Getting started with hiking
I’ve been bushwalking since I was a kid, but many of my friends never got that start. Getting into bushwalking, hiking, tramping or whatever you want to call it can be a bit daunting – unprepared walkers can get themselves into serious trouble before they realise it (and usually that's all you'll hear about bushwalking in the mainstream media). Luckily, with a bit of preparation and respect for the bush, walking is a safe, healthy and invigorating pastime.
Working with experience
The best way to get into bushwalking is to find an experienced friend and tag along. Most bushwalkers will love to introduce another into the joys of walking and will also be able to guide you in choosing appropriate tracks in your area.
If you don’t know anybody personally who can help you then consider finding a bushwalking club in your area (even if you do know somebody it still might be worth finding one!) Bushwalking clubs are the ultimate in local knowledge. They’ll be used to introducing new walkers and will be able to give you the best advice on how to get started.
Getting started on your own
Can’t find a club or just prefer to go on your own? First of all… don’t – make sure you’ve at least got one other person who will come on the journey with you! Solo bushwalking can be a great pastime (so I’m told) but requires a lot of experience, preparation and even then can be quite risky. Having somebody else along will make sure there’s a backup in case something goes awry, and besides it’s nice to have somebody to chat to on the track.
Any walkers should be reasonably fit, but don’t fret too much about this. With a bit of research you should be able to find a track suitable for most fitness levels
Finding a track
Once you’ve got a walking party together you need to find a suitable track. It won’t surprise you that I think Aussie Bushwalking is a great resource for finding a track, but there are a few other options as well.
- Bushwalking clubs/hiking clubs – I’ve already mentioned these, but they really are the best way of finding out about walks in your area
- Guide books – if you check your local outdoor store you should be able to find a few guidebooks which will provide track details
- Government agencies – most hiking these days is done on public land. Track details can usually be found from the department managing that land whether it be your local council or state government (e.g. national parks or state forests). Check their websites or find a nearby park and ask about pamphlets.
When you’re starting out you want to look for a track which is:
- well maintained so you won’t have any trouble navigating (less maintained tracks may have sections which are hard to follow)
- not too much up or down (you can try for the mountain peaks once you’ve put a few easier tracks behind you)
- not too long (again, get used to walking a bit before you start any 20km monsters)
What gear do I need?
To get started… not much! You really don’t need much to get started bushwalking, and definitely don’t need to go buying heaps of specialist hiking gear. A comfortable pair of sneakers, a small backpack and some basic first aid equipment is all you need.
Make sure you take plenty of water, particularly if your walk will be exposed (i.e. out in the sun). There’s no need to go overboard and drink litres and litres of water to make sure you’re hydrated, but make sure you’ve got enough so you can drink what you need.
And of course take some food. Generally I don’t eat much while on the track, but once I reach the destination I like to take the pack off, find a comfy rock and settle back for a feed and a yarn… actually that’s usually what my walking partners do while I wander around taking far too many photos J
The final say
My last bit of advice… get out there! The sooner you get onto a track the better. Have a bit of a look around your city and you’ll probably find some tracks you can hit without even leaving the suburbs. Have a browse of the Aussie Bushwalking map and you’ll find even more within an hour or so and before you know it you’ll have a list a mile long of places you want to visit.
And of course, don’t forget to give a bit back. Tick your walks off on Aussie Bushwalking and leave a comment to let the next person know how things were. Upload some photos for others to see, fix up any errors in the track description or best of all any tracks we don’t already have.