Top 10 Hiking Tips

Going off-grid on foot is a great way to unite with nature – use our top 10 hiking tips to ensure your next bushwalking adventure is your best yet.

When you first head out bush on a hike, it can be a daunting experience. A pastime which should, quite literally, be a walk in the park, can be overwhelming and off-putting. But with a bit of knowledge and some handy hiking tips, you will soon be immersed in a world of sensational views, locations and achievements.

Hiking tip #1. Choose your hiking partner wisely

So the saying goes, ‘keep your friends close but your enemies closer’. This clearly wasn’t written by a hiker. A hike is no place for you to try and make amends with an arch-enemy, but it’s also not too wise to choose to hike with your ‘bestie’ either.

The most important characteristic to look for is reliability. It is essential you can rely on your hiking partner not only as a source of companionship but also for encouragement and to have your back if things go astray. Look for someone who is of a similar ability level (both fitness and skill) and walking speed. Should there be differences in this, make sure they are, at least, very patient.

A partner with a positive attitude can also really help. Nothing spoils a great view or epic location more than a whinger!

Hiking tip #2. Wear woollen socks

As a hiker, your feet experience a huge amount of stress, strain and moisture. Being able to deal with this is essential to your overall experience. Shoe and sock choice can play a major role in your success. Woollen socks offer a good level of padding, but more importantly the help keep your feet drier and thus reduce the chance of blisters. Cotton socks just don’t compare. Wool does cost a bit more but your feet will thank you and reward you will many hours of dedicated service to your hiking endeavours.

Never go for a long hike in the new shoes, no matter how comfortable they seemed when you tried them on in the shop. Wear them in first, going for shorter bushwalks.

Hiking tip #3. Distinguish needs vs. wants

When everything you require for the duration of your hike is carried on your back, limiting weight is an easy way to make the trip just that little bit easier. Careful packing and asking yourself two questions – ‘what do I need?’ and ‘what do I want?’ – is bound to save precious grams. In most cases, you will only be gone for a few hours or days, so all your creature comforts can be left behind, saving your pack for just the bare essentials.

Hiking tip #4. Plan with the Naismiths Rule in mind

In 1892, William Naismith created a mathematical formula for the distance one could walk in an hour based on the topography of the land. This rule has stood the test of time and today, there are a bunch of online calculators which can assist with determining the ideal distance to travel per hour. It is well worth investigating this prior to any trip plans.

While most people can comfortably walk around 20km per day on the flat, this distance will be significantly reduced with just a few hills thrown into the mix.

Hiking tip #5. Hope for the best, plan for the worst

No one goes out bush expecting the worst, but you should always plan for it! It is vital to carefully consider potential evacuation routes, first aid supplies, vehicle access points and communication methods, just to name a few. When things start to go pear shaped, one of the first things to suffer with stress is your decision making. Prior planning can help ease this and ensure any decisions are more rational and considered, leading to a better outcome.

Hiking tip #6. Getting down with your sleeping bag

If your hiking adventures are taking you out overnight, your sleeping bag is likely to be one of the biggest and heaviest pieces of equipment. Down sleeping bags are considerably lighter, more compact and warmer than synthetic bags. There is an additional cost for down, but as an investment in your comfort, both when carrying and sleeping in, this is money well spent.

Hiking tip #7. Minimise your rubbish

Without the convenience of bins, ill-prepared hikers end up carrying an excessive amount of weight in the form rubbish. Some simple steps of preparation before leaving home can make a huge amount of difference to the weight of your pack.

Start by removing all excess packaging from your food. Dispose of any boxes, packages or other unneeded items. Repackage into cling wrap or snap-lock bags. Careful meal planning will avoid excess food at the end of the trip.

Avoid foods which naturally result in rubbish – for example oranges and bananas. Leave any jars or tins at home – most foods which come in these are also available either in a dried form or in sachets

Hiking tip #8. Slow and steady wins the race

For the inexperienced, the temptation to hike fast and rest lots can be overwhelming. Avoid it! With experience you will soon learn the importance of setting a comfortable pace which allows any break to be short and the recovery needed at the end of the day to be limited. Enjoy the views and location as you hike. Unlike many other outdoor pursuits, hiking is not a race and there is no winner. The prize is in the journey, so embrace it at an easy pace.

Hiking tip #9. Communicate

When things go a little pear-shaped, you are likely to need some assistance. It’s vital you have some method of communication with the outside world. These days, many options exist. If you are heading into remote areas, take at least three methods of communication. Mobile phones, personal locator beacons, satellite trackers, UHF radios or satellite phones are all worthy investments, and a good old printed map could be very useful too. Whilst in many cases your smartphone with a good hiking app, such as AllTrails, will be sufficient, having a few backup options is essential should reception or battery life be compromised.

Hiking tip #10. Make a list and check it twice

It’s not just Santa who makes lists! Preparation is the key to success and having all the necessities is essential to safety and enjoyment. Make a list before each trip and check off each piece of equipment, food and clothing. After the trip, check back over your list and make a note of what you actually used. It’s also a good idea to note the location and weather experienced. Then next time when you venture out into a similar location or in similar weather, pack according to your previous experience and make the necessary changes.

When group hiking, you can also share packing lists pre-trip and leave out any equipment which the group won’t need a double up of.

Get more tips for off-grid camping in our blog.

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