Over five decades of bushwalking I have ranged across most of Australia’s varied landscapes on multiday hikes with my family and bushwalking friends. These hikes have taken me to locations as diverse as the alpine landscapes of Tasmania, Kosciuszko, Namadgi, The Bogong High Plains; coastal walks at Wilson’s Prom, The Great Ocean Road, the massive sand landscapes of Fraser Island, Cooloola, Moreton Island and The Cape to Cape in WA; the arid interior of Central Australia, Western Australia and the Flinders Ranges; the tropical savannahs of Kakadu and Nitmuluk; Queensland’s Central Highlands Sandstone Belt and White Mountains; the dense rainforests of Lamington, the Conondales and Hinchinbrook Island; and the granite landscapes of the New England Tableland.
My philosophy on gear for long walks has always been to be comfortable rather than agonise over the weight of my rucksack. Walkers these days are very weight conscious. An ultralighter I am not! Typically, I am happy to carry 16 to 20 kilograms on a five day walk. The following list for cold, wet climes should be modified when hiking in warm conditions.
Rucksack: a very comfortable Aarn Effortless Rhythm. Best ever. The Aarn has built-in dry bags. No pack cover needed but I still use a Macpac cover.
Sleeping Bag: Fairydown 1.5 kgs . Mont Thermal inner bag. Dry Bag for sleeping bag. Sleeping Mat: Exped Lite.
Tent & footprint: a Macpac Microlight 1 man. A sheet of light plastic for footprint.
Stove and cookset: a MSR pocket rocket. Mini Trangia cookset. Cigarette lighter, box of matches in plastic bag or container. Gas cylinder.
Cutlery: Wooden spoon. Small penknife. Billy grippers.
Scourer: Also a Chux used for tea-towel.
First Aid Kit. Safety whistle attached to outside of rucksack not hidden in first aid kit. First Aid Kit readily accessible.
Shirt and board shorts to wear. Shirt: double pockets for pencil and notebook. Shirt is Dry Wear variety.
Spare shirt and spare thermal shirt. Spare long trousers: all dry- bagged.
Raincoat: Mont Goretex, long length. Rainpants: nylon cheapskates.
Beanie. Mittens/gloves. Nylon over-mittens.
Polarplus Coat: Mont. Weight depends on likely weather.
Water bottles: Two re-used soft drink bottles. Plus 2 x2 litres Platypus plastic bladders. Puritabs for water purification.
Rossi full leather boots. Socks: usually carry 3 pair of woollen Stockpiles. Wear 2 pair.
Walking Poles: Lekis. Gaiters: Sea to Summit Quagmires. Light sandals for camp wear.
Toilet Gear and hand wash.
Food: Typically 600-800 g daily ration.
Helinox folding camp stool or Thermarest chair.
Survival Kit: Should be in one pouch. Matches, length of cord, small torch, signalling mirror, notebook and pencil, small multi-purpose pen knife, cable ties, roll of tape, needle and thread.
Snow Trips: When on a snow trip I carry: waterproof Ski Pants, Ski Gloves, additional Fleece Coat and Thermal layers. I dry bag as many of these items as possible. MSR Snowshoes.
Burnsie’s Bushwalking Menu:
Moderately ok for a week or so & seems to provide enough energy for me; although I do look forward to a regular meal after 10 days on the hoof. Many of my bushwalking friends have those yummy freeze dried meals for dinner. A tad expensive to enjoy every night. I occasionally buy a two person serve of these freeze dried meals, divide into two separate meals, add some Deb Instant Potato and then brew up the mixture.
Pog: big mixture of quick oats, sultanas, apricots, prunes, coconut, powdered milk, sugar. Add boiling water to mixture then sprinkle with home-made muesli. I soak this mixture overnight to minimize use of gas the next morning.
Toast: take a few leftover heels of bread from home.
Coffee: a pre- mix of instant coffee, powdered milk, sugar.
Muesli Bar: usually survive on just half of one. Sometimes I buy heavy duty power bars if I know the walking is going to be hard.
