My leave got approved last week and I’m now in the final stage of preparing for my next big bushwalk. Last year around this time I walked the South Coast Track and even though it was frustrating to walk at times due to very bad track conditions, the pristine beaches and rough coastline were an amazing experience that made me want to see more of the South West National Park in Tasmania, especially along the coast line.
I don’t want to reveal too much for now, I’m planning to stay in the bush for up to two weeks, the route is around 130km long and part of it is untracked country, so I will have to navigate myself to find the right way. I’m very excited and if all goes well you can expect a full diary with photos, maps and all in a couple of weeks.
Since I started bushwalking in Tasmania, I’ve constantly improved my equipment, food and walking preparations. As a tech-savvy IT guy I run a small wiki on my computer where I document projects, notes and other noteworthy things. If there’s anything I really dislike then it’s probably going on holidays and then finding out I forgot to take something with me. So I always try to be well organised and I prepare checklists for important ventures like going bushwalking. Sometimes it’s exciting to go on holidays totally unprepared - like I did with Thailand some weeks ago - but for bushwalking in Tasmania being unprepared or underequipped is not recommended.
So at some point I started a list of important equipment. Every now and then I added something, edited something else, replaced things. By now I believe my list is fairly complete, and I noticed how much of a helper it is when I can simply print out a checklist and then walk around the house, collect everything and I don’t need to worry anymore that I forgot something.
I’m getting more and more feedback from people who want to go hiking in Tasmania and find my blog on Google, so I thought it could be interesting to post a basic checklist for the trip I am currently preparing for, some people might find it useful for their own preparations. Keep in mind this is the equipment that works well for me, it doesn’t mean it will work for you. Take it as an inspiration. Also please be aware that I’m a summer-hiker, so for winter-hiking you might want to add some warmer gear.
Update. Some clarification, to avoid confusion: I don’t carry all of this stuff, it’s only a list of stuff that may be needed or not, and I carry whatever I need depending on the trip and destination I’m planning for. Always try to leave as much as possible at home to save weight.
- Backpack with rain cover
- Pack liner. Don’t trust your backpack, even if it says ‘water-proof’.
- Daypack. So I can leave your big pack behind when going on daytrips or small sidetrips along the main track. Here’s a recommendation, I own one of these myself.
- Rubbish bag. Always remember: leave no trace.
- Water bottle or tank.
- Passport or other ID. In case of an accident people should be able to find out who I am.
- Booking confirmations. E.g. for transport bookings, or for the Overland Track where bookings are required in season.
- National Parks Pass. This is required for all National Parks in Tasmania. Money goes into track and campsite maintenance, so please don’t try to get around buying one, it’s really not expensive.
- Maps. When walking on well established tracks like the Overland Track, normal walking maps often are all you need. For more remote destinations, there are detailed 1:25.000 maps from Tasmap, but they don’t list many campsites.
- Tide timetables. This is sometimes useful in order to plan ahead on tracks where you need to cross lagoons or rivers, or where you need to walk along narrow beaches that can be flooded in high tide.
- Tent. You can save heaps of weight with the right tent. I currently use a Vango Helium 100 that weighs only 1kg and I’m very happy with it. Even if there are huts along the track, I always carry a tent, there’s no guarantee bunk beds will be available. And I prefer to sleep outside anyway - no chance for snorers.
- Tent ground sheet. I always carry a ground sheet to protect the tent floor.
- Tarp. I found out it’s an excellent combination to carry a lightweight tent and a tarp. At the campsite I set up the tarp first and then I can set up the tent and everything else in the dry even during rain. Nothing worse than setting up or packing up a tent in the rain - very annoying. The tarp also provides storage area.
- Sleeping bag
- Sleeping bag liner. Not really essential but good to have.
- Sleeping matress. Good sleep matters to me, so I recently bought an Exped SynMat 7 Pump and I am extremely happy with it so far.
- Inflatable pillow. Some people prefer using a pillow case and stuffing clothes inside, but it didn’t work well for me. Instead I found an inflatable one for $5 in an outdoor shop in Hobart.
- Pot. I don’t like cooking complicated things on the track, so I always prepare one-pot meals and therefore I only carry one single light metal pot.
- Stove & Gas. I never tried fuel stoves, but I’m very happy with my Kovea gas stove. One 230g gas can easily lasts for 10 days even when using it three times a day. And I love the comments from fuel stove owners when they see how tiny my stove is compared to theirs.
- Cutlery. For this trip I will use an all-in-one piece, it’s fork, knife and spoon in one light plastic piece. Found it in an outdoor store for $2 or $3.
- Sponge. Leave your soap at home, but a sponge and maybe a tea towel work well for me.
Safety / Health
- EPIRB / PLB. This is essential and should be carried on all multi-day walks in Tasmania. You can hire one at Service Tasmania.
- GPS. Well I would say this is really only needed on routes where there are no formed tracks. On the Overland or South Coast Track you can still walk safely even without it, a good map and maybe a book with walker’s notes - like the ones from John Chapman - should suffice as long as you don’t go off-track. On my next walk I will carry GPS however, as the route crosses untracked country.
