Gold DofE Kayaking Expedition - Everything you need to know about our back to back Training, Practice and Qualifying Expeditions

Gold DofE Kayaking Expedition - Everything you need to know about our back to back Training, Practice and Qualifying Expeditions

So you're doing your Gold Duke of Edinburgh Award, but the thought of another walking expedition just isn't inspiring you? A kayaking expedition along the South Devon coast could be just the answer! We have a full expedition (including training, practice and qualifying) taking place 23rd July - 1st August 2023. This blog aims to give you an insight to what a Gold Kayaking Expedition is really like and if it's right for you. So read on and if you have any further questions at the end, feel free to give us a call and a member of the team will be happy to help you.

Firstly, this is an intensive block of 9 days on the water so a good starting point is enjoying being in, on and around the water. You may not have kayaked much or even before and that's absolutely fine. Our training and practice expedition will teach you everything you need to know ready for the real thing!

By the time you've completed the qualifying expedition, subject to suitable weather, you will have paddled a significant stretch of the South Devon and West Dorset coastline, which is a feat that not too many people will be able to claim to have done! This particular stretch of coastline forms the Jurassic Coast and is famous worldwide for its geology and palaeontological interest, in addition to providing an idyllic backdrop for your kayaking and wild camping adventure. 

The following gives you an insight to what to expect throughout the training, practice and qualifying expeditions with Reach Outdoors.

Getting here:

Training takes place over 2 days. We have a 9am start on day 1, meaning if you are travelling a long distance, as many do, then you will want to arrive the evening before. There is a wide range of accommodation options in Paignton, including hotels, B&B's and camping, which will make finding somewhere suitable to meet needs and budget really easy. For those arriving on the day, our centre is a 10 minute walk from Paignton train station or you can be dropped directly to our centre, Reach Outdoors, TQ4 6LP. There is ample pay and display and 'on road' parking to be found in the local area. 


Training (Days 1 + 2)

Once with us, the 2 days training will take you through everything you need to know, to safely plan and execute a journey in your group in a tidal, coastal environment on a sit on top kayak. We will cover everything from weather, tides, navigation, personal paddling skills, rescues, first aid, camp craft and more to make you feel comfortable to go off on your adventure. Each of our groups will be supervised on the water, from a safe distance, by a highly qualified and experienced DofE supervisor and Sea Kayak Leader. 

Accommodation during the training will be provided in the form of camping at a local campsite. This is included within the course fee. The campsite is set in a rural location with views over looking Dartmoor. This provides a nice location to relax after a day on the water and get to know your expedition group.  

The training evenings will also provide time to take the learnt content from the day and plan the upcoming expedition days. Your route cards will be reviewed by the trainers / supervisors to make sure they are suitable and accurate.

Whilst there is no expectation to eat camp food during the training, it does provide a good opportunity to practice camp craft skills required for the expedition. It is a good idea to bring food, dried pasta and sauce and something for lunch to cover you for at least 1 day. There will be a supermarket visit planned within the training to allow the group to purchase the group food for the expedition. Group cooking is required for an expedition of this type, as space is a premium and we don't have the luxury of carrying individual meals and cooking stoves. If specific dietary requirements mean that group cooking isn't suitable for you, this can be easily worked around. A comprehensive kit list is detailed on the website but for clarity, cooking stoves are provided by us, stove fuel (gas) needs to be provided by the group along with other consumables (food).

Tents (3 person) are also provided by us. These would be issued to you and your group to be used throughout the expedition package. In all there would be 2 nights spent on the campsite for the duration of the training before heading off on the practice expedition. 


Practice Expedition (Days 3, 4 & 5) 

With all bags packed (into the provided dry bags) and ready to be loaded into / onto the kayaks, the minibus will come to collect the group, with the kayak trailer in tow. The group will then head to the practice expedition start location. About an hour of organising kit and packing boats will take place before heading off on the water for the start of the 3 day, 2 night practice expedition. Weather permitting, the practice will start on the sheltered waters of the Dart Estuary allowing us to ease into the practice experience, getting accustomed to paddling our kit-filled boats for the first time. A journey down the estuary will bring us towards camp one and gently ease the group into the coastal paddling environment for days 2 and 3. 

Days 2 and 3 will continue along the spectacular coast with wild camp locations on coastal beach locations and will allow the group to further practice their skills in preparation for the upcoming Qualifying expedition. The practice expedition will conclude on day 3 where the minibus and trailer will await the groups arrival at the finish location. Kit will be packed up and loaded back on the trailer ready for the upcoming qualifying expedition. After a debrief to review the practice experience the group will have the evening and following day off to recuperate before coming together again the following evening. Please note that as accommodation is often not required for those who live locally, no camping is provided within the cost for this evening. Accommodation for this evening is not included within the expedition package however you would be able to return to the campsite used during the training (but this would need to be paid for personally).


