With everything from mountains and deserts to expansive rainforests, Australia is a hiker’s dream. However, with this vast wilderness comes an increased risk of getting lost. It is possible to end up more than 150 km from a road, if you choose to hike through the Great Sandy Desert. Compare this to the 48 contiguous US states, in which you are never more than 35 km from a road. With the opportunity to end up so far from civilisation, hikers in Australia should take extra precaution to prepare for the worst. Even if you love to pack light, there are a few essential items which won’t take up much space, but could be a life-saver.
A Headlamp and Batteries
If you’re heading out for a simple day trip, bringing a headlamp might seem like a waste of backpack space. However, if things don’t go to plan and you become lost in the dark, then finding your way will be almost impossible. Find a headlamp which is compact, so that it doesn’t add any noticeable weight. Hopefully you won’t need it, but try to keep one permanently in your bag. Don’t forget a few spare batteries as well.
Packable Poncho and Backpack Cover
Hypothermia doesn’t just occur when exposed to extreme cold, but also from prolonged immersion in water below 20°C. A sudden downpour during winter could be enough to make you ill. A simple, pocket-sized poncho will protect you from the worst of it.
Furthermore, when you have decided how to carry your stuff, you will also need to make sure any items inside are protected. This is especially true for communication devices such as phones and radios that will be required to call in help. A plastic bin bag works well, but consider getting a proper backpack cover. They weigh almost nothing but could potentially keep your possessions – and therefore you – safe.
Water Purification Device
If lost for many hours, dehydration will be your primary concern. You can only carry so much water in hydration packs and bottles, especially if you are trying to pack light. Consider bringing a filter, sterilization pen or tablets, which will enable full water purification, even if its been collected from a dirty stream or lake.
Hiking is a generally safe activity, but being lost in the wilderness can pose problems. Even if you are a minimalist hiker, don’t leave out the items which can help you during an unexpected problem. These tiny items will hardly be noticed, until the day they are needed to guide you back to safety.
Contributed by freelance writer, Jane Walsh