Coming Soon – Brand New Hiking How-To Videos and New Look Blog!

Yay! I’m so excited!!

You know how they say that change is as good as a holiday? Well, I guess I’m about to feel as though I’ve had one big holiday, because there’s a whole lot of ‘change’ coming very soon.

If you follow the @Lotsafreshair Instagram or Twitter, you might have seen me and the crew oot n’ aboot (a loving nod to my Canadian friends) shooting new clips for the 2nd series of the Lotsafreshair – How To Hiking videos.

The amazing crew of Mark (Big Dog), Peter and I, spent an incredibly busy day up in the Blue Mountains at the end of 2013, putting down as many tips n’ tricks as we could in the time we had.

That's a wrap!

That’s a wrap! Big Dog & Caro – Butterbox at Sunset – near Mt Hay, Leura.

Thanks to the awesome guys at National Parks, we had some amazing locations including Pulpit Rock, overlooking the Grose Valley, and the Butterbox at sunset, out near Mt Hay.

And as they say in late night TV, ‘…But that’s not all!‘ Alas, I don’t have any steak knives to give away, but I am also working on a lovely, fresh new look for the blog. Well, actually, the lovely Cath from Phase Creative is doing all the pretty stuff and I’m super happy with it.

Lotsafreshair.com - New Design Sneak Peek!

Lotsafreshair.com – New Design Sneak Peek!

I’ve been frustrated with the existing design, as I didn’t feel the design allowed enough topics and content on the screen. So we’ve been working on moving from WordPress.com to WordPress.org (the bloggers amongst you will know what that all means!), and using this renewed flexibility to come up with a layout and design that really works.

And another sneaky look...

And another sneaky look…

The great news is that the design phase is nearly complete, and now it’s just down to the developing and coding side of things… oh you amazing, mighty, Web Princess of the dark arts of < and >. I am not worthy!  So no launch date yet for the new blog design, but you will start seeing the new videos over the coming weeks… YAY!!!

I’d love to hear what you think about the teaser video and any thoughts on what types of videos you’d like to see in the future. Please drop me a line below to let me know!

Advertisements

Tents as Tiny Houses

Up until a week ago, I’d never heard the term, Tiny House.

Ah, now it's fit for MY purpose at <750grams.

My tent – My ultimate Tiny House

That was until I read this blog post by Wild and Scruffy, who writes one of my favourite blogs. On the surface, she doesn’t seem to have anything in common with me. For one, she is married with kids, but that doesn’t make her a Mummy Blogger; She takes nice photos, but that doesn’t make her a photographic blogger; she writes about the bush and outdoors only occasionally, so she’s no hiking blogger. Essentially, she is a good writer with a great way of bringing me back to the simple things in life. She reminds me to reflect on what’s truly important, sometimes through the mundane of day to day life.

My tiny home tent on the Huayhuash Circuit, Peru

My tiny home tent on the Huayhuash Circuit, Peru

As I was watching the documentary by Kirsten Dirksen I was inspired to think differently about home and what constitutes it.

We’ve all thought about it at one time or another… When is enough, enough? When does the hunting-gathering drive of stuff, overtake the need that the stuff was originally fulfilling?

Home for the night in 100 Man Cave, Kanangra-Boyd NP.

Home for the night in 100 Man Cave, Kanangra-Boyd NP.

Wild & Scruffy’s post and the doco got me thinking about my own tiny house (which only met the bank’s criteria for granting a mortgage whereby it had to be >50m2, because it has a parking space and a storeroom) and my even tinier house, my tent, fly and other shelters that I sleep under in wild places.

Various shelters on the Colo River, NSW. Walrus optional for floating down river!

Various shelters on the Colo River, NSW. Blue walrus optional for floating down river!

I’ve been living in the same place for over 10 years now, and over the past few years I’ve been tossing around the concept of stepping up in size. From one bedroom to two and a balcony would be nice. There seems to be this cultural drive, a momentum to be continually seeking ‘the next thing’, which invariably means, the next ‘bigger’ thing. Where improvement is measured by a change of status, perceived from your home, which apparently… is meant to bring happiness.

Having watched the doco and done some thinking, all that the endless striving seems to bring is debt. Debt which means your life is controlled by the necessity to earn a certain income, work a certain job and debt that brings incalculable fear and anxiety if you lose that job.

Sunset on the Huayhuash Circuit, Peru.

Sunset on the Huayhuash Circuit, Peru.

Are we designed to live in that cycle of control and fear?

