Transport to the Trailhead

Before starting any hike you have to get to the trailhead – the point at which the hike begins. There are several ways to get to the there, some better than others depending on the type of trail you’re doing. Firstly, lets look at the two different types of trail.

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The Types of Trail
There are only two different types of trails, the Linear – those beginning at the trailhead and ending at some other point, and the Circular – those that both start and finish at the trailhead, whether in a grand circle or by returning along the same trail once a certain point is reached. Both can pose differing challenges for transport, so let’s have a look at both kinds.

Circular Trails

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Own Vehicle – Having your own vehicle is the easiest option for a circular hike as you drive to the trailhead and park it there, returning to it at the end. Be aware that some National Parks require a parking permit. Lone vehicles in a deserted National Park car park can be a target for thieves, so make sure valuable items aren’t left inside the vehicle while you’re walking. Also pay attention to the route to get to the trailhead, if you don’t have a four-wheel drive vehicle and there are fords on the way, more walking may be required before you even start the trail.

Being Dropped Off – While this method saves having to worry about parking permits and theft, coordinating the pick up may be troublesome. Your ride might end up waiting hours if there’s some delay on the hike and with little mobile phone reception in National Parks, there’s no way of letting them know.

Taxi – This may be the only option if there’s no-one you know near the National Park or if you’re in a foreign country. While it’s cheaper with more than one person, it suffers from the same issues as Being Dropped Off in that communicating with the driver in areas with no mobile phone reception is troublesome.

Buses – While this could be a valid option, if they’re available it would mean planning around getting to a certain point at a certain time, or knowing the timetable if there are delays. This only works if the National Park is near a major road, the more remote the hike the less likely there will be a bus service.

Linear Trails

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Dropping Your Car At The End Perhaps the easiest means of transport on a Linear hike is to get someone to follow you to the end of the trail, drop your car off and then have them taxi you to the beginning. This takes less organisation, and you’re not committed to finishing the trail at a certain time to be picked up. Don’t leave valuables in your vehicle, as thieves can target lone cars in National Parks.

Two Vehicle Drop Off – If hiking as a group and there are two or more cars between you, simply drop one or more cars at the end of the trail and transport everyone to the trailhead in the other. This is the easiest method for groups of walkers, but more opportunities for thieves.

Being Dropped Off – Having someone drop you off at the start and collect you from the end is the next easiest transportation means that only suffers from the issue of communication with the person picking you up, similar to that of Circular hikes.

Taxi – Similar to Being Dropped Off, but with a tariff. It also has some issue with describing the end of the trail if you’ve not been there before. Communication is still an issue.

Buses – The next easiest method as long as there’s a bus stop near both start and end of the trail. Ensure you have an up-to-date timetable and you plan around the times.

One Vehicle – A solo hiker with a vehicle can be the most difficult transport means for a linear hike. If you park at the trailhead you need to plan a means to get back to it once you’ve completed the hike. This could mean catching a bus to the other end or arranging someone to collect you and delivery you there. As an alternative, hitch-hiking back to your vehicle might be a way to go if both start and end are on or near major roads. Most hikers will pick up another hiker they see on the side of the road, your pack being the dead give-away.

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Then, once you’re at the Trailhead the only thing left to do is begin walking…

The Lone Trail Wanderer

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Resupplying and Food Drops

For some people, a seven-day hike in the wilderness just isn’t long enough. Many extreme hikers want to walk for months on end, sometimes hundreds or even thousands of kilometres in one go. There are many hikes that accommodate this such as the Appalachian Trail in the US or the world’s longest hike, the Trans Canada Trail, stretching 24,000 km across the country.

While hikes of these lengths are vastly outside the bounds of this guide, a beginner may still consider a trek longer than a week or two as their first hike. This was my case, choosing to walk the Larapinta Trail across Central Australia for my first hike – 234km over 17 days.

