This Handbook contains everything you need to know about this Secret Compass Adventure Academy weekend to Wales.
Read on to discover our ethos and team-centered approach and for the nitty gritty like flight and visa advice, insurance requirements and kit recommendations.
Use the buttons below to ask questions or if this handbook answers all of your questions you can request a space on the team by completing the booking form and submitting a deposit (bound by our T&Cs). We will then be in touch by phone or email to hopefully approve your place on the team!
Upcoming Expedition Dates
02 to 04 Oct. 2020.
16 to 18 April 2021.
25 to 27 June 2021.
10 to 12 Sept 2021.
Arrive: by 2115 on Day 1 into Newport Train Station.
Depart: leave any time from 1700 onwards on Day 3.
Insurance: Ensure you have comprehensive cover.
Docs: If a visitor to the UK send your flight and insurance information, and a passport copy.
The aim of these Adventure Academy weekends in Wales is to give you a taster of life on expedition: from the kit and the food, to the wild camping style and the physical challenge. Guided by expert Secret Compass expedition leaders, you’ll pack a taste of adventure into 2 epic days.
If you want to push yourself in one of the UK’s premier wilderness areas, look no further. Set against the dramatic ridges, peaks and mountain lakes of the Brecon Beacons National Park, Wales, these weekends are challenging, memorable and spiced up with an element of the unknown. This is the reality of life for Secret Compass expedition teams as they explore some of the world’s wildest places.
These weekends are run by professional Secret Compass leaders, full of tales from their recent expedition exploits in countries such as Sierra Leone, Burma, Sinai and Madagascar.
Climb Pen Y Fan (886m), the highest mountain in the southern UK.
Try packrafting, the latest mode of adventure transport!
Meet like-minded adventurous types.
Wild camp in hammocks or tents.
Eat ration-pack expedition foods.
Abseil a waterfall.
Day 1: Friday – Newport Train Station
Participants will be collected by minibus from Newport Train Station at 2115 and be driven to a bunkhouse for the night. If preferred, you can make your own way directly to the bunkhouse.
Day 2: Saturday – Brecon Beacons
After a morning briefing the team will navigate across part of the Brecon Beacons, carrying daypacks with essentials for the duration of the day’s adventures. Distance completed, you’ll set up your wild camp for the night, and spend the night around the fire chatting all things adventure and outdoors. (Your overnight bags will meet you there).
Day 3: Sunday – Brecon Beacons
Continue the adventure and encounter new challenges. At the end, the team will be collected and driven to Newport Train Station by 1700. When arranging onwards travel, please accept that this is an adventure and our itinerary will remain flexible so timings are not guaranteed.
Note on this Expedition Itinerary
This itinerary is deliberately vague to coax you out into the wilderness and encourage the team to embrace the unknown. After all, this is an adventure and by definition the outcome is uncertain. The leadership team may flex and change the plan depending on numerous frictions encountered en route. An adaptable, team-centred approach is required.
While this weekend’s purpose is to offer an introduction to the essence of an expedition, we expect all teammates to arrive fit and ready to go. In true adventure travel style, the exact itinerary may change but will include trekking, packrafting, abseiling and camping under the Welsh stars. Come prepared to get wet, muddy, wild camp and try your hand at unusual modes of transport deep in the heart of wildest Wales. You will be required to be fit enough for the following:
Daily activity: walking in the British hills for 10 hours a day, on consecutive days.
Carry: 10kg rucksacks.
To be a confident swimmer.
To have an open mind, flexible attitude and sense of humour.
The team will be collected from Newport by minibus and transferred to the bunk house for the night. The rest of the expedition will not involve motorised transport until the team is collected on Sunday afternoon and returned to Newport – please note there will not be time to shower after the day’s activities. We advise booking a flexible return ticket if travelling by train. If you prefer to drive (we suggest car-sharing) there is limited parking at the bunkhouse.
We will be staying in a bunkhouse-style activity centre on Friday night. Sleeping bags will be required and rooms will be shared. Phone reception is limited but available.
On Saturday night you should be prepared to wild camp far from civilisation in the Brecon Beacons National Park.
Breakfast and lunch are provided on Saturday and Sunday, along with dinner on Saturday. This will be simple but filling fare which will taste even better after your exertions. If you have any dietary requirements please inform us when applying. To bulk out meals or to boost morale, you’re welcome to bring your own snacks.
Kit and equipment
Please refer to the comprehensive kit list . It is in your best interest to arrive suitably equipped and with worn-in, well-fitting footwear. Secret Compass will provide all group gear and specialist equipment. If you are short of any vital kit or clothing, Secret Compass has arranged discounts with a selection of outdoor retailers and kit hire companies, further details will be sent through on booking.
The weekend is all-inclusive from the point you are picked up on Friday evening, until you are dropped back to the train station (quite muddy and probably tired!) on Sunday afternoon. If you are arriving early on the Friday, there is a nearby pub with excellent dinner options.
Baggage and Sleeping
DAYSACK (~30litre): A comfortable, well-fitting rucksack which is large enough for your lunch, water, warm layers and waterproofs etc.
