Guidance For Leaders

  • Planning
  • Equipment
  • Clothing
  • Ratios
  • Supervision
  • Safety Procedures
  • Water Hazards
  • Preperation of Participants
  • Environmental Considerations

Careful planning and preparation contribute greatly to the safe and enjoyable outcome of any activity. The council's generic risk assessment for your chosen activity is designed to help you plan that activity safely, and must be referred to in the early planning stages. If the site or nature of the planned activity poses additional risks which are not covered by the generic risk assessment then these must be considered in an additional site specific risk assessment:

  • Obtaining information and local knowledge and familiarisation with the area in which the expedition will take place
  • Notifying land managers.
  • Arrange and choose good, safe camp sites. Consider shelter, suitability of terrain, cooking and toilet areas, proximity to water and environmental impact.
  • Arranging food, fuel, equipment and transport.
  • Planning safe and suitable routes, including alternative bad weather and escape routes.
  • Obtaining a relevant weather forecast.

 The following should be considered:

  • The suitability of rucksacks, sleeping bags, karrimats, tents, stoves and other items of  lightweight camping gear available.
  • Waterproofing, packing and carrying equipment.
  • Keeping the weight carried to a minimum.
  • First aid and emergency equipment.
  • Ensuring the equipment is in good and safe order.
  • Carrying head torches with a spare bulb and batteries

Consideration should be given to the following:

  • The time of year, prevailing weather conditions and altitude.
  • Any likely changes in weather.
  • The experience and strength of party.
  • The nature of the journey and terrain.
  • Choice and care of appropriate and sensible clothing.
  • Staying warm/keeping cool.
  • The waterproof and windproof qualities and durability of any protective clothing
  • Spare clothing for emergencies
  • Adjusting clothing to changing weather conditions.
  • Appropriate footwear for the venture.

Depending on the medium of travel, reference should be made to the relevant activity chapter for rules on maximum supervision ratios. Consideration should be given to reducing these ratios for extended and/or committing journeys in wild terrain.

Supervision ratios should be informed by the site specific risk assessment and consideration must be given to the group, terrain, conditions and experience of the supervising staff, and also to the potential impact on the environment and other users of the area.

The size of any group and the strategies used must always allow the leader to remain in control and in effective contact with all members of the group.

Where organisational constraints require large parties to operate they must be broken into manageable groups operating and staffed independently.

In remote terrain, it is desirable to have a second experienced/qualified adult assisting with groups in order to provide extra security.
A decision to lead a party without a second adult will be based upon the training and experience of the leader, the experience and nature of the party, the terrain, and the prevailing conditions.

The size of an expedition party should reflect:

  • The venue, time of year, prevailing conditions.
  • The nature of terrain, length of journey and the skill level involved to complete it
  • The experience of the leaders
  • The requirements and experience of the group.

The safety of an expedition is dependent on good supervision. There needs to be a sufficient number of leaders to supervise the following:

  • Pitching and striking camp under all weather conditions and in the dark.
  • Organising and establishing a daily routine for pitching and striking camp.
  • Personal camp hygiene: toilet requirements and arrangements for leaving the site clean and tidy, including the removal of waste and rubbish.
  • Food hygiene: the preparation and cooking of food needs to be carefully monitored. Food poisoning or even simple stomach upsets can be debilitating and can seriously undermine the safety of an expedition    
  • Using stoves: This may need to be done in poor weather and/or in the dark. The leader and students must be aware of the dangers associated with the stoves intended to be used and how to mitigate these.
  • Keeping the party together and maintaining group control
  • Coping with bad weather.
  • Leaders must be trained in appropriate supervision of groups using stoves. Groups should have received training prior to the event which will enable them to cook safely out of doors.
  • Supervision levels must be appropriate to the level of experience of the group – younger, inexperienced groups will likely require closer supervision and greater support.

Accidents can happen through failure to exercise control. It is essential that in assuming the role of leader, the responsibilities of that position are recognised and accepted.

Wild country offers the opportunity for challenge and adventure and this often implies risk. The element of risk has to be contained to an acceptable level by proper training and by observing safety procedures.
For all expeditions the leader must ensure the following:

  • The nature of the expedition must be within the leadership competence of the staff involved. Leaders should ensure that they are familiar with the type/s of stoves that will be used by the group members and any safety implications associated with these. Supervision plans should be made with this in mind.
  • That the leader knows the individuals in the group well enough to forecast their reactions to the physically and mentally demanding conditions that are likely to be met.
  • That the leaders and all members have appropriate competence in first aid.
  • That any additional equipment essential to the safe conduct of the party is carried.
  • That the nature, purpose and aims of the expedition are clearly understood by all concerned.
  • That a responsible base contact has been provided with the names and addresses of the party and other relevant details such as the route plan and timings.

Any crossing which requires more than a simple step across a small stream should not be underestimated and should only be contemplated when no significant risks are posed by doing so. When managing risks associated with water hazards, leaders must operate within the scope of their training and experience.
The council´s in house Lowhills Award does not provide formal training in dealing with water hazards, and leaders who are qualified in this capacity are required to ensure that any water crossings carried out under their supervision are of no more than ankle depth, able to be carried out easily and are inconsequential in the event of a slip.
Leaders who have undertaken national awards such as the Summer Mountain Leader Award will be more able to apply a reliable risk benefit analysis when faced with these hazards; however the overriding consideration should be avoidance of such hazards wherever possible.
The key to a successful outcome lies in the planning and risk assessment stages. Contingency plans should be drawn up for those situations where water is above ankle level or where the outcome of a crossing is uncertain. These should include alternative routes or waiting until water levels recede.

N.B Leaders who have undertaken training in any relevant capacity must lodge a record of that training with the management of their establishment.

Individuals participating in any expedition should have had prior opportunity to practice all the relevant skills. Pre-expedition training must allow each individual to be fully and appropriately prepared for all aspects of their expedition, particularly the safe use of stoves.

Specific safety implications associated with the use of particular stoves should be considered during training and both leaders and participants should be clear about how to mitigate these risks


Refer to chapters relating to the specific activity. Reference should also be made to Section C - Well Being, and to the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award Scheme.

For further information: The Duke of Edinburgh's Award

Attention should be drawn to the Scottish Outdoor Access Code

Living in, and achieving a harmony with the chosen environment is the essence of camping. Care for the environment should be seen as an integral part of a camping ethic in which the needs of the environment should be considered alongside those of the group.
‘Minimum Impact’ is the only acceptable approach to travelling and camping.

The organisation Leave No Trace provides guidelines for adopting a minimum impact approach

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