This hiking checklist is going to save you a whole lot of time and hassle. Read and understand it before you take your first steps in the bush.
When you're bushwalking or hiking, you need to carry everything. Don't take more than you need to, but don't scrimp on the essentials. Water for example, it’s heavy but the most important thing.
Think about your personal weight to comfort ratio. What is most important to you? Sleep or food, for example? The lightest sleeping gear is not the best if you are cold, uncomfortable and don't sleep. Likewise, a small, lightweight amount of food is not great if you're hungry all day. Work out what you absolutely can't do without, then save space and weight in other areas.
Day trip Hiking Checklist – detail
Clothing: from the ground up
Boots/Shoes – 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. If you aren’t a fan of high ankles, a good pair of shoes will do fine. Hiking shoes with good soles are ideal but your running shoes will be OK too. The most important thing is they fit properly, are comfortable and you’ve worn them in. New boots/shoes create blisters if not worn in correctly. (Cut your toenails too!)
Socks – probably the second most important factor to enjoying your day! Thin cotton socks might seem like a good idea but they’ll get wet from sweat. Moisture causes friction and friction causes blisters. Likewise, thick woollen socks will be super comfortable at the start of the day but they’ll also get wet. The best socks are a merino, polyester and stretch nylon blend. They’re warm, breathable and wick the moisture away from your skin. They also fit snuggly to your feet.
Shorts or long pants – this is personal choice but denim jeans are definitely not good hiking gear. Lightweight fabrics are best. Ian wears knee length hiking shorts with a pair of Skins (lycra athletic shorts) underneath all year round. Tara wears either hiking shorts in summer or lightweight long hiking pants in winter.
Long sleeve shirt – once again this is personal choice but long sleeve shirts provide better sun protection than re-applying sunscreen on your arms all day. We wear lightweight nylon hiking shirts with collars that can be turned up on intense sunny days. They also have inbuilt UV protection and insect repellant. Whatever you do, don’t wear a singlet. Exposed shoulders are asking to be sunburnt.
Merino base layer – you can’t beat a merino base layer. We wear Merino all year round at home, around town and in the bush. Merino wicks moisture away from the skin, breathes well and is odour resistant. It’s perfect for hot or cold climates because it regulates temperature so well. It’s also really comfortable. We live in it. If you were going to buy one item of clothing to walk in, buy a long sleeved merino shirt. You can wear it all year round walking in Sydney.
Warm outer layer – You’ll be warm enough when you’re moving but you will cool down quickly when you stop, depending on the weather that day. A fleece (polar fleece) vest or jacket is lightweight and warm. Down is warmer and compacts quite well but doesn’t like getting wet.
Wet weather gear – the only thing worse than being cold is wet and cold. A light spray jacket is adequate for a day hike, it can also be used as a windbreaker if you don’t want to take a warm layer too.
Hat – don't go out in the Australian sun for an extended period without one, ever. Ensure it covers your entire face, and preferably your neck too.
Sunglasses – the glare of a summer's day can give you headaches, especially if you're by the water. Wear polarised lenses if you can.
Backpack or Daypack – a 20-25 litre pack is plenty for a day walk. If you have a bigger pack, you’ll fill it with stuff you don’t need. Remember, you’re carrying it all day.
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 bottles v hydration bladders Hydration bladders are best because you don’t need to stop to drink. If you don’t like drinking through a fancy straw, water bottles are fine. Do yourself and the environment a favour and don’t buy disposable plastic bottles. Buy a stainless steel, hard plastic or aluminium bottle that you’ll keep forever. The scratches and dents will remind you of past journeys. Allow at least 2 litres of water per person per day, more in summer.
Water purification tablets v water filters 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 and they’re so easy to use. Read more about the best way to purify water while hiking.
Food – Light snacks and pre-made sandwiches/wraps are ideal. Nuts and dried fruits, ie trail mix or scroggin in Aussie parlance should always be on your hiking checklist. Muesli bars are great. Little snacks often are the best way to keep your energy levels up. You can’t beat a pack of lollies either. 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 bushland. 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 the very least a compression bandage for snake bites ; a triangle bandage to make a splint/sling , ibuprofen for pain relief (it’s also anti-inflammatory(; blister treatment and toilet paper.
