Leeches – That slimy, slippery, itchy, sinking feeling

Can you feel it? Nah, you probably can’t. If you’re anything like me, sometimes the first thing you feel is the damp trousers against your calf as your blue blood oozes, unrestrained, into the fresh wilderness air. Last Monday, Australia Day (Invasion Day), I set out to walk a historic, somewhat invisible, track in the Blue Mountains.

Around a waterfall is a prime spot to find leeches

Around a waterfall is a prime spot to find leeches

Although the day started grey, it wasn’t long before the blue sky broke through and my companion and I were bathed in beautiful sunshine. However, down at ground level, under the lush canopy, the mystery of the disappearing track and recent downpours had the earth beneath our feet become the unmistakable home sweet home of Euhirudinea – the Leech.

Lush and ferny - a perfect home for leeches

Lush and ferny – a perfect home for leeches

Like something from Alien, the Australian version of these hermaphrodite little darlings have 2 toothy jaws, (3 in other countries) and seek out a tasty dinner which can keep them going for up to 3 months. They do this by producing a secretion called Hirudin, which stops the blood from clotting… hence the unstoppable flood of our precious, red stuff.

A leech can go without eating for 3 months!

A leech can go without eating for 3 months!

Like most people, I used to get pretty grossed out by these little critters, however, over the years I’ve come to admire their tenacity, patience and curiosity and am happy to reward them with my ample B positive. I’m no Buddhist, but find it quite unnecessary to smother them in salt, which causes them to sizzle, froth and die – surely a bit over the top. I simply get my finger nail under them and flick them off, making sure not to flick them in the direction of my friends.

The evidence of Hirudin, the anti clotting agent

The evidence of Hirudin, the anti clotting agent

Sure, I bleed. Big deal. And for the next 5 days I am scratching into the wee hours of the night, whilst reaching for my trusty spray of Stingose, but I kinda think of it as being part of the Circle of Life, like something from The Lion King.

Leeches? Just smile and get over it.

Leeches? Just smile and get over it.

Not to get too sentimental about these suckers, as they can cause infections such as cellulitis, but for me I don’t give them a second thought. Get over it… move on – oh, unless of course you’ve got one on your eyeball!

Oh and with gonads in their heads, I should probably start calling them Dickheads, instead of my usual expletive… bastard (as per the video)!

Q:  What’s your favourite method of dealing with leeches?

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Backcountry Bakery

This week we say g’day to Matt McClelland*, who has kindly contributed this tasty guest post!

I love good food when walking.

Matt cooking up a treat in a classic Tassie Hut

Matt cooking up a treat in a classic Tassie Hut

Actually, I love good food anytime and fresh bread is my favourite. Years ago I used to carry one of those stove top oven things – they weigh a ton and use a loooooot of fuel – now a plastic bag does the trick. It all started with muffins. When I said, ‘I love good food’, perhaps I should say yummy food!

OK – so do you want a fresh bread roll on day 4 of your next walk? Here’s how…

Before you set off on your walk:

  1. Buy a packet mix of bread flour and yeast from the supermarket.
  2. Add a handful of the flour (30-50 grams) to a freezer bag
  3. Add a bit more yeast than suggest for the ratio (about 1/2 – 3/4 a teaspoon) to the bag.
  4. Squeeze the air out and tie a slip knot in the bag.
Straight out of the bag!

Straight out of the bag!

Once in camp:

  1. Add a splash of water and knead the dough for about 10 mins till it is a sticky but firm dough.
  2. Leave a bit of air in the bag and tie off with a slip knot and let it rise in your pocket or under your sleeping bag for about 20 mins (ie. a warm place).
  3. Knead it a bit more and then let it raise again (back in the warm place) for another 20 mins.
  4. Now the simple trick… Squeeze the air out of the bag (without squashing your roll) and tie another slip knot.
  5. Drop it in a pot of simmering water for about 25 mins leaving a lid on the pot.  Try turning the roll over about half way through the cooking.
  6. Take your roll out of the water and let it cool for a bit before taking it out of the bag.
  7. Enjoy the smell of fresh soft roll!
  8. If you want to add a crust, a few seconds over a flame will do the trick.
Hmmm, I can almost smell it from here!

Hmmm, I can almost smell it from here!