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While it’s possible to carry seventeen days worth of food, there are ways to avoid carrying such a heavy load. Here are some options:

A Tour
While a tour is the only means to do certain hikes, it’s not always considered true hiking when someone carries half of your gear, pitches your tent and prepares your meals. It does make it easier to carry a heavy load of food and depending on where you are, you might be able to hire a donkey to carry it for you.

Town Resupply Points
On many longer hikes, the trail passes through villages or townships specially for resupply. Hikes through the Himalayas or El Camino de Santiago – The Way of Saint James – in Europe are classic examples of this. In some locations, such as South America, many hikes have refugios where food is sold and accommodation provided.

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Food Drops
On treks where there are no villages or refugios, the remaining option is the food drop. A food drop is a box left at certain points along the trail with food for the next part of the trail.

There are several options for food drops depending on the trek:

Food Drop Shelters
Some hikes, such as the Larapinta Trail in Central Australia have lockable food drop shelters. The food is stored in large plastic tubs with lids (to protect against mice) and are either dropped off prior to the hike or delivered by a transport company before needing them. These boxes are usually rented and allow the disposal of garbage also.

Nearby Residents
Where food drop shelters are not available, contacting home owners near the trail and begging them to allow you to leave food supplies at their homes may be an option. Most are unfortunately not so receptive, or may charge for the privilege.

Wild Drops
With no other option there’s always the wild drop, where the food box ii left in a hidden location along the trail. This may mean constructing rocky pyres or burying the food so scavenging animals can’t get to it. The ultimate downside of this approach is arriving at your drop point to find the food missing or destroyed by some natural disaster such as a fire. Likely this will spell the end of the hike.

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Packing a Food Drop Box

Food drop boxes are easy to set up. After having planned the length of your hike, you should have an idea how much food is needed for each day. Then simply split the food into groups of days and add the required number of days to each box.

Food shouldn’t be the only things left in food drop boxes though, as other consumables may need to be refilled. This includes items such as toilet paper, spare batteries, cooking gas, medical supplies, water treatment tablets and the like.

Food Box Treats
Walking for a long period can mean eating lightweight and bland foods. So, leaving treats in your food drop box will add to the pleasure of arriving at a collection point. These are items that may be too heavy to carry with you, such as whole fruits (apples and oranges last best), tinned foods or special treats such as potato chips, chocolate bars and even beer. Remember, any packaging can be left in the drop box.

The Trail Wanderer

Standard Hiking Food Lists

Everyone is different, so providing an individualised standard food list suitable for everyone is impossible. With that in mind, the following food lists are based on what has worked well for the author. It is hoped that these lists should give an idea to aid the creation of lists suitable for your own requirements.

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Standard Food List (per person per day)
This standard food list can be used for any length hike and is predominantly based upon dried foods.

Breakfast

  • Porridge/Oatmeal or a lightweight high-energy cereal
  • Milk Powder
  • Sugar/Sweetener (if required)
  • Coffee/Tea

Lunch

  • Trail bread or hard crackers

Plus one of the following:

  • Salmon/Tuna pockets (in foil not canned)
  • Shelf-stable Salami rolls and cheese
  • 2-minute Noodles (if a cooked lunch is desired)

Snacks

  • 200gm mix of the following:
    • Nuts – Peanuts/almonds are cheapest or other nuts
    • Dried fruits pieces – raisins, coconut, sultanas or any other dried fruit (usually diced)
    • Seeds – Pepitas/pumpkin seeds or similar
    • Chocolate – chunks, M&Ms or similar
    • Sweets – Gummy bears, snakes or similar. Avoid wrapped or sugar-coated sweets.
  • 2 Muesli/Granola Bars

Dinner

  • Cup of soup sachet/flavoured juice sachet/tea bag

One of the following:

  • Camping meal (2 serves)
  • Camping meal (1 serve) + 1 packet 2 minute noodles
  • Pasta and sauce packet (requires milk powder and small amount of oil)
  • 5-minute flavoured rice
  • 2 packets of 2 minute noodles

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Alternative Short Hike Food List (per person per day)
Short hikes allow different options, based mainly on fresh foods.

