There are some lovely urban walking trails within Perth’s metro area where the only hiking “gear” you might need for a few hours is just some water and sun protection. Being in a populated area has you within yahoo’s distance of help if you need it.
It’s a little different when you head out into Perth’s hills for a wonderful hike in nature with not a sign of civilisation encroaching on your peace and quiet.
But that also means that your comfort and safety is entirely dependent on you.
Fear not, as we’ve put together a list of 10 items that you should always take when hiking more isolated trails, items that will cover many different aspects of your safety.
These ten items are in no particular order, although each one is as essential as the other!
1. First Aid Supplies
While a comprehensive first aid kit is good insurance for many worst case scenarios, you’re more likely to use it regularly for the smaller stuff; scratches, blisters, headaches, etc, making your kit indispensable even on short hikes.
To start with, you might just want to create your own first aid kit with the basics like:
- Safety Pins
- Antibiotic Ointment
- Antiseptic Towelettes
- Wound Closure Strips
- Moleskin or duct tape for blisters
- ACE bandage
- Electrolyte powder sachets
For something a bit more comprehensive, buying individual items works out to be more expensive than buying a complete first aid kit. You also have the added benefit of a bright red case to carry everything in (and easy to locate in your pack), they often contain basic first aid instructions and replacing used items is just a trip to a supermarket or pharmacy.
An all purpose first aid purchased from a pharmacy or online will cover most safety bases or you could opt for a first aid kit purposely put together for hikers like this one.
One last option to consider when it comes to first aid kits are the kind designed specifically for snake bites. A good understanding of snake safety can certainly mitigate most bites but the deadliness of our local species definitely warrants extra care all year round.
It’s surprising just how much energy you use when you’re out hiking even for a few hours.
Food literally is fuel and if you have none in your tank, you could be setting yourself up for some serious safety issues!
- Skipping a main meal before your hike will have you starting out on low fuel right from the beginning, every minute of walking depleting an already empty energy store.
- Low energy can cause headaches, light-headedness (not to mention hangryness!) and disorientation at worst.
- Minor symptoms of low energy can suck the joy out of your nature walk, can cause you to lose concentration leading to a possible rolled ankle or worse.
- Very low energy levels can also lead to poor decisions which in turn could easily get you lost, for example.
Always start your hike with a good meal behind you!
Take plenty of nutrient dense snacks with you (trail mix, fruit, sandwiches, etc) and nibble along the way to keep your energy levels up.
Take more food than necessary! Consider an emergency situation where you can’t walk back out:
- You’ll be glad that you’re not hungry as well as in (possible) pain!
- You’ll avoid low energy symptoms which could lead from a bad situation to a worse one!
Water is absolutely essential on any hike no matter the season or the duration of the hike!
A lack of water:
- Can cause more serious symptoms than a lack of food putting your safety at greater risk
- Can bring on symptoms of heat stroke and sunstroke faster, particularly in summer, both of which can mean an emergency rescue and possible hospitalisation.
For a 2-3 hour hike, a couple of large water bottles is often enough.
For most day hikes 2-3 litres of water is recommended.
The easiest way to carry a larger amount of water is by packing a hydration bladder in your backpack. Their straw-like tubing can be settled over your shoulder giving you easy access to drinking.
For tips on how to clean your hydration bladder check out our below.
Off The Beaten Track will only ever encourage you to stick to the trails for a few very important reasons:
- It helps prevent the spread of dieback
- Traipsing through virgin bushland and forest disturbs the local residents (kangaroos, echidna’s, etc) and local flora
- Off trail puts you at greater risk of a snake bite
- It’s easier to get lost and harder for you to be found!
Compass navigation has no use on a clearly marked path (they only help you go in a straight line between point A and point B) but you should have some kind of map to help you navigate unfamiliar or complicated trails.
You can print off maps of specific trails from TrailsWA, download offline maps to your phone (although you’ll want to make sure your phone has a full charge), pick up brochure maps from some visitor centres (like the Dwellingup Trails & Visitor Centre) and you can also take a photo of the information board at the beginning of well used trails.
Learning more skills of navigating trails will also provide you with a lot more confidence to tackle more challenges, like going solo and overnight hikes.
5. Sun Protection
No matter the season, it’s easy to get sunburnt due to Australia’s high irradiation levels.
While sunburn can just be mildly uncomfortable, the effects of sunburn can lower energy levels, increase thirst, bring on headaches or lightheadedness – all symptoms that can cause accidents, increase hike recovery time or at the very least, make for a miserable hike.