Now all you have to do is use the hot water to make up a tasty soup, add a smidge of butter for your bread, then sit back and enjoy the stars, pondering how great life can be.

A luxury smidge of butter

A luxury smidge of butter

The deal is – if you meet me in camp – you have to share 🙂

A few tips:

  • Bake your first one at home to get the hang of it. Getting the water and kneading right is a tad tricky.
  • Carry a small amount of extra flour in another bag in case you add too much water.
  • Make sure your freezer bags are okay for cooking in.
  • Try to use the hot water for part of your meal so as not to waste the fuel.
  • You can make longer thinner rolls – they cook faster, but can be a bit trickier in the pot.
  • I use a Jetboil stove which has that fancy wetsuit insulation and simmers really well, so it does not use a lot of fuel.
  • You can get by with just one raising – but I prefer two.
  • If cooking muffins or biscuits – use the same baking trick but you don’t need to let them rise (there is no yeast) – choc-chip muffins – yummmmmm!

*Matt McClelland got into bushwalking through Scouts and developed a love for walking and wild places during this time.  Matt lives on the north side of Sydney with his two young kids and one wife.  Matt runs Wildwalks.com and Bushwalk.com and is also the author of “Great North Walk”, “Best River and Alpine walks around Mt Kosciuszko”, “Best Bush and Coast walks on the Central Coast” and the upcoming book, “The Six Foot Track”.  

 

Carrier Carry-on to avoid being Carrion

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Wikipedia states that Wilderness is:

“… a natural environment on Earth that has not been significantly modified by human activity. It may also be defined as: “The most intact, undisturbed wild natural areas left on our planet—those last truly wild places that humans do not control and have not developed with roads, pipelines or other industrial infrastructure.”

Farewell Kanangra... until next time.

Looking down Kanangra Gorge towards Mt Cloudmaker (Favours Telstra)

One of the wonderful things about our wild places, is that they are just that, wild. That’s one of the reasons that we’re drawn to them, to feel, live amongst and experience a place that has remained as it is for thousands of years.

So, although these places entice and delight us with their sense of being off the grid, (excellent article BTW), as with any outdoor adventure, there is always some risk of mis-adventure.

So, being the super-safety-chick that I am (kinda embarrassing if someone involved in Search and Rescue doesn’t take precautions for when things go pear shaped), I took heed when my good mate, Roysta [he of many Kanangra NP adventures], mentioned that he has got a ‘backup-SIM’.

You see, in Australia, there are two main mobile phone (cell) carriers; Telstra and Optus.

Now, I’m not going to get into a discussion here about how some people believe we should have our phones switched off in the bush (that’s fodder for another blog!), but there’s been many times when out on a walk someone will have ‘full bars’ with Optus, but nada with Telstra or vice-versa. Oh and as expected, Vodafail is not included in comparison … for obvious reasons.

As it turns out, both Roysta and I are with Optus, but due to a number of trips out to Kanangra – we can vouch that only Telstra will give you any joy from Seymour or Maxwell Tops.

Optus and Telstra - Hedge your bets!

Optus and Telstra – Hedge your bets!

There are a couple of things to keep in mind if you decide to go down this track:

  1. Before you do anything, backup your contacts and phone data.
  2. You’ll need to Network Unlock your phone from its existing carrier. As an example, here’s the instructions from Optus.
  3. Do your research on the different plans (why are there always so many?) for the pre-paid SIM cards. The best deal I could find was $30 for 6 months validity.
  4. Put a note in your diary to remind you when the valid time is nearly up… you’ll need to buy new credit.
  5. Don’t forget to test your new SIM with both calls and SMS.

Sure, I carry a PLB for when things get particularly dodgy and there’s no phone coverage, but I can tell you, it’s a lot easier, quicker and cheaper to make a 000 or 112 (aka 911) call (or SMS a trusted friend) from a mobile, than to set off your PLB. The Cops and AMSA will appreciate it too!

So, thanks to Roysta, I’m now the proud owner of a ‘backup SIM’ with Telstra…

… Now, if only I could remember the number.

How to throw a Toe Party!

censored-feetIt came as somewhat of a surprise (and shock to my sense of femininity) a couple of years ago, when I went to buy new shoes to begin training for the Oxfam Trailwalker 100km charity event. I figured that If I was going to walk almost non-stop for 100km, through day and night, regardless of weather, I wanted to make sure I was setting myself up for success, not failure with dodgy shoes, blisters and cramping toes.

