BASIC EQUIPMENT FOR DAY WALKS
- Water (1-2 litres, more for warmer weather or longer walks)
- Sunhat, Sunglasses, Sunscreen / Beanie (winter)
- Clothing (layered, no jeans or other cotton garments)
- Personal First Aid Kit (sufficient to treat minor cuts and blisters)
- Whistle (for safety if you get separated from the group)
- Food – snacks and lunch
- Toilet paper, trowel and hand-gel.
- Pocket knife
- A change of clothing (and shoes) at the end of the walk.
Backpack – Along with footwear, a backpack is the item of equipment that most affects your walking comfort, hence it is critical to select one carefully. The recommended capacity for a day walk is 20-35 litres; even for an easy day walk, a reasonable day pack is important – anything that involves being carried by hand or just a single shoulder strap is unsuitable. Day packs come in a variety of shapes and sizes, but so do people! The goal is to find a good match – choose a size that best fits your torso length, with a comfortably fitting hip-belt. Don’t be afraid to try several different models (making sure it is bulked up when you put it on), even visiting multiple shops, to find one that suits you.
Lightweight walking boots are suitable for most conditions. Runners are OK on day walks provided the terrain isn’t rocky or slippery; check with the leader if unsure. Walking boots, particularly the heavier leather ones, need to be “broken-in”, ie worn for short distances until they have adapted to your feet and you feel comfortable in them.
A moderately thick pair of wool-blend or synthetic socks (avoid cotton) should be worn with the boots. Some people find a thin pair of socks under a thicker outer layer helps prevent blisters. A spare pair of socks, even on day walks, is another means of stopping blisters caused by the first pair becoming damp through sweat or wet conditions.
Clothing – Shorts or light poly-cotton/nylon trousers in summer, warm long pants or light trousers + thermals in winter. Avoid jeans all year round, as they get wet quickly but dry very slowly and are uncomfortably hot in warmer weather.
T-shirts are fine, but many walkers prefer long-sleeved poly-cotton shirts due to the extra protection they offer from sun, insects and scratches. A thermal underlayer is essential in winter and recommended at other times unless it is very hot due to its ability to carry sweat away from the body.
A fleece-top, or woollen jumper provides a warm outer layer. Down jackets also provide warmth, but be careful with them, as they lose their insulating (ie body heat retaining) property entirely if they get wet.
A rain-jacket made from a completely waterproof but breathable fabric such as Goretex is preferred; avoid lightweight spray-jackets as they are ineffective at keeping out wind and serious rain. A rain-jacket should be carried at all times when walking in alpine areas (above 1300m), irrespective of the weather forecast. Overpants don’t normally need to be carried, but are advisable if frequent rain is expected.
Hat – Broad-brimmed for sun-protection and (in the winter months) a beanie or balaclava.
Water – For day walks 1-2 litres (filled before you leave home) is normally sufficient, however in hot conditions where there are infrequent water sources you may need to carry more. Check with the leader whether there will be water refill opportunities. Hydration systems allow you to sip continually from a tube, however for day walks a couple of simple plastic soft-drink bottles will suffice. More robust containers are advised for longer trips.
Toilet paper and trowel – Even on day-walks there may not be facilities anywhere along the route. A small bottle of anti-bacterial hand-gel is more convenient and environmentally friendly than soap.
Food – In addition to whatever main meals you need on the walk, carry plenty of snacks (chocolate, sweets, nuts, dried fruit). For day-walks, lunch is whatever you enjoy eating and is practical to carry and prepare.
Sunscreen, lip balm & sunglasses
Personal first-aid kit – Should include a few basics such as antiseptic, band-aids and blister treatment.
A whistle for safety if you get injured or separated from the group – carry it on you, not in your pack, three sharp blasts indicates someone needs help.
Spare clothing – left in the vehicle will invariably make the ride home more pleasant. In particular, a change of shoes and a spare plastic bag to store muddy boots in will be appreciated by drivers.