Breakfast

  • Porridge/Oatmeal or a light high energy cereal
  • Milk Powder
  • Sugar/Sweetener
  • Coffee/Tea (with or without sugar/sweetener/milk powder)

Lunch

  • Premade sandwiches/rolls with a choice of fillings (cheese/ham/salami/dry salad etc)
  • Fruit – apples/oranges/mandarins etc

Snacks

  • 200gm mix of the following:
    • Nuts – Peanuts/almonds are cheapest or other nuts
    • Dried fruits pieces – raisins, coconut, sultanas or any other dried fruit (usually diced)
    • Seeds – Pepitas/pumpkin seeds or similar
    • Chocolate – chunks, M&Ms or similar
    • Sweets – Gummy bears, snakes or similar. Avoid wrapped or sugar coated sweets.
  • 2 Muesli/Granola Bars

Dinner

  • Pre-cooked vegetable stew (brought from home, simply reheat. Add salami chunks if meat required)

or

  • Boil fresh vegetables and strain. Cook rice separately, adding cooked vegetables and salami chunks when ready followed by an Italian tomato sauce.

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Lightweight Food List

For those struggling to get pack weights down on longer hikes, or for more experienced hikers.

Breakfast

  • Coffee/Tea
  • A Cup of Soup
  • 2 Muesli/Granola Bars

Lunch

  • None

Snacks

  • 400gm mix of the following:
    • Nuts – Peanuts/almonds are cheapest or other nuts
    • Dried fruits pieces – raisins, coconut, sultanas or any other dried fruit (usually diced)
    • Seeds – Pepitas/pumpkin seeds or similar
    • Chocolate – chunks, M&Ms or similar
    • Sweets – Gummy bears, snakes or similar. Avoid wrapped or sugar coated sweets.

Dinner

  • Camping meal (2 serves)

The basis of the light option is snacking. Having the bag of snacks at hand, eating while walking, during a 5 minute snack break or when stopped at a viewpoint of similar. Lunch becomes simply a ten minute snack break. While psychologically challenging, after two or three days a routine is instilled.

Hiking Food – Fine Dining On The Trail

Food has the potential to be one of the heaviest collective items in your pack, especially on longer hikes, so it should be a priority to find the right food while minimising weight.

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The length of the hike is a large determinant as to what food is best to take:

Short Hikes (2-4 days)
Short hikes have three distinct advantages over longer hikes:

  • Weight. A shorter hike can allow the carrying of heavier food items or more food overall. This may allow for a more gourmet menu or the carrying of fruit.
  • Volume. Less food means more space for larger items, such as whole fruit or bread.
  • Time. Some non-dried foods can survive out of the refrigerator for a handful of days before they spoil. These include fresh bread, pre-packed sandwiches and pre-cooked dinners.

Long Hikes (more than 4 days)

  • Minimising weight is the most important philosophy when walking for an extended period. Unless using food drops, the goal is to keep food as light as possible while maintaining a level of nutrition. Dried or shelf stable foods become more important on a longer hike. Shelf stable foods are treated foods such as certain salamis and cheeses that are found on the shelf in the supermarket and not in the chiller section. Minimising waste materials should also be a high priority as carrying an empty can of tuna is almost as heavy as carrying a full can.

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Food Variety
When you’re on a ten-day hike, eating the same meals day after day is a recipe for boredom. While breakfast and snack foods aren’t such an issue, having at least two different types of lunches and at least three different dinner options can make the daily consumption of dried food more bearable.

Food Quantities
Try to avoid packing more than needed. Measure out spoonfuls of coffee/sugar/milk powder etc into zip-lock bags and take only as much as required plus a touch more.

