Top 3 essential items for hiking in Australia

Australia is a hiker’s paradise, with a diverse range of landscapes to explore, from the rugged Outback to the lush rainforests. There are trails for all levels of experience, from leisurely walks to challenging multi-day treks. With its stunning scenery, abundant wildlife, and unique flora, hiking in Australia is an unforgettable experience. Hiking in Australia can be a rewarding experience, but it is important to be prepared for the challenges that the environment can present.

I’d been watching the TV series ALONE, where contestants are stranded in the wilderness for months with only 10 essential items of gear. It’s made me think about what I would consider to be the top three essential items for hiking in Australia. Everyone essential items will vary, depending on the hike, trail conditions, skills, terrain, weather etc. This is evident on the TV series ALONE where  contestants choose very different gear. So, rather than presume what other people consider their the top three essential items of gear, here’s mine. Important note, I have not included water as that is always a priority item.

1. Navigation tools

A map and compass
Topographic map with traditional baseplate and mirror sighting compasses

Essential for finding your way

Navigation tools are essential for staying on the trail and finding your way back to the trailhead, especially in the Australian bush, where trails can be unmarked or overgrown. A map and compass are the two most important navigation tools, even if you have a GPS device. GPS devices can fail, so it’s important to know how to navigate with a map and compass as well.

When choosing a map and compass, make sure to select ones that are designed for backcountry use. Topographic maps typically include more detail than road maps, and they also show features such as elevation contours, trails, and water sources. Topographic maps are also available in different scales, so you can choose one that is appropriate for the distance and complexity of your trip.

In addition to a map and compass, there are a number of other navigation tools that can be helpful in the Australian bush, including:

  • GPS device: A GPS device can be a valuable navigation tool, but it’s important to remember that they can fail. It’s always a good idea to have a backup map and compass in case your GPS device is lost or damaged.
  • Altimeter: An altimeter can be used to measure your elevation, which can be helpful for staying on track and avoiding dangerous areas.
  • Binoculars: Binoculars can be used to spot landmarks in the distance, such as mountain peaks or water bodies.

2. First-aid kit

Hiking First-aid kit
Compact hiking First-aid kit

Essential for treating minor injuries

A first-aid kit is essential for treating minor injuries and illnesses that may occur while hiking in Australia. The country’s diverse landscapes and wildlife can present a variety of hazards, so it’s important to be prepared for anything. Even if you are a seasoned hiker and take all necessary precautions, accidents can still happen. A first-aid kit can help you to treat minor injuries and illnesses until you can get medical help. In addition to treating injuries and illnesses, a first-aid kit can also be used to provide basic comfort and support to hikers in distress. For example, a first-aid kit may contain bandages, splints, and slings to support injured limbs. It may also contain a flashlight, whistle and emergency blanket to help hikers stay warm, safe, and visible in an emergency. By carrying a first-aid kit, hikers can be prepared to treat minor injuries and illnesses until they can get medical help. This can help to prevent minor problems from becoming serious and can make a big difference in the outcome of a hiking accident or emergency.

Here’s some specific examples of how a first-aid kit can be used to treat common hiking injuries and illnesses:

  • Cuts and scrapes: A first-aid kit can be used to clean and bandage cuts and scrapes. This helps to prevent infection and promote healing.
  • Blisters: A first-aid kit can be used for foot care & blister treatment. This can help to relieve pain and prevent blisters from becoming infected.
  • Insect bites and stings: A first-aid kit can be used to treat insect bites and stings with antihistamines and calamine lotion. This can help to reduce swelling, itching, and pain.
  • Snakebites: A first-aid kit can be used to apply pressure to a snakebite wound with a pressure bandage. This can help to slow the spread of venom.
  • Heatstroke and dehydration: A first-aid kit can be used to treat heatstroke and dehydration with electrolytes and water.

A basic first-aid kit could contain the following items. You can check out a more extensive list here.

