Our Explorer Saphira is relatively fresh to the hiking scene but since her first Outward Bound course she’s become a fervent convert who hikes everything in sight. Throwing herself in the deep end has meant that things haven’t always gone smoothly, but mistakes are how we learn, right? Here’s Saphira’s scoop on what not to do on a hike.
Skimp On First Aid
Whether it’s training or kit, you need to get up to date. As you explore more terrain it should be a priority to pack appropriate first aid gear and know how to use it.
Location: Mt Barney summit, QLD
Situation: It was cold and wet, and we had to set up tent in the rain. Emergency blankets provided waterproofing and warmth and saved us from a very cold night. My friend bought two the next day and they’re now part of her essential kit.
Leave No Margin For Error
If you’re unprepared for navigating in the dark, or it’s not the right terrain or conditions to even try, schedule in ‘disaster hours’ for twisted ankles, getting lost, exhaustion, and other unexpected delays. Consider taking extra food and make sure you’re prepared with emergency shelters in case of the worst.
Location: Butterbox Canyon, Blue Mountains
Situation: Unskilled group members severely slowed down the pace of the group. We didn’t get to navigating out of the canyon until almost dark, and several members became distressed. It was pretty spicy towards the end!
Push Yourself Beyond Your Capabilities
Be conservative when looking at possible adventures. Don’t just let people tell you, “It’s not that hard” or, “You’ll be fine”.
While life’s all about pushing limits, you should assess your own skills and experience conservatively before heading outdoors. If your top hiking day so far has been 12km and you’ve never done an overnighter, don’t head off on the Gold Coast Hinterland Great Walk (50km+ over three days). The trail will still be there in a couple of months! So keep hiking and learning and wait until it’s more within your comfort zone.
Location: Carnarvon Gorge, QLD
Situation: We came across a teenager on the Carnarvon Great Walk (90km+), who had never done a multi-day hike before. He was extremely tired, demoralised, and carrying his pack completely incorrectly (not using the waist strap, shoulder straps completely extended), risking injury. His much older brother had invited him along to ‘test’ him, and then left him behind.
Leave It Up To The Trip Leader
Usually, some keen hiker (perhaps even you!) is the one organising the adventure. As a participant, have you checked out and made yourself aware of published warnings (rockslides, lightning, seasonal closures, wildlife)? Do you know where you’re going? Do you have access to your own copy of the official map? Ask yourself: are you self-sufficient or are you depending on someone else for your safety?
Location: Kangaroo Island, SA
Situation: I was group leader for this hike. The others on the hike had no idea where we were going that day or how many kilometres we had ahead of us. Consequently, we started walking too late in the day and the pace was often too slow. We ended up hiking several hours in the dark every day.
If you’re in a big group, it’s a fair call to split into two groups; and if you’re on a (well-prepared) solo trip, walking at your own pace is a pleasure in itself.
However, if you’re hiking in groups of about 4 or less, reconsider walking ahead and leaving behind stragglers. I’ve been that straggler – it sucks.
Apart from killing morale and group vibes, the straggler often doesn’t end up resting as much as those faster-paced walkers, since they’re always playing catch-up. This puts them at risk of a) dehydration, b) exhaustion, and c) a shitty trip.
If you agreed to go on a trip without assessing everyone’s skill levels, you need to commit to staying together. It’s advisable to have the two strongest hikers at the front and back – this will also minimise time to a first aid response.
Location: Rocky Mountains, Canada
Situation: I had a very shitty trip because I was left to walk alone for most of the week. It sucked. A lot.
Take A “She’ll Be Right” Attitude
Don’t underestimate nature. Respect its power. Make sure you have more than enough food, water, protection from the elements and safety equipment.
Location: Mt Joyce, QLD.
Situation: We went hiking during a heat wave approaching 40°C. I took only 3L of water for two days. The group separated, one going the long way around the lake, the others turning back early. The former group ran out of water for the last 10km.
Don’t Tell Anyone Where You’re Going
Tell yo Momma, Papa, bf, gf, bff or the police your trip intentions. Heck, trace out your intended route on a map, with where you’re camping and walking each day. State a time and date that you expect to make contact post-trip. State a final time and date that you should have made contact by – and provide the person with details of emergency services if you do not return. Search will only begin 24 hours after you are reported as missing, so choose wisely. Borrow or buy a Personal Locator Beacon.
Location: Great Ocean Walk, Vic.
Situation: I told my mum every detail of my trip, since I was doing close to 80km of it solo. I gave her a time and date of expected contact. My grandma caught wind of the fact that I was walking alone, and called my mother – but because I provided her with extensive details she knew not to stress until our pre-agreed time of contact.
Just Wing It
Yes, outdoorsy stuff is about spontaneity. The best way to allow yourself to be spontaneous on the actual trip, is to have prepared beforehand. Check the weather, research the trip, pack appropriately.
Location: Great Ocean Walk, Vic
Situation: As my first long-distance, solo trail, I planned for weeks. On the trip itself, I knew which places I could swim at, got to my campsites early to chill out, and was able to safely explore the trail without worrying about time or distance.
Trash The Place
Take your trash with you; don’t be excessively noisy; don’t go off-trail constantly (it disturbs vegetation); bury your poo away from water sources; don’t use detergents/toothpastes/soaps in natural water sources; don’t pick flowers, take rocks, or collect shells; keep fires to designated pits.
Follow these rules and when you do the trail next year it’ll be just as pretty!
Location: Scenic Rim, QLD & NSW
If you become disorientated or something doesn’t seem right, stop. Don’t keep going because it “must be the way”. Reassess the situation, check your map thoroughly, discuss a plan of action with your group. Mark your last known location and have a turnaround time, when you agree that you will re-trace your steps if you still aren’t sure you’re on the right track.
Location: Carnarvon Gorge, QLD.
Situation: The previously mentioned teenager, his older brother and a friend proceeded to climb rocks and swim in gorges when they missed the turn-off up Battleship Spur. Things got a little spicy and they were lucky not to get injured.
Photos by Saphira Schroers, Miranda Fittock and Matthew White.