One of the very basic things that draws me to wild places, especially overnight and extended walks, is the ability to be self sufficient. To know that when I leave the carpark, I have everything I need to eat, sleep, drink and be happy for x number of days. This isn’t about chest-beating, hunter-gatherer, knife-carrying, beast-killing, Bear Grylls urine-drinking survival style techniques. My friends and I don’t belong to that style of wilderness living, sorry.

Sleeping in an overhang

Sleeping in an overhang

But the comfort that the few items I carry comfortably on my back all have a purpose and that everything will be used – although hopefully not the first aid kit or PLB!

Essentially, our shelters that we build for ourselves, whether they be tents, fly-only, hammocks or even under an over-hang or cave, are tiny houses in the extreme. How can you describe the feeling you get when you look around your shelter by head torch and realise that you have everything you need?

Turtle like, we carry what we need and live simply for those few days that we venture out. The challenge to myself (maybe to you to?) is how can we bring this philosophy into our everyday lives?

This rethink stopped me in my tracks. I’ve discovered a new joy for my existing tiny house and rather than looking to the unknown of the bigger and better, (more debt, more control, more fear), I’m excited and refreshed about living in the now, living deliberately with what I have and continuing a practice I started in 2013, which was the ‘Urge to Purge’… but more on that another time!

Q:  What tips do you have for finding and maintaining simplicity in your life?

Mt Paralyser and other names that inspire fear

When looking over the topographic maps for the southern parts of the Blue Mountains, especially the Kanangra-Boyd Wilderness area, a virgin navigator would be forgiven for never wanting to step foot in this part of the world, due to the array of fear inducing, high blood-pressure invoking place names.

After putting off tackling Mt Paralyser all my life, I found myself there twice last year. They were both such enjoyable trips (thanks Roysta for the first one and then I led this group from Sydney Bush Walkers club there a few months later), that I wonder why I put it off for so long.

Here’s a selection of my favourite gut-wrenching, fear inducing Kanangra-Boyd place names:

  • Mt Paralyser
  • Mt Strongleg
  • Mt Despond
  • Mt Great Groaner
  • Mt Savage
  • Mt Misery
  • Mt Hopeless
  • Sombre Dome

… I wonder if I can plan a route that will take in all of them in the one trip? 🙂

What are some place names that you visit which would put off the less fearless? Please share your suggestions in the comments below!

How to Convert a Tent to Fly-only

I really wanted to call this post, ‘How to Pimp Your Tent’, but seeing as there’s no fluffy dice, disco balls or shagpile carpet involved, I think How to Convert a Tent is slightly more appropriate.

There are different kinds of lightweight hikers out there. I sit somewhere in the middle between hard-core Cuban Fibre or Tyvek purists and traditional ‘smart’ packing for bushwalkers.

Before this experiment, I’ve never tried to ‘tweak the factory settings’ on any of my hiking gear. What drove me to it was being sold the footprint for my Easton Kilo 2P tent from an outdoor retailer, who assured me that with the footprint I can use the tent as fly-only. All the design cues were there in the full tent, so it made logical sense that this would be the case.

Just some of the tools needed to pimp my tent

Just some of the tools needed to pimp my tent

Unfortunately, this didn’t turn out to be true, so rather than return the footprint, I thought I’d try a bit of DIY handiwork after being inspired by several of my bushwalking mates who regularly tweak their gear to suit themselves. (Hello to Little Blue Walker, Melinda, Mr Mallo and many others!).

It was not altogether without dramas, as I did manage to snap the fancy-schmancy Carbon Fibre crossover pole. Thankfully, the manufacturer does include a temporary pole fix tube which held everything in place, however I did have to buy a replacement pole. (Nice work by the way to Easton for their fast customer service).

Easton Kilo 2P tent setup as Fly Only

Easton Kilo 2P tent setup as Fly Only

As each one of us has our own opinions and preferences for stuff in life, it makes sense that one size doesn’t fit all. If you ever find yourself not fully satisfied with the way something is made, maybe it is time to think about how you can tweak it to make it fit for your purpose.

Ah, now it's fit for MY purpose at <750grams.

Ah, now it’s fit for MY purpose at <720grams.

Six Foot Track Project Launch!

Ok, so you know how they always say, ‘Never start with an apology – it’s too negative.’?

Well, here I am breaking with tradition because for the last couple of weeks, I’ve taken leave of my blogging senses to concentrate on a very exciting new project that is launching this week!