Scroggin: aka Trail Mix: one packet per day to last for morning tea, lunch & arvo tea if I’m really thrifty. Several handfuls for morning tea. I make my own. Mixture of salted or unsalted nuts, peanuts, almonds, choc coated sultanas (sheep droppings), dried bananas, ginger, dates, apricots, or anything else that takes my fancy.
Muesli Bar: whatever is left from morning tea.
Biscuits or Rye Bread: usually 4 biscuits; any dry biscuit. I prefer Wheatmeals or Cheds. Spread with peanut paste & big slab of cheese. If I take dense rye bread I use slabs of cheese and an onion.
Cheese: either soft spreadable cheese wedges or I take a block wrapped in grease proof paper & then a small cloth bag,
Tang or Energy Powder Drink: one cup.
Afternoon tea: always after tent is set up & gear sorted out: plenty of fluids. Several cups of sweet tea, cup of soup or Tang.
Soup: dried soup.
Main Course: I prepare varying combinations of the following: mixture of freeze dried mince, cous cous, dahl, carrot, celery, sultanas, red lentils, dried peas or beans, noodles, part of pasta/rice meal ( eg chicken curry), spoonful of dried soup, teaspoon mild curry. Sometimes I fry up almonds, peanuts, garlic and dried onion, carrot or celery and toss them in. Then I pour boiling water onto this goo about half an hour before eating then give it a final reheat once the peas are vaguely soft. Maybe you should just treat yourself to a freeze- dried meal.
Dessert: a chocolate bar. Usually 4 squares.
Hot drink: I make up a mixture of hot choc and powdered milk but most walkers have something more exotic and tasty .
NB: each meal is bagged into resealable plastic bags and closed over & sealed with rubber band. Then meals are re-bagged as either daily ration pack or by meal type e.g. breakfasts all together, lunches together and so on. Biscuits or bread are kept together in a hard plastic container made from two very clean plastic milk bottles.
I generally bag the drinks, tea, coffee etc separately & bag them together. Each morning the lunch for that day is extracted & placed right at the top of the pack. I often carry the museli bar in a shirt pocket.
FIRST AID KIT:
Every walker should carry their own first aid kit!!
- One 10 cm x 3.5 metre compression bandage (not soft crepe, needs to be heavy weight). I carry a Setopress medium/high compression bandage as well as several other wide compression bandages.
- One triangular bandage for sling, wounds etc
- One non-adherent dressing 10×10 cm (Melonin, Cutilin).
- Leucoplast tape 2.5 cm (strong tape for holding everything).
- Small roll Fixomill 5 cm (sticks dressings or can go straight onto skin); for abrasions & burns.
- One 10 cm Duoderm or Allevyn (hydrocolloid; cut into shapes for blisters).
- Butterfly/ Steristrips 6 mm or similiar (gaping cuts to pull edges together).
- Skin cleanser x2 sachets.
- Betadine small 15ml bottle (antiseptic).
- Safety pins x 6.
- Scissors blunt.
- Tweezers (good ones).
- Ether-based spray for freezing ticks. (obtain from auto shops !!)
- Space blanket.
- Ibuprofen (Neurofen) x10 anti-inflammatory.
- Panadol x 10 pain relief.
- Gastrostop (Immodium) x 6 diarrhoea.
- Telfast (one a day) x 6 antihistamine.
- Antibiotic for skin infections (Dicloxicillin).
- Saline solution.
- Hydralyte x 2 sachets.
A word about snakes and snake bite treatment:
There is plenty of information about snakes and treatment of snakebite. The Queensland Health website is a good starting point. Also a brochure by the ACT Government “Living with snakes” is an excellent reference point. The general points for bushwalkers are:
- Treat all snakes encountered with caution. Never ever try to pick one up. Allow them to get out of your way. Be alert at all times in the bush especially in the morning when snakes are likely to be sunning themselves. Cover up with gaiters and/or long trousers. Avoid long grass wherever possible.
- All bushwalkers in Australia should know their pressure immobilisation techniques: Apply a broad pressure bandage over the bite site as soon as possible. Crepe bandages are ideal, but any flexible material may be used in an emergency. Clothing, towels etc may be torn into strips. Panty hose has been successfully used. I carry a 10cm x 3.5 m Setopress high compression bandage in a separate pouch where I can access it easily. Apply over the bite and work your way up the limb with even pressure. Don’t wash off the venom and don’t apply a touriquet or any chemicals. The patient should lie down and keep still as venom is distributed through the lymphatic system which is activated by movement. Reassure your patient. Contact emergency services via mobile/sat phone or set off PLB. Mark the location of the bite on the bandage for future reference by medical staff. Immobilise the limb with a splint and bind one leg to the other if bite is on leg. Monitor patient.
