Expedition first aid kit for DofE

Lightweight safety equipment for expeditions

By Kenny Stocker

Expeditions are thrilling, but safety is crucial. The right gear—first aid, emergency shelter, and more—turns uncertainty into peace of mind wherever you roam.

Carrying safety equipment and knowing what to do with it is a fundamental aspect of ensuring a safe and enjoyable expedition. What you need to carry will depend on what type of expedition you are doing, but will probably include; a first aid kit, equipment repair kit and navigation/survival equipment.

This article is the third recipe in 6 weight saving recipes to shave weight off your DofE expedition kit list, a series of articles to help you save weight on your expedition kit without compromising comfort or utility, helping you to make more sustainable choices and invest in kit that will last a lifetime.

No one likes carrying stuff that doesn't get used, but this is one area where you should be really careful not to cut corners. Despite all your careful planning, accidents can happen. Fortunately, most of the accidents that can happen have happened to someone else. Most of these are known, and you can prepare yourself to deal with them. Your problem therefore is to put together a comprehensive yet compact first aid/emergency kit that covers a range of potential emergencies but still fits into the limited space you have to carry it in.


  1. Expedition First Aid Kit
  2. Multi-tool or Swiss Army Knife. If you can't fix it, Macgyver it.
  3. Specialist repair kit depending on expedition type (hike, bike, canoe etc).
  4. Whistle, SOS torch, spare batteries.
  5. Emergency blanket, bivvy bag or group bothy bag.
  6. Sun protection (sunscreen, sunglasses).
  7. Insect repellent.


  • Personalise your first aid kit based on your expedition guidelines and individual needs (e.g., medications).
  • Decant creams and fluids into smaller, lighter travel bottles.
  • Pack your emergency equipment in plastic bags in a drybag.
  • If relying on equipment like bikes, make sure your tools fit the equipment you are using and check they are in good working order.
  • Share tools across your group to save weight, but don't lose redundancy.


  1. Keep your first aid kit accessible at all times. The top pocket of your rucksack is ideal.
  2. Familiarise yourself with the use of each item in the safety kit.
  3. Regularly check and replenish your first aid kit.
  4. Learn how to use it, don't wait for an emergency.

Chef's tips

Assess the risks based on the environment. You might not need a snake bite kit in the Yorkshire Dales but as you progress to more exotic regions or altitudes, add more specialised items.

Where you can save the weight

The DofE publish a recommended kit list which is a great place to start if you are kitting yourself out for an expedition for the first time. We do have alternatives, which we have listed below, to help you reduce the weight. Our recommendations are a guide – you should always check with your Leader that the kit you choose is suitable for your particular expedition.

Our choice DofE recommended kit
Expeditionary First Aid Kit Lifesystems Camping First Aid Kit
Pack Roll-top drybag Zipped Bag
Items 68 40
Survival Bag Lifesystems Survival Bag
Weight 105 g (Save 185g) 290 g
Lining Silver reflective No
Kapar storm shelter Vango storm shelter
Weight 560 g (Save 85g) 645 g
People 4 4
Osmo Travel Towel Softfibre Light Trek Towel
Weight 59 g (Save 61g) 120 g
Williams Whistle Lifesystems Safety Whistle
Power 100+ decibels 100+ decibels
Weight 13 g 13 g

Our next recipe weighs up how you can save 600 grams on the weight of your rucksack alone.

Rucksacks and backpacks

Ultralight 13-litre day pack, folds away into its own pocket
£18.99 £23.99
20-litre waterproof backpack with bungee cords and mesh pockets
£31.99 £37.99
25-litre roll-top waterproof dry bag backpack with no fuss
£33.99 £39.99
30-litre waterproof rucksack with mesh pockets for extra capacity
£33.99 £42.99
6-litre hip pack for carrying riding and running essentials
£31.99 £39.99
Hip pack: UK made, weatherproof, 3L
10-litre hyrdation vest giving secure and stable space for essential kit
£41.99 £49.99
15-litre multi-activity daypack that's lightweight for high intensity
£32.99 £40.99
14-litre mountain bike backpack built for hydration and comfort on the bike
£51.99 £64.99
25-litre multi-activity daypack that's lightweight, stable and streamlined
£55.99 £69.99
25-litre ultra marathon backpack with space for overnight kit and comfort on the run
£59.99 £74.99

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