Category Archives: gear_daywalk

What to Wear

Advice on bushwalking clothing

Bushwalking clothes must feel comfortable. Any tight-fitting or heavy clothing such as jeans will get uncomfortable very quickly, and even more so when they’re wet and dirty. Choose light, loose clothing that feels comfortable to move and sweat in.

Shorts and shirt work well, although some people prefer long pants to protect their legs from vegetation. Collared shirts are preferable for sun protection because of the extra layer of fabric around the neck. Quick-dry materials are also helpful for keeping warm after a big hill climb (and sweating session) or a river crossing.

Some people get chafing between their thighs, caused by skin rubbing together or on clothing. It can be extremely uncomfortable but avoided by wearing protective clothing (e.g. lycra bike pants, long merino underwear) or using anti-chafing cream.

Like clothes, choose comfortable shoes. Use normal running shoes to get started, and only consider upgrading to a more heavy duty shoe after some research and chatting to other bushwalkers.

All bushwalking clothes and shoes will eventually get dirty and damaged, so use clothes and shoes that can afford to be ruined! And remember to pack swimmers if you’re going near water!

Hot weather Clothing in hot conditions

For warm to hot conditions use clothes that give good sun protection, but are made from materials that can breathe easily and prevent overheating. Use extra loose clothes to stay cool, and long-sleeved shirts for extra sun protection. Avoid fabrics that are old and worn because they are less effective at protecting from UV radiation.

Starting the walk in hot weather? Double check the forecast and bushfire alerts. Start walking early in the day, and aim for a long shady lunch break (preferably near water) when the sun is at it’s highest.

Cold weather Clothing in cold conditions

Layering – using multiple layers of clothing – is a more effective way to stay warm than using a single thick layer. Each layer traps air and together provide an effective insulating barrier to the cold. Layering also makes it possible to add or remove items as temperatures changes throughout the day.

Clothing provides warmth by trapping a layer of insulating air between the fabric and skin. This works well until the fabric gets wet from rain or sweat. How effectively a piece of clothing continues to insulate, depends on how the fabric behaves when wet.

When cotton gets saturated with sweat or water, it loses all insulating properties because it can no longer trap a layer of air next to the skin. By contrast, fabrics that wick moisture away from the skin are effective insulators. They take water away from the skin and up through the external layers keeping the layer closest to the skin dry. Wool is a natural wicking material, and polyester and polyethylene are synthetic ones.

Thermal tops and bottoms are popular in the outdoor community. They are lightweight, made from materials that are excellent insulators when wet, and can be used as layered clothing. They also come in some pretty groovy patterns, colours and designs.

Beware of certain materials’ stink factor. Synthetic materials tend to have higher odour than natural fibres because they harbour smelly bacteria and wick smelly oily sweat to the surface. The disadvantage with natural fibres is that they require careful looking after and cleaning and can be expensive. The good news is that certain products can be used to help ‘de-stink’ synthetic clothing.

Woolen or synthetic hats (aka beanies) are effective, lightweight clothing for bushwalks. Around 10% of body heat is lost through the head, which is roughly the surface area of the head relative to the rest of the body.
Beanies are small and easily crushable, not taking up much pack space, and can make a substantial difference on a cold day.

Starting the walk cold? Take a look at the weather forecast before leaving and adjust the number of layers you carry and wear to suit. Often, starting the walk heavily layered up means stopping and stripping off only 5 minutes into the walk!

Wet weather Clothing in wet conditions

In wet conditions, wear clothes that are still effective insulators when wet (e.g. polyester, polyethylene, wool), and use layers to keep as warm and dry as possible under a raincoat. Some people use waterproof pants to keep their lower half dry. Others prefer quick-dry shorts, keeping their legs free to negotiate the track in more challenging and slippery conditions. Most importantly, keep the vital organs (i.e. the top half) warm.

A waterproof jacket is a water-resistant jacket that can keep out driving rain. Water-resistant jackets are appropriate for some walking experiences while waterproof jackets are needed for others. Using a cheap water-resistant rain-jacket on short trips saves wear and tear on the expensive waterproof one: consider owning multiple jackets rather than aiming for a ‘one-size’ fits all approach.

There are three broad categories of raincoat:

  • The cheap and light one, for short easy walks. This is for warm, spring summer days to keep off a short rain shower or two. It’s primarily for comfort but doesn’t need to be too fancy because it’s not in use for long or in extreme weather. It’s cheap enough to be used regularly and thrown around a bit: it can also double up as a picnic rug! Avoid disposable ponchos because the loose material can easily get caught (and left behind) on trees and bushes.
  • The expensive, light one that packs down well. For use on longer day walks, walks in remote areas and overnight walks. Choose a material that is unlikely to rip, but is still lightweight. The jacket must be reliably waterproof in case the group gets caught in weather or is late back.
  • The heavy duty expensive one. This is for multi-day trips in wet or alpine environments: thick, heavy material with excellent waterproof qualities. For use on trips where you are mostly wearing it or can store it at the top of the pack under the lid pocket.

