First Day Off The Grid...What Do I Pack?
This is one of the most common questions I get asked.
Hiking is sometimes underestimated, many people group it into the same category as 'going for a walk'... But if you don’t have some gear designed specifically for the job, you might find the going gets tough, and you could even get into a spot of trouble.
The list I have come up with is by no means exhaustive but provides a foundation for you to get started with.
Water - Heat exhaustion is one of the most common ailments experienced outdoors, and dehydration plays a massive part. It’s vital that you take enough water to last you for the duration of your trip, plus some extra in case things don’t go to plan. Reusable water bottles and water bladders are the best choice for carrying your water with you. Using a bladder will mean you are sipping more frequently and as a result potentially drink more than when using a water bottle. Commonly people with water bottles keep moving rather than stopping to get the bottle from their pack and therefore drink less. I like to have a separate water bottle or cup so that I can mix up some hydrolyte throughout the day.
How Much Water?
General guidelines 1-2L per hour of hiking depending on location, weather and environment. You can survive without food but not without water so don’t skimp because of the weight (1L = 1Kg).
First Aid - As confident as you may be while hiking, accidents happen and when they do, it’s important to be well prepared to treat injuries and ailments as best you can. The Australian bush can be very dangerous if you aren’t prepared. Whether it’s as simple as a blister or a more complicated problem such as dehydration, having a first aid kit on hand makes a huge difference. Where you are hiking and conditions can depend on how extensive your first aid kit is. For a general day hike I would recommend having the following as a basis:
* snake bandage * instant ice pack
* emergency blanket * bandaids
* antiseptic wipes or cream * hydrolyse
* triangular bandage * blister care
Keep these in a waterproof sack for easy access and protection if it rains.
Snacks - Bringing snacks to keep you energised on the trail is of the utmost importance. What TYPES of food you should be packing for a day hike and ensuring you take PLENTY of food should be carefully considered. Nobody likes keeping company with a hangry hiker and it can be a long drive home if you ate your last handful of trail mix five minutes after lunch. (Hangry -Bad-tempered or irritable as a result of hunger. Blend of hungry and angry).
The types of snacks you include are totally a personal preference. Choose a variety of snacks that taste good, are light weight and travel well. I like to take a mixture of savoury and sweet snacks such as:
buttered baked potatoes
Remember in hot environments chocolate will melt but Peanut M&Ms won’t ;)
Sunglasses - It's important as a hiker to protect your eyes from too much light. Wear a reliable and sturdy pair of sunnies because UV damage to the eyeballs isn't fun, and neither is squinting all day. Another great tip is to choose a pair with polarized lenses, which will protect your eyes from the glare off rocks, snow, sand and water.
Sunscreen - Sunscreen is essential in any weather and environment, especially here in Australia. Go for a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF value of 30 or higher. I like to use Nutrogena 50 as it goes on light and does not sweat off much.
Hat - When hiking I predominately wear my Akubra for full coverage of neck, ears and nose but I will also sometimes wear a cap depending where I am hiking and how long I will be outside.
Jacket - A rain jacket is a great lightweight layer to add to your daypack. It covers you if unexpected rain comes through but more importantly even if there is no forecast of rain it can act as a a windbreaker. You cool down fast if you have been sweating whilst hiking and take a break to eat or drink. If you feel the cold more, you may need more layers such as a thermal top so be sure to pack them as there is nothing worse than being cold on a hike.
Emergency - There are a number of items to include for emergencies - no matter how short the hike remember “murphy’s law!” If you don’t have it you will need it. At the very least bring a lighter or matches to light a fire if needed and a fully charged phone with offline maps if available just in case there is no coverage. Have a whistle because with wind, rain and even in good weather, you screaming at the top of your lungs may not be enough to be heard. I mentioned I have a SPOT tracker which is much more than your average Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon (EPIRB).
Most importantly let someone know your plans, where you are hiking and your anticipated time of return.
Maps (and compass) - Your map can tell you a lot - details about an area's elevation, the best way to ascend a peak or how to orient yourself using landmarks. Topographical maps are more detailed representing three dimensional landscape in two dimensions. Read over the guide, study the map, and have a good idea of what to expect. Understanding where you are and where you are going is key to enjoying your hike. A combination of electronic navigation and paper is a good route for hiking beginners. Some good offline map apps include Final piece of advice is to put your maps in a zip-lock, waterproof bag so they will be protected.
Backpack - You’ll want something you can carry comfortably and has the features designed to keep you hiking smartly. Check for a rain cover; some packs come with one built-in and most Osprey packs have a built-in whistle in the chest strap clip. A 20–30L pack is usually the right size for what you need to carry. Keep the other Essentials in the pack and you’ll always be ready to head Off The Grid safely.
This list is a guide only and by no means exhaustive. It’s all just a matter of trial and error to see what works for you. Start with short hikes close to home to build confidence and experiment with your gear and food. Hiking is a wonderful way to get some exercise, challenge yourself, connect with nature, and quiet the busy mind. There are so many amazing sights to behold Off The Grid, and many of them can only be accessed by foot.