AT Quals and the Faff that is

That my friend depends on the size and quality of your torch, mine puts the sun to shame with fresh batteries.

It’s one of the more interesting things, the basic AT qualifications (LLA & BEL) don’t include night navigation because it’s not in the remit of the qualifications. (Which thinking about it might be why HQAC haven’t tried to force the NGB Square Peg into the Fieldcraft Round Hole).

Actually, LLA does according to Mountain Training.

Asked the question specifically at the Course Director induction and Mark Walker said that it would be expected that candidates are able to navigate at night (but in context of a late-back-to-the-bus scenario).

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But, if you use a torch, you lose out on so much of the wider landscape. You can only see what is currently illuminated. I hated it.


I appreciate your sharing, having a ball park gives people an idea if it’s even worth considering or of they do, they know where it’s going.

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In terms of course fees, probably only a few hundred quid. Those course, however, are worth £000s in the real world. £30 for an ML assessment in the organisation? £500-700 odd in the real world. Commercial rates for Lowland Leader Training, Assessment and Expedition module? In the region of £450 for all three. RAFAC rates ~£90.

Kit? A lot - nearly £3k on paddling craft, ~£1k plus on personal kit for drysuit etc etc, and that’s just paddling. But, like @Baldrick they are all my hobbies anyway and most of it is paid for by my VA - and I started with much cheaper kit that I choose now, as the environments I work in have changed and my skill level has increased. My chosen fitness activity would always be going for a paddle, MTB or hill walk rather than anything else - and then when you work out ‘cost per use’ it’s significantly cheaper than a gym subscription. If you look after your kit, it’s an investment and will last for many years.

Does a new instructor need to spend that much on kit & equipment to attend a course? Not at all - go with what you already use, or borrow to try it out if you are at a course at the centres. That’s the point of training - you’ll get exposed to different types, styles and levels of equipment and learn to make a judgement for yourself what is and isn’t necessary for the environments you work in.

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You rang?


I would say that as a unit with pretty good access to everything needed to get into the hobby, it was the easiest way to start. I would never have bought all the stuff I have now had I not been able to try it at various ATC activities first and had supportive friends who were qualified and allowed me to come along as a novice.

Now I’ve probably spent about £2k on my own boat, paddle, helmets, BAs, associated kit and course fees.

However, I could legitimately leave my job tomorrow and go and work at one of the local outdoor activity centres fully qualified for what they do and have no dramas. Not that I would of course.

We work hard to maintain a grant programme to support all our kit so that others can have the experience I’ve had and allow people to take part in life changing adventures and hobbies for relatively cheap to start with, then more expensive as they put their own money in.


This is absolutely key. Invest in the kit and you can use it to help develop long term, sustainable instructors.

@redowling I get that it’s people’s hobbies, things they enjoy doing etc, but I think the time and financial outlay is overlooked, where people are encouraged to do it and soon find, it doesn’t really work unless you are prepared to put the time and finances behind it. I don’t know of anyone who does paddlesport in the ATC who isn’t in at least one club and spends a lot of their time on it.

I think that’s the point though - it’s very difficult to be a credible instructor in an outdoor activity if you aren’t actively engaged in it yourself (and thus have some of the kit already). But at the same time, the entry level qualifications don’t require huge investment at all - or you can borrow kit as @pEp says if your unit has invested.

I know of one unit that bought a set of emergency kits for all their leaders to use - each worth a decent wedge of money, but stopped the instructors having to provide their own.

Kit and funding are easy things to work around if people are willing to give the time up to gain the qualifications.

i think is powerful justification.
I hold a BEL but my walking boots wouldn’t look out of place in Snowdon, nor would some the kit I have.
in lockdown I have put my boots on and pulled out a map twice to complete a days walk - which is obviously more than I’ve done with the RAFAC.

