Gear project: Duke of Ed kit-out

By Justin Walker 23 November 2016
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This is what happens when you’re a teen taking on the Duke of Edinburgh’s Bronze Award and your uncle is the editor of Australian Geographic Adventure.

WHEN MY NIECE, Isabel, recently enrolled in the Duke Of Edinburgh’s International Award (DOE) it provided the perfect opportunity to assist in kitting her out for her first sojourn into the outdoors as part of the DOE’s Bronze Award. This is the first of the Award’s three levels (Silver and Gold follow on, with each level upping the challenge to the students).

I was keen to ensure she had some great gear to test, and I also focused on selecting equipment that was both durable but also light in weight; a weekend adventure shouldn’t mean lugging a back-breaking load of gear.

Isabel’s first Duke of Ed experience involved a weekend of camping that included a 13km hike. The students hiked 9km of undulating tracks to camp on the first day, and another 4km day hike the next. For this adventure, we kitted out Isabel with some of the main pieces of equipment she’d need. First off was an Osprey Ace 50L pack. This pack was more than big enough for Isabel to carry all her sleeping gear, part of the tent she would sleep in, some cooking gear, clothes and food. The pack’s harness system is top-notch, while the Anti-Gravity suspension system provides plenty of ventilation for warmer days.

duke of ed gear project

Image: Justin Walker

For sleeping, we opted for one of AGA’s favourite sleeping bags – a Mont Helium 600 – that is lightweight (at only 950g) but rated down to -10 degrees, making it ideal for all-season adventures. We continued the lightweight/compact theme by choosing a Therm-a-Rest Neo Air sleeping mat. This lightweight mat (350g for a regular size) offers a 5cm-deep mattress and, when packed, takes up less space than a 1L milk bottle. Rounding out the evening/night gear was an Icebreaker baselayer top and leggings. Merino wool is the best outdoor fabric with its combo of breathability and temperature regulation.

Ensuring Isabel stayed dry and protected from both rain and wind, our final item for the trip was The North Face’s Resolve Reflective Jacket. This outer shell is, again, light in weight but tough-as in construction. It uses TNF’s proprietary Hyvent 2L (two-layer) waterproof/breathable fabric, and includes zip-pockets, a comfortable brushed collar lining and elastic cuffs to keep warmth in and water out.

Two pieces of kit were standouts: the pack, which was “so easy to wear and fit all my gear in,” according to Isabel, and the Therm-a-Rest Neo Air, with Isabel (and some of her DOE team members) loving the extra cushion compared to the thinner mats others were using, plus it packed down nice and small.

  • Osprey Ace 50L RRP $199.95
  • The North Face Resolve Reflective Jacket RRP $120
  • Icebreaker Oasis Crewe & Legging RRP $49.95-79.95 (depending on size)
  • Mont Helium 600 RRP $700
  • Therm-a-Rest Neo Air RRP $350