Other useful equipment in wet conditions includes:

  • A broad-brimmed hat to keep the rain off head, hair, ears and eyes. Hats with leather or wax coatings repel water.
  • An umbrella! As ridiculous as it sounds, quite effective at keeping the rain off when you’re going for a stroll in the bush (providing the track isn’t overgrown).

Glasses wearers may consider using contact lenses in wet conditions: foggy lenses with raindrops makes for difficult walking! Alternatively, a clean dry cloth to regularly wipe the lenses is essential, and a broad-brimmed hat may somewhat help keep rain off.

Download our complete Day walk gear checklist.

Food and Drink

How much food and water to carry

For a fun and safe trip, it’s important that everyone in the group packs and drinks enough drinking water throughout the bushwalk.

Allocate 0.5 L of water for every 1 hour of walking. For example, on a 4-hour walk, carry 2 L of water. Keep one container near the top of the pack for easy access.

Some walks pass water sources (rain-tanks, cafes, streams) where water bottles can be refilled with drinking water, but be careful about relying on these as water tanks can run dry.

In some cases, water can be collected and treated on the track. On longer trips carry water treatment tablets.

Snacks Great snacks to carry

Snacks are a great way to boost dwindling energy resources. Carry foods that can be eaten on the move, and have a high energy to weight ratio.

  • muesli bars
  • fruit (fresh or dried)
  • nuts
  • crackers
  • biscuits
  • English muffins
  • peanut butter sandwiches
  • scroggin (aka trail mix)

Pack any chocolates (or muesli bars with chocolate pieces) in zip lock bags to prevent them from melting inside the backpack. Avoid using external or lid pockets for chocolate (or other heat-sensitive foods) because they tend to heat up the quickest.

Lunch Great food for lunch

Lunch is a time to relax, take in the surroundings and refuel. Take foods that need minimal preparation in the field. Either pre-prepared sandwiches or wraps (with spread, cheese, salad etc.), or take base ingredients that are quick to assemble.

Some ideas include:

  • Bread: flatbread, wraps or mountain bread.
  • Crackers: savory wheat or rice.
  • Toppings: cheese, salami, jerky, small tins or packets of tuna
  • Spreads: hummus, tahini, vegemite, peanut butter, jam, honey.
  • Extra protein: sachets or tins of tuna, salami, salmon.
  • Fresh veggies: cherry tomatoes, carrots, cucumber, celery, apples.

Sometimes it’s nice to bring a small cake or other sweet treats to share with the group.

Backup Food Food to carry as backup

Backup food is a good idea on longer trips or trips into remote areas.

Backup food should not require any preparation and should be edible on the move so that it can be used in situations where the group is delayed, or there has been an unexpected event.

Muesli bars are a great backup food because they are lightweight and filling: carry ones that have high energy content for their weight. Sweet biscuits are another good option.

Snacks such as lollies and dried fruit also work, but being lower in carbohydrate content don’t provide as long-lasting energy release as muesli bars or biscuits.

Download our complete Day Walk Gear Checklist.

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.

Navigation Equipment

Navigation equipment to pack for on track day walks

Navigation is the process of planning and following a particular route. This requires matching a physical location onto a map and vice-versa.

In an urban context, navigation relies heavily on GPS units (now ubiquitous in mobile devices), however, in the bush if the device fails or runs out of battery, there must be a backup.

Therefore, using multiple of navigational aids (including paper maps and compass) is advisable, particularly when entering remote areas.

Navigational aids include:

Track notes How to use bushwalking track notes

Track notes generally provide information on walk length and approximate time for completion and give an indication of the difficulty. Most notes include some kind of map, but the quality varies (e.g. the map may schematic, rather than topologically accurate). Some track notes include specific navigation information (e.g. turn left at the intersection) and information on facilities (e.g. parking, toilets, lookouts).

Before the walk, print out and read track notes. Re-read notes on the morning of the walk. Store notes in a waterproof case that is easily accessible (e.g. zip-lock bag or map case). Refer to notes and map regularly throughout the walk. Every couple of hundred meters cross check the map with the physical surrounds. If the surrounds don’t match, stop, assess, and retrace steps if necessary.

Carry multiple sets of tracks notes in the group in case one set gets lost.

Download track notes for bushwalking in NSW from Wildwalks.

