Bushwalking in Victoria
Victoria is a great place to go bushwalking with the local favorite time for camping and bushwalking being autumn when the weather tends to be a bit more settled and less windy (although nights can be frosty) and not too hot or too cold.
good quality light-weight equipment is important if you are going on long walks or overnight walks as getting caught in sudden storms will push the limits of average quality gear.
snow can fall any time of year on the Victorian Alps even in December so be prepared.
the main risks are:
injury - usually sprained ankles or knees, blisters, etc.
serious injury from falls eg. off cliffs, down hidden abandoned mine shafts
if you are sensible and take precautions then rarely, snakebite
insect bites and related:
red back spiders - unlikely to kill an adult but may make you feel sick with painful bite site and maybe some numbness - all of which respond to anti-venom at nearest hospital. Don't apply compression as with snakebites.
ticks - don't squeeze them, take some fine thread, tie a simple overhand knot in the thread, place it over the tick as close as possible to the skin, tighten the knot around the tick and pull. The loop of thread will grab the tick around its 'feeding spike' rather than put pressure on its body.
What to take for overnight walks assuming it is not a snow walk:
shelter and sleeping:
consider a 3 season 2-man 3-hoop tunnel style tent for $A500-700:
good ventilation through the tent to minimise condensation "Consider a tent with a high window at the down-wind end and a reasonable gap around the ground-level edge at the upwind end."
it must be mosquito-proof
ensure it has adequate headroom
aim for two vestibules - one to place wet gear in the upwind section and the other to cook in if bad weather prevents outdoor cooking.
ensure the door is not over the groundsheet as heavy rain will run inside the tent
good quality fly not just acrylic-coated nylon, consider polyurethane coating or the more expensive but waterproof silnylon.
groundsheet must be waterproof and have 100-150mm walls
The poles should go into sleeves attached to the fly for the best stability.
consider a light-weight self-inflating mattress to 5cm thickness
consider 1 of 2 sleeping bags depending on season:
light-weight summer bag
light-weight bag down to -10degC for rest of the year see
hammock with mosquito net
large sleeping bag which zips around entire hammock eg. Ed Speer’s Peapod
flysheet with drip lines
inner sheet to keep bag clean, but consider a full silk pyjama outfit for better comfort
beanie to keep head warm
although methylated spirit Trangias are popular, they are relatively heavy and due to liquid fuel are a fire risk if used in the tent, a better solution is a portable gas burner.
waterproof matches (remember to keep the box dry though) or butane lighter (but won't work below 0degC)
one pot with lid
small butter knife, spoon, billy grip to minimise burns
small soup bowl, tea cup
2mm thick polyethylene cutting board
consider only taking dry foods
AVOID frying and burning your pots as this will reduce need for soap and its pollutant effects
don't rely on availability of drinkable water, bring your own
bring iodine tablets as an emergency to make water safe
consider other types of water purifiers - see http://www.bushwalking.org.au/FAQ/FAQ_Water.htm
don't get sucked into marketing hype, if you are walking in the rain, no matter how waterproof, you will get wet from the rain or from your perspiration. Being wet is not a problem as long as you stay warm which means avoiding wind chill and heat loss from your head as a priority.
if you are not walking then a waterproof outfit will be useful as you do not need to worry about perspiration issues.
make sure the contents of your back pack stay dry so your sleeping bag and change of clothes will remain dry - use a good plastic bag such as a dead dog bag from per supplies (not just a garbage bag that will rip).
in warm, wet weather you can thus wear minimal clothing in the rain then dry off afterwards.
in cooler weather, it is more difficult as you need something that will prevent wind chill and try to keep you dry:
head, face and neck waterproofing eg. poncho which can also go over your backpack
waterproof over-trousers - esp. if walking in the Alps - consider lightweight polyurethane nylon rather than Goretex.
soft cell fabrics eg. silnylon, Epic by Nextec
microfiber synthetic long trousers or tracksuit pants but beware rugged bush might tear them apart.
gloves - particularly if in Alps
AVOID cotton shirts (you get very cold when they are wet)
AVOID jeans (big problem when they are wet)
if you go for a jacket it should be long - see http://www.bushwalking.org.au/FAQ/FAQ_Rainwear.htm
sun protection - broad-rimmed hat (also used for getting through scrub head first), sunscreen, long sleeve shirt
riggers gloves for rugged scrub
good quality clean socks
their main job is to provide a buffer between your skin and your shoes - not to keep you warm
wool socks tend to have more odour issues so consider synthetics
gaiters to prevent sand & dirt getting into shoes (and to protect trousers and minimise risk of snakebite)
Dunlop Volley runners if in canyons as they are one of the best for slippery surfaces
Dunlop KT26 or similar for general walking
AVOID heavy boots - each 1kg footwear equates to 7kg on your back
AVOID arch supports and anti-pronation hype
AVOID shoes with mid or high style ankle "supports" as these are more dangerous than no ankle supports
ENSURE shoes or boots are well-fitted with socks you intend to wear.