Up until that time I’d thought I was a size 9 (41) something I considered normal for a tall gal like me, when the very helpful shop assistant informed me that I was infact, size 11 (43).

Excuse me? 11? Really?

Once I got over the shock and headed out on the trail to break in the new shoes, you can imagine my surprise when I realised that I didn’t actually need to break them in that much. Huh, they fitted me properly.

Is this what my toes had been missing out on all these years?

A toe party?

Check out this video for another quick footcare tip!

So whether you choose to wear boots, trail runners or even the trusty Dunlop Volley – that’s totally up to you. But my one bit of advice is always check that your toes can wiggle freely, that they don’t touch the end of the shoe and can dance around in there, having their own little toe party!

How To Light a Camp Fire

If you’ve been reading my blog for a while now, you’ll know that I’m a fan of the saying, ‘there’s many ways to skin a cat.’ This couldn’t be more true than when it comes to lighting a campfire and I’ve seen many different methods used over the years.

When choosing your particular skinning method however, the two important things to bear in mind are going to be:

  1. Safety
  2. Environment

To Fire or Not to Fire:  There are several schools of thought (and also laws) that guide an approach to making a campfire in the bush. In some national parks and other sensitive locations (such as above the snowline), all types of fires are banned, so you’ll need to carry and cook on a camp stove. It’s also important to check the bushfire rating level for days of your trip, which could mean a total fire ban. In some areas of Australia, this includes gas stoves… so be prepared for a no-cook dinner option!

Some clubs and hikers are more comfortable with not having cooking fires as they feel that the environmental impact is not appropriate. Again, many cats… many skins.

The approach I take is one that ensures you leave the campfire area in the same, or better, condition to when you found it. For example, if you are in an off-track area, where there’s been no campfire before, when you leave the campsite there should be no trace of there having been a fire. Although I personally consider this leave no trace, it is important to note that if you were to strictly adhere to the 7 Principles of Leave No Trace then you would not have a fire.

You can see in my video that there are several key points to consider:

  1. Size: Keep the fire small, manageable and containable. Always clear the leaf litter around to ensure it doesn’t catch and keep water on hand for any stray embers.
  2. Choose appropriate timber: By choosing fallen eucalyptus wood, you are choosing a timber that is high in natural oils that burn hot and for a longer time. One environmental concern of fires is using too much timber. Another way of looking at it is that by choosing wisely, you’re also helping natural fire management by getting ride of undergrowth of dead/fallen timber.
  3. Little Soldiers all in a row: Looking at my video, you’ll see an approach to placement of the timber that means you’re creating stable platforms to place billy’s and cooking pots. If you build a fire in a tee-pee/pyramid style, you need to wait for the fire to burn down and create ashes to place pots in for cooking. If you’re working with wet timber however, a tee-pee style is good for drying out the wood.
  4. Return to the Wild: After you’ve finished with the fire, ensure it is completely out by dousing with several litres of water if necessary. Be careful, as heat can still be retained in the ashes and in the ground. Using a stick, remove and scatter the (now cold) ashes and coals around a flat surface (if you’ve kept your fire small, there should be too many!) and cover with the original leaf litter that you removed to create the fire in the first place. Can you still tell that there used to be a fire?

(Not so*) Secret Women’s Business

How shall I put this?

Spade a spade. Shovel a shovel.

One of the tricky issues I had when I first started bushwalking, was figuring out exactly what to do with, well, the issue. OK, periods. Freakin’, bloody periods. Or as the horn-rimmed glassed ladies in the 1950s school education videos would pronounce, “men-stroo-ay-shun”.

random-blue-liquid-sm

Random blue liquid (my nod to sanitary product advertising)

When I joined my fabulous bush walking club around 1999, the demographic of members was a little past having to worry about such things, so my hesitant enquiries to a female member were met with a bit of a, ‘hmmph’. Not particularly helpful. Thankfully, the club has gone through somewhat of a revitalisation over the past 5 years and of our 800 or so members, around 20% are in their 20s and 30s.

