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Begin Bushwalking v2c

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Begin Bushwalking

Purpose of your walk

  • Are you walking to enjoy nature, flowers and birds? If so, your walk will take longer than if you walk without stopping.
  • Are you walking to improve your fitness? If so, look for some challenges. Perhaps choose a walk that has a few hills, slopes or stairs.
  • Make sure you walk within your ability.

Who you will be walking with

  • It is always best to bushwalk with other people.
  • If there will be more than four people in your group it is a good idea to nominate a responsible person who will take the lead to ensure preparation is done and all walkers are looked after.
  • The speed and fitness of the slowest person will decide how far you can walk and how quickly.
  • If you have children, how far can they walk?
  • If you have elderly people or people with disabilities, they may not be able to walk far and may need to walk on easy tracks.

Level of difficulty

Your choice of first bushwalk should

  • Take no more than four hours
  • Be rated either grade 1 or 2 or easy or moderate
  • Be on a track that is well maintained and has signposts

Finding a good first walk

  • Contact a local Tourist Information Centre and ask about walks in the area.
  • Libraries, bookshops and outdoor shops have guide books on walking that include maps and detailed track notes.

Gather information 

  • Find out as much as you can about your chosen walk so that you know what to expect in the way of terrain and points of interest. Be sure to have a map to take with you, either paper or downloaded to your phone. Get track notes, if possible, but check the date they were written.  Information written some time ago may no longer be accurate.
  • You can download maps from the National Parks website, you can get a map from a Tourist information Centre or outdoor shop, or you can take a photo of a sign with your phone.

Prepare your phone

  • Your phone can give you maps of the walk, information on weather and access to emergency services on 000.
  • Make sure the battery is fully charged before you leave home.
  • Download the Vic Emergency app to your phone. This will let you know if there are any warnings as to why you should not walk in an area.

Health

  • Make sure someone in the group is aware if you have a pre-existing medical condition or injury (in case of emergencies).
  • If you are seriously hurt, it can be very expensive for an ambulance to get to bush areas. Make sure you have ambulance insurance cover. 

Tell someone that you are going 

  • If you do not come home on time, you will need someone to contact the police to search for you.
  • Tell your emergency contact where you are going, what time you expect to return and what to do if you do not come back in time.     

Check predicted walk conditions

  • Check the detailed 7-day weather forecast for your planned walk area. Find out how hot, cold, wet or windy it will be. This will help you decide what extra clothes and water you should take.
  • Also check for extreme conditions such as storms, hail, lightning, high winds, floods or fires in case you have to cancel or postpone the walk.

Pack the night before

Have you packed everything that you need?

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What to Take

Carry your gear in a small, sturdy, comfortable back pack. Side-pockets for water bottles are useful. You need room for food, essentials, and any clothing you are not wearing.

Food and drink

  • A lunch box to prevent food getting crushed and to take your rubbish home
  • Easy to carry food such as muesli bars, nuts, hard boiled eggs in shell, chopped carrots, fruit, sandwiches or wraps, chocolate
  • At least 2 litres of water, more if it is warm

Other essentials

  • Map showing features and details of tracks in the area surrounding your planned walk
  • Mobile phone
  • First aid kit including elastic bandages, antiseptic cream, Band-Aids, sun screen lotion, insect repellent
  • Tissues or toilet paper (not wipes as they are not biodegradable)
  • Whistle (to attract attention if lost)
  • Something to sit on: a heavy-duty plastic bag will do

Video or animation showing items loading into pack with voiceover??
Or photo of all of the things in the take section with the dot points arrowed in

What to Wear

In summer

  • Wear comfortable, enclosed running shoes. Boots are not necessary for your first walk. Sandals or thongs are not suitable walking footwear.
  • Clothes should be comfortable, light and loose. Long pants or shorts are fine in summer. A long sleeve shirt with a collar provides best sun protection.
  • Carry a light weight rain jacket to protect you from the wind as well as the rain.
  • Remember sunscreen and a sun hat with a brim.

In winter

  • Bring 3 or 4 layers of clothing that you can take off if you get warm and put on when cold.
  • Include a long sleeve shirt, thermal t-shirt and a fleece or woollen jumper.
  • Wear long pants and perhaps waterproof over-pants.
  • Waterproof and comfortable enclosed running shoes are best.
  • Rain jacket is essential.
  • Beanie and gloves are important, and consider spare socks.

