Planning a hike actually takes time, if it’s going to be long distance. If it’s just a day trek then throw a water-bottle, snacks, sunscreen, first aid kit and gaiters in the car and have fun! But if you’re going overnight you’re going to have to think about a few things. Everyone does this differently, but here’s my list:
Step 1: Choose a Hike
Seriously, it blows my mind that people don’t do this. Who wakes up one morning and goes ‘I’m just going to wing that’. What about diversions? What about burning areas? What about weather conditions? You NEED to know these things. So pick your hike, get on a computer and CHECK. I wanted to do the Bibbulmun this year; it’s not completable due to the fires at the start of the year. Would have sucked to have found that out halfway through! So check, seriously…it’s not even hard, its just stupid not to.
Step 2: Check how to get to the start, and how to get back from the finish
This is actually more important than the rest. I find its usually pretty straightforward to get to one end, and then ridiculously complicated to get from the other. I’ve been picked up by friends, had to charter private buses, had to wait a few extra days for a bus, etc etc. Find your entry and exit points, and make sure you can get to them, and get someone else to them! Once you know this, pick dates that fit around it. If you can only get out of the hike on certain days, I try and make sure I’ve got an extra day up my sleeve in case of accidents or bad weather. Again, that’s just smart. Always have an extra day up your sleeve, especially on long hikes.
Step 3: Book the campsites, transport, buses, flights
Check booking regulations. Most national parks in Australia require camping fees and permits, especially on popular walks. Check the dates you selected for entry and exit have campsites available through the hike. If it all fits, book it. Book early; nothing is worse than leaving it to the last minute and finding out you can’t do it because one campsite in the middle booked out. Book it, stick to the plan, and go. No chickening out once it’s booked. Book everything; if its all in place you can’t be disappointed later.
If, like me, you have to fly to get somewhere, arrange to pick up some fuel for your stove at an easily accessible store. I usually call ahead, pay over the phone and arrange a collection time, to make sure they have what I want.
Step 4: Check your gear
Make sure it’s still all functional, still all there, and that so and so who borrowed your compass six months ago really did return it. If something’s broken or missing, replace it, asap. Make sure your stove is still functional, even if it was the last time you used it. If you’re borrowing something, check it’s in good condition and will suit what you’re using it for. Check the weather again and make sure your sleeping bag is the right grade… you get the idea. If you haven’t worn your boots in, start now. If you haven’t packed your pack before, do a practise pack and make sure everything fits. It can take a while to get a good order of packing going, so think hard about what needs to come out of the bag first, as this makes setting up camp each night much easier.
Step 5: GO
It really is that easy. All that planning should make this a breeze, but if something goes awry, wing it! It’s not rocket science. Where there’s a will, there’s a way and all that. That said, always have an abort strategy. I’ve had to abort a hike, and it wasn’t fun. It was pouring rain, the river was rising, and there was no mobile phone reception. It wasn’t life threatening; I didn’t need to set off a PLB, but it was worth having an exit strategy. Know if there’s someone you can call to collect you, or what bus to take and where it leaves from, and how much it will cost. Be prepared to book a room somewhere at the last minute, and have the funds to cover it without stress. Always have a plan for when the plan fails, then there’s nothing to stress over.