Bushwalking Gear Lists

The following is just a copy of my gear checklist, which varies according to the type of activity I'm doing. Some items are always placed in the pack eg food, water, and Personal Locator Beacon while many items are optional and rarely, if ever, taken eg Plastic Trowel, Tent. It's a good idea to make up your own checklist, weigh the items and then try to refine or minimise the list to reduce pack weight. Remember the old saying: "Count every ounce, every ounce counts".

" A fool and his money are soon parted." Proverb.
Generally you should avoid outdoor shops like the Bubonic Plague; they'll sell you anything and everything, often at greatly inflated prices, whether you need it or not! Ask other bush walkers for advice and take your time i.e. don't rush into spending your hard earned cash on inappropriate gear. You'll find you tend to accumulate a lot of gear by osmosis anyway.

For a weekend trip you should be able to get the weight of your pack to under nine kilograms. If you share gear with a friend or partner eg fly, cooking gear, first aid etc the weight can be much less. Many of my friends carry less than eight kilograms (plus water) over a weekend by using lightweight gear. There's plenty of information on the internet and other walkers are always keen to share their knowledge. Check out my Links page for starters. I strongly encourage you to have a go at making your own lightweight gear as it can all be done on a simple domestic sewing machine. Nearly all my gear has been sewn on an old (1950's) Italian Necchi machine which my mother picked up at a garage sale for eight dollars. The heavier sewing (eg.canvas gaiters) is done on an 1891 hand-crank Singer VS(model 27) which I picked up for nothing at a Salvation Army store. It needed a couple of hours of R&R but has become my favourite machine; slow and reliable. I even obtained a PDF of the original owners manual from ISMACS! The only trouble I've encountered is obtaining "genuine Singer quality Sperm Oil"! The heavy old machines made of metal are best. Your machine only needs a good straight stitch and, while it's a nice addition, not even a zig-zag stitch is necessary. The beauty of sewing your own gear is that YOU determine the quality and functionality of the pack without any of the silly marketing gimmicks, exess straps etc. It doesn't have to look "professional" but just be functional and well made with good quality fabric, thread, buckles etc. A friend of mine bought a "specialist" canyon pack a few years ago (which I might add he is happy with)and recently asked me to repair it's well-worn bottom; no worries/mates rates. Out of interest I weighed the beast and it came in at 1.8kg! My simple canvas and cordura canyon pack of smaller but more than adequate capacity weighs 700g, cost "peanuts" and performs every bit as well. Furthermore I can adjust, subtract, add or repair any feature as necessary. With a bit of effort you can learn to do the same! Look up Ray Jardine on my "Links" page for excellent do-it-yourself kits. ;

Tent/Fly, Pegs/Poles, Groundsheet, Pack linerSleeping bag, Silk inner sheet, Foam mat/Thermarest, Thermals, Beanie/Balaclava, Spare socksBilly, billy grips, Knife, Spoon, Mug, plate* Stove/Fuel*, Matches/Lighter, small piece of soap, piece of scourerFirst Aid Kit, Toilet Paper, Sunscreen, Insect Repellent*, Map(s), Compass, GPS*, PLB, Torch/Batteries,
Hat, Raincoat, Shorts, Shirt, Socks, Volleys/joggers, Gaiters, Wool Jumper/Polar Fleece, Sunglasses, Cosies, Hanky, MoneyWater Bottle,Wine Bladder, Breakfast, Morning Tea, Lunch, Afternoon Tea, Dinner, Happy Hour etcCarabiners, Descender, Harness/tape, Wetsuit*, Helmet, Gloves, Ropes, Prussik loops, LiloCamera, Cotton gloves, Mobile Phone, handline, Vitamin C tablets, Plastic trowel

DAY WALKS : Day Pack, Water Bottle, Raincoat, Jumper, Food (MT,AT, Lunch), Map, Compass, PLB, First Aid Kit, Matches/Lighter, Toilet Paper, Sunscreen, Torch, Sunglasses, Gaiters*, Gloves*, Camera* etc