A Cautionary Tail.
This is not meant to be a rollicking tale of Man vs Wild. On summer trips in Australia I have always kept a lookout for snakes sunning themselves on the tracks especially when walking alone.
On an outing to the Bunya Mountains in South East Queensland with some natural history friends we checked out a bird’s nest close to Paradise car park. When the others drifted back to their cars to drive to the Westcott picnic area I decided to walk the three kilometres along the track, which is quite scenic. It sidles along the western cliff line, tracking in and out of patches of rainforest and open eucalypt forest.
I was armed with a camera but had left my day pack with water bottle, food, first aid kit, mobile phone, tick freezer, gaiters etc back in the ute. Although I had walked this track numerous times before, I ignored the niggling thought that I really should walk back the 200 metres and collect my pack as I would be out walking by myself on an isolated section of the track which I knew was “snaky”.
After about a kilometre the benched track leaves the rainforest and contours along a cliff line in open Eucalypt forest. Of course, sprawled across the track enjoying a patch of sunlight was a goodly sized and sleek Pseudonaja textilis, known to you and I as an Eastern Brown snake. Larger than I seen seen for a long time. Venomous, aggressive and dangerous. Capable of inflicting a fatal bite…if my memory served me correctly.
On returning home I looked up snake bite statistics:
Brown snakes are responsible for about 60% of bites in Australia. Brown snakes are territorial, aggressive and dangerously venomous.
Of the 50 deaths ( approx) from snake bite in Australia since 1980, 32 were from brown snakes.
In the 24 hours when I was writing this, the Queensland Ambulance Service responded to eight snake bite incidents.
Over the 2015-2016 summer the QAS responded to an average of two call-outs per day for snake bite.
My Reptiles of Brisbane booklet published by the Queensland Museum has this to say about Eastern Brown snakes:
Dangerously venomous; responsible for many human deaths. Primarily active by day… This species is responsible for most significant snakebites in Queensland. It will avoid humans… but if cornered or molested, it responds aggressively, raising the front of its body off the ground in a characteristic ‘S’ shape.
What to do? Well, not much really. What I immediately thought was that I really shouldn’t be walking here without at least a first aid kit with compression bandages.
As for our ectothermic friend, he was pretty immobile from yesterday’s cold southerly change: wind, showers and mist. So he was in no mood to shift and I wasn’t about to scrabble through snake-infested grass tussocks and rocks to get around him. Certainly I wasn’t about to grab it by the tail or the scruff of the neck as a walking friend from my youth would have done…unhesitatingly. My friend was a amateur herpetologist. Unsurprisingly he came to an untimely death, aged 39. But not from the attentions of a snake. He died in a collision between two F/A18 Hornets over the Northern Territory.
I exhausted my anti-snake repertoire of stamping, making heaps of noise, lobbing small rocks near it. The usual things that have served me well in the past. Unfortunately my interventions made my new best friend more energized, alert and aggro, rearing up into its threat pose and making lunges in my direction. I edged back.
I pondered my predicament. My newly acquired best friend, the Eastern Brown, settled back for another wary snooze. I thought seriously about backtracking to Paradise carpark but that was pretty wussy. In the end I gently bowled a fist-sized basalt cobble along the track and pinged our friend midships. Another round of impressive rearing and lunging and finally a 180° turn and it disappeared up the track wall. Downhill would have been nice.
But I scuttled past keeping a wary eye on the length of glossy tail that my friend left dangling and twitching strategically over the rock face. Just to remind me of who was boss of this territory.
Insignificant as all this will seem to experienced walkers, at the time I had been slack enough to leave my walking kit back in the ute even though I had spotted snakes on this track before. To rub salt into the wounds, when we arrived home two new-fangled Setopress high compression bandages had been left on my front verandah by a kind bushwalking friend.