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Walk Safely

Walk Safely

The Safety Essentials

The Bushwalking Safety Essentials are the things to consider and put in place so your bushwalks are conducted safely.

These are the steps to take before and during a trip, and also provide for how to respond to emergency situations that might arise.  The level of bushwalking experience you and other participants have is key to ensuring safety.

The aim of any approach to safety must always be to take reasonable steps to prevent harm, particularly serious harm.

What follows is a guide to the safety considerations at each stage of a trip.  Generally, there are no hard and fast rules.  What might be safe for a small group of experienced and well equipped walkers on a short trip, might not be safe on a harder, longer and more remote trip.  And in neither case would safety considerations be the same as with a larger group of relative novices on their first overnight camping trip.

This short advice is to point relatively inexperienced walkers in the right direction.

The Safety Essentials are:

  1. Plan and prepare before the trip
  2. Actively manage Safety on the trip
  3. Respond to emergencies
  4. Build your experience

Safety before the Trip

Safety before the Trip

A well planned trip will include:

  • Route:  A carefully considered route; taking into account
    • The people who will be undertaking the trip.
    • Information in guidebooks, land management staff and websites, local information, bushwalkers who have done the trip.
    • Track conditions and terrain
    • Time of year; expected and possible weather conditions
  • Capabilities:  Ensuring the trip is within the capabilities of every member of the group, taking into account: skills, experience, fitness and equipment.
    • A trip with children, or beginners, or for training, will require particularly careful planning to ensure that the trip is easily managed by the group.
    • On the other hand, an experienced group planning a challenging trip to a remote area involving hazardous terrain, or a solo trip, for example, will also require detailed planning, but with a different focus.
  • Preparation:  Ensuring that each group member is well prepared; fitness, gear, clothing, special equipment, first aid skills and kits.
  • Weather:  Monitoring the weather and forecasts up to and during the trip..
  • Trip contact:  Appointing a suitable Trip Emergency Contact
  • Emergency communications:  Ensuring that an emergency communications device appropriate for the trip is carried.
  • Ambulance insurance:   Advising all participants to have Ambulance insurance as medical evacuations are expensive.
  • First Aid:  Having someone with a First Aid qualification or experience is highly recommended.

Safety during the Trip

Safety during the Trip

Changes to the weather, environment and group progress can occur at any time requiring review and adjustment to plans.

Trip leaders and experienced members of a group need to be alert for, recognise and monitor risks during a bushwalk and respond accordingly.

They should actively monitor the group, the terrain, the weather, and progress against the trip plan. Corrective action needs to be taken where necessary without delay.

Respond to Emergencies

Respond to Emergencies

An emergency situation or safety issue can happen on any trip, including an easy day walk. However, more remote and challenging bushwalks will have a greater range and possibility of potential safety issues.

In the event of an incident:

  • The leader delegates roles and tasks to other experienced members, and avoids trying to do everything.
  • Ensure any person at risk, ill or injured is safe.
  • Provide first aid following the standard protocols.
  • Ensure the other group members are safe.  Bring them together.  Put up tents/shelter. Get a stove going.
  • Assess the situation, collecting all information available
  • Allow time to think - hasten slowly.
  • Keep notes and consult other experienced members.
  • Contact emergency services - sooner rather than later.
  • Change the trip plan if required.

Build your Experience

Build Your Experience

Individuals or groups wishing to undertake more demanding, challenging and remote area trips, should have the appropriate  level of experience for the trip circumstances.  Experience must be progressively gained to develop the fitness, skills, knowledge, confidence and judgement needed for harder trips to be completed safely.

Some factors that affect trip difficulty include:

  • Long duration - multiple days with heavier packs
  • Longer days walking
  • Demanding terrain - such as bigger climbs and harder off track stages
  • Challenging weather

Gradually increasing the difficulty and challenge of trips undertaken develops the wisdom of experience necessary for safety in the bush.

Walking with others can assist individuals gain additional and varied experience.  One effective way to progressively develop bushwalking skills is to join a bushwalking club.  Clubs offer different types and locations of trips - it is worth doing some research to find a club that meets your needs.

Bushwalking clubs generally have policies, processes and practices to ensure enjoyable and safe trips for their members.  These typically include:

  • Carefully planned walks program, including beginner trips
  • Collective “local knowledge” of walking routes and areas from previous trips.
  • Well described trips - most clubs use a trip grading system. Advice is readily available for intending participants to ensure that a decision to join the trip is an informed one.
  • Trip leaders with appropriate skills and experience, and mentoring support for new leaders
  • Members generally know each other well and are familiar with each other’s skills, experience and fitness.
  • Trip leaders provide oversight to check that intending participants have adequate skills and experience for a trip, especially on more challenging trips.
  • Members share experiences of tough conditions, hazards, gear selection, etc.

The Specifics for Safe Bushwalking

Adequate Equipment

Make sure you are well equipped, have appropriate clothing and carry enough food and water


Food and Water


Pre planning what you will do if things don’t go to plan



Walking when there’s a risk of Bushfires


Extreme Weather ... Heat

Extreme Weather ... Cold

Walking in cold conditions and understanding Hypothermia

Wind Rain and Snow

Cold Illnesses

Electrical Storms

Responding to an approaching thunderstorm



Creek and River Crossings

Learn the requirements for safe practice

Crossing Creeks

Crossing Rivers

Snake Bite

What to do if bitten by a snake


Becoming Lost

Minor Mishaps

Falling, slipping, blisters and bites are common on walks

First aid