RUCKSACK OR DUFFLE BAG: Large enough for your personal kit – this will be transferred to the campsite on Saturday evening so you don’t have to carry your sleeping bag etc during the day.
WATERPROOF RUCKSACK LINER (40ltr): Sealable “canoe” or “dry” bags made by Podsac or Ortlieb etc. This should line your daysack with enough room spare to roll the top over at least 3 times.
SMALLER DRY BAGS: As above, but smaller bags to put essential items in. These will hopefully keep your gear dry and organised during the day.
SLEEPING BAG: Rated to 0˚C comfort, the temperature may drop at night.
SLEEPING MAT: Thermarest or equivalent. Bring a repair kit.
2 x TREKKING SHIRT/TSHIRT: Not cotton. Consider long sleeves for sun/insect protection.
2 x TREKKING TROUSERS: Quick-drying trekking trousers.
1 x MID LAYER: Fleece or similar.
1 x WARM LAYER: Synthetic or lightweight down insulated jacket. Bring a waterproof bag for it!
1 x WATERPROOF JACKET AND TROUSERS: Gore-tex or equivalent, with a hood and large enough to fit your warm layers underneath.
1 x WALKING BOOTS: Waterproof, with ankle support. Your boots should be well-fitting and worn in.
2 x HIKING SOCKS: That fit well with your boots.
1 x TREKKING SANDALS: For river crossings and evening camp.
1 x GAITERS: To help keep water/mud out of boots.
1 x WARM HAT.
1 x GLOVES.
1 x INSECT HEADNET: For escaping midges etc. (optional).
2 x UNDERWEAR: Sport or Cycling shorts don’t chafe.
2 x WATER BOTTLE or WATER BLADDER: You need to carry at least 2 litres of water. Nalgene bottles or Camelbak-style systems are recommended.
1 x BOWL: Lightweight.
1 x MUG.
1 x KNIFE/FORK/SPOON: Or a Spork etc.
WASH KIT: A small, basic wash kit with essentials.
TRAVEL TOWEL: Microfibre or similar. Fast drying and compact.
ANTIBACTERIAL HANDGEL: Keep this on you.
SANITARY PRODUCTS: Please bring nappy sacks and re-sealable plastic bags for disposal.
INSECT REPELLENT: Eg. Midge off, LifeSystems etc.
SUNCREAM: Factor 30+. Consider SPF lipbalm as well.
BASIC FIRST AID KIT: Secret Compass will carry a comprehensive first aid kit so you will only need personal supplies of painkillers, anti-inflammatories, blister care (Vaseline, blister plasters, foot powder), rehydration sachets. Any medication you normally use. Please inform Secret Compass of any pre-existing medical conditions and medication.
HEAD TORCH AND SPARE BATTERIES: Different brightness levels / red light may be useful but not necessary.
SUNGLASSES with UV- filter lenses. Consider a sports strap (croakies, chums etc).
SPARE GLASSES or CONTACT LENSES: Bring a hard case for protection and sealable plastic bags for any rubbish.
PENKNIFE: Penknife or multi-tool.
GAFFA TAPE: You can take some off the roll and wrap it around your water bottle for emergency repairs.
1 x KARABINER: For securing your rucksack.
SPARE BOOT LACES: Make sure they are the correct length for your boots.
Although this isn’t the longest or most remote expedition, we’d like you to read about our ethos and the planning we undertake for any expedition, be that in the UK hills of the Pamir Mountains of Afghanistan.
Secret Compass organises expeditions, not sightseeing tours. Our expeditions are team-centred, flexible and dynamic. Teams are managed on the ground by Secret Compass staff: industry-leading professionals and guides of the highest calibre. They put the structure in place for your team to have an incredible experience while achieving your expedition’s aims.
Secret Compass teams often go to places that others don’t. This makes our expeditions truly different, taking you beneath the skin and beyond the headlines of the world’s most remote reaches. Inspired by history’s great explorers and challenges, you’ll be set ambitious goals and will overcome similar hardships to those experienced on the audacious journeys of the past.
Remember this is not an organised tour. It is an adventure. More often than not expeditions don’t run smoothly! The nature of the areas we operate in mean we will encounter a number of challenges that we expect everyone to meet and relish.
Part of a team
Secret Compass fosters a team mentality across all its expeditions and projects. Like all teams you will have a leader who will give direction to your progress. Crucial to your team’s success – especially when the going gets tough – is the attitude of the teammates working together to achieve the aim. You really are part of a team, not a cosseted guest on a tour. We ask teammates to muck in and help out any aspect of the expedition, from fetching water and helping to prepare and cook food, to carrying some group kit and equipment if required. The working language of all teams is English.