  • Bandages: For covering cuts and scrapes
  • Antiseptic wipes: To clean wounds and prevent infection
  • Pain relievers: For relieving pain and inflammation
  • Antihistamines: To reduce the symptoms of allergic reactions
  • Tweezers: For removing splinters and foreign objects
  • Scissors: For cutting bandages and other medical supplies
  • Gauze pads: For dressing wounds and absorbing fluids
  • Medical tape: For securing bandages and gauze pads
  • Snake bite bandage: To apply pressure to a snakebite wound
  • Sunscreen: To protect against sunburn
  • Insect repellent: To protect against insect bites and stings
  • Electrolyte tablets: To prevent dehydration
  • Emergency blanket: To keep you warm
  • Emergency whistle: To signal for help

In addition to a first-aid kit, it’s also important to carry a personal locator beacon (PLB) or satellite communication device when hiking in Australia. This will allow you to call for help in the event of an emergency. It is worth noting that a PLB and satellite communicator are not the same thing. The choice between a satellite communicator and personal locator beacon depends on your specific needs and preferences. You may in fact decide you want to carry both.

3. Personal locator beacon (PLB)

rescueME PLB1 personal locator beacon
rescueME PLB1 personal locator beacon

An essential safety device

A personal locator beacon (PLB) is a small, handheld device that uses satellite technology to send a distress signal to search and rescue authorities in Australia. PLBs can be used anywhere in Australia, even in areas where mobile phone service is not available. When a PLB is activated, it transmits a signal to the COSPAS-SARSAT satellite system. COSPAS-SARSAT is a global network of satellites that are dedicated to detecting and locating distress signals. Once a distress signal is detected, COSPAS-SARSAT relays the information to the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA). AMSA will then coordinate the search and rescue response.

PLBs can be used in a variety of emergency situations, such as:

When choosing a PLB, it’s important to consider the following factors:

  • Frequency: PLBs operate on either 406MHz or 121.5MHz. 406MHz PLBs are more common and have a longer range than 121.5MHz PLBs.
  • Battery life: PLBs have a battery life of at least 24 hours, but some models have batteries that can last up to 48 hours.
  • Features: Some PLBs have additional features, such as a built-in compass or GPS receiver.

Registering your PLB in Australia

Once you have purchased a PLB, it is important to register it with AMSA. This will help to ensure that your distress signal is received and responded to quickly. To register your PLB, visit the AMSA website and complete the online registration form. You will need to provide information about your PLB, such as the make, model, serial number, and registration number.

How to use a PLB in Australia

To use a PLB in Australia, simply pull the antenna out and press the activation button. The PLB will then begin transmitting a distress signal. It is important to stay with your PLB once it has been activated and limit your movement. This will help rescuers to locate you quickly.

Safety tips for using a PLB in Australia

  • Always carry your PLB with you when you are hiking or participating in other outdoor activities in Australia, even on short walks.
  • Test your PLB regularly to make sure that it is working properly.
  • Register your PLB with AMSA.
  • If you find yourself in an emergency situation, activate your PLB, stay with it and limit your movements.

PLBs are an essential safety device for anyone who enjoys hiking or other outdoor activities in remote areas of Australia. By choosing the right PLB, registering it with AMSA, and using it correctly, you can help to ensure that you will be rescued quickly if you ever find yourself in an emergency situation. When choosing a PLB, make sure to select one that is registered with the appropriate authorities. This will help to ensure that your distress signal is received and responded to quickly.

Additional tips for staying safe while hiking in Australia

Bush Search and Rescue 5
Bush Search and Rescue Training Operation in QLD

In addition to carrying these three essential items, here’s are a few other things you can do to stay safe while hiking in Australia:

As you set out on your next Australian hiking adventure, remember to pack your essentials: navigation tools, a first-aid kit, and a personal locator beacon. But more importantly, pack your common sense and your respect for the natural world. With these in tow, you can hike safely and confidently, knowing that you are prepared for any challenge. And as you wander through the breathtaking Australian landscapes, take a moment to appreciate the beauty that surrounds you. Breathe in the fresh air, listen to the sounds of nature, and feel the sun on your skin. Hiking in Australia is a truly special experience, so make sure to savor every moment.

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