REPAIRS: to packs, tents, sleeping bags, gaiters etc along with custom made packs: (a)Big Al's Repairs (Katoomba) phone: 0427823201

(b) Venus Repair Workshop Camping Equipment, Suite 36a 104 Bathurst St, Sydney NSW 2000, Australia (02) 9267 0706


Pack For day walks a good quality 20-30 litre pack with a drawstring closure on the main compartment is adequate. Avoid zip closures on the main compartment as they have a tendency to fail at the most inconvenient/critical times. Top quality brands include Summit Gear, Wilderness Equipment, One Planet, Macpac and Osprey. Ask other bush walkers/canyoners for their advice/opinions before purchasing a pack. For a weekend/overnight pack you should be able to get away with 50litres or smaller, especially if you go lightweight (under 9kg). Again I would encourage you to sew your own lightweight pack or purchase a lighweight brand such as Golite or Gossamer. This is one item where you can make BIG weight savings. My 55litre canvas pack weighs 1.4kg(fairly light) as compared to my Ray Jardine pack of 300grams! Which pack would you prefer to carry? Obviously the Jardine pack is made of lighter materials, not as rugged and needs a bit of extra care but I've had no trouble with it over the past six years (as of 2013). It's not a pack I'd take on a canyon trip but even Tom Williams' rugged "High Tops" packs will eventually succumb to getting dragged over sandstone. For multi-day overnight walks where your packweight exceeds 10kg an internal-frame pack, while heavier, will be far more comfortable. For canyons you need a 30-50litre pack (depending on whether you share carrying the ropes or not) made of 1000 denier cordura, preferably with some system of drainage holes in the bottom (or put in your own grommets/button holes etc). At a pinch any reputable brand will do. You can easily insert grommets in the bottom of a pack yourself. I obtained some Medalist brand plastic grommets from the local Mitre 10 hardware store. They came with very simple instructions, required no special installation tools, and have outperformed my metal grommets by a long shot.

Tents are heavy. Even the Macpac Microlight, which is a popular one person tent, weighs in at just under 2kg. A Ray Jardine (sew it yourself) silnylon two person fly on the other hand weighs less than 500g and has a heck-of-a-lot more room. With a fly you don't need to carry poles unless you are above the treeline in alpine areas. A fly is more versatile than a tent and is perfectly adequate for most areas in Australia, the exception being winter walking on the main range in the Snowy Mountains and walking in Tasmania where the atrocious winds demand a sewn in floor. If you must/want to use a tent ("What about the snakes and creepy-crawlies?") purchase a reliable brand eg Macpac, Wilderness Equipment, etc. Henry Shires' "Tarptents" have a good reputation and are relatively light. His 'Rainbow' model (1-2 person, 3+ season) weighs just under a kilogram, will handle strong winds and light snow. Pole failure is a common problem with modern tents;avoid tents with a complex pole setup or are under high pre-stress. Tents using DAC brand aluminium poles should also be avoided as it is nearly impossible to obtain replacement poles or pole sections and DAC aftersales service is abyssmal (i.e. non-existent!). Try to stick with well known 'local' brands (Macpac,Wilderness Equipment etc) as overseas postage can be very costly. e.g. DAC Featherlite 231mm x 8.84mm pole section = $9.35, Postage from TentPole Technologies in Vancouver, Canada = $12.45. Easton poles are also difficult to obtain in Australia but are available online from QUEST OUTFITTERS, a company I've found to be very helpful and reliable. An Easton pole section of similar dimensions to the above DAC pole secton costs $3.00 (US 2009).

PegsTitanium pegs are light, strong, and expensive (around $20 for 6 pegs as at December, 2010). Aluminium alloy pegs are pretty good, light, and not as expensive as Titanium (the exception being those made out of Easton aluminium tubing). Plain steel wire pegs, while somewhat heavier, are perfectly acceptable and are stronger than aluminium. I prefer to use strong steel pegs when I'm car camping. .