waterproofed first aid kit:
most items you won't use but consider taking:
simple analgesics - eg. paracetamol
wide micropore surgical tape
Band-Aids ordinary and wide
sterile scalpel blade
needle for splinter removal
iodine for sterilising water
sharp pocket knife
Fix-O-mull dressing for blisters and burns
consider crepe bandage for ankles, snakebites, etc.
consider super glue for simple laceration repair (can also be used for other repairs)
consider adrenaline self-injector if past anaphylaxis in case of reactions to insect/bee stings
usual medications that you take eg. ventolin puffer for asthmatics.
shovel for toilet waste - bury >5m from water and cover with at least 10cm soil.
personal hygiene - use soap sparingly and away from streams after toileting.
torch - consider headlight
spare globes and batteries
repair kit for tent, etc
pack covers to prevent backpack getting soaked in heavy rain
consider trekking poles if you get painful knees walking up hills
not getting lost and being able to call for help:
ensure people know when and where you are going and when to expect you back
accurate, detailed maps with waterproofing
adequate planning for injury, storms, etc:
where are the closest shelters and radio relay stations?
how long will it take?
walking speed plus 1 hour per 600m ascent; minus 10 minutes per 300 m descent for slopes between 5 and 12 degrees; plus 10 minutes per 300m descent for slopes greater than 12 degrees.
walking speed for fit hill walkers is 5 km/h on paths, tracks and roads and 4km/h or less on other surfaces.
adverse weather will slow you down - a strong headwind may halve your speed.
good quality compass designed for southern hemisphere
consider ambulance membership so you are not bankrupted by helicopter retrievals
consider personal GPS device
consider UHB CB radio
consider mobile phone if area supports it
consider EPIRB device in emergency.
digital camera with enough battery and memory to last the trip:
a compact, light, waterproof, dust proof, drop proof point and shoot digital camera:
eg. Olympus 725SW
a light, compact digital SLR preferably with dust-proofing and weatherproofing:
Olympus E-1 or its weatherproofed successor (coming 2007)
Olympus ZD 12-60mm wide angle weather-proofed lens (opt. with Cokin gradient filter) for landscape views.
optionally, a light tripod for those great shots around sunset and sunrise.
the pack - now how are you going to carry all this?
must have a waist band and a hard-wearing Cordura bottom
no pack is fully waterproof in heavy rain - make sure you place your dry goods inside a waterproof plastic bag inside the pack and consider wearing a poncho which covers the pack as well or using a light waterproof nylon pack cover.
aim for a 50-60L (60-70L at most for several days as this will discourage you from taking too much weight) pack with a frame which fits well with the bum pad sitting in the small of your back
a two compartment pack allows wet tent and parka to be placed in the lower compartment but the pack is not as waterproof as a single compartment pack and the main compartment must be shorter which may be an issue with tent poles which may be damaged if they stick out and get caught on a branch.
if using a single compartment, the wet tent must be tied above the waterproof throat so water does not seep into the pack.
walking packs should sit higher than climbing packs and thus the top should be as wide or wider than the bottom to distribute the load higher.
ideally the load should be as close to your back as possible - remember physics of levers & don't worry about the lack of ventilation, no matter what, you will perspire and get a wet back.
sleeping bags and mats MUST be INSIDE the pack not strapped on the outside where they will get shredded by the scrub.
consider a single compartment, ultra-light external frame pack weighing about 800g rather than the usual 2-2.5kg of some packs.
for day walks, a frameless pack up to 30L should do.
there are special requirements for packs for canyon/river vs climbing.
climbing packs should sit lower and thus many are designed wider at the bottom to distribute more load lower.
AVOID hostelling packs which open up with a zip as these are not suitable for bushwalking
Selecting a tent site:
Australian gum trees and even old wattles are reknown for suddenly dropping large branches which will kill even in minimal wind, thus always check above the site and avoid large over-hanging branches, particularly if they look dead.
site should be adequate size for your tent with no sharp rocks or grasses that will damage the groundsheet, and reasonably level although some slope with your head at the top is OK.
consider what will happen during a storm - will the site be flooded or be in the path of a transient stream?
consider the prevailing wind - try to put the back of the tent into the wind
use minimal impact bushwalking (MIB) principles - don't use a trenching tool to create a storm drain
in the Alps, avoid creek sites which will become very cold on clear nights as cold air falls down into the valleys.