According to a survey from the team behind the AllTrails App, just one in three Australians know how to deal with getting lost, while two in three Australians entirely reconsider going on trail walks due to safety concerns.
According to the survey, only 38% of respondents felt confident with basic first aid when hiking. Only 6% felt confident in dealing with a bite from a snake or spider and 43% of those surveyed did not feel confident in knowing what to do if they encountered a dangerous animal.
It goes on to say "Since 2017, Victoria SES and Parks Victoria have performed 30 separate search and rescue operations at Werribee Gorge state park, nearby Lerderderg state park and the Brisbane Ranges national park alone, according to Parks Victoria."
So what can you do to walk more safely, and with more confidence?
Always carry a first aid kit. Even if you are not "going far" its very good advice to have it in your pack at all times. Check out the list of basics for a good walking first aid kit.
Obviously, being first aid trained is the best way to know how to manage first aid, but did you know there are smartphone apps that allow you to look up almost any first aid scenario, and give you step by step instructions for providing first aid? Here's some of the best:
Learn from those with more experience
The best way to learn to walk safely is to learn from those with more experience on the trail. There are 60 bushwalking clubs across Victoria who can help you with just that, by walking with a group with many years of knowledge. Many clubs offer "Try Bushwalks" where you can go along to a couple of club walks, and see if the group is for you. Sharing bushwalks with others will build your confidence, and show you some amazing locations with some great people. Find a club here.
Check the weather and emergency warnings
We live in Victoria. They say if you don't like the weather, wait 5 minutes and it will change. Its not unheard of for beautiful sunny days to quickly turn into a very wet electrical storm, even flooding or a bushfire. So it's important to be prepared for this. The Bushwalking Victoria Walk Safely guide covers all this and more.
Don't forget to download the Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) weather app, and the Vic Emergency app (set up an alert area for your walk location), to keep up to date with weather, and emergencies in your area.
Be prepared with clothing and water
It’s easy to think it’s only a short walk, and the sun is out, I don’t need a jumper. Always pack for the scenario where you need to sit still for multiple hours, waiting for help. Make sure you always have a waterproof/windproof jacket and a mid layer (fleece or puffer). It’s always a good habit to carry a space blanket, or even better, a space bag to put your whole body in to keep warm, they take up little space, and should be in your first aid kit. Always take more water than you think you will need.
Phones in an emergency
Not all parts of our wilderness has mobile coverage, so it’s important that you have a way to contact emergency services if you need to. Read about using mobile phones, PLB’s and satellite tracking devices in the Bushwalking Victoria Bushwalking Manual:
Satellite Tracking Devices with SOS (eg. Garmin inReach, Zoleo)
Tell someone your plans
It's important that you let someone trustworthy know where you are going, where you are parking, and when you expect to be home.
Research your walk
Do your research on what to expect on the trail, any closures, and read about the experiences of others - and do it using different sources, not just one review from Pete who said "its easy, my 2 year old did it in gum boots". AllTrails and Trailhiking Australia are great resources, as are Parks Victoria, and Google reviews.
And please, PLEASE do not blindly follow the directions from Tiktok or Instagram!
Sometimes taking in so much information can feel overwhelming, but its a great investment in your own safety and confidence to be informed, and your future self with thank you when you get to that beautiful waterfall, or breathtaking ridgeline.
Stay safe, and Happy Bushwalking!
by Richelle Olsen, Executive Officer, Bushwalking Victoria