Let me paint you a picture… heck, I had the painters in, so I may as well…

Ettrema Gorge, Morton NP

Ettrema Gorge, Morton NP

Day 1 of a 5 day east-west crossing (Yalwal to Bungonia Gorge) of Morton National Park in New South Wales. On the drive down, we stopped at the lovely village of Berry in the local park for a pee-stop and what do you know?

I’d been cursed by the Red Fairy and her unwanted relatives – Aunt Flo and Cousin T.O.M**.

Yes, that’s right – I’d got the painters in, was surfing the crimson wave, reciting the periodic table or as my french friends might say, Les Anglais arrivee!

Thankfully, I was prepared and had brought with me what I needed, but as this was my first period during an overnight bush trip, it was going to be a bit of an experimentation.

Ziploc bags, toilet paper, tampons, hand sanitiser & my discreet Qantas baggie to keep it all in.

Ziploc bags, toilet paper, tampons, hand sanitiser & my discreet Qantas baggie to keep it all in (warning for the weight nazis though).

Working on the premise of leave no trace, I had decided that burying tampons was not going to work for me. And when you think about how long something like this would take to degrade or breakdown, regardless how properly you bury them or how biodegradable they may claim to be, the sheer nature of them is bound to attract wildlife who may dig it up and even attempt to eat it. Need I say more?

Day 3: So there I was, sitting around the dying embers of the fire, long after Fijian midnight (9pm) which is my traditional hiking bedtime, waiting…

…waiting…

…waiting…

…for the bloke on the other side of the fire to go to bed. Everyone else had left seemingly hours before and I was really hoping that he would follow and leave me in peace to hold an ancient and druid like ritual, akin to sacrificing virgins.

Yes, I was wanting to burn the previous 3 days used tampons. It’s not gross people – this is life – get over it.

By this stage, my already tightly packed backpack was starting to bulge more than usual with the additional waste double ziplocked and hidden from view. I really wanted to deal with it all tonight otherwise my companions might start to wonder why my pack was getting bigger, whilst theirs were getting smaller from eating their food supplies.

Anemone Fungus, Morton NP

Anemone Fungus, Morton NP

Finally, my fellow male bushwalker decided to go to bed. However, as is usually the case, his desire for leaving was brought about by the fire dying down and the temperature dropping.

Great. I was new in the club and had yet to refine my fire-lighting skills.

I’m not going to put it any blunter than this, but the first rule of lighting fires is that damp material/timber is never a good idea. Need I say more?

I’ll let your vivid imaginations draw the visual pictures for what the next hour of my life looked like.

So here’s what I’ve learned since this experience and over the years:

  1. Privacy – It’s a logical one, but you might be pleased for a bit more privacy than a normal quick pee. Being interrupted mid process might be quite embarrassing for both the interrupter and the interruptee.
  2. Setup – I like to ensure that I’ve got all that I need close at hand around me and like any good squat, I’m looking out for stray branches or stinging nettles. Oh, and watch out for downhill slopes as I once watched (in slow motion) my baggie with toilet paper roll over Splendour Rock in the middle of the night.
  3. Hygiene – This is one of the key considerations. I’m a fan of hand sanitiser before and after, although I know other people prefer baby wipes or bush soap and water.
  4. Ziploc bags (x 2 for double bagging used tampons, x 1 for keeping toilet paper dry, x 1 for keeping new tampons dry.)
  5. Toilet paper – As the photo shows, I would pack more than usual for a 2-3 day trip. Rolling off my own ‘roll’ at home and stashing in the ziploc bag. Use the paper to wrap the used tampon before placing it into the double ziploc bags. Just calculate how much paper you’re going to use. You might be surprised how much you go through.
  6. Outer bag for carrying everything. I use an old Qantas toiletries bag, although if you’re weight conscious, just a simple plastic bag would be fine.
  7. Spare undies… just in case
  8. Washing – More so than at other times, I feel like it’s a good idea to have a wash at the end of the day, whether it be a dry clean, APC or wash in the creek/river. Also good for helping out on the hygiene stakes.
  9. If you’re going to burn, you need a controlled, hot fire and to be good at sustaining/building/dousing said fire. Keep to the general rules of burning things on the fire – see my blog posts on Etiquette I and II. Oh, and don’t be afraid to announce to those who won’t go to bed that you need to burn some items on the fire that they may not want to be around for. From experience, some guys just don’t get it and unfortunately, you may need it spell it out.
  10. If you’re carrying out, be prepared to ensure your parcel of joy cannot be attacked by animals at night and leave enough room in your pack for said parcel to grow as the days continue.
  11. Most importantly, don’t let it stop you from getting out there and enjoying the bush.

