A few Golden Rules to remember when packing for a weekend bushwalk:
- Pack your own pack, do not let your Mother (or Father) anywhere near it, although they may supervise. The reason for this is that you need to know where you've packed stuff so that you can find it, also Mothers in general insist that you take more than you need such as a week's supply of spare clothes and unnecessary things like deodorant.
- Keep your pack weight to 20% of your body weight. This is really important. If you carry a heavier pack than this, you will have a crap time as everyone else will walk faster than you and rather than enjoying the scenery all you will think about are your sore feet and aching shoulders. BTW - your pack weight includes food and water. Your body weight is measured with just your undies on - you can't cheat and measure body weight with clothes on and pockets stuffed with lollies or other stuff. Keep it light.
- If you're not sure if you need something, then you probably don't need it.
- Packaging. Just remove it and throw it away. Don't bring the packaging for your little gas stove - put your gas stove inside your Billy. Don't bring a toiletries bag - they're heavy. Use a lightweight ziplock bag instead. Don't bring that full box of Muesli for breakfast. Measure what you need and put into a lightweight ziplock bag.
- Don't bring a heap of spare clothes. They weight a ton. You usually only need the clothes you wear for a weekend trip, plus a fleece and thermals at night. Leave any clean clothes back at car to change into after the bushwalk is complete.
Pack: Your pack is to carry everything in, of course, with a minimum of discomfort. A modern framed pack is ideal. It is essential that a pack fits properly, packed properly, and fits properly on your back. It should have wide shoulder straps and a firm, padded hip belt.
An ideal pack size for a weekend or 3 day hike is 45 - 65 litres. A larger pack is not needed. 45 litres should be more than enough for a Scout. If you can't fit everything you need for a weekend hike into a 45 litre pack then you're carrying too much.
Pack Liner: Put everything inside a pack liner unless you choose to use a waterproof pack cover. A heavy duty orange garbage bag works best.
Sleeping Bag and Liner: A reasonable quality bag is essential for a good nights sleep. Ideally as compact as possible to help with the weight and size loading in your pack. In general down sleeping bags are more compact than synthetic sleeping bags. You should aim to get a sleeping bag with a comfort rating of -2 degrees as we do bushwalk during winter as well. A lightweight silk inner sheet will keep you warmer in winter and also help keep your sleeping bag clean.
Sleeping Mat: Either a foam sleeping mat or a short self inflating mat are good as they are lightweight. Kathmandu sell short self inflating mats for $30 and foam mats for about $12. Foam mats can be put on the outside of your pack.
Pillow: You don't need a pillow. Stuff the inside of your sleeping bag cover with clothes or use your pack under your sleeping mat.
Headlamp: A small headlamp should be carried and unless you're planning on a week long trip you shouldn't need a spare set of batteries - just make sure you insert fresh batteries before your trip. A headlamp is preferred rather than a torch as a headlamp can be used hands free.
Toilet Gear: Should be carried by each person. The usual stuff - toothbrush, small toothpaste (or a blob of toothpaste in a zip lock bag), small soap bar and a small micro-fibre towel (hint - Bunnings sells packets of micro-fibre towels for a few bucks). Do not bring deodorant or other unnecessary toiletries.
Eating Irons: One plate or bowl (not both), usually plastic or aluminium, and a mug. A knife (sharp pocket knife is good), fork and spoon are necessary, and together with your plate and mug, along with a tea towel. Plastic is best as it is light. You can also get a combined plastic fork/spoon from shops like Kathmandu. If you're hard core, then you can use your billy to eat out of saving some weight.
Water Bottle: Plastic PET bottles are perfect. A minimum of 1.25l is required, possibly up to 3 or more litres will be required depending on water sources. If using a Camelbak or similar make sure your pack has an external pouch - don't use a Camelbak inside your pack in case of leaks - also keep in mind that a PET bottle is a lot lighter than a Camelbak.
Whistle: A whistle is essential. Despite best endeavours, people do sometimes get separated or lost - especially when it gets dark, and the noise of a whistle to attract attention is far superior to that made by a human voice. Just get a cheap plastic one - Bias marine sell good ones at a low cost, theres no need to get a 2000 decibel whistle for $15.
First Aid Kit: You need to carry a suitable First Aid Kit. A kit put together in double ziplock bags is often more suitable and versatile than a commercially packed kit. Its a really good idea to buy a packet of blister band-aids.