Map & compass Topographic maps & compass used for bushwalking

Topographic maps graphically represent topological (mountains, valleys, slopes), hydrographic (creeks, rivers) and other natural or urban features. Features are drawn to scale on a coordinate grid so users can determine their relative and absolute positions. Using a map and compass, bushwalkers can plan and navigate a walking route.

Map reading is a skill that takes time to master but opens up off-track walking options. Bushwalkers can determine the most efficient way to navigate down a ridge, cross a river, and even avoid scrub just by using a map and compass.

For on-track walking, bushwalkers rarely use a compass to identify where they are on a track, but rather rely on other map features (e.g. hilltop, creek junction). However, a compass can be useful if someone needs to step off the track to go to the toilet.

Mapcase Why carry a mapcase?

A map case protects maps and track notes from damage and weather, and can be worn around the neck for easy reading. Even a small amount of rain can make notes illegible, and maps can be easily lost when scrambling along a bushwalking track.

A few more tips:

  • Use a water-tight map case that is big enough to see a good amount of the track.
  • Keep the map on one side of the case and the track notes on the other side; flip between sides to view notes and map without having to open up the case (keeps maps and notes protected from water and damage).
  • Carry multiple sets of tracks notes in the group in case one set gets lost.

GPS/smartphone Electronic navigation equipment

GPS units and smartphones can be helpful at pinpointing where the group is on the track but for off-track walking, additional map reading skills are needed to identify and navigate a course through the bush.

Avoid relying heavily on electronic GPS units in case of failure. Carry spare batteries and suitable protection for the unit and batteries from rain/heat/cold (e.g. zip-lock plastic bag stored at the bottom of back).

Respect others on the bushwalk: a common reason that people go bushwalking is to escape the overload of modern technology. If using the phone as a GPS device, turn it to silent and only make phone calls in an emergency.

Download our Day Walk Gear Checklist.

Bonus Gear

Extra gear for comfort

Some extra gear can make for a fun and memorable bushwalk – these items will add extra weight, so choose wisely!

  • Camera – for taking photos of the group or wildlife.
  • Binoculars – for examining the landscape or wildlife.
  • Cooking equipment (billy and stove) or thermos – for that nice cuppa half way through the walk.
  • Foam mat to sit on at lunch – can make the lunch stop a bit more comfortable.
  • Cards – for entertainment on the way home or over lunch.
  • Spare clothes and snacks for journey home (to leave in car).
  • Walking poles – some people find these ease the pressure on the knees (particularly on steep sections).
  • Notebook & pencil – useful to take down numbers and details of the group or for use in an unexpected situation.
  • Swimmers & towel – if the walk goes near a nice swimming hole!
  • Pack cover – protects against rain.
  • Gaiters & gloves – additional protective clothing.
  • Lip balm – to prevent lips getting chapped.

Download our Day Walk Gear Checklist.

Day Walk Backpack

How to pack for a day walk

Backpacks vary in shape, size, colour, contents and so on. It’s a personal choice what works best. For starting out, just use an old pack, no bigger than 30 L capacity. On the track, chat to other bushwalkers about what they like in a backpack and consider trialing a few different packs before buying.

A few features to watch out for:

  • Durability: select materials (straps, buckles) that are sturdy and check that the seams are well stitched. Also, check how easy it will be to make repairs (some companies offer repairs under the initial warranty).
  • Ventilation: modern backpacks sit slightly off the back (either with an external frame or with mesh fabric) generating airflow, allowing sweat to evaporate more easily, and keeping the user cool.
  • A separate hydration compartment to keep the water bladder in position and limits damaged.

Waterproofing How to waterproof a backpack

Separate gear into things that can and can’t get wet and water-proof accordingly.

Examples of gear that needs waterproofing:

  • Clothes
  • Maps
  • Food (e.g. biscuits, bread)
  • Phone

Examples of gear that can get wet:

  • Penknife
  • Compass
  • Plastic-wrapped lollies
  • Sunscreen

Double wrapping gear in garbage bags is a reasonably effective way of keeping gear dry. Alternatively, dry bags work well but are more expensive and easily damaged (if too thin). Some packs have inbuilt pack-covers that provide an additional waterproof lining, although generally not good enough to keep out the heavier rain.

Order of packing What order to pack gear

Less is more when it comes to bushwalking: a lighter pack makes it easier to walk through and enjoy the bush.

Pack heavy gear (e.g. water bottles) close to the spine as this is most effective way of distributing the weight.

Keep a small water bottle near the top of the bag or in a side pocket for easy access.

Keep snacks also handy, either in the lid pocket or side pocket.

Download our Day Walk Gear Checklist.