Groundsheet A two-metre length of builder's plastic, obtainable from a hardware store, makes a cheap, strong groundsheet. Tyvek, a type of vapour barrier wrap used in housing construction, is sturdy and makes a for a very light groundsheet. These days, to save weight, I use a large, light-duty garden bag split down the sides and place a small length of builders plastic under my thermarest to protect it from punctures. The garden bag can be substituted with a painter's plastic drop sheet as long as you have something sturdier underneath your thermarest or air mattress. Lightweight space blankets do not make reliable groundsheets as they disintegrate fairly easily. Some ponchos are designed as a dual-purpose groundsheet.

Packliner A large, medium weight, garbage bag is adequate unless the trip involves swimming with your pack eg's Morong Deep, canyon trips, in which case you might use a couple of garbage bags (one inside the other) or a Sealine type waterproof bag (expensive and not always reliable).

Sleeping bag The lightest warmth-for-weight bag is one filled with premium goose down. But who wants to be carrying a 1.6kg, minus 10 degree bag around other than in winter conditions? Most well known manufacturers now produce lightweight down bags for 2-3 season use eg Macpac Snowflake. I use a homemade Ray Jardine designed synthetic quilt for most of the year. It's conservatively rated at +5degrees, weighs 800g, is easy to care for and it has kept me warm down to minus 2 degrees when used in combination with my silk innersheet (I am a warm sleeper though). If I get a bit cold I slip on my jumper. On the downside it is bulkier than a down bag of equivalent warmth. On the upside if it gets wet it retains most of it's warmth once it's wrung out. A wet down bag is useless and well nigh impossible to dry out in the field. In winter or in alpine areas at any time of the year play it safe and take your winter bag. There are numerous good brands such as Macpac, Mont, One Planet etc. Amazon and similiar sites often have excellent deals on overseas brands such as Marmot and Big Agnes.

Sleeping mat Closed cell foam mats are effective insulators, light weight, bulky and offer little or no padding from the hard ground. Despite this many people are happy to use them. NOT ME! I prefer my three-quarter length, lightweight(500g)Thermarest for one reason: comfort! It is also far more compact than a closed cell mat. The choice is yours. If you puncture your Thermarest and you don't carry a repair kit (who does?) you are "up the creek without a paddle." That said, in over twenty years I've only had it happen twice. The newer down filled air mats come out on 'top of the pile' for comfort but are heavier than other types and, like any air mat, are susceptible to punctures.

Thermal underwear comes in a variety of fabrics. I've been very happy with my polypropylene thermals but they do tend to 'pong' of body odour after a few days without washing. Polyester thermals apparently are better in this regard. Many of my friends rave about the Icebreaker brand of Fine Merino wool thermals which don't suffer from the 'pong' factor but are quite expensive.

Beanie or balaclava made of wool or fleece keeps your head warm in cold weather and adds to your sleeping comfort at night. The warmest and by far the lightest type I know of is a Ray Jardine synthetic fill 'Bomber' hat but it sure looks weird on your head; like a giant egg shell!

Spare socks should be wool or wool blend eg Holeproof Explorer, for safety sake. I got caught out one January with cotton/elastane blend socks in the Victorian highlands. It had been a very hot day but we copped heavy snow that night around the campfire and my toes suffered terribly for a couple of hours or so after getting into my sleeping bag. I'll never take cotton socks on a walk again.

Billy An aluminium billy is light and doesn't tend to burn your food as easily as stainless steel (heavy) or titanium (light and expensive). Make sure the billy is large enough to boil at least a litre of water in case you need to sterilise your drinking water for the day. Trangia type aluminium billy grips are handy but some people just use a stick to lift the billy off the fire and tilt it. The old steel sprondonicles (billy lifters) are considered too heavy these days. My billy is also my plate.