For the past year, I’ve been working with the fabulous Matt McClelland (www.wildwalks.com and bushwalk.com) and Geoff Mallinson (geoffmallinson.com and Dad of danmallo.com) on a new approach to multi-day hike websites. We’re getting down to the pointy end of the work these last two weeks and we’re racing to get it all ready in time!

We all share the same aims of wanting to encourage people to get out into (and enjoy) the bush in a safe and fun way, so we pooled our collective skills into this project.

Geoff goes for a slide at Norths Lookout

Geoff goes for a slide at Norths Lookout

The Six Foot Track is one of Australia’s best known multi-day hikes and although the 45kms is usually done as a 3 day trip, it is also run during the annual Six Foot Marathon in around 5.5hrs.

The book, website and associated YouTube channel are full of information, photos, track notes, videos and an exciting new development called, ‘EmuView’ which adds a 360VR experience to the interactive maps on the site.

Guess who on the bridge?

Guess who on the bridge?

We’re launching this Thursday night with a shindig at the Hornsby RSL, so once that’s out of the way, I hope to return you to your regular weekly blog programming!

Hope you enjoy it!

Gear Review – Macpac Tasman 45


Supertramp hardness with hydration pack. Surprisingly comfy with good load distribution.

Supertramp hardness with hydration pack. Surprisingly comfy with good load distribution.

Manufacturer:  Macpac

Product:   Tasman 45

Link:  Macpac Product Info

Empty Weight: 1.1kg (size 2)

RRP: AUD$299

Test Packed Weight: 13kgs (incl 2 litres water)

Test Date: 4-6 October 2013

Location: Ettrema Wilderness, Morton National Park, NSW, Australia

Terrain:  Everything! Firetrail, tracks, off-track scrub (light to extreme including Hakea and Banksia) rock scrambling, narrow slots and cliff lines, creek crossings and bitumen roads!

Introduction

When I first started bushwalking in 1999, completely green and eager to learn, the word on the track from those with greater knowledge in my Bushwalking Club, was to buy a Macpac Esprit pack, along with a Microlight tent.

In the 14 years since, the types of gear on the market and the demands of the outdoors community has undergone enormous change.

From the early pioneering days, even before the legendary Tiger Walkers forged new ground in the Blue Mountains, (when a pack was made from an old pillowcase with two straps attached), to today, it feels as though the majority of the change has taken place in the past 5 years.

I’m wondering if this is due to the increase in new manufacturers eyeing a growing market for outdoors pursuits, the shrinking global marketplace or the influence of an ever vocal online community. With the growth of the internet, us consumers are not restricted by what our local retail outlet sells. We share ideas and experiences with people all over the world and if we are so inclined, can now research products, materials and design and hear first hand from users.

How I’ve changed

Back in 1999, what I went looking for as a consumer, was a product that was bomb proof. The thought about lightweight never crossed my mind. Without realising it, I’d entered the mysterious world of the notoriously tight-arsed bushie. This meant that I viewed my gear as an investment in this brave new world I’d entered and if I was going to spend $400 on a piece of gear, it was going to last me a lifetime. Dammit.

What Macpac were known for back then was exactly that. Bomb proof gear that would last a lifetime.

Crossing the Kowmung River on the Mittagong to Katoomba 7 day trip. My trusty first pack - Macpac Glissade - a whopping 75ltr pack.

Crossing the Kowmung River on the Mittagong to Katoomba 6 day trip in 2005. My trusty first pack – Macpac Glissade – a whopping 75ltr pack!

My first pack was a Macpac Glissade. A heavy duty 75L mother of a thing that weighs around 3kgs (6.6lbs) empty, using a traditional hardcore canvas fabric. It saw me through many adventures and I still have it, and true to its origins, it shows very little sign of wear… But to be honest, I haven’t used it in over 8 years. I feel a little guilty every time I go into my storeroom and see it hanging there on the wall… I imagine it’s voice, saying, “Pick me, pick me!”, whenever the light goes on. Sorry old friend, you’re just too heavy these days.

Nowadays, not only are outdoor consumers better informed about options, materials and products, we’re also a lot wiser about our own bodies and their limits. We know, by looking at those before us, that knee joints can wear out and that this damage can be aggravated by carrying heavy loads. For those of us who spend most weekends each month carrying a pack, then 50 years of ‘a few extra kilos’, can really take its toll.

Whatever the reason, the focus for many in the outdoors community has turned away from buying a single bomb proof piece of kit to last a lifetime – to buying a smartly designed,  lightweight, comfortable product that will give the most comfortable experience now, and for our knees… into the future.