Dehydrating Foods
Dehydrating food prior to hiking is not only cheaper but provides a greater variety of food options.  Properly dehydrating food takes a Food Dehydrator and forward planning.  For dehydrated foods, special care needs to be taken with packing, especially with meat, to ensure it is free of moisture, as this can cause mould.  More information on Dehydrating food should be available from your Food Dehydrator manufacturer or from resources on the internet such as: http://www.drystore.com/page/page/1346972.htm

Emergency Supplies
It’s recommended to carry at least one extra full day’s supply of food in case of emergencies. The amount is dependant on the distance from civilisation the hike is. If there’s a busy road or township not far from the trail, less emergency food is required. But if the hike is remote, then it’s suggested to take more.

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Breakfast
Breakfast is an important meal when hiking as it provides the body with a supply of energy to get it up and going. As oats are slow release energy, Porridge or Oatmeal is a standard choice on the trail. Alternatively, a lightweight high energy cereal can do the same although it can take up more space in your pack.

For coffee drinkers, walking with a caffeine headache isn’t pleasant, so working that morning cup into breakfast is important, and it will give an early energy boost.

Lunch
A lunch break on the trek is more about breaking up the day than having a hearty midday meal. In fact, having a larger lunch is counterproductive to hiking as it uses extra energy for digestion, making the body feel more tired. While a cold lunch is quick and easy, in cooler areas having a hot lunch might be preferable.

Snacks
Snacks should be lightweight and have a good mix of slow release energy, fibre and sugar. They are often more useful towards the end of the day when energy reserves are low, but are useful to give added push to get over that tough ridge. Nuts, chocolate and dried fruit are best.

Dinner
Dinner is an important meal for hiking as it’s the primary means of refilling the body after a hard day on the trail. In many countries, there are specially made meal packs for hiking or camping known as the camping/trail meal. These are lightweight dried meals that contain a high nutritional value with a minimum of preparation – usually by adding only boiling water. They can even taste good too! The servings are small, so adding extra noodles may fill it out enough without adding too much weight to your pack. Alternatives are quick cook rice, flavoured noodles, pasta packets or flavoured couscous. Conservation of cooking gas is important, so foods with small cooking times are better.

Carrying Cup of Soup sachets, juice sachets or teabags can provide something other than plain water to drink with dinner. After all, you’ve been drinking water all day.

Next time, Hiking food lists.

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Better to have too much food and a heavy pack, than a light pack and an empty stomach.

The Lone Trail Wanderer

Modified Packing Lists when Hiking in Different Environments

In my last post I provided a standard packing list usable in many different environments. But as not all hikes are the same it’s sometimes necessary to adapt your packing list to the environment where you’ll be hiking.

What follows are four packing lists relating to different environments: Jungle, Rocky Desert, Cold Mountain and Wet Weather. These lists should be considered minimum necessary for first time hiking in these environments.

While these four environments are considered a little more extreme than standard hikes, there are other environments that fall outside of the scope of this blog. These are hikes, such as Ice Climbing hikes or Snow hiking, where specialised equipment is required. Lists haven’t been provided for these types of hikes.

Jungle Trekking Packing List

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Jungle treks are hot and humid affairs, and will see you covered in sweat for much of the walk. You’ll also need to deal with the almost constant attacks from biting insects, some potentially carrying dangerous diseases.

Jungles tend to be wild and have few tracks, making it easy to get lost. Thus, most jungles hikes cannot be walked without first hiring a guide. Depending on the number of people in the party, the guide may have porters and/ or donkeys to carry equipment. The packing list that follows is built around your food and equipment being carried for you and accommodations being available in jungle villages or cabañas.