Knife, Spoon, Mug, Plate Keep it small and light. Forget the large Bowie, sheath, and multi-gadget varieties! I like the French Opinel brand as they are very light, easy to sharpen and inexpensive. The spoon can be metal or one of the more durable plastic types. A couple of walking friends of mine use plastic spoons from McDonalds but they look too fragile for my liking. You don't need a fork. Use a plastic plate if you don't like eating directly out of the billy. If you cook fried food take an aluminium plate or cake pan to serve as a frypan as well as a plate. Use a plastic mug as stainless steel is too heavy and tends to burn your lips.

Stove I prefer to cook over a fire but a small lightweight stove can be handy in wet weather or above the treeline in alpine areas. There's a multitude of web sites where gear freaks discuss the pros and cons of various types and brands of stove. 'Zen Stoves' is a very informative and relatively unbiased user web site although they do admit to a bias towards meths (alcohol) stoves. The 'Bushwalking Australia' website has a lot of information on stoves. Also check out my 'Links' page for instructions on how to make your own super-lightweight methylated spirits stove (11grams) out of a drink can. Each stove type has it's pros and cons. I prefer the meths type (bit slow) for their light weight (49gms,including windshield and pot stand), simplicity and reliability in all but snow conditions. Meths and Esbit stoves are easily the lightest systems for up to about 14 days of cooking. After this the smaller of the gas canister type stoves eg MSR Pocket Rocket (85g + fuel) begin to take the weight advantage in areas where you are not allowed to use a wood stove eg The Overland Track.

First Aid Kit This can all be stored in a small drawstring bag or hard plastic container such as a kid's lunchbox. The list below is adapted from the NSW Confederation of Bushwalking Clubs website plus some exta items I carry:

4 Pain killing tablets + emergency aluminium foil blanket
1 10cm x 5 metre heavy duty crepe bandage (E.g. Handycrepe). Anything shorter is inadequate for treating snakebite!!!
1 8x10cm waterproof island dressing (E.g. Cutilin Plus)
1 Triangular bandage (E.g. Surgipack)
1 Accident Action List
1 Medical Evacuation Form
2 Antihistamine tablets
Immodium capsules (for diarrhoea)
2 Bandaid elastic fabric strips or patches (E.g. Handyplast) or roll of bandage.
2 Antiseptic swabs (E.g. Betadine Swab Aids)
2 Safety pins - 1 large + 1 medium
2 Small sachets of salt (E.g. McDonalds)
1 5x7cm non-adherent wound dressing pad (E.g. Telfa)
1 slant tweezers S/S or gold tipped (E.g. Manicare)
1 2.5cm x 5m waterproof tape (E.g. Leukoplast)
1 medium size needle + thread (dental floss is good)kept in a plastic film canister.
1 pair of small Scissors
1 Pair of latex gloves (E.g. Ansell)
1 Whistle (plastic) for signaling.
1 junked CD or computer hard drive disc(more durable)to use as a signaling mirror
Matches in a plastic bag or waterproof container
Toothbrush and toothpaste
Spare torch batteries
Small LED torch (spare)

Compass, PLB, GPS Just get the very basic Silva 7NL compass as sooner or later you're going to lose it. Besides you don't need the features on the flashier expensive models. I take a PLB (Personal Locator Beacon) on all my walks, even if someone else in the party is also carrying one. A GPS (Global Positioning System) can be handy in remote, featureless areas if unsure of your position but I find them too slow for basic navigation (try walking with a group all relying on their GPS units to navigate: very,very slow and you'll be waiting around a lot).

Torch, batteries I carry a small LED headlight for hands and mouth-free cooking as well as a very small single LED torch in my 1st Aid kit. You can purchase a cheap 9LED aluminium torch for $5.00 (as of 2007) from places like K-Mart and turn it into a head torch by sewing a simple headband, joining the ends with Velcro and elastic. Attach the torch with a rubber band placed over the headband. Although LED torches give a very long battery life spare batteries should ensure you don't get caught out. Check the operation of your torch prior to each walk; a mate of mine got caught out in the dark on Ironpot Mountain recently (April 2013) when his head torch failed; not much fun.

