A checklist of things I may need (or not) when I go hiking
Every now and then I receive emails from people who want to go hiking in Tasmania, find my blog on Google and ask me for advice. I thought it might be interesting to post a basic checklist, or a list of equipment I use myself when I go bushwalking or hiking — some people may 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 necessarily work for you. Take it as an inspiration. Also please be aware that I’m a summer-hiker, so for winter-hiking you may need to add warmer gear.
Note: I don’t carry all of the stuff listed here on every trip — it’s only a list of things that may be needed or not, and I carry whatever I need depending on the trip and destination I’m planning for. 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. The list is largely based on my own experience I got from hiking in Tasmania and on mainland Australia.
Always try to leave as much as possible at home to save weight. Hiking lightweight is the best hiking experience.
This is probably where the most weight can be saved with the right equipment. With a lightweight backpack, a lightweight tent and a lightweight sleeping mattress you can already save many kilograms of weight.
- Backpack. No backpack is waterproof, so make sure it has either a rain cover, or a waterproof liner inside. Previously I used a sturdy old Lowe Alpine Cerro Torre which never let me down, but I was always looking for something more comfortable. Now I’m using an Aarn Effortless Rhythm with two large Expedition balance pockets. I'm surprised at how comfortable this pack is.
- Tent. You can save heaps of weight with the right tent. I used to take a Vango Helium 100 with me, that weighed only 1kg and was very compact to carry. For a little bit more comfort, I later switched to a Big Agnes Seedhouse SL1, which is just above 1kg, very affordable and has enough space for me and all my gear. Even if there are huts along the trail, I always carry a tent, there’s no guarantee bunk beds will be available. And I prefer to sleep outside anyway — fresh air, and no chance for snorers. If you travel alone your tent shouldn’t weigh more than 1.5kg.
- Sleeping bag. Make sure it’s warm enough — however, a sleeping bag is also an item where you can save a lot of weight with the right gear. I have an ultra-light one for hot regions, and for all other trips I currently use a Sea to Summit Trek II. There is no sleeping bag that suits every climate — if it's too cold you can try wearing more clothes or add a sleeping bag liner before buying a warmer sleeping bag, although I've been told a down sleeping bag works best while wearing only a thin layer of clothes.
- Sleeping mattress. I’m currently using a Thermarest NeoAir Xlite and it’s awesome. It folds down to about the size of a can of soda and weights only about 350g. So far I never felt cold during the night, so it seems to be insulated well. It’s also comfortable and easy to inflate. Can’t say much about the durability yet. Before the Thermarest I was using an Exped SynMat 7 Pump. Generally I was happy with that one too, but after less than 5 years of usage it was leaking air all around the seams and making a warranty claim was not possible due to Expeds stupid warranty policy. Therefore I wouldn't buy another Exped. Read more in this trip report where I used the Thermarest for the first time.
- Daypack. On longer trips I often find it useful to have an additional smaller backpack so I can leave my big pack behind when going on day trips or small side trips along the main track. The Sea to Summit Ultra-Sil is perfect, I own two of these myself and usually take one of them with me on longer trips.
- Tent ground sheet. When using an ultra-light tent on rocky ground, a ground sheet can be useful to protect the thin tent floor. Some tents, like mine, have optional ground sheets that you can purchase, but in any other case a large plastic canvas will do.
- Water bottle. I carry two 1l water bottles. I try to drink as much as possible before I head off on a walk, so on most trips one or two bottles have been more than enough, and often there are opportunities to re-fill along the track. Some people prefer hydration bladders but I don't. They tend to get filthy quickly, and then they are a pain to clean. Using bottles is also more convenient when using Micropur water treatment pills (which are available in most hiking shops in Australia) because they are designed for use in 1l of water. Generally, planning ahead is important, so make sure you know where the next opportunity to fill up the bottles is located. Fill up whenever you get the chance, don’t risk running out of water.
- Rubbish bag. Always remember: leave no trace. You carry it in and you carry it out. If you see anyone leaving their rubbish behind, do the right thing and notify the park rangers (seriously). I take a normal kitchen rubbish bag and keep it in my (air-tight) food bag, so it won’t attract rats or possums at night.
- Inflatable pillow. Most people won’t need this and are happy to use some of their clothes as a pillow, but I never liked it. Instead I found an inflatable one for $5 in an outdoor shop. Doesn’t add much weight, but improves my sleep.
