Nige Robinson and Olly Sanders are two highly respected sea kayak coaches with a wealth of expedition experience. Following on from other sea-kayak-related DVDs and books, they have teamed up to produce an instructional DVD focused purely on expeditioning.

The DVD has an immense running time of 3 hours and 49 minutes, which has to be the longest running time of any sea kayaking DVD on the market. While the DVD has been put together by Nige and Olly, the cast list reads like a Who’s Who of sea kayaking paddlers, coaches and expeditioners. A rough count of around 20 ‘guest appearances’ means that the content of this DVD draws on a huge base of experience and, importantly, a broad range of views and opinions.

The DVD can be watched in its entirety, or you can dip into any of the seven main chapters: Introduction; Planning; Expedition Kit; Food, Fuel Fluids; Looking After Yourself; and Safety and Communications; and Appendices. Selecting any of these chapters produces a further menu of several subchapters for each section. Spending a little bit of time exploring these gives an insight into the quantity of material on the DVD, but also reinforces the feeling that this is a DVD to watch in stages rather than attempt to digest in one sitting.

The introductory chapter begins with an overview of the DVD from Olly Sanders followed by a vast array of short clips from a huge range of well-known expedition paddlers answering the question: ‘What does expeditioning mean to me?’ It serves as an introduction to some of the characters who pop up throughout the rest of the DVD and gives an insight into why folks choose to and enjoy extended trips in sea kayaks.

From here on, each chapter/subchapter examines a different aspect of expeditions in a relatively systematic approach from planning and preparation of an expedition to undertaking the actual trip. What’s impressive is the sheer breadth of topics covered. From picking the team to insurance, repair kits to boat choice, communication devices to carrying firearms. The list goes on and on and the more unusual topics that are discussed serve to demonstrate the practical experience of the various presenters.

For some chapters Olly and Nige take a lead in presenting the information. Other chapters lend themselves to lots of shorter clips of multiple paddlers giving their views. This can be a little disjointed at times, but overall makes complete sense. The differing viewpoints highlight the wealth of experience on offer, providing a well-balanced view of topics such as ‘style of expedition’ or ‘picking your team’.

The footage for the DVD has been collected over a long period of time and includes footage filmed on a range of different quality cameras and in different formats. Olly does explain this at the start of the DVD and, quite rightly, justifies their desire to include footage from a range of trips and locations. This means that at times the DVD does not feature beautiful high-definition widescreen imagery with perfect sound, but instead makes use of wobbly standard-definition film with plenty of background noise (predominantly high winds)! This adds to the flavour of the Expedition Skills DVD and gives a more homemade and gritty feel, which suits the subject matter.

The target audience for this DVD could be wide ranging in terms of experience. To that end, the presenters do not shy away from starting with absolute basics. For example, a discussion on clothing starts with the layering principle which, for most paddlers, is simple stuff. However, what they do well is to ensure that most of the time they add extra snippets of information to give an expedition-specific slant to the discussion.

Pretty much across the board in this DVD, the presenters have a laidback style. This approach might come across as a little too unscripted for some, but I appreciated the relaxed nature of the narration and discussion. The presenters are also humble enough to draw on their experiences when perhaps the wrong decision was made, in order to illustrate the points they are making.

I suspect more experienced expedition paddlers may find the content a little on the basic side; however, they are not the target audience for this DVD. Expedition Skills covers such a vast range of topics that it is not just for paddlers looking to undertake extreme expeditions to extreme locations. There is as much useful content for paddlers looking to progress from day paddles to 2–3 day trips as for those thinking about extended trips in more remote locations. Not all the content will be relevant to all paddlers, but what Nige and Olly have done is cover all bases in a style that is easily accessible. It does not leave the viewer with the feeling that living out of a boat is the preserve of a hardcore few, but instead something to be enjoyed by all paddlers. Add to that the opportunity to hear from such an array of experienced paddlers and the shear quantity of material included, Expedition Skills presents excellent value for money.