Use lockdown time for navigation practice!

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“Practise, practise, practise'’ is a mantra well known to participants of Bushwalking Victoria's Smartphone navigation course.

Bushwalkers appreciate the need to hone their skills if they want to use a GPS or smartphone as a navigation device in the bush. So they may have been surprised to recently read this article, about a walker who was lost while on a solo 4 day walk on the Arizona Trail, in an area with numerous side trails. We asked Andrew Robinson, presenter of the smartphone navigation course and map expert, to share his thoughts with us. Below is his take on it and some very handy tips!

Although an experienced bushwalker, Gary Morris was using a new GPS, a Garmin GPSMAP 64st, which he had only tried out once previously. This seems akin to purchasing a new 4WD and, after a brief tryout, embarking on a solo crossing of the Simpson Desert! The article implies that Morris was not using a map and compass as a back-up. After being rescued, Morris’ mapping software was blamed for him becoming lost; there was no acknowledgment that his lack of experience with the new device may have contributed.

COVID-19 lockdown is an ideal time to “Practise, practise, practise'’ while walking the streets within 5km of your home. You can't really get lost there! Start by updating the software of your GPS/Smartphone. Many of the navigation apps, eg. Avenza,, Terra Map and many others, have added new features and updated their maps. You now have time to explore the online manuals and help files. It’s amazing what features and tricks you can find there. Then hit the streets and try navigating to waypoints, tracking, following a route, etc. This adds interest and enhances skills on the daily walk with the dog.

A couple of tips:

  • The compass on most GPS\Smartphones uses a magnetic sensor. Just as with a magnetic compass, those functions on the GPS/smartphone which use the magnetic sensor will be affected by metallic objects such as vehicles, metal fences, etc. These functions include the compass (obviously!), but also one which indicates direction of travel and one which orients the map in the direction of travel. In a few apps (e.g. Terra Map), one can switch from a magnetic compass to a 'GPS' one. Direction is then determined from GPS points, but this only works when one is moving.
  • Some GPS’s have a “Lock on Road” function. Turn it off! This function allows the GPS to lock its position pointer onto the nearest road or track. It can cause major confusion if there are lots of tracks in the area, or if you want to go off track. It is sometimes set ‘ON’ by default in a new GPS. Interestingly, Morris’ Garmin GPSMAP 64st had this feature: I wonder if he knew enough to turn it off.


Boroondara Bushwalkers show that where there is a will, there is a way!

Article by Lyn Atkinson and images by Fran Callinan

Like all bushwalkers, we were dismayed at Boroondara Bushwalkers when the initial COVID-19 restrictions were announced in late March by the thought of no bushwalking. We followed advice and cancelled all walks until the end of June.

But then came the glimmer of light in mid-May. Restricted walks were allowed: limited numbers, no carpooling, keeping 1.5m apart, no shared food or afternoon coffee stops after the walk. The committee leaped into action and put together a program of day walks that satisfied the new rules.

This is the story of what we did, what we learned, and how it all went.

The first problem to overcome was that our members traditionally signed up for walks on a sheet of paper at a monthly meeting. A minority would phone or email the leader directly. Our IT experts quickly implemented a system of online sign-up using links to Google Docs from a members-only page on our website. This proved easy to use, although it involved a lot of effort to maintain.

A request went out to leaders to submit suitable walks close to the city, and they responded enthusiastically. In the 48 days between our first “COVID Walk” on 22 May and the reintroduction of hard lockdown on 9 July, the club offered 35 walks.  Seventy percent were weekday walks, in stark contrast to our usual program where two-thirds of day walks are held on weekends. Most participating leaders offered two or three walks. One outstanding contributor put together a five-stage odyssey along the Darebin Creek from Willsmere Park to Billabong Circuit. He identified suitable parking areas, lunch and toilet stops. His plan enabled circuit walks ranging from 10 to 14km along both sides of the creek. Thanks to recent good rainfall there was a plentiful flow of water and a surprising abundance of birdlife in the bushy surrounds.

Plenty River Gorge Bundoora 1

Plenty River Gorge Bundoora

A total of 80 people, sixty percent of our total active walkers for 2020,  participated in at least one of these COVID walks. Over half of the walkers completed up to three walks during the restriction period, while a couple of intrepid members made double figures! Members quickly adapted to the new ways of signing up for walks and were not troubled by any perceived virus risk.

Maximum group numbers allowed changed from 10 to 20 then back to 10, necessitating quick communication to leaders and members. For a few walks, those on a waiting list missed out. Some popular walks with long waiting lists were divided into two sections, departing half an hour apart. This required and extra leader to step up at the eleventh hour. Overall the club averaged 9 participants per walk.

The total distance walked by all participants was approximately 3500km. Walking in a relay, that would have got us from Melbourne to Perth, notwithstanding that no one was allowed to cross state borders!

Darebin Creek

Darebin Creek

Two lasting benefits have come from the lockdown situation. Firstly, we have gained an online sign-up system that can continue into the future. Secondly, we have discovered a multitude of new walks in Melbourne’s abundant green spaces. Our walks coordinators are now compiling a resource of maps and track notes which will be made available to members. This will be a great innovation, particularly while we may only exercise in pairs.

While everyone is looking forward to the time when we can resume our traditional walks, we have made the best of the situation to maintain the twin benefits of fitness and mental wellbeing that comes from bushwalking.