Paul's beaten up GoLite

Paul’s beaten up GoLite

This decision comes with the knowledge that, depending on the places we hike in, it may not be so long lasting and depending how often we’re in scrubby, off-track conditions, we may need to replace it in 5 years or make running repairs along the way.

Besides, in 5 years time, design and technology may well have taken another leap and I can get a pack half the weight and twice the capacity!

My walking buddy Paul summed it up pretty well (whilst carrying his beaten up GoLite pack), “I’d much rather replace my pack, than my knees.”

The Philosophy Corner

This is a significant change to how things used to be and I can’t help but weigh up the conflicting interests of recycling, land-fill and the environmental impacts of such high turnover consumerism, for a hobby that strives to leave no trace. To over simplify it, is it personal interest (health/joints/comfort and long term ability) versus the greater good (the environment). Hmmm, all food for thought indeed and one that could make a good discussion point around the campfire/stove. I’m interested to hear your thoughts in the comments section below!

That’s quite a long winded way of introducing my review of the new Macpac Tasman 45L.

Joanna smiling whilst dragging packs through the narrow slot pass

Joanna smiling whilst dragging packs through the narrow slot pass – A good testing ground for a pack

The Basics

Specs measure up on the scales

Specs measure up on the scales (2.42lbs)

This seems to be Macpac’s first serious foray into the brave world of lightweight hiking gear. At the outset, it’s important to understand where this pack sits in the world of lightweight outdoors gear. It’s not down the Tyvek ie. the ultra lightweight end of things, where enthusiasts tinker on grandma’s old Singer and new micro-businesses are popping up as a result. This product sits comfortably between ultra lightweight and traditional – let’s simply call it Lightweight for now.

Everything about this pack is new and different for Macpac, although there are significant nods to design influences from other brands such as Deuter, Osprey and even Lowe Alpine, it thankfully still holds true to what I perceive the Macpac brand has always been about. Smart design, good workmanship and innovation. More than anything, it says to me that they’ve clearly done their homework and have looked at how they can apply the Macpac know-how to improve on what is already out there.

I love when I look at a product and I find myself saying, “Someone’s been thinking”. This is obvious in this pack. It feels as though every aspect and element has been well thought through, tested, pared back, simplified and then utilised. As with any lightweight design, everything is there for a reason.

Ettrema Wilderness - A perfect testing ground.

Ettrema Wilderness – A perfect testing ground.

Harness

The most obvious new feature in this pack is what they call the Supertramp harness system. In every other Macpac pack I’ve owned, their harness has always been heavily padded and a point of both balance and comfort. To be honest, this was one of my concerns about this pack and something that I was keen to test. Gone are the chunky, cushioned shoulder straps and they’ve been replaced with <1cm thick lightweight alternatives.

Reduced padding on shoulder straps

Reduced padding on shoulder straps

But the real change in this harness is what I’ve affectionately called the, “no sweaty back”, style of design, that has been seen in Deuter packs for some years and more recently, Osprey day packs.

I personally love the orange /grey colour combo!

I personally love the orange /grey colour combo!

Through utilising a curved back and strong mesh, they’ve achieved a style of harness that provides a gap between the wearers back and the pack. Whereas the Deuter pack that I’ve used in the past achieved this with a solid piece of curved plastic, Macpac have done this with two external (yes, external) frame spines.

Comfort

In wearing the pack, I was very surprised to find the harness super comfy, even without all the traditional padding.

Perhaps because of the minimal padding, the manufacturer’s guidelines give this pack a range of 6-14kg for a comfy user experience. I was testing it with 13kg (11hrs on our feet on day 1 and 8hrs on day 3) which was fine. The  45L capacity is going to mean that you need to be choosy about what you take anyway, so unless I make stupid packing decisions, I can’t see myself pushing this weight up any further.

One of the slightly unusual sensations I found though, was that when travelling along a firetrail at good pace (5.5-6km/hr), the pack seems to have a certain “bouncy” characteristic. Although this might sound a negative, after a while, I came to

Yep. That's all that's there across your back.

Yep. That’s all that’s there… the mesh against your back, then the spines behind.

actually enjoy it. The bounce didn’t come as a shock back down on the shoulders and hips with each step, rather the opposite, it actually felt like I had added momentum and a lightness of step. I know, odd.

Fabric

I’m not one of those gear gurus who spend hours researching the science behind each of the components in a piece of gear and can argue the relative pros and cons of each one. So apart from seeing how the Titan Grid™ Fabric performed in the field, I can’t really say anything about it.

