How to prepare for your Independent Multiday Hike
So what’s the major difference between day hikes and independent multi day hikes?
Lot’s and lots of preparation, planning the right gear and experience go a long way.
On a multi day trip when you have been dropped into location by a small plane, or to a remote start point by transport, there is always that final moment as you sign the logbook, geez I hope I have forgotten anything? Once you start, there is no other choice other than to to be self reliant: no alternative but to walk out; sometimes walking back is not an option if there is no means of transport. To do multiday hikes safely, every contingency must be covered. This of course take’s planning and preparation, or as we used to say in the Army – prior preparation prevents poor performance. The time leading up to the hike, gradual build up and training with pack weight, planning for likely and unlikely events (flooded or swollen rivers may require an extended stay), ensuring adequate food, water, shelter and clothing is critical not just to a successful enjoyable hike, but to the safety and survival of the group. With the growing popularity of hiking, there is more and more inexperienced and underprepared people entering the bush and requiring assistance or rescue. I can’t tell you how many times I have seen hikers wet, cold and with inadequate food and clothing. Whilst we always go prepared and can often spare items, this should not be relied on by other hikers. For example: NZ Jun 2009 – a dutch woman (solo) had been in the same hut for 2 days, she had been unable to light a fire and had not taken any cookware, therefore been unable to eat her packet pasta. She was equipped only with a summer sleeping bag and had not organised transport out (regular transport does not operate in winter without advance bookings). We cooked her food, had the hut cosy and warm in no time and then because she was so cold, she slept so close to the fire, we are lucky she didn’t burn the hut down with us in it. A young Korean woman on the same trip walked in one day and back out the next? we thought it strange that she had a very small daybag, it’s contents, a book, a museli bar and a apple, nothing else! I am not sure what her expectations were, but I can assure you that even with thermals, a liner, winter sleeping bag, gloves, beanie, 2 pairs of socks, I was still frozen. We were unaware until the next morning when the 2 kiwis that shared her room, told us she was awake all night and must of been freezing, unable and too scared to sleep. It must’ve been a very long night for her. The list goes on with hikers we have had to assist (because of their lack or preparation), we’ve also had items stolen, as they considered their need was greater than ours! Anyone venturing into isolated locations should be prepared, particularly in places such as Tasmania and NZ where conditions can change very rapidly. It may well be us that needs those extra resources that we have taken the time, effort and forethought to carry in. Items weigh up very quickly so there is usually not a lot of room for too much extra. After 20 plus years in the Army and 17 multi day hikes (this only takes into consideration hikes of 4 days or more), there is much to be learned after trying and testing gear, food, sleeping bags, bedrolls, tents, boots, socks, layers. As we complete a hike and are having our celebratory dinner, we go through the list of items and write down what we did and didn’t need for the next time.
So what do you take ?? the list is pretty comprehensive, and depending on season, location, and difficulty the pack gets heavier and heavier. That light weight chair that you thought was a great idea in the shop is now not looking that great when you can barely stand up with your loaded pack.
Is it possible to travel lighter? If it’s a summer walk perhaps you can probably remove a few layers (remembering that it can still snow in summer in Tassie and NZ, so you still need to be prepared with some warmth). Is water easily accessed along the track, is it clean (do you need a filter), can you stay in backcountry huts instead of camping? What if these are full, you will still need to carry a tent, maybe consider a shelter instead to halve the weight.
Check your hiking location – can be water be sourced easily? Do you need to carry an extra bladder on certain sections.
One of the most important considerations is FOOD
Whilst the commercial dehydrated meals on the market are pretty good now, a couple of years ago this was not the case. It was probably more nutritious to eat the packaging, probably tastier too. It was with this in mind I began to dehydrate my own meals for our treks. Unfortunately due to increased biosecurity it is no longer always possible to get some items through customs. Ensure you check the country biosecurity and have a backup plan or time to purchase some ready made ones just in case they are confiscated. My best beef jerky didn’t make it through Queenstown airport, much to all of our disgust. It was the best one yet! I am also not a fan of packet 2 min noodles and couscous. Maybe ok for an emergency meal as they are lightweight, but not great nutritionally.
I have collected and prepared my own recipes for dehydrated meals, really tasty and always the envy of other hikers, whilst we tucked into a chicken red curry penne with veges, they were eating 2 minute noodles or some cousous. Other dishes include sushi rolls, bacon, eggs and hash browns, real potato cakes, salmon with creamy wine sauce, tortellini with red wine sauce to name a few. All made at home, dehydrated and lightweight. For South Coast Track we prepared to be on the trail for 8 days, so including an extra meal 9 days worth of food averaged at 6 – 8 kg each which included 2l of water. Dehydrating food takes a bit of practice and knowing what hydrates well and what doesn’t, it really is trial and error. Some foods take up to 12 – 15 hours in the dehydrator. The sauces are time consuming but are well worth the effort for flavour and enjoyment after a long day on the trail. Once you know how though you won’t settle for packet food again.
A comprehensive checklist and risk assessment done prior to every hike should be standard practice.
We run training programs, provide gear lists, have individual assessments and can get you ready. So where’s your next adventure? Are you adequately prepared?