Base Equipment

  • Hiking Pack
  • Walking Poles
  • Camera and Carry Case
  • Water Bladder
  • Whistle
  • Plastic Trowel
  • Sleeping Bag Liner

Day Clothes

  • Hiking Boots
  • Boot Collars
  • Socks Wool
  • Sock Liners
  • Underwear
  • Hiking Pants/Shorts
  • Hiking Shirt
  • Hat/Bandana
  • Sunglasses

Easy Access Equipment

  • Money/Cash Card
  • Duct Tape
  • Toilet Paper
  • Alcohol Based Hand Wash
  • Strong Insect Repellant
  • Sunscreen
  • Head Torch
  • Pen and Paper
  • First Aid Kit including Survival Blanket
  • Pocket Knife
  • Pack Cover
  • Empty Plastic Bottle
  • Night Clothes
  • Wool Socks
  • Underwear
  • lightweight Shirt
  • lightweight Pants
  • Flip-Flops
  • Hiking Towel
  • At Camp Equipment
  • Deodorant
  • Water Treatment Tablets/Device
  • Sewing Kit
  • Lightweight Durable Cord
  • Spare Batteries
  • A Book
  • Toothbrush/Paste
  • Wet Wipes
  • Many Small Lightweight Garbage Bags
  • Medication

Rocky Desert/ Beachside Trek Packing List

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Hiking in a rocky desert environment will generally mean being hot during the day and cold at night. Constant exposure to the sun will be one of the harsher aspects of this type of hike as well as the potential that some places may not have available water.

Depending on where the hike is, and how well set up it is, a guide will likely not be required. Simply having a good set of maps and suitable information will enough.

Base Equipment

  • Hiking Pack
  • Walking Poles
  • Camera and Carry Case
  • Tent
  • Sleeping Bag
  • Sleeping Bag Blanket/ Liner
  • Sleeping Mat
  • Water Bladder
  • Whistle
  • Plastic Trowel

Day Clothes

  • Hiking Boots
  • Boot Collars
  • Socks Wool
  • Sock Liners
  • Underwear
  • Hiking Pants/Shorts
  • Hiking Shirt
  • Hat/Bandana
  • Sunglasses

Easy Access Equipment

  • Compass
  • Money/Cash Card
  • Maps, Itinerary
  • Duct Tape
  • Toilet Paper
  • Alcohol Based Hand Wash
  • Insect Repellant
  • Strong and Plentiful Sunscreen
  • Head Torch
  • Pen and Paper
  • First Aid Kit including Survival Blanket
  • Pocket Knife
  • Pack Cover
  • Waterproof Jacket
  • Empty Plastic Bottle
  • GPS/Emergency Beacon
  • Night Clothes
  • Wool Socks
  • Underwear
  • Thermal Shirt
  • Thermal Pants
  • Warm Long Pants
  • Fleece Jacket
  • Beanie
  • Flip-Flops
  • Gloves
  • Hiking Towel
  • At Camp Equipment
  • Cooking Stove
  • Cooking Pot
  • Plastic Mug
  • Pocket Knife
  • Gas Cylinder
  • Deodorant
  • Cutlery
  • Water Treatment Tablets/Device
  • Lighter
  • Matches (Waterproof)
  • Scourer
  • Sewing Kit
  • Lightweight Durable Cord
  • Spare Batteries
  • A Book
  • Toothbrush/Paste
  • Wet Wipes
  • Small Lightweight Garbage Bags
  • Additional Water Bladder

Cold Climate / Mountain Treks

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The grand mountain chains of the world, such as the Himalayas and the Andes, are perfect hiking environments and many of them have been set up as such. The common difficulty you’ll face on these hikes is the cold.

While many mountain treks have villages with huts/refuges stay in, this isn’t always the case, it may still be prudent to still carry a tent.

Base Equipment

  • Hiking Pack
  • Walking Poles
  • Camera and Carry Case
  • Tent
  • Warm Sleeping Bag or additional bag blanket
  • Sleeping Bag Liner
  • Sleeping Mat
  • Water Bladder
  • Whistle
  • Plastic Trowel

Day Clothes

  • Hiking Boots
  • Boot Collars
  • Socks Wool
  • Sock Liners
  • Underwear
  • Hiking Pants/Shorts
  • Hiking Shirt
  • Hat/Bandana
  • Sunglasses