ADDITIONAL ESSENTIALS for OVERNIGHT WALKS
- A larger backpack
- Sleeping bag
- Sleeping mat
- Stove, fuel, matches
- Cooking and eating utensils
For weekend walks, a good pack will probably be your first major purchase. Avoid “Travel-packs”, even if you already have one, as they are not durable or comfortable enough for distance walking. The recommended capacity is 50-70l, larger packs are only advised if you plan doing extended trips of more than 4 days or more. You need enough room to fit all your equipment inside (or the Australian bush will shred or tear it off), but not too roomy so you are tempted to fill it up with unnecessary weight.
Tent (& protective groundsheet) – If you don’t already have a tent, start by sharing (ensure you let the leader know beforehand if you haven’t arranged this yourself). Tents are one of the few items of equipment which it is recommended you do purchase from a specialist hiking equipment shop; a good tent may cost a few hundred dollars, but a cheap one may be unsuitable by way of being unnecessarily heavy, not very durable or not very waterproof. Talk to other walkers for their advice on good/not so good tents. There is no “perfect” tent, all involve a compromise between size, weight, weather resistance and price – you’ll need to decide whereabouts your trade-off point is.
Down sleeping bags are recommended as they are warm but compact and lightweight. Synthetic ones are cheaper but bulkier.
- A “three-season” (0 degree rating) bag is suited for walks in spring/summer/autumn.
- “Four-season” bags are needed if snow-camping, but will probably be too hot for most other times.
- A silk sleeping sheet will provide extra warmth as well as keeping your sleeping bag clean.
Foam sleeping mats are inexpensive, the only disadvantage is that although lightweight, they take up a bit of room. More expensive and compact options are the self-inflating “Thermarest” styles.
A stove is easy to share, if buying one, the main options are:
- Gas; lightweight, easy to operate, the most popular nowadays.
- Methylated spirits (“Trangia”-type), easy to operate, the least hazardous, but relatively heavy and not as heat-efficient (uses twice the weight of other fuels to boil a given quantity of water)
- Shellite (MSR), tricky to operate, not recommended to use near a tent, but fast-heating and lightweight for both stove and fuel.
Oh, and don’t forget fuel and waterproof matches (stored inside a waterproof bag or container).
Torch – Any small model will do, but the LED head-torches are the best; low weight and very long battery life.
Eating utensils; a mug and spoon is sufficient.
Personal toiletries; toothpaste, toothbrush, soap (but don’t wash directly in a water source)
Food; last but no means least, the topic of what’s the best lightweight, high-energy yet still tasty food to take on multi-day hikes needs more than a couple of sentences, so for ideas please browse our Food ideas page.
Gaiters: Recommended if you are walking off-track through thick scrub and wearing shorts; not as necessary if wearing long-pants. Not normally needed on Sunday walks.
Hiking pole(s) Poles have a number of uses – relieving pressure on the knees during steep downhill, providing extra push going uphill, aiding stability on slippery surfaces or river crossings – but aren’t essential, particularly on easy day walks. There are two schools of thought over whether it is better to walk with two poles or just one and thus have one hand free.
Compass, map, GPS; not optional for the leader! New walkers don’t need to know how to navigate, however regular walkers are encouraged to practice these skills. A leader of an extended trip may require that anyone participating be competent in the use of map and compass.
and for weekend walks
Water purification Options include tablets, filter or Steripen (UV treatment); in Victoria natural water sources are usually safe to drink, caution is only needed in heavily used camping areas or downstream from farmland. The leader will advise if water should be treated.
Personal Locator Beacon (PLB)
Light entertainment: Frisbee, cards, hackey sack….
Mobile phone/Smartphone spare battery/recharger They can act as camera, GPS, light entertainment – but make sure you are aware how this planned usage will affect your battery life over multiple days (eg a constantly active navigation tracking app may flatten a battery within a day) and be prepared with either a spare or a recharge pack. As bushwalking areas often have little or no mobile coverage, and the weaker the signal the heavier the load is on the phone, place your device in flight mode.