Handy tips:

  • Although a fly or hammock might be a great lightweight alternative to wilderness shelters, when it comes to privacy, washing and having a clean space to get sorted in the morning/evening – nothing beats your own tent.
  • When it comes to hygiene, you may want to consider using applicator tampons when in the bush. However, be aware that these also mean more waste to dispose of.
  • There is also a commercial available gadget on the market called Divacup. They call it “the non-ick alternative to tampons”… but I’m not so sure. Have you tried them?

Q:  What advice or tips can you add to this list?

Supplies-in-hand-sm*The reason I called this post, (Not so) Secret Women’s Business, is because when you’re out on the track, it’s important that we’re all looking out for each other. It’s not that we want to make a big deal out of it, but hey, if you see a normally fit-fast-fabulous-female is lagging behind or you feel it necessary to complain if she’s taking a lot of loo breaks that seem to last for ever… have a bit of grace. Oh, and it might help you understand why the women are staying up late around the fire when throughout the day they’ve been lagging behind or seem more tired than usual!

**Time of Month

Polar Opposites – When Compasses Go Bad

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I’m one of those lucky people who has an in-built compass that most times just knows instinctively which way is North. I think I got it from my Dad, as opposed to my Mum who was from the ‘turn-the-street-directory [remember those?] around-until-it makes-sense-and-then-stop-to-ask-for-directions’, school of navigation.

So it was no surprise that on last weekend’s trip to the beautiful Coxs River, I thought my inbuilt compass had gone a little wonky.

Which one of these is not like the other one?

The toppo map, the bend in the river, my inbuilt compass and my trusty reliable Silva compass seemed to be conspiring against my sense of sanity.

I couldn’t understand why Goolara Peak was behind us… it should be in front of us! This doesn’t makes sense.

It was only when my friend Helen came along and we conferred that things suddenly became crystal clear. The photo above says it all. Her compass is the one on the left, whereas mine on the right is showing exactly the opposite. Double confirmed by the electronic compass in my watch.

Who moved Goolara Peak? [Upstream on the Coxs River]

I emailed Silva [Sweden, not the USA company] to find out how to fix this. I’ve heard it’s as easy as wafting a magnet nearby. Here’s the response:

“The reason that your compass is not showing north is most likely due to it being subjected to a magnetic field that has polarized the needle. This is, unfortunately, fairly common in today’s world since we carry a lot of items that emit a magnetic field such as mobile phones, GPS and other equipment. A compass needle cannot change its own polarization, it has to be “forced” to reverse its polarity by a magnetic field. 

We write in the manual that it is very important to check the compass every time it is used since polarizations do happen, it is as important as checking any part of your survival gear before it is used, since your life may very well depend on its functions. [Lotsa: Couldn’t agree more… now!]

It is not complicated to reverse the polarization of the needle but to be 100% sure of the result you should be using a controlled magnetic field. Because of this I do not recommend that you polarize your compass by yourself, if you send your compass to us here at Silva Sweden AB we can polarize your compass free of charge, the only cost for you is to ship the compass to us.” (David, Technical Support, Silva)

And so, today my compass which has served me well and I’ve trusted implicitly (until last weekend) will be going on a little Scandinavian holiday…

… I can’t help but think about all the magnetic fields in the aircraft and postal sorting machines between here and Sweden though!

River and Creek Crossings – Dealing with Wet Feet

Whether it be a canyon trip, a simple creek crossing, fording a river or the good ol’ stuff falling from above – there’s lots of reasons why you might end up with wet socks and shoes in the bush.

Check river heights online if there’s been rain in the catchment (Coxs River, Yellow Pup Spur, Blue Mts NP)

I remember my first wet feet opportunity years ago and how I stood beside the creek trying to figure out what to do for ages.

At the time, I was in my dim dark days (now long gone) of wearing heavy leather walking boots. I was so proud that they were lined with Goretex and all, but so called waterproof boots quickly become waterproof buckets when the water goes over the top of the ankle.