Easy Access Equipment

  • Compass
  • Money/Cash Card
  • Maps, Itinerary
  • Duct Tape
  • Toilet Paper
  • Alcohol Based Hand Wash
  • Insect Repellant
  • Sunscreen
  • Head Torch
  • Pen and Paper
  • First Aid Kit including Survival Blanket
  • Pocket Knife
  • Pack Cover
  • Waterproof Jacket
  • Empty Plastic Bottle
  • GPS/Emergency Beacon
  • Night Clothes
  • Wool Socks
  • Underwear
  • Thermal Shirt
  • Thermal Pants
  • Fleece Jacket
  • Beanie
  • Flip-Flops
  • Gloves
  • Hiking Towel
  • Waterproof Pants
  • At Camp Equipment
  • Cooking Stove
  • Cooking Pot
  • Plastic Mug
  • Pocket Knife
  • Gas Cylinder
  • Deodorant
  • Cutlery
  • Water Treatment Tablets/Device
  • Lighter
  • Matches (Waterproof)
  • Scourer
  • Sewing Kit
  • Lightweight Durable Cord
  • Spare Batteries
  • A Book
  • Toothbrush/Paste
  • Wet Wipes
  • Small Lightweight Garbage Bags

Wet Weather Treks

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While hiking in wet weather is not usually to most enjoyable experience, sometimes it’s simply impossible to avoid. But it does not have to be a bad experience as rain can make the wilderness beautiful in its own special way, whether the woods or on a mountainous plains. You won’t forget the experience, and not just because it rained.

Base Equipment

  • Hiking Pack
  • Walking Poles
  • Camera and Carry Case
  • Tent
  • Ground Sheet
  • Sleeping Bag
  • Sleeping Mat
  • Water Bladder
  • Whistle
  • Plastic Trowel

Day Clothes

  • Hiking Boots
  • Boot Collars
  • Socks Wool
  • Sock Liners
  • Underwear
  • Hiking Pants/Shorts
  • Hiking Shirt
  • Waterproof Hat
  • Waterproof Pants
  • Lightweight Waterproof Jacket/ Poncho

Easy Access Equipment

  • Compass
  • Money/Cash Card
  • Maps, Itinerary
  • Duct Tape
  • Toilet Paper
  • Alcohol Based Hand Wash
  • Insect Repellant
  • Sunscreen (always carry)
  • Head Torch
  • Pen and Paper
  • First Aid Kit including Survival Blanket
  • Pocket Knife
  • Pack Cover
  • Waterproof Jacket
  • Empty Plastic Bottle
  • GPS/Emergency Beacon
  • Night Clothes
  • Wool Socks
  • Underwear
  • Thermal Shirt
  • Thermal Pants
  • Fleece Jacket
  • Beanie
  • Flip-Flops
  • Gloves
  • Hiking Towel
  • At Camp Equipment
  • Cooking Stove
  • Cooking Pot
  • Plastic Mug
  • Pocket Knife
  • Gas Cylinder
  • Deodorant
  • Cutlery
  • Water Treatment Tablets/Device
  • Lighter
  • Matches (Waterproof)
  • Scourer
  • Sewing Kit
  • Lightweight Durable Cord
  • Spare Batteries
  • A Book
  • Toothbrush/Paste
  • Wet Wipes
  • Plentiful Lightweight Garbage Bags

Information is the key to good experiences.

The Lone Trail Wanderer

A Hike Packing List

So, you’ve decided where you want to walk on your first hike, but what do you take?

Knowing what equipment to take is a very important part of a hike’s preparation. Start with a basic list and adapt it over time to the hikes you do and your own needs. Take into account factors such as:

  • where you’re planning to hike
  • types of accommodation available
  • how many people you’re hiking with
  • and how much you’re prepared to carry.

As examples:

  • if you’re planning to hike in a warm dry place, wet weather clothing is unnecessary and just extra weight to carry
  • if there are huts to sleep in at the camp sites you may not need a tent
  • and other factors similar to these.