Personal Locator Beacon — if you are going outside mobile phone range you should carry a PLB so you can be found in an emergency. SPOT Trackers are great because as well as being a PLB, your mates around the world can follow your journey.
Camera – if you don’t have a phone (… what the?) and you want to record your journey
Headtorch – just in case you aren’t back by nightfall. Headtorches are so much better than hand held ones too.
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.
Lip balm – your bottom lip will feel a full day in the wind and sun, even with a big brimmed hat
Insect repellent – Ian doesn’t like using it but Tara gets attacked by all manner of biting insects at dusk. DEET works well but isn’t super friendly on your skin.
Mobile phone – you need to know how you're tracking in relation to your finishing time. You also need to be able to call someone if you’re in trouble. Download the Emergency + app to identify who to call and give them your exact location.
Watch – if you don’t take a phone, ensure you have a watch for the reason above.
Overnight Hiking Checklist – detail
Clothing: from the ground up
You'll need everything from the single day hiking checklist, PLUS:
Change of clothes – Take a second set of warmer, dry clothes to change into at the end of the day. Whether we are out for two days or ten days, we take one daytime pair of clothes and one nighttime pair. We wear the same clothes every day, except for socks and undies.
Merino or thermal pants are great to wear under hiking pants and layer, layer up for warmth.
Tip: Lay on your sweaty clothes overnight, between your sleeping bag and mat, to dry them. If they’re not too wet you can dry in the bottom of your sleeping bag overnight. This way they’ll be dry when you put them on the next day.
Change of shoes – it’s great to take your boots off at night. Thongs aren’t great because you can stub your toes in the dark. A pair of old trainers or the stylish crocs are a winner.
Beanie and Gloves – you’ll enjoy the nighttime for longer if you’re snug and comfortable around the fire
Wet weather gear – A waterproof jacket is essential for extended hikes, consider waterproof trousers too
Backpack – a 65 litre pack is plenty for a bushwalk of several days. If you have a bigger pack, you’ll fill it with stuff you don’t need. Remember, you’re carrying it all day, every day.
Tent – choose a tent to suit your needs. Hiking tents should weigh:
1-person tent: 1 – 2kg
2-person tent: 2 – 3kg
3-person tent: approx. 3kg.
If it’s heavier than this it’s probably not a good hiking tent. Remember if it gets wet it’s going to be a lot heavier!
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. Make sure it compacts down into a compression bag. You don’t want your sleeping bag to take up all the space in your pack.
Sleeping mat – choose one with a good comfort to weight ratio. Foam mats are super light but they’re very bulky and don't have the comfort of a self inflating mat.
Pillow – put your jacket inside your sleeping bag cover. Save the pillow for car camping.
Food – consider freeze dried or dehydrated meals for longer hikes. They’re more expensive than packet pasta/rice from the supermarket but taste much better. Don't be too elaborate with your meals. The more complex your meals, the more cooking and eating utensils you need and the longer it takes to cook. Allow enough food for an extra day and reduce all your packaging. Take packets instead of cans. Cans are heavier and you’ll need to carry out the dirty, sharp empty cans.
Tea/Coffee – the ritual of boiling the kettle at the door of your tent is a hiking and camping delight. Don’t throw your teabag into the bush. The leaves might be organic but that bag will be an eyesore for a while before it breaks down.
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 and burn methylated spirit which is available in supermarkets. Butane/propane burners are much lighter and boil quicker but are more unsteady. These can only be bought in camping stores.
Fuel – ensure you have the correct fuel for your stove and take enough for an extra day. Remember, a stove doesn’t work without fuel!
Lighter – keep lighter and matches in waterproof container. Remember, a stove with fuel doesn’t work without a lighter! (Don’t worry, we’ve all done it!)
Pots and pans – one good pot can be everything you need to cook with and eat from. Trangias have them built in, remember the pot handle. (Spondonicles as Duke of Ed kids say…)
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?