Sometimes it’s important to get away from streets, shops, phone coverage and crowds of people. Whether it’s for a few hours or overnight, bushwalking is an excellent way to clear your head, work through some problems, get some exercise and enjoy Australia’s natural beauty – all at the same time. But it’s a much more rewarding experience if you do some work ahead of time.
Plan ahead before you go
The first step (after deciding “I’m going bushwalking”) is to figure out where you’re going to start and finish your walk. This might be the same spot, or you might plan to wander from one end of a national park to the other.
Either way, having a plan is a way better idea than striking out into the bush with no idea what’s going to happen or where you’ll end up. A topographical map and a compass are good things to have with you, especially if the path you’re taking is off the beaten track.
Go in a group of at least three
Even if you’re feeling like some solitude, the safest way to go bushwalking is with two other people. That way, if someone is injured, one of you can stay with them while the third person heads off to find help. This is when you’ll be happy you packed a deck of cards or something else to pass the time while you wait.
Know your limits – and your mates’ limits
Some of the more hardcore tracks require bushwalkers to clamber up or abseil down a rockface. When you’re doing your research, find out how tough the track is going to be well in advance – and make sure everyone in your party is going to be able to handle the conditions. Once you’re out there, move at the pace of your slowest walker. Don’t split up or someone could get lost.
Dress comfortably – and for the conditions
Think about the track you’ll be following. Do you have proper footwear? Long pants are good for avoiding spiky plants that whip at you along the trail, not to mention ticks. Check the weather forecast before you go, and make sure you’ve covered for whatever nature throws at you.
Wear a protective hat and sunscreen to avoid sunburn, and pack a plastic poncho to keep you dry if it rains. And even though you’ll be on the move, it doesn’t hurt to have some warm clothes with you. A wind-and-waterproof jacket is always a good idea.
Take provisions with you
At a basic level, you’ll need 2L of water per person, and some snacks to keep your energy levels up. You don’t need much food, but a sandwich, an orange, a couple of muesli bars and sultanas or dried fruit is a good amount to have with you. Don’t forget to pack salt, too, if you’re heading through terrain with leeches, and insect repellent to deal with mozzies and other creepy crawlies.
Let someone know where you’ll be
Before you go wandering in the bush, leave details of your planned trip with someone back in civilisation. This means telling them where you’re going, which route you’re taking and a rough estimate of when you think you’ll be back (assume a walking speed of 4km/hr). It’s easy to lose mobile coverage out in the wild, so make contact with the outside world as soon as you have bars again.
Bring out what you take in
Don’t leave rubbish in the bush. It’s a good idea to stuff a plastic bag in your backpack, so you can stow your orange peel, muesli bar wrappers and whatever else you want to chuck in the bin when you get back.