Whenever I go on an overnight bushwalk I have a mental check list I tick off to ensure I have everything I need for a safe, comfortable walk. Other than the obvious items, such as tent, sleeping bag, sleeping mat, boots, backpack etc, here are five useful things I always take with me camping:
1. EPIRB (Emergency Position-Indicating Radio Beacon) I do a lot of solo walking and this is a must pack. If something goes wrong on a walk that I can’t get myself out of, the aerial goes up, the unit activates, the distress signal gets sent and I wait for a helicopter to come and get me. It’s the first thing my partner will make sure I’ve packed before I set off for a walk. The Australian bush can be pretty unforgiving and there are plenty of news stories about walkers being injured or going missing and huge search efforts being launched to find them. A lost or injured walker with an EPIRB will save themselves and rescuers a lot of time and effort by providing their location. And possibly save their life. The handheld unit cost me around $300 and is the most expensive piece of gear I have that I hope I never have to use.
2. Book. Camping is when I seem to do most of my reading. After setting up my tent and settling down after a long day of walking I like nothing more than making a cup of tea or hot chocolate and then relaxing with a book . A book is also imperative for those days when the weather goes pear shaped and you’re tent bound. Snuggling down into a sleeping bag, in a tent, with a book, while the rain hammers down outside is one of life’s little pleasures.
3. Tarp. This is a recently acquired piece of gear which I now can’t work out why it took me so long to buy. It’s a great secondary shelter. I use it at lunch time to keep off the sun or rain. It’s also great to put up over my tent. If it rains it keeps the tent mostly dry and lets me pack my backpack under cover. One of my least favourite things is packing up in the rain, especially a wet tent. The tarp also lets me cook, eat and sit outside while it’s raining.
4. Snap-lock plastic bags. I carry lots of these. They make great rubbish bags. They’re also excellent waterproof bags for things like books – to keep water out – and sunscreen and toothpaste tubes – to keep their contents in. I also find snap lock bags I’ve packed food into invariably split or break during a trip, so spares are necessary.
5. Spare boot laces. I’ve always thought it would be horrible to be part way through a walk and your boot laces break. Loose boots are not a good idea for your feet, especially if you’re walking through rugged country. I’m glad I‘ve had this foresight as I’ve been on a couple of walks in Tasmania where my laces broke and was able to replace them. The laces, which are usually quite long, can also be handy for other things, like a makeshift clothes line or anything else that might need tying.