In off track country, the river can be your highway. (Colo River, NSW)

It’s no wonder I couldn’t make up my mind what to do. In the end, I took off my boots and plunged my feet into the chilly water and slowly crept across the creek, trying best to avoid sharp rocks as I went.

When there’s only going to be one crossing in a day and you’re not in a hurry, an approach like this is usually going to be fine… as long as you don’t cut your feet (!).

These days, I’m much less worried about it all. I wear a Merrell shoe with mesh in it. The mesh not only helps your foot breathe better (theoretically less sweaty and stinky!) but also allows water to drain better. I’ve worn these everywhere from trekking the Huayhuash Circuit in Peru (high altitude glacial moraine) to pushing through muddy/scrubby/ rocky/rough off-track terrain elsewhere. With the amount of wear and tear I give them, they’ll probably only last a year, but for me, the pros outway the cons (of which I can’t think of any).

Basically, I just walk right on through the water if it’s safe to do so. I don’t stop on the other side to drain or dry out – I just keep going and gradually dry out as I keep walking.

OK, ok, so I hear some of you wincing about blisters. On short trips of up to 3 days, I’ve never had a problem with blisters from wet feet and dry my feet out each night. For longer trips, where your feet are constantly wet, you need to be mindful that blisters may become an issue.

What are your options?

  • Change your route or find a dry crossing up/down stream.
  • Barefoot (Pros: keep shoes/socks dry. Cons: time consuming and can injure your feet on rocks)
  • Change of shoesCrocs, Teva style sandals, Scuba Booties, Volleys (Pros: keep shoes/socks dry, give feet some protection from rocks. Cons: time consuming unless you can continue in these shoes for a large part of day depending on terrain, additional item to carry.)
  • Don’t worry about it – just walk on through (Pros: fast, especially good for multiple crossings, protect your feet, nothing extra to carry. Cons: Your feet are wet – suck it up Princess!

Q: What do you do with your wet feet?

Whichever way you choose, many people find that using a stick or walking pole is helpful in negotiating the slippery and uneven rocks on a creek bed.

The important thing to do, is to dry your feet out when you’re at camp. Here’s a simple (lightweight) solution.

Shopping bags and dry socks for camp

  1. When at camp, remove wet shoes and socks.
  2. Dry your feet and put on your dry socks.
  3. Insert your feet into a shopping bag (make sure there’s no holes!).
  4. Put your (wet) shoe back on.
  5. The warmth from your feet will help dry out your shoes, whilst your skin/feet stay nice and dry.
  6. If you’ve got a fire, try drying out your wet socks by putting them on a stick and wafting over the heat… (just don’t put them too close and watch out if they stink n steam!).

The other benefit of the plastic bag option is that it keeps your feet warm and gives you protection around the campsite… [**ed: unless your name is Dot Butler] it’s never a good idea to you walk around in bare feet.

In some places there’s no alternative than straight down the guts of a creek. Such as impenetrable scrub or steep / sheer rock faces (Ettrema Creek, Morton NP)

How to Waterproof your Backpack

There are several different approaches to ensuring that your gear stays dry inside your pack. As with all things in life, it’s just about finding out what works for you.

Sue and Dudley Float their pack down The Colo River

The important starting point is realising that your pack (unless it is a ‘drybag’, no matter what the shop assistant tells you) is not waterproof. It’s a little like raincoats… there’s no such thing as a waterproof rain jacket.

The most popular approach is to line your empty backpack with a large tough plastic garbage bag or two (the strong orange ones seem to be good) or commercially available pack liner or dry bag. Then everything simply gets packed into this as per normal.

Barrington Tops National Park, NSW
Notorious for needing to waterproof your pack!

This method has some advantages, especially if you know you’re going to be canyoning or using your backpack as a float/pack-raft along rivers. When you go to seal the liner, you can make sure that there’s a good amount of air trapped inside which will aid buoyancy.

Another approach is to use a Pack Cover like the one in this photo taken in Barrington Tops National Park during my Tops to Myall Heritage Trail trip.

However, for most trips, I use a method that sees the individual items waterproofed. (For me, I find that the all in one liner bag tricky to negotiate, whilst still ensuring a tight pack to my bag.)

Overnight Canyon Trips – Essential to keep dry 
Bowen Creek South, Wollemi NP, NSW

So in my approach, I have my clothes in a lightweight Drysil bag, my First Aid Kit is inside the waterproof plastic containers and all my food is in Ziploc bags.  Therefore, the only thing I need to waterproof is my sleeping bag. (If needed, I can put my matt inside a Ziploc bag also).