- Microfibre towel. Out of curiosity I once bought a tiny Sea to Summit Pocket Towel. Even though mine is the smallest version, it’s the only towel I need when hiking. It dries super quick and can be used for washing, drying dishes, anything.
- Swiss army knife. Essential, tried and tested, approved by MacGyver. You may not need it to defuse bombs, but there’s plenty of other use for it. I would recommend getting one with a saw and scissors.
- Compass. Also useful is knowledge of how to use a compass. When hiking on well established tracks you won't need one — only consider it when going off-track in remote areas. It's worth remembering that most smartphones have a compass app built-in these days, so that may just be enough.
- Pen and paper. Just in case, for keeping a travel diary, but also for leaving notes in case of emergency, or when someone stole the pen for the campsite log book.
- Waterproof matches. Many stoves have a piezo igniter built-in, but mine tends to fail every now and then, so it's good to have an alternative.
- Torch / head torch. LED is best. It's worth replacing the batteries before longer trips.
- Hat. When hiking in Australia you should always wear a hat, sunburn quickly ruins a trip. I love Akubra hats, but almost any will do.
- String. One of my essentials. Carrying 2-3m of string can be useful for plenty of things like setting up a clothes line to dry your wet hiking gear, fixing broken gaiters or shoes, helping to fix your tent on tent platforms and many more.
- Small shovel. To bury your human waste when there is no toilet around.
- Camera. Depending on the length of the trip include enough spare batteries and keep them stored in a warm pocket, ideally. If it gets cold during the night then the battery is often flat in the morning. Just carry it in a warm pocket for a while and it should work again later.
- Phone. Keep in mind reception is very limited in remote areas in Australia, even with Telstra. On summits like Mt Ossa in Tasmania though, you may have reception with Telstra. For maximum safety you would need to carry a satellite phone. For the best wilderness experience I suggest leaving your phone switched off for the duration of the trip (unless you really need it). There is really nothing worse than people who travel to wilderness areas and then ‘live-blog’ everything to Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.
- EPIRB / PLB (emergency satellite beacon). This is essential and I always have one with me, even on day walks in remote areas. You can hire one at Service Tasmania. Make sure you understand the circumstances that would justify activating a PLB. Activating it only so you can fly home in a helicopter can land you a huge fine.
- GPS. Really only needed on routes where there are no formed tracks, like when you go off-track bush-bashing. On tracks like the Overland Track or South Coast Track the track is well established and you won’t need it. Some people still carry one so they can track their movements and later plot it onto a map.
- iPad. I usually take an iPad mini with me, for note-taking. I put it into airplane mode and it lasts 1-2 weeks. You could also pre-load it with some books. It’s lighter than carrying physical books.
- Money. In remote country towns you often can’t pay with card, so make sure to carry some cash. To save weight, consider leaving the rest of your wallet (including any coins) at home.
- Passport or other ID. In case of an accident people should be able to find out who you are.
- 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 you don’t really need a map, but it’s useful for planning a few days ahead. For more remote destinations, there are detailed 1:25.000 maps from Tasmap, but they don’t tend to list many campsites.
- Tide timetables. 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 during high tide (e.g. South Coast Track, Great Ocean Walk). If you have an iPhone you could try an app like WillyWeather that includes tide times.
Health & Safety
- First aid kit. It should include a whistle, and small scissors unless your Swiss army knife already has them. Something I often need and therefore I make sure I've got plenty in my kit: adhesive bandage (for treating blisters and scratches).
- Basic medication. Aspirin, Paracetamol and anything else you need.
- Water treatment pills. Although in wilderness areas it is usually safe to drink water from flowing streams (nothing more refreshing than Tasmanian mountain water), sometimes water sources can be limited to tarns, bore water or rain tanks. If in doubt, treat the water before you drink it. Micropur water treatment pills have worked well for me, but some people carry entire water filter systems. Alternatively boil it for 2-3 minutes.
- Toiletry bag. Toothbrush and more. You can save a lot of weight here by leaving stuff at home, e.g. razor, hair styling, shower gel etc. Try to look for bio-degradable tooth paste and soap.
- Toilet paper. That’s right, on most campsites in remote Tasmania and elsewhere you need to bring it. If there is no toilet at the campsite, please follow the rules and bury your waste, far enough away from water sources.
- Sun screen. Essential, everywhere in Australia.
