Category Archives: thrive

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Leave No Trace

Enjoying natural areas and leaving them in pristine condition

The best and most beautiful things in the world
cannot be seen or even touched -
they must be felt with the heart. Helen Keller

There are many different reasons why people head into natural areas to go bushwalking. Maybe to escape the hustle and bustle of everyday city life, maybe to clear the mind, maybe to get fresh air and exercise, or simply appreciate the beauty of nature. Whatever the reasons for heading into the bush, going there brings a unique connection to it, and nothing is more heartbreaking than seeing natural areas trashed by current and previous visitors.

Natural areas in Australia are important habitat for native wildlife including vulnerable and endangered wildlife. Having negligible impacts on natural areas is more than just carrying out rubbish. It extends to how much noise the group makes – maybe yelling at someone at the front of the group scared away a bird from its nest and young?- or even the smallest disturbance to rocks – perhaps that forced an insect out into an area where it is unprotected from predators.

Visitors to natural areas have a responsibility to help protect these areas from any degradation by following basic minimal impact bushwalking principles. Leave No Trace Australia is an organisation dedicated to inspiring and promoting responsible use of the outdoors through research, partnerships and education. It’s a national non-profit group that runs workshops and courses on the subject of minimal impact bushwalking.

The Leave No Trace guidelines describe best practice for visiting natural areas. They consists of seven principles:

  1. Plan ahead and prepare
  2. Travel on durable surfaces
  3. Dispose of waste properly
  4. Leave what you find
  5. Minimize campfire impacts
  6. Respect wildlife
  7. Consider hosts and other visitors

Check out this interactive website for tips on keeping natural places wild.

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Foot Care

Looking after your bushwalking feet

Be sure you put your feet in the right place,
then stand firm. Abraham Lincoln

Feet take a lot of wear and tear in day to day life and even more so on a bushwalk: the whole weight of the body is supported by feet as well as the additional weight of the pack. It’s easy to forget to look after your feet, but it’s important to carry out regular maintenance and checks to keep them in the best possible condition.

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Sun Protection

How to protect yourself from the sun

The Cancer Council’s “Slip, slop, slap” campaign is one of the most successful in Australian advertising history and has become part of Australian contemporary language. “Slip on a shirt, slop on sunscreen and slap on a hat” was the original campaign in the early 1980s, and was more recently extended to include “seeking shade” and “sliding on sunglasses” too.

Being well protected from the sun is an important part of bushwalking safety. Bushwalkers need to limit sun exposure to avoid dehydration, heat stroke, fatigue and sun cancers. Selecting good sun protection products such as hats, other clothing and sunglasses is essential. It assists to make sensible behavioural choices like planning the walk to avoid excessive sun exposure, having a well-shaded lunch spot, and making sure that everyone in the group is coping with the weather and the pace.

Spending time planning the walk and selecting comfortable and effective sun protection puts a bushwalking group in a better position to have a safe and enjoyable trip.

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Drinking Water

How much water to carry on a day walk

All the water that will ever be,
is right now. National Geographic, October 1993

Water is critical for life: humans need water for all basic biological processes to happen including muscle and nerves to function. These processes are all crucial for feeling good and making good decisions on a bushwalk.

Figuring out how much water to carry starts back home in the planning and preparation stage. Water requirements increase in hot and humid conditions and when active. Part of the trip preparation process involves looking at the weather forecast, figuring out what terrain the trip involved and also dressing appropriately for the conditions.

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Bushwalking Etiquette

Being considerate to others in the bush

Etiquette is the invention of wise men to keep fools at a distance. Richard Steele

Different cultures around the world have wildly different customs to others, and sometimes when people go traveling outside their own cultural, they can go into cultural shock, a feeling of total confusion about how to act or behave. Some actions viewed as exceptionally rude in one culture are highly complementary in another. For example, in Japan it’s standard practice to slurp when eating a bowl of noodles, whereas it’s the height of rudeness in Britain. These examples highlight different cultural norms around the world.

Within any culture there are sub-cultures, and these too have customs, rituals and expectations. These practices form the expected etiquette of that community and can vary in place and time. These practices are often ingrained and followed unconsciously. Etiquette guidelines strongly reflect the culture they’re held in, and getting these unspoken expectations correct can make a big difference to how easy it is to feel accepted by that community.

The bushwalking community is a good example of an Australian subculture with its own set of unique etiquette. In the bush, while the core etiquette ideas are similar, clubs (and states) have their own expectations and unique culture. The point of this etiquette article is not to dictate a set of rules, but rather to provide guidelines. Etiquette isn’t about being right or wrong, but rather it’s about knowing what the expectations of that community are so that if people stray from the norm, they do so knowingly.

Bushwalking etiquette involves being considerate to others before, during and after the walk and includes people within the group as well as others on the track. The etiquette around bushwalking is all about respecting how other people want to experience natural places and taking care of each other on the track.

While a walk is usually organised by a single leader, it’s not up to one person to make the trip a success. It comes down to every single member of the group being well prepared, turning up with the right expectations and equipment, and being an inclusive, respectful and courteous participant. These ideas all highlight that the actions of an individual can dramatically impact upon others and this is the focus of this etiquette article.