How to do Great Walks like a boss
Every hike has its own challenges to overcome. When you go for a hike in Canada you have to think about bear mace, bear bells, bear safety and bears in general. In Queensland, thankfully there are no bears – except the odd ‘Drop Bear’ (scientific name: Gullible Touristus) – but that doesn’t mean there’s any less planning involved.
The Great Walks are more than just really long, overnight hikes. They take you far from the normal tourist tracks and deep into our national parks.
Needless to say, being prepared is a must. These tips will put you on the right path (pun intended) and show you how to plan your hike. Like a boss.
1. Pick your fave
Choosing the Great Walk you want to do can be hard enough. So start with this list of 10 Great Walks worth lacing your boots up for.
2. Build your foundations
Being able to walk for extended periods of time is the name of the game.
Map out your Great Walk here but make sure you pick up a hard copy, too (essential to not getting lost). These maps show you the distances between campsites – aka the distances you need to be able to make each day.
Your feet are your mode of transport so treat them nicely with good quality boots. Avoid the $20 specials and opt for waterproof or quick drying boots, which usually cost around $100.
Start off with 20-minute walks, building your way up slowly. Once you feel comfortable, start ramping it up on the weekends to a couple of hours at a time. Consistency is key here – your ultimate goal is to be able to walk for eight hours and have enough energy left over to build camp. Spending 10 to 15 minutes stretching before snuggling into your sleeping bag is great practice as well.
3. Pack those bags
This is where things can get as complicated or as simple as you want. Bear Grylls would have you believe all you need is a good knife (and decades of training and an endless supply of money and cameramen) to survive.
In real life, you want to do more than just survive. You want the walk to be enjoyable. So bring along these essentials to make your life much easier and more glamorous than Man Vs Wild.
- A buddy or two (up to 12). Hiking alone can be scary. Plus, your buddy carries half the stuff.
- Drinking water. As much as you think you’ll need (and a bit more).
- Food. These tips from Caro from Lotsa Fresh Air are a godsend.
- Waterproof backpack and clothing.
- Spare undies and thermals.
- A pair of gardening gloves (Queensland might not have bears but there are some mean plants and bush critters).
- Torch/flashlight (for spotting those drop bears) with extra batteries.
- Hat, sunscreen and mossie spray.
- Your map! Laminated or in a waterproof container.
- Compass (know how to use it).
- Firestarting kit and a lighter (note: these are two separate things).
- Hiking stove with gas.
- Kitchen bag (bowl, fork, spoon etc).
- Swag or tent (preferably a tent just in case it rains).
- Sleeping bag and mat.
- Personal Locator Beacon (never EVER leave without one, you can even borrow them for free from some local police stations and national parks offices).
- Something to boil water with (an aluminium pot is lightweight and does the trick).
- Toothpaste, hand sanitiser and toilet paper (the rest of the camp will appreciate it).
- A GPS (not too expensive these days and an absolute must).
- Swiss Army Knife or a good bush knife.
- A notepad and pencil (for emergencies, or poetry, make sure you keep them dry).
- Whistle (you know, for those Drop Bears).
- Your camera (you wouldn’t forget this but just saying).
- Bear bells, bear mace, bear fighting gloves… whoops, old habits die hard.
Remember, the lighter your pack the more comfortable you will be, so share your gear with your hiking buddies. For even more packing info check out Ben Southall’s advice for packing for an expedition.
4. Get the word out
Before you set off on your trip, make sure someone knows about it (it makes them jealous AND they might save your life if you get lost #winwin). Tell them where you’re starting and when and where you plan on finishing. If you’re not there at the end, someone will come looking for you.
5. Rules of the road
Rule #1: Be on time!
Sticking to your plan is important and will ensure you make it to camp every night – and you’re not left stuck in the bush glaring at whoever was late as they borrow your toilet paper.
Which brings us to the second rule: don’t mooch. Bring your own stuff. Nothing is sexier on the trail than self-reliance. Also, whatever you bring into the bush you should take out.
Queensland’s Department of National Park, Recreation, Sports and Racing (NPRSR) has some helpful guides on keeping safe and leaving things as you found them. The website also includes all the information you need about camping and trail conditions.
With beautiful national park walks littered all over Queensland and summer temperatures dropping, now is the perfect time to start planning your epic bear-free adventure.
Did we miss anything? What other tips do you have for doing a Great Walk?