So here’s a video that shows you a little trick about how to waterproof your sleeping bag.

Q: Have you got another method that works for you?

Wilderness Camping Etiquette or How to win friends in the bush! (The Official List)

I remember when I went on my first trip with the Sydney Bushwalkers Club, (an adventure down the full length of Ettrema Creek from Bullfrog Creek to Coolendel in 4 days… um,

Setting up a Campsite

Think of your fellow campers when setting up your tent (Snowy Mts NP, NSW)

make that 5) I was so exhausted upon reaching camp on the first night, that my only thought was being horizontal. If someone had mentioned ‘jobs’ or ‘chores’ to me, I would’ve used a few choice four letter words in their direction before promptly falling asleep.

It was only after I settled into the routine of the first couple of days that I realised there’s a bit to do at camp when you arrive and it’s so much easier and quicker if everyone pitches in. (Remember: I was still pretty clueless – think “cauliflower” episode).

So here’s the top 5 things I discovered that need to be done (in order) when you get to camp: [or here’s 5 reasons for your fellow campers to get pissed off with you if you simply put up your own tent and disappear inside.]

  1. View from my tent

    Don’t pitch your tent too close (it can be creepy!)

    Selecting your spot: Depending on your shelter of choice, your needs will be different. For Tent-ers, all you want is that perfectly flat spot with soft grass, the Fly-ers have got their eyes out for the same flat spot but also want the magic two trees in perfect proximity, whereas the Hammock-ers couldn’t care less what the ground looks like, as long as the trees are solid. So when choosing your spot, just spare a thought for your fellow campers. If you don’t have a fly or hammock, don’t nab the flat spot between the two perfect trees! Oh, and now isn’t the time to put up your shelter (unless it’s raining or about to). Just drop your pack and start the other jobs. TIP: Spread out across the area. It’s kinda creepy if someone sets up real close when there’s lots of space! And if you know you’re a snorer, please set up on the outer extremes of the site.

  2. Collecting Firewood: If you’re going to be having a cooking fire (after checking there’s no Fire Ban in place and they’re allowed in the area) now is the time to get some firewood. (Watch out for an upcoming video on lighting a cooking fire). This is the hardest task to do in the dark, so do it first before the sun goes down. You can even start gathering it on your way into camp. This is especially helpful if you know you’re staying in an area where firewood is scarce. If there’s enough people, get one person to be the fire lighter/timber sorter, whilst the others are still bringing the timber in. TIP: Don’t forget to stash a small amount of kindling and small sticks inside your shelter at night, to protect from dew/rain if you want a breakfast fire.

    Warming up – Dexs Creek (Kanangra to Katoomba)… just before it snowed.

  3. Gather water: Generally speaking, you’ll always be aiming to set up camp near to a water source. If the sun has gone down, it’s an easier task to do by head-torch as opposed to gathering firewood, dependent on the terrain. Also, if you’re going to be having a bit of an APC** splash n’ dash down near the creek or river, you might appreciate the cover of darkness! If there’s enough people in the party, split the jobs so those getting firewood give their water bottles/bladders/wine bags to those getting water. TIP: Take an empty backpack with you to carry back all the water bottles and take a cup with you in case the water level isn’t deep enough to get the bottles in.
  4. Put up your shelter: OK, so now all the group jobs are done, it’s time to look to creating your own home for the night (unless it’s raining and then this is the first thing you do). If you’re not sure if your spot is exactly flat, lie down on the ground and give it a test drive. If you wake up in the night with a headache and blocked nose, you can pretty much be sure that you’re sleeping with your head below your body. If that happens to you, just spin around inside your tent for the rest of the night. Ah – home sweet home.
  5. Bring something to share: If you thought Happy Hour at your local was a treat, then just wait for Happy Hour around the fire. Bring some nibbles to share with the party as an entree for dinner. Quite often this means that there’s no room for dinner!

Think before you drink… or wash… or pee (Sassafras Creek, Blue Mts NSW)

So that’s the ‘official’ tips on etiquette during setup at camp, checkout the ‘unofficial’ list (coming soon!).

** Arm pits and crotch