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Bushwalking Manual

Bushwalking Victoria has published an updated Bushwalking Manual that provides guidelines and information for safe, enjoyable community-based volunteer bushwalking in Australia.  The manual includes contributions from other state and territory peak bushwalking organisations. 

Feedback and suggestions are welcome and can be provided using links on the feedback page.



Bushwalking Manual Home

Bushwalking Victoria acknowledges and thanks the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning for providing funding for the development of this manual.


How to print a paper bushwalking map from an electronic version

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Over recent years, many map producers have provided their map collections in electronic form. Only a limited number of these maps are available in a printed form. Geoscience Australia ceased printing its 1:250,000 topographical maps late in 2019. This is not a major problem for bushwalkers in Victoria: 1;250,000 (1cm to 2.5km) is not a scale most walkers use, because these maps provide insufficient detailGood detailed maps covering Victoria at 1:25,000 (1cm to 250m) and 1:50,000 (1cm to 500m) are available in electronic form and many are also available as paper maps. These scales are far more useful out on the track.

Paper maps can be purchased from suppliers such as Vicmap (mainly 1:50,000), Spatial Vision and Meridian – see Finding Maps for Walking in Victoria for a detailed list of sources, including shopfront and online suppliers.

If, rather than purchasing a paper map, you want to print one of the many electronic maps which are available from a variety of sources (including any of the Geoscience 1:250,000 maps) it’s relatively easy.

Many maps are produced in geopdf format. This allows the maps to be displayed and used in navigation software and apps e.g. Avenza. It also allows them to be easily printed to the correct scale using free software e.g. Adobe Acrobat reader. A walk leader can use an electronic map for navigation with their smartphone and carry the identical paper map.

Here are some options if you wish to have a printed copy of a geopdf map – either a whole map or part thereof.

Print the whole map:

  1. Take the geopdf file to your local printer. It will cost about $20 for an A1 sheet and a little more if you want it on more robust waterproof paper, OR
  2. Print the map as smaller tiles and stick them together. You can do this at home, using Adobe Acrobat reader. Open the required map, press ‘Print’ then press the ‘Poster’ button. Ensure ‘Tile Scale’ is on 100% and ‘Overlap’ is set at 1cm. ‘Cut marks’ should be checked to make putting the tiles together easier.

Paper Maps

The preview screen will show how the map image will be tiled. Press print. Trim/assemble the sheets.

Print part of the map:

Open the map in Acrobat reader. Click on the ‘Edit’ menu and then ‘Take a Snapshot’. Highlight the desired area and press print. Press ‘Size’ and ensure ‘Actual size’ is checked. Your selected area will be shown in the middle of a sheet. If your selected area is larger than one sheet, you can poster print in tiles as described above.

What to do if you don’t have a colour printer:

Most modern computers can make a pdf file through the Print interface. Instead of printing to a physical machine, you can make a pdf file instead. Use the above instructions and just change the setting under ‘Printer’ to the pdf driver.

Paper Maps2

You can change the paper size to A3 under ‘Properties’ if you have a larger area to cover, or want bigger map tiles. Place the saved pdf file on a USB thumb drive and take it to your local self serve colour photocopier/printer.

Poster printing is a quick and cheap way to produce reasonable-quality larger maps from geopdf’s. You can use waterproof paper too, if you wish: ‘Rite in the rain 8512’ paper can be used in a laser printer; it’s about 30 cents an A4 sheet.

When printing from electronic maps, please remember to respect copyright. Personal use only.

Author: Andrew Robinson

Date: 06 August 2020

Walking the Kokoda Trail - Courage, Endurance, Tenacity


The preparation and experience of a new bushwalker

Liz Thompson, a member of the Melton Bushwalkers, walked the Kokoda Trek in July 2019. She shares her experience below.

2019 07 Kokoda Trek Liz Thompson 82019 07 Kokoda Trek Liz Thompson 6

My Kokoda experience started six months before I left. The ticket was booked by my sister who lives interstate and wanted to do the trek for her 50th birthday. I had six months to start training and I had no real bushwalking/hiking experience apart from a few weekend walks at the You Yangs.  I had never really walked further than 5 km at a time. So the thought of 110 km in 9 days was a bit daunting but it motivated me to get cracking on the training. I had recently moved to Bacchus Marsh so I had the Lerderderg Forrest and Werribee Gorge at my doorstep. I looked up bushwalking groups on Facebook and that’s where came across the Melton Bushwalkers. I went on a few walks with them and met lots of wonderful people, I talked about my mission and a few members decided they would help me train in more challenging elevation outside of the regular group walks.   So every Sunday, we went out for hours on end in the winter chill, climbing steep hills, getting a great workout all the while having great conversations.

