of Edinburgh Award can be – which is why we’re keen to share everything we know to make your life easier. Alongside our DofE kit list above, why not check out our dedicated Duke of Edinburgh Clothing and Accessories to help you prepare for your trip?

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