Hat: many types are available. I find felt and leather hats are too hot for bushwalking. A lightweight, floppy, ventilated, broad brim cotton hat that can be shoved inside your pack is ideal. Cricket hats are pretty good and, unlike hats sold in the yuppie outdoor shops, don't cost the earth.

Raincoat Many brands are available. You'll hear a lot of mumbo-jumbo talk when it comes to wet-weather gear, especially claims revolving around breathability fabrics such as Goretex and it's variants. Good ventilation design is far more important and effective in minimising perspiration in a waterproof raincoat. Look for features such as a two-way full length front zip with a storm flap cover secured with velcro or press studs, long underarm ventilation zips, flap-covered mesh ventilation areas near the back neck area etc. The coat wrists should be able to stay wide open for arm ventilation or be firmly closed up with velcro tabs during wind-blown downpours. Avoid elasticated wrist closures. Look for a drawcord waist on longer coats. Check out the fitting of the peaked hood which again should be highly adjustable so that you can leave it wide open or close it right up without it restricting your vision or neck movement. If you have a domestic sewing machine and are prepared to learn how to use it you can sew your own highly effective rainwear out of lightweight silnylon or ripstop nylon at a fraction of the cost of highly over-rated, heavy,'breathable' gear. Check out websites such as Quest Outfitters for patterns and fabrics. Some walkers prefer to use ponchos because of the good ventilation but the lightweight ones tend to blow all over the place in high winds. Waterproof pants are essential in snow country especially if you only have a short jacket-length coat.

Footwear I used to wear Dunlop Volleys almost exclusively, one size larger than my normal shoe size as the canvas uppers shrink. Some people prefer their normal shoe size and when the Volleys begin to shrink they cut a slit down the back of the heel as far as the capital 'D'. Ian Rannard of the Sydney Bush Walkers showed me this trick on one of his Christmas walks in the northern snowies when my heels were suffering terribly from shrunken volleys; worked a treat! Volleys are relatively inexpensive, the canvas uppers don't last long and there is not enough cushioning in the sole. I used to find them comfortable when fitted with an extra inner sole. They never need 'breaking in'(no blisters) and the grip of their sole is legendary. There used to be no better shoe when it came to creeks, canyons and sandstone country. The uppers can be repaired using scraps of cordura or canvas and a 'Speedy Stitcher' (saddler's awl available from shoe repair outlets and ebay). Volleys do not suit everyone's feet. Lightweight running shoes and, to a lesser extent, lightweight (non-leather) boots are popular . Recent reports indicate the quality of the volleys (which was never very high) is now appalling, with some pairs falling apart on their first canyon!!! The Fat Canyoners website has good reviews of the Adidas HydroPro. They sound like an excellent, albeit expensive, alternative to the Dunlop Volley. I tried 5.10 (five-ten) canyoning shoes but mine started falling apart after their third outing with the soles separating from the boot; NOT recommended!!!

Gaiters For many years I never wore them but now I appreciate the protection they provide to the lower legs from scrub, sticks, sword grass, possible snake bite and submerged rocks in creeks. The nylon/cordura type are relatively inexpensive but can be hot and sweaty in summer. The canvas type are more expensive, heavier, better designed and far less sweaty. If you sew your own (not difficult) then go for canvas. Wilf Hilder used to get away with just wearing long socks instead of gaiters.

Jumper Wool is warmer, heavier, harder to care for, not as durable and more expensive than fleece. On the other hand fleece often gets small holes due to embers and sparks from the campfire. Fleece also dries much faster than wool when wet. Down "Puff" jackets are light, warm and compact as long as they don't get wet or damaged in the scrub.

Water bottle/bladder There's a huge variety in the outdoor shops to please the wealthiest of gear freaks but an ordinary plastic soft drink bottle is more than adequate. Plastic cordial bottles tend to split as do plastic milk bottles. An empty (and well rinsed) wine cask bladder is excellent for collecting water when you get to camp. Some people carry a spare bladder to use as a pillow or as insurance against the other wine bladder getting punctured.