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The basic packing list below is a guide only and doesn’t take into account item weights, which is discussed in a later post. It’s important to get a feel for the types of items you should take and work from there.

If you’re unsure what the items on the list are for or why you should take them, check the notes at the bottom, or the more detailed descriptions in future posts.

The list is grouped into sections for convenience based upon when they are required.

Base Equipment

  • Hiking Pack
  • Walking Poles
  • Camera and Carry Case
  • Tent
  • Sleeping Bag
  • Sleeping Mat
  • Water Bladder
  • Whistle
  • Plastic Trowel*

Day Clothes

  • Hiking Boots
  • Boot Collars*
  • Socks Wool
  • Sock Liners*
  • Underwear
  • Hiking Pants/Shorts
  • Hiking Shirt
  • Hat/Bandana
  • Sunglasses

Easy Access Equipment

  • Compass
  • Money/Cash Card
  • Maps, Itinerary
  • Duct Tape
  • Toilet Paper
  • Alcohol Based Hand Wash
  • Insect Repellant
  • Sunscreen
  • Head Torch
  • Pen and Paper
  • First Aid Kit including Survival Blanket
  • Pocket Knife
  • Pack Cover
  • Waterproof Jacket
  • Empty Plastic Bottle
  • GPS/Emergency Beacon

Night Clothes

  • Wool Socks
  • Underwear
  • Thermal Shirt
  • Thermal Pants
  • Fleece Jacket
  • Beanie
  • Flip-Flops
  • Gloves
  • Hiking Towel

At Camp Equipment

  • Cooking Stove
  • Cooking Pot, Lid & Handle
  • Plastic Mug
  • Pocket Knife
  • Gas Cylinder
  • Deodorant
  • Cutlery
  • Water Treatment Tablets/Device*
  • Lighter
  • Matches (Waterproof)
  • Scourer
  • Sewing Kit
  • Lightweight Durable Cord*
  • Spare Batteries
  • A Book
  • Toothbrush/Paste
  • Wet Wipes
  • Small Lightweight Garbage Bags*

Notes:

*Plastic trowels are for digging latrine holes if no toilets are available or for water channels if it’s likely to rain heavily at a camp site.
*Boot collars prevent small stones and sand from getting into your boots.
*Sock liners are a small lightweight pair of socks worn under hiking socks to help prevent blisters.
*Water treatment tablets/device should be used if you’re in any way unsure of water quality.
*Durable cord is useful in a number of ways: hanging food bags, extra tent support in windy weather, back up shoe laces, washing lines etc.
*Garbage bags are best used for keeping other bags dry within your pack and for carrying garbage.

Food is also an important, but as there are several options, details are provided in a future post.

Always check your equipment against you list at least twice before leaving home to ensure nothing is forgotten.

The Lone Trail Wanderer

Finding Your First Hike

So, you decided to go hiking for the first time. Not one of those short bush walks either, a real overnight hike out into the wilderness somewhere. But that’s the big question, where?

Finding a hike is fairly easy. The world is a big place and there are many beautiful wonders. And no doubt, there are some near where you live and someone has walked there. When choosing your first hike, take the following things into consideration:

  • It shouldn’t be too difficult.
  • Length doesn’t matter, a shorter hike will give you a feel for hiking, while a longer hike will teach you more.
  • A popular hike is usually, but not always, better organised and better marked.
  • Hiking closer to civilisation is better should something go wrong.
  • It should have camp sites with toilet facilities and available water.
  • You should do your first hike with a group or at least with one other person.
  • Get as much information as you can before you go.