Fast forward 6 months later, I land in Papua New Guinea (PNG). It is hot and unbelievably humid for a Melbourne girl. The 25 walkers on our trek meet at the airport. Our trek leader, Major Scott Babington, herded us into an old bus headed for our accommodation before the trek starts the next morning. One thing to mention is the poverty that can be seen in Port Moresby. As soon as you leave the airport you can see the harsh conditions the locals live in. It was an eye-opening experience. Below is a short diary of each of the 9 days. 

Day 1:  We take the short 10 km drive to our starting point and meet our porters. These are men from the local villages who help carry some of our belongings.   The weight is restricted to 12kgs, allowing for them to also carry their own stuff and not exceed the 18kgs limit imposed by our trekking company. Excitedly we all start the steep descent into the jungle. The temperature was around 28, it was humid but bearable. It was a short walk today, including a big river crossing then into camp and as soon as we arrived it started to rain. Everyone was in good spirits and happy to get to know each other. We get acquainted with our tents for the first time.

2019 07 Kokoda Trek Liz Thompson 13

Day 2:  The hills started. This is what I had been training for. The jungle was so beautiful, the twisted roots made natural staircases up the hills. The tree canopy kept the temperature down and whilst there was a little mud, it was OK. Even though the uphill was hard, sometimes the steep descents were more challenging. We reached camp after an 11-hour day, still high on the adrenaline of being here. Our fabulous trek leader gave in-depth talks at various stages on the history and significance of the areas we were walking on.  That night, before dinner, however, I didn’t feel well. I was physically sick. I tried to eat something and then went to bed only to wake up and be sick again. Oh no….

2019 07 Kokoda Trek Liz Thompson 4


Day 3:   Described as one of the hardest days on the trek due to some of the sheer elevation of one mountain which was aptly named The Wall, I woke up, still unwell, dizzy, racing heart and nausea and wondering how exactly was I going to get through this. I missed breakfast and got straight into the 5.30 am start but 100 metres in I knew I was in trouble. While the other trekkers were ascending the first hill, I spoke to the trek leader and told him I was done. I felt so horrible, I couldn’t even fathom walking up a hill. Reluctantly he made the phone call for a medical evacuation. Turns out, at that time of the morning, no one answers their phone. I took an anti-nausea pill and after some tears, I actually felt a bit better and Scott said he would carry my backpack while I recovered, and reassess my condition up further ... so I kept going. We reached the group that was waiting at the top of the first hill and three army reserve guys who were on our trek immediately stepped up and said they will take it in turns to help carry my backpack .... so I continued. I made it up “The Wall” and “Wall 2.0” and all the way to the next camp 12 hours later. It poured rain all day, everyone was wet through, muddy and exhausted. It was one of the hardest days in my life and a day I will always remember. Not because of the bad, because of the way everyone in the group helped me out, kept my morale up and got me through.

2019 07 Kokoda Trek Liz Thompson 10

Day 4:  Feeling slightly better, I had assistance with my bag again today. Another gruelling climb and hard day but getting it done. One of the highlights of the Kokoda trail is going through the villages on the way. The kids all come out and wave and smile and say hello. At some villages, they sell treats like cans of soft drink, small packets of Twistee’s and local fruit like bananas, pawpaw or coconuts. It rained on and off all day but we had bouts of the sun to dry us off.

2019 07 Kokoda Trek Liz Thompson 1

Day 5: There are many places of interest along the trail but some that have more significance than others. Today was a highlight as we made it to Brigade Hill, an impressive mountain ridge that is roughly halfway through the trek. The spot saw a great battle in September 1942 as the Australians tried to hold the advancing Japanese. We had a short ceremony here and paid respect to the soldiers who lost their lives on this battleground. Another thing that became a staple on the trek were river crossings – sometimes we had a fallen tree to cross on, and some we had to walk through waist-deep.

2019 07 Kokoda Trek Liz Thompson 72019 07 Kokoda Trek Liz Thompson 9

Day 6 - 7: By now everyone has settled into a routine. It was hard at first trying to pack up your gear every morning in a tent but by day 6 I have finally worked out some tricks. One interesting thing, you rarely see any animals in the jungle. You might be lucky to see the odd bird and a few mozzies but I was surprised that there were no animals around. There is also very little colour, just the brown ground and green trees. There were a few fungi around but not many flowers. Occasionally the trail would lead to an open space on the side of a mountain but for the most part, we are in under the canopy of the trees. When there was a view, sometimes you couldn’t see it because of the cloud cover.