Boots: These need not be expensive, but do need to be in good condition and comfortable. Remember that feet swell when walking and when a load is carried the foot lengthens and widens. A rubber sole with a sturdy tread will provide good grip on most surfaces. Make sure the boots are well worn in before the hike. Don't use Dunlop Volleys, they are too thin and do not provide any support. For Australian conditions a lightweight pair of boots is all that is needed. No need for heavy fully waterproof leather monsters.
Socks: Thick cotton or wool socks are needed to absorb moisture and to cushion the feet or use two pairs of thin woollen socks. If using thick wool socks you may also want to wear a thin pair of cotton/woollen socks underneath. Avoid cheap synthetic socks.
Trousers: Long trousers are essential in cold weather, however, shorts are comfortable in most conditions and can be worn whilst hiking - you can also get pants with zip off legs. Jeans should not be worn at all as they are very heavy. Thermals are worn under long trousers at night so there is no need for track suit pants. Whilst hiking with long pants can get warm they do provide protection when bush bashing and limited protection against snake bites.
Shirt: Your shirt should have long sleeves and a collar for both warmth in cold weather and protection from sunburn. A light "t-shirt" could also be carried.
Jumper/ Fleece: A woollen long sleeved jumper, or fleece, is necessary.
Waterproof Jacket: A waterproof jacket is your main protection against wind and rain. The best type is a lightweight hooded nylon type. Padded ski and sailing jackets or ponchos are not suitable. Goretex jackets are OK but can be heavy and expensive and they don't work well in the Australian climate. A Poncho is not recommended. I use a thing called The Packa which is a combined rain jacket/pack cover, they are quite reasonably priced and take about a week to ship - www.thepacka.com
Hat: A hat must be worn for sun protection. Your hat is your best friend.
Beanie and Gloves: It gets cold at night. Big fat downhill ski gloves are not suitable. Thin woollen gloves or thermal gloves are good.
Thermals: Long sleeve thermal tops and bottoms are necessary nighttime temperatures in the Blue Mountains can drop to around zero in Winter.
Spare Clothes: Remember, hiking is meant to be lightweight so there is no need to bring a heap of spare clothes. Its quite OK to wear the same T-shirt all weekend but a change of undies is probably a good idea. Remember, everyone is just as stinky as you and smoke from fires at breakfast and night will disguise the stink in any case.
Gaiters: If you choose to use gaiters get a light pair. You don't need heavy duty gaiters. I tend to use a pair of long pants instead.
Trekking Poles: If you want to maintain a healthy set of knees or are old and doddery then trekking poles will save your knees especially on steep descents.
You want high energy food with a small moisture content to keep weight to a minimum - in general remove all food from it's original packaging, measure out exact quantities for each meal and place in a ziplock bag.
Cereal for breakfast with milk powder mixed in beforehand and sealed in a ziplock bag is the way to go - some hard men simply add water to the bag and eat straight out of the bag to save carrying a bowl and washing up! Don't even think about bringing UHT milk or other breakfast substitutes such as "Up and Go".
Trail mix for lunch or grazing on the trail is perfect - this way you don't need to stop for lunch.
Dinner - the list is endless. Pasta, rice, freeze dried meals, dehydrated meals ... Whatever it is, keep it light - avoid tinned food or food with a high moisture content. As nice as fresh fruit and vegetables are, remember that they're heavy and you can do without them for a weekend.
Group Gear for Hiking - to be shared
Lightweight Gas Stove (shared between 2-4)
Gas stoves that use the small canisters are perfect. If you like Trangias, or solid fuel stoves go for it. If you like your MSR petrol burners they're also good but heavy for lightweight hiking use.
Flint or matches (shared between 2-4)
To light your stove of course!
Two man tent or Bivvy Bag (shared between 1-2)
If using a two man tent look for something under 2.5Kg in weight. The cheap $40.00 tents from Anaconda are OK but won't stand up to heavy weather. Three man tents don't work so well as they are hard to divide between three.
Billy (shared between 2)
2 litre aluminium is perfect.
PLB or EPIRB (one for the entire party)
A emergency beacon will be carried in case of well, Emergencies. The beacon will only be activated in the case of life threatening situation or serious injury. Cuts, bruises, sore feet, minor burns, getting misplaced or running late do not constitute an emergency.
Compass and Maps (shared between 2-4)
Don't leave home without them.
GPS (One is enough, but if you have one bring it along)
I like my GPS to record the route and for quick checks. Otherwise map and compass are your primary navigation aids.
Gaffa tape and string (Shared between all)
A small amount of each is sufficient for the entire party