Sun protection comes in many forms:
- Long sleeves and pants
Overexposure to heat can also lead to heat exhaustion, which if not treated can turn into heat stroke and hospitalisation as we cover in our summer hiking tips.
As everyone has a different constitution it’s important to be aware of your heat sensitivity on any given day, not just summer! Slight dehydration, hiking 10km on a warm spring day could be enough for your body to overreact.
So take your sun protection seriously all year round.
6. The Right Shoes
Even on the easiest hike you should protect your feet with the right shoes.
Open shoes, like thongs, sandals and slides, may be cooler but they expose your safety to risks from mild discomfort to nasty accidents.
- Your foot is not as stable on the slippery surface of the footbed of an open shoe
- Skin is exposed to scratches from twigs, bites from ants (or even worse, snakes)
- Most open shoes have very little tread on the sole making it easier to slip on (dreaded) pea gravel putting you at greater risk of rolled ankles and falls
- With no firm ankle support of a supporting shoe ankle sprains become a higher risk
At the very least wear socks and sneakers to protect your feet on any hike.
There’s a huge range of different hiking shoes to choose from if you need more personalised protection for your feet. Things like wide feet, low arches, the type of trails you hike.
Unfortunately with such a range to choose from it can be a bit confusing which trail runners or hiking boots might suit you. We put some questions to our Team OTBT Guides to help you decide what’s best for you and the design elements to look out for.
7. Rubbish Bag
You’d be surprised how useful the humble kitchen rubbish bag is on a hike!
It’s one of those items can serve you well in many different scenarios:
- Used to line the inside of your backpack, a bag can create a waterproof lining for your food, clothing and electronics if you get caught in rain
- A large enough bag can serve as a temporary rain poncho
- Wrap it around your waist as a rain skirt to protect your lower half from water running down your rain jacket
- Use a bag to separate food scraps, smelly socks, or used toilet paper (in it’s own snaplock baggie) from the rest of the gear in your backpack
- Grab out your bag when you want to sit down in less than ideal conditions and use it as a ground sheet
- A white or coloured bag can provide a way to signal for help
- And of course for packing out any rubbish of your own (or others if you’re litter minded)
Pretty versatile huh?!
A rubbish bag takes up very little room in your backpack and with its many uses there should be no reason to not have one with you on every hike.
8. Mobile Phone
As much as we hikers prefer a tech disconnect while hiking, having a phone with you has many advantages (you can always put it on silent so your zen isn’t disturbed!).
Your phone is essential to your emergency plan – and an emergency plan should be in place for every hike. As part of your emergency plan, your phone enables you to message your emergency contact when you start your hike and when you return to your car, ensuring you get home safely.
You can download navigation apps and offline trail maps to your phone which will work even without phone coverage, to help you navigate unfamiliar or confusing trails.
With their shiny surfaces phones can be used to signal for help.
Of course, if you’re into photography of any kind, your phone can not only take pleasure photos but also landmarks to help you navigate more easily.
The latest model smart phones now have GPS installed which can help emergency services locate you in the case of an accident.
Every hike should be undertaken with a view to cover as many unwanted contingencies as possible.
Our top ten must have items listed here are the absolute essentials but there are other items you could easily pack to ensure your comfort and safety on any hike.
But if the worst thing that can happen does happen and you find yourself in need of emergency service help.
The sound from a whistle:
- Takes you less energy
- Saves your breath and with it the need for more water
- Is much louder than your voice
- Travels much further than your voice
- And is easily identifiable as an emergency signal
A sturdy metal whistle is the absolute cheapest thing you can invest in that is worth its weight in gold.
Last but not least, a backpack will enable you to carry your essential hiking gear with ease.
Sometimes folk think that carrying a backpack for a short hike of just a couple of hours is overkill.
But is it though?
Nobody can predict an accident and without any kind of gear, you leave yourself open to a bad situation turning into something worse.
Your backpack doesn’t need to be fancy for a short hike and most people have at least one at home (even if it has Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles on the back!).
Regular hikers tend to have a couple of different packs for different reasons; a short hike, a full day or even an overnight hike that requires a lot more equipment to be packed and carried.
However if you’re looking for a recommendation, we use Osprey Packs (which also come in men’s and women’s) for their sturdiness, comfort and their capacity. Consider getting one that comes with a rain cover for your winter hikes.
For the most part our list of Top 10 Must Have Items When Hiking Perth’s Trails is based on good old fashioned common sense.
It’s always better to be prepared for any situation, particularly when there’s not likely to be help on hand. And knowing you have at least the essential gear with you, you will feel more confident out on the trails and truly be able to enjoy your downtime in nature.