It’s no secret that bushwalking is a relaxing way to connect with nature, offering an excellent opportunity to unwind. And when you're so far removed from the rush and fast-paced nature of city living, it’s one of the most relaxing and meditative physical activities you can partake in. While you are enjoying the serenity of the bush, it’s worth recognising that there is generally agreed-upon etiquette amongst bushwalkers that help ensure all trekkers on the track enjoy their experiences. Below are our top tips for bushwalking etiquette.
But first, what is bushwalking etiquette?
Bushwalking etiquette is being considerate of others and ensures that everyone enjoys their trip. It involves doing the right thing and respecting other people. A group that respects each other are in a better position to handle emergencies and unexpected obstacles. You need to know how to interact with other hikers, and how to respect and treat the environment while being considerate of the impact you are having on the ambiance of the trail.
Pre-Walk Bushwalking Etiquette
- Don’t be late – try to be 10 minutes early
The oldest rule in the book of bushwalking etiquette, especially on a guided tour, is to get to the meeting point on time (preferably 10 minutes early) to avoid keeping others waiting for you. This is courteous regardless of whether you are attending a pre-departure meeting the day before the trip commences, are waiting to be picked up from your hotel on the day the trip departs, or are mid-trip and waiting to depart for the morning’s hike.
Being ready to go at least 10 minutes before your scheduled departure gives you time to double check your gear, and ensures that no time is wasted during, meaning you are more likely to be able to finish the day’s itinerary and any potential side trips. If you find yourself running late, whether it be because you are feeling ill, have misplaced an item or simply find it hard to get organised, it is important to inform one of the guides, who will happily help you!
- Trek in small groups of up to 16 people
We think small is good; it limits the environmental impact and allows you to forge life-long friendships with like-minded travellers. Groups larger than 16 persons can crowd the track, be slower and have excessive or frequent stops which can delay the progress of the group. Ensure when joining a guided tour you choose an operator that specialises in small group travel (like us!), or if you are planning a self-guided group, be conscious that trekking in smaller number generally has a lesser environmental impact than larger groups.
Pack your gear and ensure you have adequate clothing so that you do not need to borrow from others.
It is important for every hiker to carry enough gear of their own. Everyone needs to have enough water and changing clothes to avoid the need to borrow from others. If a traveller in the group has insufficient gear, it may cause problems borrowing from other group members, and is a safety issue for all those involved. For this reason, we provide detailed packing lists for each trip, and our guides conduct extensive gear checks the day before each trip departure which assesses your equipment and gear, quality and quantity in preparation for the trek. If you do not have adequate gear, please inform your Adventure Travel Consultant as you may be able to hire additional clothing such waterproof jackets and pants for your trip.
- Get a medical check to ensure you are physically able to complete the walk
Different walks require varied levels of fitness. For some of our more challenging treks, we require travellers to have a comprehensive medical check-up before the trip to give you the go-ahead to join on the trip. Ensure that you communicate any medical issues with our Adventure Travel Consultants and guides so that they can be aware of the medical action to take in emergency situations. While on the trip, ensure you inform your guides of any problems that arise while on the trip- no matter how insignificant they may seem. Our guides have extensive wilderness training and for the safety of yourself, your fellow trekkers and our guides, it’s important that you communicate any issues that may affect your performance on the trip.
Hiking Trail Etiquette- On Track
- Work as A team
As the old saying goes, there’s no ‘I’ in team. Remember that the success of your trip often comes from sticking together with your group; not straying off track, speeding ahead or remaining far behind without telling anyone. Keep your trekking buddies informed if you want to stop and take photos. One of our guides will always walk towards the back of the group to ensure everyone is accounted for, and will happily keep you company if you want to walk a little slower than the rest. If you prefer to walk with the rest of the group, try to ensure that you leave enough space for the person in front of you. In case you’re walking on a path that has overgrown vegetation, leave at least a metre of space in front and behind you so that vegetation from the person in front of you doesn’t hit you, and that tree branches don’t flick back and hit the person behind you.
It’s always courteous to point out obstacles like loose rocks or slippery tracks to the others – and a helping hand for those less nimble than yourself over these obstacles is encouraged. Teamwork is all about ensuring the everyone is safe and happy. Help anyone who may need assistance, even if it’s just keeping them company with a small rest break. While our guides work hard to ensure everyone feels welcomed, trekking is a fantastic opportunity to make life-long friends, so if there are people in your group that you are unfamiliar with, make an effort to get to know them! After all, your common interests of trekking, spending time in nature, travelling and adventure form a strong ground for the makings of a good friendship!
- Understand the roles of our guides
Our guides love their jobs! Spending time in the wilderness, connecting with nature, making new friends and sharing the best parts of Tasmania with people- it’s some of the things they love about their roles. When they aren’t out on a trek, they’re training for upcoming trips, researching the history of the trails, cultures, environment, and ecology of the area so that they may share this information with you. While on the trip, their focus is to coordinate a seamless, enjoyable, informative trip for our travellers. It really is a job full of passion, dedication, and focus.
