The basics for what you need to get into the wild outback of Australia
Australia is a fantastic country for hiking, trekking, and bush-walking. Thousands of trails exist and many have very little other hikers. In some places (the Great South West Walk in Victoria, for instance) you can pretty much have the entire trail to yourself. This is a great way to explore the natural beauty of Australia and can be done pretty cheaply.
The main requirements for bush walking in Australia are being reasonably fit, owning sturdy hiking boots, a reliable (and light) tent, and a comfortable backpack. Having a nice hiking stick can also be a plus if you suffer from sore knees or are planning to go downhill for extended periods of time.
A good bushwalk usually lasts anywhere from 3-5 days, but of course they can be shorter or longer depending upon one’s preference. Anything past seven and the amount of food you will have to carry and become quite burdensome.
I know that in a lot of forums discussion is heated about which is the best gear and how cutting the handles off spoons saves on weight, but this is not a forum in that vein. I am merely stating what I believe to be good products and this guide should be used as a outline or basic guide for someone who is interested in bush walking around Australia.
There are several different types of cookers on the market. I personally use the Trangia. I find it to be reasonable in size and weight, extremely durable and relatively efficient. It seems in the hiking world we’ve come across a lot of purists who believe that X cooker will boil your tea water in 15 seconds! While the Trangia doesn’t quite accelerate to that speed, it does its job. Besides, you are camping and what’s the rush?
Note: If you are taking a Trangia then you will need to carry methylated spirits.
The type of backpack you need will depend a lot on your body style and type. It is good if you have never owned one before to go to a hiking shop and have one fitted and to get a good idea what size you might want. I think a 60 L pack is a good size, although the longest walk I did was the 6 day Overland Track in Tasmania. Anything longer than that and you might need to get to a bigger size.
Another key factor you will consider is what food to bring with you on your journey. The options are quite limitless although having a few steady staple can make preparation easier and packing (plus weight) less cumbersome. When tend to buy sachets of couscous and pre-cooked rice as these can be cooked quickly (an important factor to consider after a long day of walking) and use a minimal amount of fuel. We also use sachets of tuna as this makes carrying the rubbish lighter and more efficient as well. These basic staples provide protein and energy and are easy to make and carry.
A sample packing list for our hikes would probably look something like this:
Three packs of pre-cooked brown rice
Three packs of pre-cooked couscous
Jar of peanut butter
Clove of garlic*
Two cucumbers or one large cucumber
Two capsicums (peppers)
Bag of carrot (these can also serve as snack)
4-6 apples (depending on the length of the walk)
Box of vitawheats or wholegrain biscuits
Block of cheese
A jar of oil
Fresh Spinach (must be eaten within first day)
Four bread rolls (to be eaten on the first day)
Oats and dry fruit for breakfast porridge
Coffee and tea bags
Bag of salt
At least one good book
Bottle of whiskey (this is better transferred to a plastic bottle for weight)
As stated above, there are many variations and themes, I have met people (again in Tasmania) who carried whole steaks with them. It is also worth adding curry pastes or perhaps dried coconut milk to add to your dinners to give a spicy flavor. Most of the meals are a simple stir fry affair with tuna and spices mixed in, it might sound bland now, but after a full day walking with a full pack, it will be delicious.
*Why bring fresh onions and garlic? Won’t that just add weight? Yes, but while bush walking is exercise and a bit of endurance, it also something that should be savored and enjoyed. I think the smell of fresh onions and garlic being cooked really helps unwind the spirit.
The type tent you get might depend a lot on how long you intend to go bush-walking. A large tent is generally okay if you are going for a 1-2 day excursion. If you plan on going anything over a few days then the tent’s weight will play a large factor in which one you choose. I think optimally you would be leaning towards a tent that weighs five kilos or less. It goes almost without saying that a tent needs have a good water proof seal and have enough space to fit whomever is sleeping in there along with their bags comfortably. Most tents nowadays are pretty self-explanatory in how to set up and it is nice to have something that is easy to set up to rest in.
This will be entirely dependent on where you are traveling around. The southern island of Tasmania catches wind straight from Antarctica while the northern part of the country is quite humid and temperatures can hover in the mid-thirties Celsius. It almost goes without saying that if you are planning hiking in the Outback, then making sure there is a reliable source of water is of utmost importance. Part of the joy of hiking in Australia is the sheer variety in wildlife. The Overland Track offers rugged alpine scenery while the Jatbula trail in the Northern Territory takes you from one desert oasis to the next. For those for time and cash a ferry out to Hinchinbrook Island in Queensland can walk along a tropical island covered in butterflies, sea turtles and beaches with saltwater crocodiles (not as dangerous as it sounds.)
That’s really all you need to start out tramping throughout the wilds of Australia. Hiking in Australia, unlike large parts of New Zealand, is a pretty straightforward affair. Unless there is extreme weather, you set out towards a destination and you get there. Most of the paths aren’t too steep and on tried and true marches there is usually a reliable source of water. Hiking around Australia is a much more exciting and intimate prospect than just hopping from one country town to the next.