2019 07 Kokoda Trek Liz Thompson 11P7140190

Day 8 – By far my favourite day as we had an amazing dawn service at the Isurava Memorial. A beautiful memorial,  literally in the middle of the jungle.  I later discovered the memorial materials were brought in by helicopter. Four huge granite stones, each inscribed with a single word – Courage, Endurance, Mateship, Sacrifice. The significance of getting here and hearing the letters written by soldiers and poems after we had walked in their footsteps was amazing. We understood what those 4 inscribed words really meant as we were nearly at the end of our journey. From here we started a descent into Kokoda for our final night.

2019 07 Kokoda Trek Liz Thompson 2

Day 9 – It was a different atmosphere waking up today. We were no longer in the jungle and we had a short walk to the airfield. On the way, we were treated to a baked breakfast and cultural show before heading to the airfield. The airport consisted of a concrete slab with a tin roof and a lady with a clipboard who weighed our bags and us and wrote it all down in her book. After less than an hour’s flight in a small plane, we were back in Port Moresby. On the way back to the lodge we visited the Bomana cemetery where over 4500 Australians lie buried. It is hard to look at all the headstones, mainly young and ill-prepared boys 18 to 20 years old. It was a very emotional experience having walked through the jungle, and to know what they had to endure and the conditions that they would have had no time to prepare for.

2019 07 Kokoda Trek Liz Thompson 3

Upon reflection of my time at Kokoda, it’s hard to put into words the profound effect that experience has on you. It’s not just a journey you take for a physical challenge even though it is physically very challenging. It was also a very mentally challenging experience of having to push through when you think you can’t walk up to another hill, and the emotional journey, the empathy you have for those soldiers who did the same trek but in much worse and harsher conditions. It certainly piqued my interest in finding out more about Australia's role in WW2. The amazing people you meet and bond with over a very unique experience I would highly recommend.

Correct track notes and maps for bushwalks are essential!

So you're going on a bushwalk - do you know the true track conditions or are you heading out into the great unknown?

Brad Lester cartoon 1

Cartoon by Brad Lester

Don’t let this happen to you!

Rainy weather

When is a track not a track? When it is a creek ...

  • Have you checked the weather forecast for the area?
  • Do you understand how quickly weather conditions can change in the area, especially in the High Country?
  • What are the current track and access conditions?
  • Will you be checking with someone who knows or has recently been there?
  • Have you had a look for updates on the Parks Victoria website or if possible, speak to the land manager or park ranger? 
  • Have you been to the area before?

Mountain Track

When is a track not the track? When it's the wrong track or it's not a track...

  • Can you read a map?
  • Do you have a decent and recent map of the area? (Here is a good guide on where to source maps)
  • Do you have adequate navigation skills for the walk?
  • Are you able to follow a faint track or stay on an unmarked “route only” and not wander off into a scrubby gully?
  • Are you respectful of the environment by not walking off track? 

Answered NO to the above? You should be going out there with a Bushwalking Club!

Club walk leaders:

  • Are trained to plan and successfully lead walks,
  • Will mentor inexperienced walkers,
  • Guide aspiring walk leaders into being capable and confident leaders, and, best of all
  • Will get you back to civilisation.

A club walk leader will have done all the planning for you, so you can:

  • Walk with confidence,
  • Enjoy on the scenery,
  • Socialise,
  • Experience the pure enjoyment of being out there in the bush, and
  • Forget time - as the club leader knows where the group should be and when they should be there.

Bushwalking Clubs have a wealth of experience in their membership which club leaders draw on when planning walks. So you will receive the benefit of all that experience.


Want to answer YES to all the above? A Bushwalking Club ticks all the boxes!

  • It is inexpensive. Annual Membership of a club is on average between $50-$100 a year and you can go on as many walks as you like!
  • Clubs often have a bushwalking/camping gear for hire/loan to members, so you don't have to buy lots of stuff.
  • Enjoy the companionship, and the pleasure of being with like-minded people;
  • Relax in the safety of a group,
    • Be rescued if you accidentally walk into an irate wombat’s burrow,
    • Be missed if you inadvertently disappear into a ferocious Bunyip’s den.
    • First Aid - there will probably one or more people on the trip who have First Aid qualifications.
  • Meet new people, some may even become close friends!

Please do not go out into the bush on your own, even very confident and experienced walkers can become disorientated in weather changes or sprain an ankle and be unable to walk further!

Be prepared – enjoy the bush- and easiest of all - join a club! 




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