Top Gear for the Aussie bush in summer
Here's a list of gear I always carry in my pack with me on shorter day hikes to overnighters and longer multi-day hikes I always make sure I’ve got the following. You never know when you’ll need them.
If I'm going out anywhere remote I want to make sure if anything happens I’ve got my PLB on hand. I often hike alone, so it's reassuring to my loved ones back home that I can still get in contact with emergency services even without phone reception. I’ve gotten in the habit of carrying my PLB even for day walks. In case you do need to use a PLB (and hopefully you never do) rescuers often take a few hours to get out to you so having an emergency blanket in the kit might very well save you from hypothermia.
Know where you’re going, even if you’re only planning on sticking to the track. Learning or refreshing your knowledge on how to navigate isn’t difficult and you can’t go wrong with this handy little Guidebook; How to Navigate. I love this book written by local Blue Mountains expert Caro Ryan, it’s easy to read and understand and includes helpful pictures and examples.
The Aussie bush in summer and snakes go hand in hand. Just last week I had a close call with a gorgeous very large Red Belly Black snake. But I knew the Equip Snake Bite Compression Kit was at the top of the pack and oh boy did I feel relieved, not just because the big beautiful beast slithered away at her own confident pace but if we did come to a head then I’d be equipped to deal with the consequences. Handy bit of kit to have around regardless of snakes, I sprained my ankle a month ago and used the compression bandage from the snake bite kit to compress and stabilise the ankle so I could (slowly and painfully) walk to the closest road. Speaking of snakes and hiking anywhere in Australia during summer don’t forget to protect those lower legs. You’re most likely to cop a snake bite below the knee. I wear the super thick canvas gaiters like One Planet’s RFG gaiters that provide some form of protection, a little peace of mind, not just from snakes but from the rough scrub too. Speaking of critters, having been bitten by a tick and struggling to dig the litter bugger out I’ve started carrying a tick remover. I’ve learned my lesson there.
Water - this is a no brainer, make sure you have enough of it and you’ll need more than you think you will. Worst case, if you take too much your pack is a little heavier and you get stronger on your hike but what's the worst case if you don’t take enough? Dehydration, and that's never a good outcome. For a short walk I’ll take a 1L nalgene bottle, if it's a really hot day I’ll take extra water and put some ice in a thermos like the double wall insulated Laken bottle. There’s nothing quite like icy cold water on a hot day. For a long day I’ll have a 2 or 3L Camelbak hydration bladder. I just find that I drink more water consistently through the walk if the nozzle is right there on my shoulder strap. So convenient!
If you’re relying on collecting water along the way you have to make sure you can make it safe to drink. Bad water = an upset tummy in the middle of the wilderness = not a fun time. To avoid this I use the sawyer squeeze filter. It's a staple item that lives in my pack, along with my plb and snake bite kit. Fill the soft flask with the questionable water, screw on the filter, turn upside down and squeeze the water through the filter, finally pour it into your bottle or hydration bladder and you’ve got some nice safe drinking water there. Even on a day walk I put my Sawyer filter in my pack. It’s so small and weighs very little and I can walk out with the reassurance that I can turn any water source into drinkable water.
Slip Slop Slap. Nothing will ruin a good summer hike like Sun Stroke! Find a hat that fits your head, Outdoor research has a massive range of really good hats. Personally I love my Tilley hat, it’s indestructible and comfortably sits between daggy and suave looking (just like me).
Long sleeve shirt, pretty simple concept really, unbutton and roll up sleeves to cool down, collar up, sleeves down for sun protection. I've got a few favorites that I rotate through. Craghoppers is one because it has insect protection embedded into the material, it’s the Nosilife adventure shirt, Outdoor research also has a few great high UPF long sleeve button up shirts that dry quickly too. On a scorching hot day I’ll soak my shirt in a water source and let it cool on me, it acts like my own personal air conditioning unit.
Now to the non essentials, the fun stuff
The Sydney Swimming Holes guide book! I love this book, it has track notes, distances, pictures and it's such a handy little pocket size thing. If you’re going swimming you’ll need a towel. Personally I use the Sea to Summit Pocket towel because it is light, does exactly what it needs to do, it’s not expensive and makes a great picnic blanket. I've got the XL size so I can really wrap it around myself.
I’ll also bring a pair of Teva Original on a day walk, if it involves a swim, or on longer trips as my camp shoes and for any river crossings. Maybe I'm a bit of a princess here but I hate the feeling of sharp or slimy rocks under foot. My Teva originals are not only legendary 90s fashion icons but they are also lightweight and provide a bit of protection underfoot.
Keeping the important things dry - FIDLOCK dry bag… I AM CONVERTED. There are so many good things about this product that I didn't even know I wanted or needed and now I just can't live without, there's no going back! I never, in my life, thought I’d be excited about a dry bag but here we are! Firstly I have the clear one so I can see that my phone and car fob are bone dry, it’s pretty reassuring to see how dry. It's also touch sensitive so I can take pics underwater, answer the phone mid swim or take my keys snorkeling at the beach safe in the knowledge that they will not be stolen from shore or beach. The fabric is tough but light and there's a very useful adjustable strap over your shoulder or neck. I've saved the best feature for last! The magnetic fold! This is so satisfying, efficient and just a million times better than any other system I've used. I’m so unphazed by the threat that those thick summer storms might destroy my electronics when they’re snapped up in my FIDLOCK! I could really go on and on about these drybags.