“Our lightweight and durable Titan Grid fabric is a 100d high tenacity nylon The silicon outer coating and PU inner coating add weatherproofness and at only 116g/m2 it is ideal for applications where conserving weight is critical. Compared to similar weight fabrics Titan Grid offers improved durability as the grid structure and raised fibres enhance its ability to absorb abrasion.” (Source: Macpac website)

When dragged through rock slots, signs of wear show where a solid object (e.g. zipper) is behind.

When dragged through rock slots, signs of wear show where a solid object (e.g. zipper) is behind.

Please watch the video of my gear test, as you will see that I put the pack through much more than the average hiker would expect to do on a weekend trip. The fact is, not everyone likes to go off-track, which is fine. However, the shots of the wear on the zipper will make sense when you see what I put it through!

Hydration Options

With only 45L of internal space to play with, something I really liked about this pack is that it gives me the option of putting my hydration bladder on the outside, hanging securely within the gap between the mesh and the spines. The simplicity of using this option is made easier by way of an access they’ve created from the inside. There are two hooks and a robust piece of velcro to help hold your bladder in place. Yep, I was dubious about this concept at first. Wouldn’t the water get warm from my back? Will my back get wet? Is there more potential to pierce or burst the bladder?

Easy to see/feel how much water you've got left with the Hydration pack hidden inside the harness

Easy to see/feel how much water you’ve got left with the Hydration pack hidden inside the harness

Well, I can report that after a couple of hours of walking in full sun, on a day of 28 degrees, I am converted. One of the arguments against hydration systems is that you can’t see how much you’re drinking, but the handy thing with this design is that not only does it free up internal space, but I can easily feel how much I’m drinking by simply reaching around, feeling the bladder and giving it a bit of a jiggle. If this concept doesn’t work for you, they haven’t locked you into it. The pack also includes the traditional internal pocket for stowing the bladder. Both options work with a hose hole on both the left and right shoulders.

Belt pockets are a good size with my camera in one and phone/GPS in the other

Belt pockets are a good size with my camera in one and phone/GPS in the other

HOT TIP

  • It’s a good idea to pack any solid or hard objects (like a billy) deep inside the pack and surround it with soft things to minimise wear on the outside fabric, especially if you’re going to be dragging it over rocks!

WHAT I LOVE

  • Hydration bladder stowage in the harness
  • Zip pockets on the hip belt that are a good size. Perfect for camera, compass, snacks and chapstick, whilst not being so big to get in the way of big step ups and rock scrambling.
  • Lightweight at 1.1kg (2.42lbs). Yes, I independently checked this. See image.
  • Fold over edge in side stretchy pockets. Less chance of things falling out.

    Fold over edge on side pockets help stop stuff falling out

    Fold over edge on side pockets help stop stuff falling out

  • That my rain jacket fits in the outside pocket. Doesn’t get stuff inside wet.
  • Ample space in the lid pocket. 3 days of snacks, sunnies, safety glasses (for scrub) sunscreen, scrub gloves, torch, toothbrush, notepad, GPS/iPhone battery, keys… with room to move.
  • Supertramp harness. Super comfy, body hugging and bouncy.
  • It’s a frivolous thing, but I like the overall look and colours (grey/orange).
  • I can still stash my map case behind my back in the harness as I walk.

JURY’S OUT

  • Side compression straps being all in one piece. If it breaks in one spot, does this mean the whole side compression is unusable?
  • Shoulder straps couldn't really be tightened any further

    Shoulder straps couldn’t really be tightened any further

    I’m a tall gal at around 177cm (5’9″) and the size 3 pack was a good choice, although the shoulder straps were at their ‘almost’ tightest. It would be good to have some lee-way of an extra 5 cm of adjustment.

THE VERDICT

So, are my 3 days giving the Tasman 45L a workout going to change my behaviour?

Hell yeah!

As much as I still love my Pursuit 55L, it’s going to be reserved for times I need the extra space, such as longer trips. I’m moving across to the Tasman for my ‘every weekend’ type pack.

All I can say, is that if this is Macpac’s first dive into lightweight packs, I can’t wait to see what’s next!

Caro is a Macpac Ambassador and super grateful to her awesome bushwalking buddies from www.sbw.org.au, for putting up with her muttering to herself on camera in wild places. 

Ludicrously long belt straps - something I am going to cut off.

Comedically long belt straps – something I am going to cut off!

Carrier Carry-on to avoid being Carrion

Quote

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 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?

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