Match difficulty with ability
When planning a trip, whether a day walk, an overnight hike or an extended trek, always aim to match aspirations with ability, fitness and experience.
Keep in mind that a successful trip for a party of mixed abilities and expectations is difficult to organize. For a safe and enjoyable introduction to bushwalking, arrange early trips with experienced bushwalkers or walk on well marked tracks using up to date walk notes and maps. There are a number of books available containing advice and track notes for both day and overnight walks in Victoria.
Preferably plan short walks with as much variety as possible that will hold their interest
and will remain easily and enjoyably within their physical capabilities.
As a rough guide for the average party allow 1 hr for every:
- 3-4K on a smooth flat track
- 1-2 K in rough terrain
Plus an additional hour for every:
- 500m ascent
- 1000m descent
These times are approximate and need to be modified for fitness, tiredness, pack weight, size and age of party, extreme weather and overgrown or untracked walking. These times do not include rest stops. In the field, comparison of these estimates with the time actually taken to cover each section provides a useful check of navigation and enables calibration of track notes or advisory track signs with your party's ability.
Allow time for regular rest stops appropriate to the needs of the party.
As a guide, a fit group of experienced walkers may stop only 5-10 minutes every hour, whilst children, hot weather or a steep climb may dictate more frequent breaks.
Be aware of seasonal daylight hours and aim to reach camp or return to transport well before dark. It is wise to always carry a torch, even on a day walk. An early start is the simplest way to avoid unnecessary pressure being placed on walkers who are generally more tired at the end of the day.
Devise contingency plans to shorten a walk in the event of miscalculation of walk times, bad weather or an emergency.
Before visiting a national or state park, look up the details of the park on the Parks Victoria web site where you can access and download information such as park notes/visitor guides and brochures and obtain up to date information on park conditions such as track closures.
Plan sheltered areas with access to water for campsites, and never rely on reaching mountain huts for shelter.
Overnight bushwalkers should be equipped to camp out at all times and in all conditions, since poor visibility or uncertainty of exact location introduce considerable risk of failure to reach a hut. Alternatively, a hut may be full, not available for public use or, in some instances, derelict or even demolished.
Before leaving home, check:
- For walks in national or state parks, the Parks Victoria web site for current information on park conditions
- Fire restrictions for the appropriate region*.
- Weather forecast for the specific area where you will be walking*. Remember that the forecast for Melbourne can be a very poor guide to weather conditions in other areas of Victoria, particularly alpine regions.
- River levels if major crossings are planned*.
- Tides for some coastal walking*.
- Owner's permission if route involves crossing private land.
Leave trip intentions:
A clear record of your trip intentions should be left with a responsible person.
These should ideally include a photocopy of a map marking your intended route and possible alternatives. Indicate the names of members in the party, vehicle registrations, the time you expect to return and the time considered to be notifiably overdue. In the absence of a suitable contact, leave this information with the local police, park ranger or in your vehicle. Where available, leave details of destination, route and time of departure in hut, park or track log books.
The free Trip Intentions web site provides a facility for you to record the details of any trip into the outdoors and send the details to people you nominate. This service is provided free of charge in the interests of improved safety for outdoors and wilderness trips and adventures.