Bolin Bolin track Bulleen

Bolin Bolin Track in Bulleen

COVID-19 Restrictions and Bushwalking - UPDATED 16 September


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Victoria's current COVID-19 restrictions, apply:

For bushwalking clubs in the Melbourne Metropolitan Area

Bushwalking Clubs in Metro Melbourne can not offer walks programs at the moment and must stay in touch online. The details are here. 

For bushwalking clubs in Regional Victoria

From 11:59pm on 16 September, regional communities will progress to the Third Step of the reopening roadmap. The details are here. The two pertinent sections for bushwalking clubs are:

'Exercise and recreation: Outdoor contact and non-contact sport for people aged 18 and younger, outdoor non-contact sport only for adults, with gathering and density limits, outdoor skateparks open, outdoor fitness for groups of 10 people.

'Public gatherings of up to 10 people outdoors are allowed.'

Regional bushwalking clubs in Victoria can thus commence offering walks programs for no more than 10 walkers at a time, adhering to government COVID-19 rules for travel, social distancing, hand hygiene, and mask-wearing.

Full details are available here.

What is the stay-at-home bushwalker to do? 

Here are 20 ideas of bushwalking related things you can do during self-isolation:

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So your journey isn't necessary, your favourite national park is closed due to recent bushfires or the COVID-19 restrictions and you can't gather with more than one other person ...

  1. Start planning future trips:
  1. Equipment:
  • Drag out all your bushwalking gear ... yes, all of it!
  • Are you storing gear that has not been used this century?
  • What reliable old familiars are fast approaching their use-by date and need replacing?
  • Do you have some heavy hardware that you could never part with, but which reality dictates, should be replaced by a lighter, smaller (and possibly more robust) space-age derivative?
  • At the risk of destroying souvenir dirt deposits, give everything a thorough clean.
  • Although not as exhilarating as a trackside repair, give some thought to a little R&M. 
  1. Review your habitual packing routines. Think about how you might save some weight – yours or the pack’s. Here is a guide of what and how to pack
  1. Stay in shape and maintain your fitness from home. Here is a good guide (From in the USA).
  1. Enjoy a micro-adventure – we are not able to venture far from our homes at the moment and even when restrictions are lifted, you may find yourself time-poor for that (long) weekend pack-carry, so start with a micro-adventure in your back yard, on a friend’s larger property or commit to one monthly short or easy bushwalk.
  1. Research your local bushwalking clubs. Once our incarceration has ended, clubs will have their walks programs out there to satisfy their members' pent up cabin fever. Clubs will always welcome guests on their walks, so give it a go. Bushwalking Victoria has 62 affiliated clubs all over Victoria. They offer walks for all ages and abilities across Victoria and often, interstate and overseas.
  1. Select all your favourite bushwalking photographs, including slides from a previous lifetime, colour prints from a previous century and digital photos from the 21st Century, and make a highlights photo book (search “photo books” online for many options).
  1. Select your favourite bushwalking video footage and make a few trip specific or region based videos using one of the many apps available. Most are easy to use.
  1. Reading is no doubt one of your homebound activities, these are good bushwalking reads:
  • “The Scroggin Eaters” is a history of Bushwalking in Victoria, published in 1991. At least one of your older bushwalking friends must have a copy.
  • Beyond the Scroggin Eaters”, published in 2009.
  • “The Alps at the Crossroads” was published in 1974 – Try finding a copy if you are interested in a history of the development of Alpine areas as well as a view of conservation (or lack thereof) from the seventies. Here is a taster
  1. Make a First Aid Kit
  1. Brush up on your First-Aid skills – you can take this Wilderness First Aid Quiz. You can always practice your skills on the kids as a diversion from homeschooling! 
  1. Familiarise yourself with good map sources for bushwalking.
  1. Watch/read some inspiring articles about our connection to nature, such as Forest bathing, The science of why you do your best thinking while walking, Your brain on nature.
  1. Learn more about bush food and plants and challenge yourself to search and incorporate some bush tucker in your meals on your next overnight bushwalk.
  1.  Here is a recipe book called 'Flavours of the Coast' (in PDF format) from the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people of the Illawarra and Shoalhaven regions.
  1. Create a Bushwalking Recipe book for your club/group/family with your favourite campfire meals. Include the recipe ingredients, tips on how to pack them efficiently, and with zero waste. List the cooking utensils needed, the method, a story about this recipe and a photo of you eating the dish with a note on where you would have liked to be in the bush eating it!
  1. Stream the best adventure films with a free 7-day trial.
  1. Need new hiking footwear? Buy it now and wear it in before you resume bushwalking.  Here is a review of the best hiking boots in Australia for 2020 which includes a buying guide. You can visit our member discount partner, the Wilderness Shop, for expert fitting and testing how the boots feel on sloping carpet to simulate uphill and downhill walking. There are many online sales at the moment  if you have a tried and tested pair you want to replace.
  3. Share your favourite adventure books with your community or start an online book club. Chris Towers, a member of the CAEX Bushwalking Club, shared his with us: 

    BeWILDered, (Leaving everything behind for 3,000km in the wilds of NZ (walking the Te Araroa Trail) by Melbourne author, Laura Waters.

    A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson (also a movie starring Robert Redford and Emma Thompson)

    Wild, a journey from lost to found by Cheryl Strayed (also a movie starring Reese Witherspoon),

    New Boots in NZ, Nine Great Walks, three islands and one tramping virgin by Gillian Orrell.

  1. Learn to play the harmonica to entertain your fellow bushwalkers around the campfire, learn some new campfire games or how to bushdance.

Enjoy the opportunity to reboot, plan, fix, and improve your skills. See you in the bush when the virus has been conquered!

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