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Be Prepared

Useful gear to cope with the unexpected

Things sometimes don’t go to plan out in the bush: the weather might suddenly change, the group might be moving slower than anticipated, or there may be an injury.

Carrying a few extra pieces of gear makes it much easier to cope with any unexpected changes, and is essential for groups heading out on remote tracks. It gives that safety buffer, that is, enough capacity to survive when things change. Finishing a walk without any food left is fine, unless something goes wrong.

For longer walks, and walks out of phone reception, carry one PLB – personal locator beacon – in the group. Activate in situations that are (or potentially are) life-threatening. Also, each person in the group should carry a whistle for attracting attention. Some backpacks have an inbuilt whistle in the top chest strap.

Weather Useful gear to buffer against weather changes

Wearing appropriate clothing is an effective way of buffering unexpectedly hot, cold and wet weather conditions.

If conditions are hotter than expected, remove any tight, heavy clothing, drink plenty of water and monitor for early signs of dehydration. Avoid walking during the heat of the day and consider shortening the trip. Take appropriate action to minimise bushfire risk.

If conditions are cooler than expected, layer up with thermal layers and wear a beanie. Also, consider using rainjacket as an extra layer. Monitor for early signs of hypothermia. Avoid getting unnecessarily wet (e.g. optional river crossings) and consider shortening the trip.

If conditions become wetter than expected, pull on a raincoat (and extra thermal layers if needed) and seek temporary shelter. Assess options including shortening the trip. If a thunderstorm is approaching, take appropriate action to avoid being struck.

First Aid Kit Contents for dealing with injury in the bush

Carry at least one complete first aid kit among the group, ideally one that is tailored for dealing with injury/illness in a remote context.

Important items include:

  • Bandaids – a range of shapes/sizes (use good quality ones that stick well).
  • Alcohol wipes – for cleaning wounds.
  • Sterile non-stick compresses – for large, open wounds.
  • Triangular bandage – a range of uses.
  • Heavy Weight Crepe Bandage – for sprains, snake bites. Can buy bandages specifically for snake bites that have markings on them to help apply correct pressure.
  • Steri-strips – for holding together lacerations.
  • Medical tape (e.g. Elastoplast Classic)
  • Lighter – for sterilizing items e.g. tweezers.

Avoid pre-packaged first aid kits as they tend to lack essential items and comprise of poorer quality products. For a complete list of first aid contents, check out our first aid kit checklist.

Carry a personal first aid kit with any personal medication (e.g. asthma inhaler) and personal medical action plan (e.g. for asthma, angina, allergies).

For legal reasons, a first aider cannot administer drugs. Medication must be administered by the patient – this includes painkillers. Therefore, also carry personal supplies of medication for things like pain relief and anti-inflammation.

Benighted Kit Helpful gear if you have to spend the night out unexpectedly

Bushwalkers use the term ‘benighted’ to refer to the situation where the group is forced to stay out overnight. This could happen if the group misses an exit or takes longer than expected to traverse a section of the walk.

A few pieces of lightweight gear can make all the difference, and turns a tricky situation into something far more manageable: the aim is survival, not comfort.

  • Space blanket – a lightweight emergency blanket made of reflective foil. It’s waterproof and windproof, and the reflective foil reduces heat loss via thermal radiation.
  • Head Torch – helpful if walking at dusk or if the group gets benighted.
  • Emergency food – muesli bars have high energy to weight ratio, but anything else dense in energy (chocolate, biscuits, etc.) works.
  • Water purification tablets – to prevent illness from contaminated water.
  • Fire lighting kit – a lighter & fire starters for lighting an emergency fire to keep warm or attract attention. Small 3-5cm chunks of bicycle inner-tube work well as fire starters (lightweight and reliable), and are effective in wet conditions.
  • Watch – to figure out the pace of the group and how much time until nightfall.

Repair Kit Useful repair items

On longer walks, a small repair kit can be helpful.

  • Penknife – for cutting materials and making general repairs (also useful for first aid treatment e.g. cutting bandages).
  • Fishing line – for quickly repairing items such as clothing or backpacks.
  • Spare shoelaces – in case shoelaces break on the walk.
  • Cloth tape (e.g. Elastoplast Classic) has a variety of uses for temporarily repairing rips and tears in gear.
  • If carrying a hydration bladder, take suitable patches for repairing punctures (e.g. Thermarest repair stickers).

Download the complete Day Walk Gear Checklist.