- First aid kit plus whistle, tape, ear/eye covers and small scissors.
- Basic medication like Aspirin and Paracetamol.
- Water treatment pills. Although it is generally safe to drink water from flowing streams (nothing more refreshing than Tasmanian mountain water), sometimes water sources might be limited to tarns or rain tanks. If in doubt, treat the water before you drink it. Alternatively boil it for 2-3 minutes.
- Toilet paper
- Small mirror. Can be used to attract attention in case of emergency.
- Bio-degradable tooth paste and soap.
- Sun screen
- Microfibre towel
- Mosquito repellent
- Camera with spare batteries
- Radio / MP3. With a radio you can often listen to the early morning weather forecast. MP3 player might be useful if you need to stay in the camp for a day or two in case of bad weather. I don’t carry a radio myself, but I used to take an old iPod shuffle with me, however I’ve never used it except on the bus back to Hobart after the trip, the sound of nature is just too beautiful to ruin it with music.
- Phone. Keep in mind reception is very limited in remote areas, even with Telstra. On some summits like Mt Ossa friends of mine had reception with Telstra. For maximum safety you would need a satellite phone.
Tools and helpers
- MacGyver knife. Essential, no question. MacGyver is my hero. You may not need it to defuse bombs, but there’s plenty of other use for it.
- Compass. Also useful is knowledge of how to use a compass…
- Spare shoelaces. This may sound weird but after several days of walking the wet and muddy South Coast Track the shoelaces on my shoes actually happened to break. I fixed it with string but carrying spare ones cannot hurt.
- Repair sets for tent and sleeping mattress. Often they come with repair kits, don’t forget to take them with you.
- Pen and paper / pocketbook. For keeping a travel diary, but also for leaving notes in case of emergency.
- Waterproof matches
- Torch / head torch
- Book or other reading material.
- String. Essential, believe me this can be used for plenty of things like clothes line, fixing broken gaiters or shoes, helping to fix your tent on tent platforms, hanging your food bag on a tree during the night (to protect from possums and quolls)…
As mentioned above I prefer one-pot meals, that’s food where everything is in one bag and you only add boiling water. I used to dehydrate my own meals at home using a food dehydrator, but only recently I found an awesome shop in Hobart that sells selfmade dehydrated hiking food. So I bought several of their meals and will give it a try, it looks much better than my own meals, see the photo on top of the page.
- Breakfast, lunch, dinner food. I always plan with 1-3 extra days depending on track.
- Tea / coffee
- Snacks. I always eat tons of muesli bars and chocolate peanuts during the day. Australians call it ‘scroggin’.
- Waterproof food bag to store it all. Ideally it would also be airtight so it doesn’t attract too many animals during the night.
Food is really dependent on individual likings. I usually eat muesli in the morning. For this I prepare a zip-lock bag for each day and fill it with muesli and milk powder. In the mornings I only need to add water. But I admit after a few days I usually get sick of the milk powder.
Lunch is more difficult, I often skip lunch and walk straight to the next campsite where I have dinner. Recently I’m trying to get used to having lunch break, for this I will carry some salami, cheese, crackers and dried fruit.
Dinner is simple, rehydrating one of the meals and maybe having a cup of tea - a great end to a successful day.
Only essential things and ideas here, this is largely dependent on individual likings and / or season.
- Waterproof boots. After I recently bought a pair of heavy leather boots I would say it’s definitly worth investing in full-leather ones. With mash or fabric on the sides you are much more likely to walk most of the track with wet feet.
- Gaiters. They prevent me from scratches and most important snake bites. They also provide cover from mud and to a certain degree from water.
- Rain protection. Jacket and overtrousers.
- Zip-off hiking trousers. Look for fast-drying fabric, no cotton.
- Hat / cap. Mainly for sun or rain protection.
- Flip-flops. For walking around the camp site, beach or simply whenever you don’t want to wear the boots.
- Microfibre underwear. Additionally I wear compression underwear that keeps me warm and dry.
- Thermal shirt.
- Gloves and beanie. Even in summer it can get surprisingly cold in the mountains.
- Spare clothing set. I usually carry a set of long underwear, a fleece jacket and maybe light pants for walking around the campsite when I don’t wear hiking clothes.
- Hiking socks. Everyone has their own ways for preventing blisters. Recently I was told it helps to rub your feet and toes with soap before putting on socks. I will give it a try, sounds good.
During the day I usually wear a windbreaker fleece vest on top of my compression shirt, it is warm but still gives enough freedom in movements. When it’s colder I add a thermo shirt between them.
As mentioned before, this list should only be used as an inspiration when preparing a hiking trip in Tasmania. I don’t claim it is complete, neither is it required that you have the exact same gear, I only want to share what works well for me. After all, this list is largely based on my own experience I got from hiking in Tasmania, so you might find it useful. Normally of course I don’t carry all of this, only what is appropriate for the trip I am planning.