Photos of walkers wearing winter and summer clothes– one male one female, ethnic and shape diversity. Note these photos will be larger as they give more information

Walking as a group

  • Make sure there are enough daylight hours to complete the walk. Do not start in the late afternoon.
  • Count the number of walkers before you start and check that everyone is there whenever you stop.
  • If your group size is more than 6 nominate a stronger walker to stay at the back to see that everyone keeps up.
  • Check your map regularly and keep on the track.
  • Wait for the whole group whenever the trail joins another track.
  • Don’t lose sight of others in the group.
  • Walk at the pace that is most comfortable for the slowest walker.
  • The walking pace will get slower the further you go, and when there are hills.
  • Look out for each other and other walkers.
  • Stop regularly to ask how everyone is feeling, to have a drink and snack.
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Stay dry, stay cool

Once our clothes get wet, our body temperature can fall quickly and we can feel miserable. Getting too cold is dangerous.

Keep your feet dry and wear longer socks that you can tuck your trousers into so they don’t get wet.

On hot days it is easy to dehydrate. Wear a hat and sunscreen. Take rest stops in the shade and drink plenty of water.

Leave no trace

Walk through mud and climb over obstacles on the path rather than damage nearby vegetation.

Do not pick anything or take home any souvenirs.

Respect nature and other walkers by not having loud music, phones or excessive talking.

Take all your rubbish home, including tissues.

Bury or carry out all toilet waste and do not use non degradable wipes.

People issues

  • Keep an eye on your time - will you get to the end on time? If not, do you need to turn around or shorten the walk?
  • Sometimes there can be a disagreement about what to do or the route to take. Try to follow the leader’s guidance. If the group has to split, never let anyone go off alone. Always get at least one other person to go with them.

If you are lost

  • Try to retrace your steps until you recognise being on the right track, then either return to the beginning or follow the correct path.
  • If you are still lost call 000 and ask for Police. Tell them that you are lost in the bush. They will ask questions and direct you.
  • Stay together as a group.
  • Stay warm and dry.

In an emergency

  • If someone is injured and cannot walk, ring 000 and ask for the Police then Search and Rescue.
  • The 000 number will work on your phone even if you have no credit.

Environment problems

  • Do not walk on Total Fire Ban days, or in an area where bushfires are active or predicted.
  • Check the forecast again on the morning of the walk. Conditions can change quickly so do not go on a hike if bad weather is likely. This includes stormy weather, heavy rain, very hot weather (over 28 degrees) and high winds (over 40 km/ hr) in forest areas. Carry extra water in hot weather.
  • Be prepared to change your plans to suit the conditions

Unfriendly animals: snakes, leeches, insects

  • Most snakes will avoid you, but they can be found on tracks sunning themselves. Keep alert. If you see a snake, stand clear and make noise. They will usually then move away. Do not try to hit them with a stick and do not throw stones at them.
  • Australian leeches live on the ground, rather than in water as in some other countries. Leeches can be a problem in wet areas, near rivers and when you stop to sit on the ground. Wear long socks that you can tuck your trousers into to prevent them getting onto your legs. Check each other and any bags left on the ground. Leeches will fall off if you wipe them with sunscreen lotion, insect repellent or any alcohol-based product. Hand sanitiser or antiseptic should be used on any wounds.

Photos of leeches – unengorged and engorged? OR a snake OR a big bull ant? https://www.dreamstime.com/photos-images/leech.html

  • Mosquitoes, ants and other insects could be a problem so carry a tube of insect repellent and antiseptic cream for any cuts or bites.

At the end of the walk

  • Make sure everyone has returned safely.
  • After any exercise it is important to drink plenty of water even if you do not feel thirsty.
  • Wait until all cars have started before you drive off, so nobody is left behind.

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After you get home

  • Notify your emergency contact that you have returned.
  • Clean all shoes, clothes and equipment so that you do not spread disease, dirt, or germs that can harm plants and animals from one area to another.
  • Share photos and memories of your walk with friends.

Do you want to do more bushwalks?

The best way to learn more about bushwalking and find interesting places to walk is to join a bushwalking club. Hyperlink to the directory of bushwalking clubs page from the BWV site

  • You will be able to choose from a wide range of walks and be led by an experienced leader.
  • You will meet other people who enjoy walking.
  • Joining a club is the cheapest and safest way to learn about bushwalking

Find other places to walk

The Bushwalking Victoria website also has more detailed information