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Here are some ways to find a hike in your local community:

  1. Join a hiking group
    • Your local hiking and adventure store should have a list of groups in your area. The more focused the store, the more likely they will know of groups.
    • Meetup.com is a good site to meet other hikers as there are many hiking groups listed, and no it’s not a dating site. Make an account – it’s free – and search for a group in your local area. You should get plenty of feedback from other members about what would be a good hike. You might even find someone to hike with if you don’t have anyone else.
  1. Your local hiking or adventure store
  2. While a large warehouse store might not have much information beyond a small library of books or maps, a smaller more focused store generally can give a lot of advice about the hikes in the local area, gear required and suitability. They will also have a similar small library of books and maps.
    • Government websites
  1. The Queensland State Government in Australia has set up many hikes around the state and information is found here: http://www.nprsr.qld.gov.au/experiences/great-walks/ The site provides a lot of information to help with the planning of your hike. Your State, Provincial or Local government might also have a similar sites. The hikes listed are often better set up than many other hikes, and are perfect starting points for ongoing hiking.
  1. National Park Ranger Stations
  2. Most national park rangers have a vast knowledge of the hikes within their region and especially the park they are working in. Contacting them via email should garner plentiful information on current conditions and trouble spots in the park, they might even be able to sell maps and other guides. Many national park ranger stations will often collect entry fees (depending on the park) and they can sometimes sell overpriced equipment and food.
  1. Books

The various books about hikes tend to fall into three categories:

    • Hiking books about experiences on a certain hike. The Appalachian Trail, for example, has a lot of personal experience stories written about it. While this will give details of experiences on the hike, they often don’t give details about the hike.
    • Trail books about specific hikes. These are the most useful books as they are a complete look at just one long hike, or several moderate length hikes in the same area. These are useful if you are happy to do a 6-20 day hike for your first hike, and usually contain complete maps, details of camps/huts, side trails and many other details. For many, a hike of this length is too long for a first experience. An example of a book that falls under this category: John Chapman’s Larapinta Trail
    • Regional bush-walking/trail books. There are few books written about a specific 3 day hike as it would not be feasible to print. However, there are books that compile collections of short hikes and bush walks for specific regions. To make them worth printing, they tend to have a plethora of hikes, but details about the hikes can be vague and out of date depending on when the book was published. They make good starting points, but should not necessarily be used as the definitive guide about each hike. Books that fall into this category include: Backpacker’s Britain Northern Scotland and Lonely Planet’s Trekking in the Central Andes.

wpid-books-2013-11-12-16-16.jpgIf you are travelling in a foreign country you can find information here:

  1. Your hostel or hotel
  2. If the region you are travelling is renowned for its hiking, such as Nepal, Patagonia or Peru; your local hostel or hotel might be the perfect place to find information. They may also hire equipment for the hikes, sell transport tickets to the trail head and may even have maps of the region for sale. They will likely be able to point you to the best source of information on the particular hikes, tour agencies and guides if they don’t.
  3. Tour Agencies
  4. The agencies in the region you are travelling should provide any information you might need, including maps, transport tickets, information on current conditions, park fees and other advice. Most speak english if you are in a country where the native population doesn’t. While some may hire out equipment for the hikes, many don’t.
  5. Hiking or Adventure stores
  6. If you are in a non-english speaking country and don’t speak the native tongue, these stores only be useful for providing gas and other equipment. But in the rare occasional where the owner speaks english or you speak the native language, they can be a useful resource. Often in poorer countries, they are primarily interested in sales and don’t know much about the hikes in the areas.
  7. National Park offices
  8. Many national park offices have full information about the park they are. While they don’t always sell or hire gear for the hikes, they usually collect the fees associated with hiking in the park and can provide maps and condition reports.
  1. Local Guides
  2. In many countries, you are unable to hike without an experienced local guide. This is usually a tourism initiative to bring money into the local economy, but are there to prevent hikers from getting lost or for the hiker’s safety in difficult terrain. The local guides are a fountain of information about the surrounding area and the trail, but many don’t speak english. Often booking a guide is expensive, but it has its benefits. Your guide and porter (if he has one) will carry most of your equipment, prepare the campsites and even prepare your meals.

wpid-corrie-fee-2013-11-12-16-16.jpeg Information is the tool of the wise,

The Lone Trail Wanderer