There really is no typical expedition member, though everyone needs to be fit, healthy and ready to take on the expedition’s aim by the time of departure. Participants range from 21 to 65+ in age and come from all over the world. Backgrounds include contract workers and engineers, IT specialists and students, teachers and literature lovers, journalists and keen photographers and so many more. What bonds our pioneering teams is their shared spirit of adventure and their sense of humour and positive outlook. A good teammate looks on the bright side when the 4×4 breaks down, the rain comes early and when a meal is distinctly pedestrian. Our teammates help each other, look out for each, encourage each other and help each other when needed. Our teams have done us proud in working together to achieve their common goal: the aim of the expedition. If this sounds like you, you’ve come to the right expedition company.
You need a robust, spirited and can-do attitude to cope with demanding days and rough camping in rugged and wild places. You’ll cover good daily distances (generally carrying your own kit and equipment), eating expedition foods or relying on local food sources. These elements combine to create the unique character of each expedition. On expedition, challenges, frictions and changes to plans are inevitable. Teammates should meet and relish these as an integral part of any arduous expedition and its ultimate success. Such things make the journey more interesting and are often most memorable parts when looking back.
Secret Compass is an expedition company not a tour company. Expeditions contain inherent risk. This is part of the appeal for teammates. We do not make expeditions safe as, by definition, that is impossible. We construct and implement a three-staged risk management approach to reduce risk to what we perceive as a tolerable level.
We conduct a thorough risk assessment of potential hazards and threats that may be encountered on the expedition and provide recommendations to reduce the likelihood of harm occurring/ severity if it does occur.
As part of our expedition plan, we detail actions to be taken to implement and resource the recommendations of the risk assessment. This includes a detailed medical and communications plan.
The expedition leader is responsible for dynamic risk management on the expedition itself.
Key risks encountered on this specific expedition include eg. white water, horses, RTA, etc etc. If you would like to see the full Risk Assessment for this expedition, please email firstname.lastname@example.org
Incident management and medical
As part of the safety plan, Secret Compass has a full incident and emergency plan for medical and other emergencies. This will be discussed in full at the arrival brief, so everyone is aware what action will be taken. In summary, incidences are usually managed on the ground by the expedition leader in the first instance with remote support from Secret Compass’s 24 hour Operations Room before evacuation to the nearest appropriate medical centre.
It is your responsibility to understand the risks associated with adventure travel in remote areas. By joining this expedition, you accept the risks associated with the venture. If you require any more information on specific risk management for this adventure, or would like to speak to us about our medical planning prior to the trip, please get in touch.
Read team Testimonials or watch this short video featuring expedition teammates (filmed on location in Ethiopia) for an insight into life on expedition.
Here are some frequently asked questions that are specific to this expedition. Read our general FAQ too for questions such as ‘how do I join an expedition’ and more. Can’t find your answer? Contact SCHQ.
I’m a total newbie to trekking and camping outdoors. Can I come?
Absolutely. You just need to ensure that you are physically prepared as per the Fitness tab and Handbook’s instructions so that you can carry the weekend out. Ensure you have the right kit and that boots are worn in.
Can I bring a group?
Absolutely. If you want to bring a group on a particular weekend just ensure you book early to ensure everyone gets a place.
Can you run this just for my group?
Yes, get your group organised then get in touch to discuss dates and budgets.
I can’t swim. Can I join the team?
No. Due to the packrafting element of this adventure weekend, being a confident swimmer who’s able to swim at least 200m is a prerequisite.
I regularly make camping and hiking trips, is this weekend for me?
This weekend is designed to offer a glimpse into life on expedition for individuals to decide whether an adventure with nothing but a tent, a rucksack and few personal belongings is for them. If you often head out on your own independent weekend adventures in the UK or elsewhere, you might want to consider our Adventure Academy expedition to the Balkans as your opportunity to get a thorough grasp of skills in the outdoors.
I’m a vegetarian/vegan. Can I join?
Teammates with dietary requirements are welcome to apply for this expedition and should state their specific requirements when applying.
Can I arrive a day late?
As the plan outlines, there is a chain of transport to get teammates to the start of the trek so start and end dates are not flexible. You are, however, welcome to extend your trip either before or after the Secret Compass dates – please just make sure your visa will be valid for your entire stay.
Do I really need waterproofs in summer?
Have you ever been to Wales? We jest. Do take anything on your weekend’s kit list seriously as Secret Compass only recommends things we think you might need and the weather can be variable at any time of the year in Wales and indeed the UK in general.
Can I talk with other teammates?
Secret Compass will set up a WhatsApp group for this weekend, as it does with all expeditions. This will help you answer kit questions among yourselves and to perhaps organise shared lifts or meetups.
Will there be phone signal?
It’s highly likely that there’ll be phone signal at all times, potentially a bit patchy at times.
Can I charge my electrical items?
There will be sockets at the bunkhouse which might be fought over but yes, power at the bunkhouse. Once you set off on the weekend there will be no further power until around 1700 or 1800 on Sunday when you’re back in your cars or trains.
Do you provide further advice?
You might find our Get Ready section useful, with further advice about fitness, flights, travel insurance, visas and our approach to risk management. If you have any further questions, please contact Secret Compass for advice.
How can I join this team?
If you feel that the Handbook answers all your questions, you can request a space on the team by completing the booking form and submitting a deposit.