If they ask something of you or the group, such as carrying a portion of the group’s food for the trip, it is for the benefit of the group and the logistics of the trek, so we politely ask that you cooperate with them. By following their guidelines and instructions, you are working with them to ensure the success of the trip. In case you don’t agree with anything politely raise your concern and they will happily discuss the rationale for decisions made with you.
- Treat the environment with respect
Tasmanian Expeditions operates in some of the world’s most pristine and beautiful environments, including the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage area. By visiting these areas, we also have a responsibility to treat the environment with respect and leave no trace from our visit. You can help leave no trace by taking everything that you carried into the park, out with you when you finish your trip. This includes biodegradable litter from banana peels or apple cores, as these can take a while to decompose and can be eaten by animals that don’t feed on them, giving them adverse effects.
Secondly, unless instructed otherwise, ensure that you stay on track. Using the dedicated track ensures you avoid stepping on fragile plants, eroding the track, loosening the rocks and widening the trail.
- Going to the toilet
If your trip has allocated toilets provided by parks and wildlife services, such as those on the Overland Track, use the existing toilets that have been provided. Ensure that you clean your hands with antibacterial gel after your visit. If there are no provided toilets on the track, please alert our guides and they will assist you in finding an appropriate spot away from the track and water sources. As a general rule, the area you use should be about 200metres from any water sources, and be at least 20 centimeters deep. Make some noise as you walk to your location so that you don’t run into someone using the same spot!
- Say hello to other hikers
One of the things we love about hiking is the people you meet on the track! There are so many opportunities to meet other trekkers on the trail. A friendly “hello” and a smile goes a long way. After all, you are all experiencing some of the best wilderness Tasmania has to offer – what’s there not to smile about? Plus, you never know you may need each other when you get blisters or injuries, and you can share information about that day’s experiences and obstacles.
- Step aside on slopes and give way to people going uphill
The rule of the track is that it’s courteous to give way to uphill traffic. The logic is that going uphill is strenuous compared to going downhill. If you try to change your speed you may lose momentum. Therefore, people going uphill have a right of way.
- Ask others if you can photograph them before taking photos or sharing online
Photos are a great way to collect memories of your trip, however, try to have good judgment of when and where to take photos. If you’re planning on taking a lot of action shots, it’s a good idea before the trip begins to ask the group for permission to take their photo. If someone objects to having their photo taken, respect their decision and avoid taking their photo throughout the trip. When you stop to take photos, be conscious that you aren’t blocking the path, and let others pass by first if they want to continue.
If you have received permission to take group photos, it’s also common courtesy to ask if they are OK with sharing their photos online and in social media, as photos that have been posted online can be republished anywhere else without your knowledge. It’s also a good idea after the trip to ask if your group would like to share your photo with each other using websites like DropBox. After all, while you may have been taking photos of stunning sunsets in the afternoon, others might have been taking photos of the wildlife along the trail or near the campsites. Exploring each other’s photos will help you relive your experience and discover more about the destination long after you have finished your trip.
- Noise and technology – avoid playing loud music, taking phone calls, etc.
Trekking is a still and quiet experience away from the city noises in our everyday lives. When you are deep in thought with the sounds of the bush, birds and the breeze, nothing snaps you back to reality than the high pitched shrill of a phone ringing, music blaring or loud conversations.
Calls: Try to limit calls to emergencies, and if you must make calls on the trail, keep your conversations short and low so as to not disturb others.
Loud Conversations: While we are all for getting to know others on the trail, other bushwalkers outside of your group may not take to hearing your conversation if they are trying to enjoy the sounds of the bush. Keep your voices soft; you’d be surprised how easily sound carries in the wild.
Loud Music: We understand that the sounds of birds singing doesn’t float everyone’s boat. If you want to listen to music, use your headphones, and definitely don’t use speakers where sound can travel easily and ruin the ambiance of the wilderness.
Bushwalking Etiquette at Camp
- Try to avoid pitching your tent directly next to other tents
Hiking trail etiquette ensures that you’re considerate of other people’s needs, and it’s important to be mindful of other people and respect their needs and privacy. This doesn’t mean that you isolate yourself from other people. Some people love an extremely quiet environment while others don’t mind any forms of noise. Set your tent a few metres away from other people on the trek to give them some privacy. If areas have limited space and you must camp nearby, avoid loud conversations to not disrupt others in their sleep.
Additionally, keep your personal gear inside your tent and avoid leaving your belongings lying around in shared areas. Wildlife along trails like the Overland Track are known to rummage through bags looking for snacks, and can even chew through plastics to get at the food. Additionally, gear lying outside can be a hazard at night when there is low lighting. For the safety of your gear and others, please keep your belongings inside your tent or cabin when possible.
- Clean your campsite before you depart
One of the best things about arriving at a campsite is spending the evening in pristine nature. Give other trekkers the same experience by ensuring you clean your camping area thoroughly before you leave, looking out for rubbish, ropes or gear that you might have strewn about. If you spot rubbish along the trail, take it out with you- even if it isn’t your rubbish. Ensure that you leave the campsite better than you found it.
Source: Tasmanian Expeditions