Bushwalking is a popular activity in Australia and is known by many other names—in North America, it is analogous to trekking or backpacking, while in the United Kingdom it is sometimes referred to as rambling. With miles of gorgeous outback and Australian wilderness to explore, it’s no wonder why this is the pastime of choice for many Aussies. Interested in trying it out? Before you lace up those boots and grab that pack, make note of the following safety guidelines.
Keep an Eye on the Weather
Atmospheric conditions can change at the drop of a hat and reveal hidden dangers on the trail that otherwise wouldn’t exist if the weather was pleasant. Similarly, we don’t advise going bushwalking in extreme temperatures, lest you suffer from heat stroke or heat exhaustion. Before heading out, make sure that the temperature is one you find comfortable for walking, and keep an eye out for pertinent announcements, such as bushfire or flash flood warnings, especially if a rainstorm in the afternoon is in the forecast.
Walking alone is not recommended, regardless of how much bushwalking experience you’ve accrued under your belt. Forming a group of three or more is recommended. It’s much safer and allows you to formulate various strategies in case of common emergency situations. Aside from walking with a group, it’s also advisable that you notify someone who isn’t going walking with you of your plans—tell them about your route, what time you’re leaving, and when you expect to be back. This can be a partner, your parents or family, or another friend. You can also opt to go bushwalking with an organised association or group; they would be more familiar with the trails, are trained in first aid, and are generally more well-prepared for any type of situation. Once you’re out in the wilderness, make sure that you stick together and that no member of the party ever drifts astray. There’s safety in numbers.
Research Your Route
Bushwalking usually means that trails are not marked as such. Unless you’re familiar with the area, it’s best not to head in blind. Do your research, and take time to plan a route that is appropriate for you and your walking party’s fitness level. It’s also a better idea to have a printed map handy instead of relying solely on gadgets or your mobile phones to point you in the right direction. After all reception can be unreliable, and these devices can run out of battery or fail midway through your hike. Once you’ve picked your route, do some preliminary research on the terrain to identify any potential hazards, such as slippery rocks or boulders, or unmarked cliffs. There’s no such thing as being too careful.
Now that you’ve taken stock of the weather and have a good idea of what the terrain might look like, it’s time to gear up. A first-aid kit may come in handy, so put that at the top of your list. Rough wilderness terrain means putting on your sturdiest pair of shoes. Make sure they offer adequate foot support and have a good amount of grip in order to reduce your risk of injury. Sports shoes are nice and lightweight, but they aren’t recommended for bushwalking. Wear your clothes in layers that are easy to put on and take off to account for temperature changes while on the trail. Long-sleeved, lightweight shirts and trousers are also ideal for bushwalking as they help protect you from scratches and stings. Put on a liberal amount of sun protection at least an hour before heading out; you may also want to bring a hat along. Finally, it’s recommended that each person in the party carries at least 2 litres of water with them. As for food, stick to high-energy options that keep well, such as fruit, raw vegetables, nuts, and energy bars.
This list is by no means complete, but it should be enough for first-time bushwalkers looking to try out one of the easier wilderness trails available at a national park. Please do not go walking whilst inebriated or otherwise under the influence. We would also like to remind everybody to keep the surroundings clean and pick up after themselves while on a walk. In case of emergency, call triple-zero for immediate assistance.