Greg's Bushwalking Tips
Over the last couple of years I've learnt a number of things that I'm sure will be handy for the new bushwalker. Here's some of these tips:
Don't even think going bushwalking without a compass. It's amazing how easily you negotiate a few bends then come to an unexpected junction with no idea of which way to go. A compass won't solve all your problems but any little bit of help is good. Personally I use two compasses. On well marked and used trails I simply use a low cost wrist compass to keep my eye on directions. In the deep bush, when I'm navigating by topographical maps and a few track notes, I always use an accurate protractor compass. My favourite is the Brunton 9020G (now called the "Classic") because it's high quality, doesn't make too big a dent in my pocket (about AUS$23 in Australia, US$10 in USA), and it automatically compensates for magnetic declination. Besides I like to groovy green baseplate! It isn't as easy to use as some others because it takes a little more care to line up with map grids (cause of the adjustable declination feature) but it's my compass of choice. Here's some maps of magnetic declinations for Australia and the world from Geoscience Australia.
Since I've got the GPS, I take it along too - but I make a point of not relying on it. So far it hasn't saved my life, but it has certainly saved me a few kilometres of extra walking at times when I've missed a turn.
If you're going out for more than just a day trip you are going to want to cook and make tea or coffee. There are some nice big, expensive and heavy cooksets on the market but remember small and simple is beautiful. I bought a mini-Trangia set which comprises a methylated spirits (alcohol) burner, a 800ml pot and a small frypan/lid. As it's got no windshield built in I simply folded up a square of aluminium kitchen foil about 8 times until I had something stiff enough to stand up by itself, and I use this as a windshield. It even packs up inside the kit.Now a mini-Trangia is only good for one person, and if there are two or more sharing the same cookset you'll need at least one more saucepan. Either get the other person or people to carry their own mini-Trangia's or maybe just a simple 1 litre aluminium billy is all that's needed. (If I'm going on a trip for more than overnight I usually carry the extra billy can anyway).
Now if you're only on a day trip, then the amount of food you carry is rarely an issue. On cold winter day walks I like to carry my mini-Trangia, a can of baked beans, some SPAM to fry, some bread and a couple of pieces of fruit. It's a lunch that warms you up inside and gives you energy and fibre.
But if you're going out for a few days, the rule is going to be to carry light, non perishable food. I've tried the "proper" backpackers freeze dried stuff and I reckon it's mostly over-priced crap. Instead I look for the rice and pasta meals that can be made up in boiling water. Brands include Continental, Maggi and San Remo. They are tasty - have lots of variety, well packed and economical (about $1.50 a packet). Pick the ones that don't need milk to make up. If they specify butter or margarine then you can most often use olive oil instead. Don't bother with 5 minute noodles - they just take up too much room.
For desert try dried fruits that can be reconstituted with just water. My favourite are dried apples which just need to be boiled in water for about 10 minutes to make a wonderfully warm apple stew without any added sugar.
But whatever you choose - try it out at home first in your camping cookset. No good being a day's walk from civilisation only to realise you need a 1.5 litre pot!
Over time I've bought many pairs of shoes - including the really rugged "clod hoppers" recommended for heavy bushwalking. Trouble is, I have a facia tendon that gets inflamed very easily, and it makes walking like I've got a 3 inch nail piercing my sole. Also, several podiatrists have commented that I have limited ankle mobility (side to side).
Considering that most of my bushwalking is on trails, I've standardised on Dunlop KT26 joggers. These are about AUS$35 a pair and on average last about 400kms. They are the most comfortable shoes I've owned and have so far stood up to everything I've done. They aren't waterproof of course, and the last thing you want to do is walk in wet feet. So I bought a pair of Gore-Tex Seals -which are waterproof "socks" that breathe. The combination of these and the KT26's have got me through everything so far. Now the ol' KT26's may not suit everyone. Others may need more ankle support than I do. But one thing is for sure - for me they are better than dragging around and extra kilo of boots!
I reckon blisters are a way of life for serious walkers - but they can be really disabling if they get bad - enough to rest you up for a day or more. I've tried lots of tricks like two pairs of socks, but I still got some decent blisters on the longer jaunts.The only way I've managed to minimise blisters is to stick to my trusty Dunlop KT26 shoes and apply up to two layers of sports elastoplasts to those spots I know are vulnerable. If you feel a blister coming up (or even have suspicions) then stop and dress the offending area. Those just starting may mistake other miscellaneous pains for blisters, but shortly the voice of experience tells. Don't burst blisters but dress them with some Band-Aid Flexible Fabric Dressing (you know that old fashion Band-Aid stuff you have to cut into strips yourself). It's pretty cheap, comes in 1m lengths, sticks very well, has padding and is hygienic if the blister does break.
Here's a list I use for multi-day trips to make sure I've got everything.
- Backpack (I use a 60l that expands to another 10l)
- Sleeping Bag
- Blanket (It's a lightweight fleece cloth one I made up - good for sleeping out in the open)
- Mattress and repair kit (Got the self inflating ones, but I like the lightweight tubed sort myself)
- Pillow (made a padded pocket that I pack clothes into to make a pillow)
- Tent (lightweight one person)
- Trangia Mini stove
- Billy (Aluminium)
- Metho - 250ml/day
- Survival kit (first aid, spare compass, mirror, whistle, pocket knife, spare candle, bit of rope, sewing kit, emergency foil blanket, bandage)
- 2l drink pack (the sort with the hose and bight valve) and 1l Platypus bottle
- Water filter (I've got an MSR model - pretty heavy)
- Water tablets
- LED Headlight
- Maps and compass
- Toilet paper (for obvious reasons) and plastic spade (to dig a hole for the obvious reason)
- Glasses (so I can see!)
- Mag glass (just in case I break the glasses)
- Fly hat net
- Lighter (better than matches - chuck a couple in)
- Cup Knife Fork Spoon (I use those toughen plastics ones - very light)
- Batteries (for headlamp and mp3 player)
- Battery powered mp3 player (now despite going back to nature, I really couldn't stay sane without some nice music - say Fear Factory, Black Sabbath or some Alice Cooper classics).
- Lightweight towel, liquid soap, cleaning Sponge
- Drink bottle & belt
- Pasta meal 1/day, Rice meal 1/day
- Teabags 5/day, Sugar 10teaspoons/day, Tube condensed milk 1/3day
- Dried apples 150g/day
- Cup of Soup 1/day
- Nut bar 3/day, Fruit bar 2/day
- Gatorade Powder 10teaspoons/day (why this - well I hate the taste of water! Need to add just a little bit of flavour. Silly, but that's me!)
- Rain Jacket
- Thermal undies (polypropelene)
- Socks x 2 and Seal socks
- 1 pr Shorts and 1 pr Jeans
- Jumper, T shirt x 2