When you're hiking, you need to carry everything. Don't take more than you need to, but don't scrimp on the essentials. Weight to comfort ratio is vital. The lightest sleeping gear is not the best if you are uncomfortable and don't sleep. The heaviest is not the best if it weighs 5 kilos and it's too hot to use.
Day trip Hiking Checklist
Hat – don't go out in the Australian sun for an extended period without one, ever. Ensure it covers your entire face.
Sunscreen – take a small tube with you and reapply every few hours. The backs of your legs will get burnt when hiking all day, don't forget to put sunscreen on them.
Sunglasses – the glare of a summer's day can give you headaches, especially if you're by the water.
Long sleeve shirt – better sun protection for your arms than re-applying sunscreen all day.
Shorts or long pants – this is personal choice but denim jeans are not good hiking gear. Light fabrics are ideal.
Fleece or warm layer – the only thing worse than being wet is cold and wet.
Wet weather gear – a light spray jacket is adequate for a day hike.
Boots – probably the most important factor to enjoying your day. Hiking boots should have good ankle support, great grip and have room for your toe to move forward inside the boot. Wear your boots in before a long hike, or use a day hike as training for a longer hike. New boots create blisters if not worn in.
Socks – thicker are more comfortable but will make your boot tighter and your foot hotter. Hot feet sweat, sweat causes friction, friction causes blisters.
Watch – you need to know how you're tracking in relation to your finishing time
Backpack or Daypack – The amount of gear you need for your hike determines the size of your pack. Don't choose the pack first. You will fill a large backpack with things you don't need and eliminate things you do need from a daypack. If you only have one pack, choose items carefully in a process of elimination.
Pack cover or liner – If your pack doesn't have an inbuilt cover (usually stored in a pocket on the bottom of your pack) put all your gear in a bin liner inside your pack. No-one likes wet gear. If rain is forecast, check out these video tips for hiking in the rain.
Water Hydration bladders are preferable but bottles are fine. Allow at least 2 litres of water per day, more in summer.
Food – Light snacks and pre-made meals are ideal. Nuts and dried fruits, ie trail mix or scroggin in Aussie parlance should always be on your hiking checklist. You don't need to take a stove, fuel and water on a day hike. (Although a cup of tea or coffee at your favourite waterhole is hard to beat).
Rubbish bag – Pack it in, pack it out. Don't litter our beautiful hiking trails. Reduce the packaging on your food and you will reduce the rubbish you need to carry out.
Map and Compass – GPS are great until the battery goes flat. Knowing how to use a map and compass and having them with you are still very important.
Pocket Knife – multi function knives have uses you've never thought about until you need it.
First Aid Kit – at least a compression bandage and some triangle bandages to make a splint.
Overnight Hiking Checklist
You'll need everything from the single day hiking checklist, PLUS:
Change of clothes – Take spares of everything to change into at the end of the day. You can dry your sweaty clothes in your sleeping bag overnight and walk in them the next day.
Wet weather gear – A waterproof jacket is essential for extended hikes, consider waterproof trousers too
Tent – choose a tent to fit your needs. A 3-person tent for yourself is overkill. Remember you have to carry it.
Sleeping mat – choose one with a good comfort to weight ratio. Foam mats are super light but they don't have the comfort of a self inflating mat.
Sleeping bag – warmth to weight ratio is important. If that extra kilo of weight is going to be the difference between being warm and sleeping or cold and awake, it is worth it.
Pillow – put your fleece inside your sleeping bag cover. Save the pillow for car camping.
Water hydration bladders – are preferable but bottles are fine. Allow at least 2 litres of water per day plus 1 litre for cooking. Remember every litre of water is a kilo of weight but water is essential.
Water purifying tablets – a fresh stream or creek is like mother's milk on a hot day but it's better to play it safe and purify it before drinking. We use Micropur tablets because they eliminate more nasties than other brands. Read more about the best way to purify water while hiking.
Food – consider freeze dried or dehydrated meals for longer hikes. These are expensive but taste much better than packet pasta and rice meals from the supermarket. Don't be too elaborate with your meals. The more diverse meals you take, the more cooking and eating utensils you need. If you aren't going for long, take a frozen Bolognese for the first night. It will defrost on the trail and you'll be lighter the next day. Allow enough food for an extra day.
Tea/Coffee – the ritual of boiling the kettle at the door of your tent is a hiking and camping delight.
Stove – We always recommend cooking a hot meal at night. A hot drink can also change a cold morning into an enjoyable experience. We recommend Trangia stoves if you're starting out. They're more stable than other hiking stoves.
Fuel – take a little more than you need, but not double. Allow for an extra day.
Lighter – keep lighter and matches in waterproof container.
Pots and pans – one good pot can be everything you need to cook with and eat from.
Cutlery – once again, one tool – like a spork – can be everything you need. Think about what food you've packed – do you need a sharp knife, can you do without a fork?
Torch – you need to see what you're doing after sundown. Head mounted torches free both hands for cooking or opening your tent after dark..