Acclimatisation Evening (Day 6)

The acclimatisation day allows time to rest and organise kit for the upcoming qualifying expedition. This day is unsupervised and no pastoral care, activities or accommodation is provided for the evening of day 5 up until 5pm on Day 6. 

There is also a requirement to plan route cards for the qualifying expedition and this needs to be done within this time. The group will be required to meet again at 5pm of the evening of day 6 at the training campsite to meet their expedition assessor. The assessor will conduct pre-expedition checks ensuring the group are prepared to undertake their expedition safely and in accordance with the 20 conditions of the DofE. The group will left to enjoy their evening ready for collection the following morning.  


Qualifying Expedition (Day 7, 8, 9 & 10)

The group will once again be collected from the training campsite and taken to the qualifying expedition start location. Boats and trailer on tow, the group will repeat the process followed during the practice to get on the water and their expedition underway. The following 4 days and 3 nights will be spent journeying and wild camping along the south cost, weather permitting, this time being accompanied from a distance by their expedition supervisor and an assessor who will ensure their expedition meets the 20 conditions of the DofE. The group will, over the 4 days, work towards an agreed aim which will form their presentation and meet the requirements of the Gold DofE expedition section. 

Upon arrival at their destination the group will have a post expedition debrief and review with their supervisor before departing back home. Some participants will be met by parents, friends or family while others who choose to travel by train can be dropped to the train station. If any participants drove independently, they will be dropped back to the Reach centre where their car would have been left nearby. 

The end of the qualifying expedition will mark the end of an intense but incredibly regarding experience which as stated earlier will be an achievement that few will be able to claim to have experienced. A kayaking expedition is a fantastic experience and the intensity of this multi day back-to-back experience makes for a memorable experience that will be recalled and talked about long after it has finished. 



  • Can I attend with a friend? Yes, the Expedition section can be attended with friends. Whilst there is no limit to the number of people you can know, an expedition group size will be a maximum of 7 and we only operate with a maximum of 2 groups at once. If you have a large number of people, please get in touch as we may be able to accommodate a bespoke DofE Kayaking Expedition.
  • Why is the expedition package back-to-back? We attract participants to our courses from all over the UK. Travel expenses aren't cheap and finding dates to suit busy timetables that involve exams, family holidays and festivals is a real challenge. The expedition package allows participants to block off a period of 11 days (including travel) and complete their expedition section in one hit. It is hard work and you'll certainly be tired at the end of it but for those who struggle with fitting things in to a busy schedule or have a specific requirement to complete the section, this is a great option. 
  • Do I need to be able to kayak? No previous kayaking experience is required however a reasonable level of fitness will be needed for a back-to-back expedition package. In addition to this, water confidence, particularly in and on the sea is a must for an enjoyable experience.
  • What kayaks are used? We use stable sit on top kayaks. These are easy to handle and if they capsize, they do not present the same risk of swamping and entrapment that a traditional closed cockpit kayak does. The kayaks have a hatched storage system in the front with bungee and storage for an additional dry bag at the back. 
  • Where will we camp? For the training we will use a pre-booked campsite with shower and toilet facilities. For the practice and qualifying expeditions we will be only wild camping with no facilities. We will carry out our waste and dig latrines in the sand to bury human waste safely.
  • Can we have a campfire? Yes, on specified beaches this is possible. This will always need to be safely managed and considerate of the environmental conditions for that area / time. 
  • Do I need to pay in full? If you book on the website you will need to pay in full. If you'd prefer to reserve your spot with a deposit, you can do by paying a 25% deposit and the remaining balance 4 weeks before the start date. Please email us on or call our office on 01803 524950 for this option.
  • Do I need to share a tent? We will be very limited with the kit that we can carry, sharing a tent will be needed to ensure that we travel as light as possible, keeping the experience as enjoyable as possible. If there are specific reasons why sharing isn't possible, please contact us to discuss this requirement.
  • What if I can't make all of the dates? Full participation is required in order to complete the expedition package. If you're unable to make all of the dates then please enquire about the dates of future courses. 
  • What if I'm ill or injured and cannot attend? Unfortunately refunds cannot be issued in this instance as this would jeopardise the financial viability for the remaining participants to complete their expedition. Please ensure you have appropriate travel insurance to cover you against such loses.
  • What happens in the instance of bad weather? We are always subject to the weather, particularly so in the marine environment and safety is of the highest priority. We may need to relocate the expedition to find additional shelter, allowing for safe paddling. In the 9 years that we have been running these expeditions, we have always managed to find a solution to allow the group to complete their expedition, however prolonged periods of foul weather may prevent the expedition from happening on the planned dates. This would always be out of the control of everyone concerned. Participants would be welcomed back at the soonest convenience to complete. The expedition dates are planned for the summer months which offer the best opportunity for favourable weather.

For more information on our Gold DofE Open Kayaking Expedition, please see our website HERE. Booking can be done online HERE or for further information, please email us on or give our office a call on 01803 524950. Our 2023 dates for the Gold DofE Kayak Expedition are 23rd July - 1st August. 2024 dates coming soon.



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