Your Guide to

Planning and

Australia’s diverse landscapes offer a smorgasbord of thrilling hiking adventures, from coastal cliff walks to challenging alpine climbs. But before you lace up your boots and hit the trail, it’s crucial to invest some time in careful planning and preparation. A well-planned hike isn’t just about ticking off miles; it’s about ensuring a safe, enjoyable, and ultimately unforgettable experience.

Location and difficulty

Australia’s landscapes are diverse and awe-inspiring, but underestimating their challenges can lead to a less-than-enjoyable experience. Investing time in research before you set off ensures you choose a trail that matches your fitness level and skillset, setting yourself up for a safe and exhilarating adventure.

If you are new to hiking, start with easy or moderate trails with clear signage and well-defined paths. Look for walks graded 2-3 on a 5-point scale. These are suitable for most fitness levels and require basic hiking gear.

Know your limits: Challenging yourself is part of the thrill of exploration, but it’s crucial to do so responsibly. Be honest with yourself about your experience and physical capabilities. Choosing a trail that aligns with your limits isn’t a sign of weakness, it’s a mark of wisdom and respect for the wilderness. Remember, there’s always another trail waiting to be explored when you’re ready.

Research the trail

Check maps and official sources where routes are verified, graded, accurate and up to date. Choose a trail that matches your fitness level and experience. Websites with verified data provide detailed information on specific trails, including distance, elevation gain, estimated duration, track conditions, and amenities. Be wary of crowd-sourced data that can sometimes be unreliable and inaccurate.

Obtain a detailed map of the area and learn how to use it with a compass or GPS device. Mark your planned route and alternative escape routes if needed. Identify known trail names and landmarks.

Read reviews from other hikers to get insights into the trail’s difficulty, scenery, and potential challenges.

Prepare for the weather

Check weather forecasts: Be aware of potential rain, heat, bushfires, or strong winds that could affect your hike. Pack accordingly with layers for changing temperatures and rain gear if necessary.

Always be prepared for unexpected changes in weather. Dress in layers, pack rain gear, and consider sun protection even in mild conditions.

Be prepared to change your plans if conditions aren’t favourable.

Pack the essentials

Navigation: Not just about stunning scenery, hiking unlocks your inner explorer and challenges your mental and physical skills. But to truly navigate this adventure, knowing your way is crucial. Learn basic map and compass skills like identifying key features (rivers, forests, peaks), understanding map scales, and following bearings. Download a backup navigation app for extra peace of mind.

Water: Carry enough water for the entire hike, at least 2 litres per person. Consider purifying tablets or a filter for longer walks.

Food: Pack energy-rich snacks and lunch to keep your energy levels up. Avoid heavy meals before or during the hike.

First-aid kit: Be prepared for minor injuries with a basic first-aid kit containing bandages, antiseptic wipes, pain relief medication, and insect repellent.

Be prepared for emergencies: Learn basic first aid and survival skills. Pack a whistle and learn how to use it to signal for help. Carry emergency contact information in case of an accident.

Sun protection: Australia’s sunshine is beautiful, but its UV rays can be fierce. Pack a wide-brimmed hat, snug-fitting sunglasses that block UVA and UVB rays, and broad-spectrum sunscreen with SPF 30 or higher. Apply generously before hitting the trail and reapply every two hours, especially after swimming or sweating. Remember, sunburn isn’t just painful, it can also increase your risk of skin cancer.

Comfortable footwear: Invest in sturdy hiking boots that provide good ankle support and traction.

Dress for Adventure: Leave the trendy threads at home! Choose comfortable, weather-appropriate clothing that allows for movement and breathability. Layering is key – think a moisture-wicking base layer, a warm mid-layer for changeable weather, and a waterproof outer shell for sudden downpours. Don’t forget sturdy hiking boots that provide good ankle support and grip on different terrains.

Headlamp or torch: Essential for early morning starts or unexpected delays.

Communication devices: Pack a mobile phone and satellite communicator or personal locator beacon (PLB) in case you need to call for assistance. Be aware that mobile reception can be unreliable in remote areas. GPS and mobile phones help but they should not replace preparation, as you may unexpectantly fall out of GPS range.

Let someone know

Avoid going alone. Hiking solo can be risky, especially in unfamiliar terrain. Choose to hike with a group or experienced partner if possible.

Inform a friend or family member about your chosen trail, estimated duration, and expected return time. This way, someone can raise the alarm if you’re overdue. If you get lost, injured, or encounter an emergency, informing someone beforehand allows them to raise the alarm promptly. Search and rescue teams can mobilise quickly with accurate information about your planned route and estimated return time.

Knowing your intended trail, departure time, and expected return helps rescuers narrow down the search area and allocate resources efficiently. With someone aware of your plans, authorities can contact them for additional details or updates, potentially providing valuable clues in a rescue operation.

Why do things go wrong?

Police Search and Rescue (SAR) reveal some surprising truths about getting lost in nature. It’s often not just about getting turned around – it’s about being unprepared for the unexpected. According to SAR, the following are common factors which contribute to persons being lost or injured:

  • Lack of planning or no planning of trip.
  • Over reliance on technology (GPS and mobile phones can lose battery or have no coverage)
  • Underestimating the time or skill required for a route, causing delay.
  • Lack of skill or physical ability navigating a particular terrain.
  • Failure to carry a map or compass, contributing to disorientation.
  • Lack of leadership in a group resulting in an inability to make quick decisions.
  • Failure to identify terrain hazards such as cliffs, rivers, waterfalls and slippery surfaces that can cause delay or injury.

  • Experiencing hypothermia, hyperthermia, dehydration, or heat exhaustion.
  • Poor equipment, failure of equipment or inappropriate equipment for the area
  • Lack of food or water, which can contribute to fatigue and poor decision making.
  • Unexpected change in weather conditions
  • Fatigue leading to poor decisions or injury.
  • Poor physical health
  • Medical emergencies resulting from a pre-existing condition or an accident during the trip.

Don’t wait until “lost” or “injured” becomes your reality. It’s important to know your limits and respect boundaries. Plan smart, stay safe, and explore with confidence!

Don’t let nature catch you unprepared. Plan your adventure, pack smart, and unlock unforgettable journeys in Australia’s breathtaking landscapes.