Are you flirting with the idea of an overnight hike? Keen to explore more outdoors and looking for a little more information before you head bush?
There is an increased awareness of the health benefits of hiking and with the lockdowns of the previous years, we are all seeking a little solace in nature. Nature resets and retunes our bodies, and minds whilst taking an overnight hike speaks to our nomadic soul for adventure.
As the weather cools, it’s my favourite time to hit the trails for an overnight hike. Summer can be inescapably hot in the tents but turn down the heat, add a fleece and a hot cuppa by the campsite before cozying into bed and for me this is heaven.
The idea of packing up and heading bush for a few days could be a little daunting for some, so I’ve unpacked a few things that you need to know before considering an overnight hike.
Training & Base Strength
Hiking can be an exertive task. If you’re carrying all your gear, then the extra weight requires a little more fitness than your standard – walk the dog – routine. Having a solid baseline of fitness means that you can physically raise your heart rate with a steep climb for a few minutes without having to stop every few metres. Depending on the trail you take, the tracks can be undulating, providing obstacles from tree roots or sandy soil means that you are walking against resistance.
Base strength factors the full body. Whilst many focus on building strength through the lower body, having a great core and upper body strength shouldn’t be underestimated. Hiking is a full-body workout with our core providing support for our back, especially when carrying a pack. If you have ever been on a longer day hike, then you will understand how your core is engaged throughout the hike, particularly ascending a hill. When we climb a hill or scamper over rocks, we pivot from the hips, engaging our core, and lean into the hill to move upwards over it often using our arms to pull ourselves forward.
Our self-belief is one of the underpinning factors when we consider doing something a little challenging. Whether it’s the physical aspect that is daunting or the unknown, it is important to have the right mindset – a positive framed way of thinking. Hiking – or pack hiking for that factor can be a little intimidating so moving into the wilderness with a – can-do attitude – will set you in good stead.
Choosing to challenge ourselves in this way can lead to improved confidence, self-efficacy, and self-empowerment. When we push through our comfort zone, we step into a place of a growth mindset.
Whilst it’s hard to know how you will react if this is your first time, why not consider taking someone who is more experienced so that you are reassured if and when you feel a little uncertain.
Through hiking and exploring nature we are primed to come through whatever challenges faced, wiser, and stronger. Learn more about how mindset plays a role
Hydration & Nutrition
If you are pack hiking, you will want to keep this light. A heavy pack for your first pack hiking experience will turn you off from this amazing hobby, so opt for the lighter-weight food options. Consider that 1 litre of water is 1 kilogram, you will need to carry at least 2 litres at all times unless you know 100% that you have access to water and be able to treat it. Water is the most crucial element of any hiking adventure and consider that you need extra hydration due to loss of sweat, and energy consumption – you will need to keep this on you at all times.
We use a Sawyer Squeeze filter as water can be consumed immediately, however, there are filter tablets that allow water to be consumed after 30mins. Always filter/treat water as even the freshest-looking waterfalls can be contaminated. Don’t rely on tanks to be full in any locations that you head to either as these are dependent on rainfall and use, always be prepared that you will need to search for alternate sources.
If you are rehydrating food, you will want to carry an extra litre of water. So that’s already 3 kilograms. On our guided pack hike trips, we provide freeze-dried foods with each meal weighing about 100g. Trail mixes are the heaviest proportion with the valuable fats and energy from nuts, seeds, and dried fruit – the one thing I won’t compromise on. If the conditions are cooler, be mindful that you will be hungrier, and we need to consume more calories in the lower temperature to generate body heat.
Preparation & Gear
A few things to consider when taking on your first overnight pack hike.
Navigation and location- are there rivers that you need to cross? Be mindful of any tides that may affect your course. Don’t rely on Google to guide you- many hikes will mean no reception. Print out the map prior to departure and keep it in a large zip lock bag so it can’t be damaged in the rain.
First aid kit- the basic kit should have band-aids, blisters treatments, antiseptic/ bite creams, bandages/slings, Panadol, antihistamines, and I always ensure that I carry Ventolin and an epi-pen. Always be prepared.
E-PIRB - An EPIRB is an Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon that can help search and rescue authorities pinpoint your position in an emergency. It’s a portable electronic device that, once activated, emits a continuous and distinctive radio distress signal for at least 48 hours. These are those items that you will want but hopefully never need. Worthy of investment.
Pack appropriately – pack for any season. Wet weather gear is invaluable when you’re outdoors in the elements. A good poncho (sea to summit) will double as a make-shift shelter and keep you and your pack dry whilst you walk. Shoes; many trails can be done in runners however make sure you have tread or you will be on your butt and with a pack on, hardens your fall and increases risk of injury.
Pack – having the right backpack will make all the difference as you start to load it with your gear for the weekend. Straps should be cushioning on the shoulders and the waist, fully adjustable and provide a good support to your back. Careful consideration goes to how to pack the weight, with the heavier items to the bottom and against your spine.
Check the Weather – BOM app or WILLY WEATHER will let you know whether to abandon your adventure for another time. The last thing you want is a freak storm and high winds when you are planning to camp beneath the branches of 100-year-old gum trees.
Tents & other gear- Do you have the appropriate gear? Lightweight tent, sleeping mats, cookware, and other items – all these will add up in weight. All Holistic Hikes tour gear is ultra-lightweight with our tents under 1kg. If you are borrowing gear, always check before you leave to ensure that it is working and all parts are accounted for.
Words of advice.
Don’t buy new gear to “break in “on the trail. This is often where people can find themselves in trouble. It's best to test and break in all gear on day trips first to iron out any kinks or address any hot spots that come up in new boots.
Start small – don’t overestimate what you can achieve in a day. The best way to approach anything new is one step at a time. Often trails will appear shorter in length and you may be tempted to push on, consider the terrain and elevation of hike distances before you overcommit.
Always pack a lighter – never rely on your push-button stove to work. Nothing worse than having gas and no way to light it when you are hankering for a hot meal after a day hiking.
Always tell someone where you are going and when you expect to be back. There are too many horror stories of people missing in the mountains, so always tell someone of your plans and intentions.
Stick to the trails. Most hiking trails are clearly signed – although the distances displayed can be a little off – they will point you in the right direction. Avoid taking a shortcut as these are often animals trails and you will soon drift off course and become lost. It is important to stick to the trails as we can negatively impact flora and fauna by treading in places we shouldn’t.
Whilst these are just some of the things that you should consider when heading on an overnight hike, it is by no means a comprehensive checklist. Always consider your ability and safety.
If you are keen to explore trails and experience a pack hike adventure but the idea still seems a little daunting, check out the upcoming pack hikes we offer. We are very experienced and our tours offer assurance across these factors and more and include lightweight gear- experience without the hefty gear investment.