The DofE Bronze Award is both an excellent introduction to the later stages of the award and a rewarding, instructive and fun experience in itself.
The Bronze Expedition is for some people their first real experience of camping, being responsible for one’s own wellbeing and comfort and of working together as a team towards something which is a real challenge. It involves two days of walking 6hrs per day (some people have never walked for 1hr before) and one night of camping and navigating all the way.
Your Bronze DofE involves a 2 day practice and a 2 day qualifying expedition. Normally an Indie Outdoors programme also involves 2 days of pre-expedition training at your school where you learn various skills in and out of the classroom.
Indie Outdoors instructors arrive at your school on a Saturday morning. Everyone gets into their groups and does a ’round-robin’ of 5 activities in the morning: equipment, campcraft, intro to navigation, first aid and food and nutrition.
Equipment teaches you what equipment is needed and why, how to pack your rucksack, how to carry your rucksack (no joke there is a trick to it you know), how to reduce weight and what equipment you need as a group.
Campcraft is where you practice putting up and taking down your tent, lighting a trangia and arranging your campsite.
Navigation is a classroom activity to start with where you learn everything about maps: map symbols, grid references, contours, footpaths and terrain features.
First aid is just like what we teach adults in our expedition first aid courses but 2 days condensed into 1hr… Its a basic introduction to CPR, bandaging and what to do in a first aid emeergency. Yes we do have dolls you have to breath life into!
Food and nutrition some real advice from your instructor about their own experiences of expedition food and what does and does not work. Also teaches you how to safely light a camp stove and put it out again.
In the afternoon everyone is given an instructor who takes the group off for a hour or so practice navigation for real (around the area near the school normally).
On Sunday each group rejoins their instructor and spends the whole day practicing navigation (as this is the trickiest thing to get right on a Bronze) interspersed with some extra training on the topics covered in the first day as the instructor sees fit (such as a first aid scenario out in the woods).
The group meets at a suitable location chosen by the school and Indie Outdoors.
The groups are given a quick brief by their instructor about what the weekend is going to be about and what they can remember about equipment etc. The instructor will ask questions about equipment but should not ask groups to unpack their bags to demonstrate they are well equipped as this can be demoralising.
The groups all set off with their instructor and for the first day at least are taught navigation in a practical and intensive fashion with individuals or groups of 2 taking the lead to navigate and swapping round. All groups camp together and may be given a quick debrief by their instructor. Your first chance to practice your campcraft and cooking skills for real…
The second day groups continue on their walk with perhaps less intensive instruction and more of a chance to practice navigation themselves, including the opportunity to get themselves lost perhaps (your instructor knows where you are but do you?). A debrief at the end before going home ready for a well deserved shower and some real food.
Your qualifying expedition will be pretty much just like your practice expedition. It can’t be on the same route as your practice and you will have to prepare new route cards (see route cards). You will also have a different instructor from your practice expedition.