I find that the “how much does it cost” question and the reply “don’t pull on that thread” and enjoyable pun, and I am not sure if @Baldrick if you meant it that way - but costs can be as specific as a length of the string (or indeed thread).

the RAFAC is a hobby of mine, but in terms of “costs” i would say finacially it has cost me very little.
I have paid for my shoes and boots, but the rest of my uniform I have either had handed down as too good to throw out/put into stores, been issued or simple been sourced by a friend who is a regular and offered to help me out.
I have then paid for some option extras, when i was a SNCO i got a set of No1s for less than £50 off eBay, and although the SD hat wasn’t good enough for fancy dress got one out of stores. I got some brown gloves and had my medals mounted. in all i’d say i’ve spent £250 on my RAFAC hobby.

but dig a little deeper and take a look at my boots as an easy example. I pay ~£70-80 for a set of Magnums, nothing special but comfortable for what I do. Others will pay nothing knowing the stores officer well at their parent station and get a set of Altbergs “issued” others will pay £200 for a set of Lowa boots.

then there is the No1s, some get them issued, others get a set of No5s too…

I am sure it is the same in the paddling world. paying £100 for a paddle could easily be £30 on a second hand market or £200 for something fancier.

I know looking at my climbing gear it it came to under £100 but some serious climbers will pay that just on the harness or the shoes on their own.

this is true for me.
as a Scout we did a fair bit of canoeing (kayaking) as we had 10 or so boats in the troop. i loved it and took every opportunity to go. but then i didn’t touch kayaking until i was a CFAV, i didnt get the chance as a Cadet and only then because the neighbouring unit had space on a course.

i join my friend who built his own canoe (from a kit) more than I have had experiences within the RAFAC, and grateful for the invitation to join him, but under my own steam i’ve done nothing knowing there is an initial outlay for kit i need before I start.
i’ve got 2star so deemed “competent” and thoroughly enjoy getting out on a boat but dont have sufficient interest to make it a hobby of mine outright and why i’ve not progressed it.

the interests i have in the RAFAC are by and larged extended in hobbies outside of the RAFAC too…

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I think the biggest waste, in terms of money most paddlers have, is their first boat. Invariably people buy the wrong boat first off, it’s either the wrong size, wrong type, wrong fit. So I always advise people to try in the club boats, but second hand, then buy the right boat later.

I’m not in a club. My local town club is all about marathon racing and that bores me to tears. The ATC is my quasi-club and it’s the only way, without travelling a reasonable distance, I maintain my hobby.

I bought mine for the colours…


We have bought Staff & Group First Aid kits which we have then supplemented with additional bits and pieces as required. (Head Torch & Tick Removers etc).

@redowling I have a member of staff that has Mountain Leader (Summer) do they need to complete the Expedition Skills Module to be able to run an overnight (tented) expedition?

No. Mountain Leader includes training and assessment in overnight expeditions.

That said - what it doesn’t include is remote supervision training (which is specifically included within the syllabus of the Expedition Skills Module - so they might need to do a DofE ESTC for example). But that’s a whole other can of worms!


My OC, (ML, volunteers gor the mountain rescue service, delivers BEL) was rather bemused to be told he had to do the DofE ESTC, which he did. Only to find it was taught by a BEL he had instructed.

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Problem is, none of the syllabi (back then) included anything on remote supervision, which is where that all came from and why loads of people (myself included) had to do the ESTC, despite being MLs / BEL Tutors etc. Same principles apply - just because you’d been doing it for years, didn’t necessarily mean you’d been doing it right or in line with best practice so it was a way to standardise the expectations of the organisation on those providing remote supervision and bring everyone to the same level.

Most qualifications (including ML now having just checked the handbook, albeit it seems to be light touch) do include it, so the problem will go away over time. There’s also talk of the ESTC being combined with the EAAS course if I remember rightly, so that will also help reduce the time required.

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As an ML and paddler, I did the water-specific ESTC at Windermere just so I actually learnt something new, and as an excuse for 2 days paddling…

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