When you go on an expedition with the Duke of Edinburgh programme it can seem daunting, especially for parents when they see the long kit list! I have worked with Outdoor World Direct to show you some of the best items for someone new to camping.
This article includes items I was sent free of charge as PR samples in return for sharing them with you. All opinions are my own.
How to choose a sleeping bag for Duke of Edinburgh expeditions
If you are not an outdoorsy family and when your youngster starts the Duke of Edinburgh programme you need to go out and buy the items they need it can seem a bit daunting. There are so many different sleeping bags, how do you know which is best?
Here are the things you need to consider and how to choose the right one for your child.
Sleeping bag weight
The weight of the sleeping bag you choose can be really important if you plan to hike miles with it. Typically for a Duke of Edinburgh bronze award, the hiking will be more minimal with the kit so this isn’t something to worry about too much but it will depend on your youngster and their Duke of Edinburgh programme leader.
If your youngster is likely to complete further awards then do bear this in mind when choosing a sleeping bag to avoid needing to buy a lighter one at a later date.
Sleeping bag season ratings
All sleeping bags have season ratings to help you to know which seasons it is suitable for. In the UK the following explanations should help you.
A season 1 sleeping bag is perfect for summer camping or indoor use. Season 2 sleeping bags are perfect for early autumn or late spring. A season 3 sleeping bag is perfect for cold nights in autumn and winter but without frost, and season 4 is great for cold nights with frost or snow.
If you are buying for a newbie to camping outdoors or someone who really feels the cold when they sleep then you might like to choose a sleeping bag suitable for a cooler season that that they are camping in.
Sleeping bag shape and style
For a Duke of Edinburgh expedition, you are likely to only need to buy a single-size sleeping bag, that said there are still other size aspects to consider.
Some sleeping bags are longer than others which for many youngsters, especially girls, may not be relevant. If however, you have a tall lad like me this is something to check out as an extra 10cm in length can make all the difference to their comfort.
Mummy-style sleeping bags offer a lighter option as there is less sleeping bag fabric needed to make them but they are tighter and less suitable for someone who wriggles a lot in their sleep. If you want the lightest possible kit then choose a mummy-style sleeping bag!
The sleeping bag we chose from Outdoor World Direct
Ben has never been camping before and as someone who even in the heat of summer wraps himself in his duvet (like me!), we chose him a winter sleeping bag to keep him warm.
The Outwell Camper Lux sleeping bag we chose is 200cm long so perfect for tall people and has a zip-off hood if needed. It is suitable for all seasons so should provide Ben with the warmth he needs and if he gets too hot he can always unzip it!
Choosing a camping mat for a Duke of Edinburgh expedition
Sleeping pads are so much better now than they used to be and they make camping so much more comfortable. Here are the things you should consider when choosing a sleeping pad or camping mat.
Inflated or closed-cell
Inflated camping mats or sleeping pads are usually self-inflating with a special valve that you open to inflate them. Some however need blowing up manually which you need to remember will be harder after a long day hiking!
A closed-cell sleeping pad or camping mat is usually a dense foam mat which is unrolled and immediately ready to sleep on. The advantage of these is there is no set-up time however the disadvantage is they are usually bulkier to carry or offer less support.
Shape and size
Like with sleeping bags you need to consider the length of the camping mat if you are buying for someone tall. there are also mummy-shaped sleeping pads perfect for those with a mummy-style sleeping bag and who want to carry the lowest weight possible.
Insulation or R-value
A sleeping pad or camping mat is the only thing separating you in your sleeping bag from the cold ground so the insulation it offers is extremely important.
Sleeping pads usually use an R-value or give a temperature rating they are suitable for. The higher the R-Value the more insulating and warmer the pad is.
An R-Value of 3.5 is suitable for temperatures down to -18°c and a 5.5 R-value mat is suitable for down to -40°c.
Remember the ground temperature in winter is likely to be lower than you imagine!
The camping mat we chose from Outdoor World Direct
We chose the Outwell Dreamcatcher Single XL 12cm self-inflating mattress from Outdoor World Direct. It has an R-value of 7.5 meaning it is suitable for temperatures as low as -34°c.
This sleeping mattress is self-inflating so it is easy for Ben to inflate and the design is also easy to deflate after camping.
The Outwell Dreamcatcher XL is a wider longer mattress and 12cm thick so a perfect premium choice for someone not used to camping to help him to get comfortable and hopefully have a good night’s sleep.
We plan to practise with Ben putting his kit together, inflating his camping mat and putting it away before his Duke of Edinburgh programme expedition to help him to do it easily when the time comes!
More Duke of Edinburgh programme articles
Duke of Edinburgh Expeditions – All you need to know
The importance of warm dry feet for hiking
Duke of Edinburgh clothing and footwear essentials from Helly Hansen