- Mosquito repellent. Not always needed, depends much on where you go. Often the same can be achieved by simply covering up and not wearing shorts and t-shirt later in the evening.
Clothing is very much dependent on individual likings and / or season. The items listed here are only a loose list of items worth considering.
Try to get lightweight and fast-drying materials, such as Merino wool or synthetic fibres. Avoid cotton and jeans.
You can obviously save a lot of weight by wearing the same clothes every day. I usually carry a separate set of clothing for the night.
- Waterproof storage bag. Even if you think your backpack is already waterproof it’s worth keeping all clothes in a waterproof stuff sack.
- Waterproof boots. When hiking in Southwest Tasmania it’s definitely worth investing in full-leather boots. With mash or fabric on the sides you are much more likely to walk most of the track with wet feet. In dry regions though I much prefer my KEEN hiking shoes, the most comfortable hiking shoes I have ever had.
- Gaiters. They can prevent scratches and snake bites. They also provide cover from mud and to a certain degree from water. On well-established tracks I tend to leave them at home.
- Rain protection. Jacket and over-trousers.
- Zip-off hiking pants. Look for fast-drying fabric, no cotton.
- Crocs. For walking around the camp site or beach, and also perfect for creek-crossings.
- Thermal underwear. My personal preference is stuff made from Merino wool.
- Gloves and beanie. Even in summer it can get surprisingly cold in the mountains.
- Hiking socks. Everyone has their own ways of preventing blisters, but my experience with Injinji toe socks has been very good.
During the day I usually only wear a long-sleeve Merino shirt, and if it's a cold day, a t-shirt on top of it.
Food & Cooking
Another area where plenty of weight can be saved. Try to get lightweight aluminium or titanium cooking gear. Keep your meals simple and you can keep your equipment simple too.
- Pot. I don’t like cooking complicated things on the trail, so I always aim for one-pot meals and therefore I only carry one light metal pot. Mine is similar to the 775ml MSR Alpine Stowaway Pot and it's perfect, I've been using it since 2008.
- Stove & gas container. I never tried fuel stoves, because I’m very happy with my Kovea gas stove. One 230g gas container easily lasts for one week 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.
- Wind shield. Cooking outside when it’s windy can be very frustrating, it takes forever to heat things up. Some hiking shops sell lightweight wind shields that can be wrapped around stoves. It’s really worth it, but you could probably build one yourself with some cardboard.
- Cup. Try to get a cup made from steel or titanium, so you can place it directly on your stove to boil water for a cup of tea or coffee.
- Cutlery. All I carry is a titanium spork (spoon with integrated fork) and for cutting I have my Swiss army knife.
- Sponge. For cleaning dishes. Leave your soap at home. You can also save space by only taking half a normal kitchen sponge.
- Waterproof and airtight food bag. Essential. Possums, rats and quolls can smell your food and will even go as far as biting holes into your tent to get your food. In my experience it’s best to store all food, rubbish and cooking equipment in an airtight bag at night. I then put the bag into my backpack and maybe even cover it with smelly clothes. No more issues with possums.
As mentioned above I prefer one-pot meals, that’s when everything is cooked in one single pot and you only add water. I used to dehydrate my own meals at home using a food dehydrator, but it’s a very time-consuming task.
Much easier is of course to buy dehydrated meals. Most hiking stores sell food, but in Tasmania I once discovered a wonderful shop that produces very tasty dehydrated meals. I’ve cooked their meals on several of my trips now and can absolutely recommend them.
On longer trips it’s worth taking extra food for 1-2 days, just in case you get stuck at a flooded river or so. I always carry a few packs of instant noodles.
Friends of mine have also published a really good ebook called Food to Go with plenty of recipes to prepare hiking food.
Some of my essentials:
- Tea bags
- Sweet snacks. I always eat tons of chocolate bars, muesli bars and chocolate peanuts during the day. Australians call it scroggin.
- Dried fruit. Dried mango slices work great.
- Lunch snacks. Things like salami and crackers. I don’t recommend blocks of cheese, they’re heavy and don’t last very long outside a fridge.
For breakfast I like to get instant oats satchels from Aldi. They come in different flavours and can be prepared with just boiling water, which is great because I don't like milk powder. Add some chia seeds and it's ready to eat.
If I don't skip lunch I'll have some snacks and chocolate bars, or, if there's time to cook, a packet of instant noodles.
Dinner is easiest: rehydrating one of the meals and maybe having a cup of tea — a great end to a successful day.