Using glasses as a bushwalker

Glasses are probably the most common piece of adaptive equipment you will see bushwalkers using on a bushwalk. Broadly speaking, people that uses glasses are either long-sighted (meaning that they can see well in the distance but not up close) or short-sighted (meaning that they can see up close well, but not the distance). So bushwalkers that are short-sighted will struggle to see views but are fine reading a map, whereas it’s the opposite for long-sighted people.

Loss of vision can vary from being minor, where the user can easily cope without their glasses, through to near-complete vision loss without glasses. Interestingly, people that wear glasses are to varying degrees dependent on their glasses to function, in similar fashion to a person that uses a wheelchair as a piece of equipment to solve a mobility issues.

The interesting thing here is that we are so accustomed to glasses that we do not tend to consider people that wear glasses as having a disability, however, it’s worth noting that if a person that wears glasses does not have them, it can become a problem. Hence, here are some pointers to ensure that glasses are well-looked after on a bushwalk and that they continue to serve the user well.

  • Secure your glasses well: If you only use your glasses intermittently for reading, or your glasses are a bit loose, make sure to tie a cord around your glasses so you don’t accidently misplace them.
    Pack them away safely at night: put glasses away safely overnight in a glasses case so they don’t get squashed, or in a side pocket of the tent.
  • Keep as much rain off as possible: glasses become tricky to see out of in the rain. Avoid rain landing on the lenses by wearing a broad-brimmed hat or hood.
  • Consider other options: For some bushwalkers, contact lenses may be an alternative option on a bushwalk. It’s also possible to get prescription sunglasses, so this could also be worth exploring to see if these work for you too.
  • Carry a spare pair of glasses: if your vision is truly compromised without your glasses to the point where you would feel unsafe walking without them, consider carrying a spare pair of glasses as a backup in case of damage or loss of your primary pair of glasses.

Unfortunately, glasses are fragile, so there’s a chance that they will break on a bushwalk. If you can carry an old pair or a pair that you’re not too worried about getting scratched, then that’s a great option. If you do break a pair of glasses in the field, it’ll be challenging to do a sophisticated repair job, but you should be able to do a reasonable job with what’s in your first aid kit. Carefully collect all broken parts and use tape to bind them together (back home, take it to your optometrist for future repair options).

If you do lose your glasses on a bushwalk, the main thing there is not to panic. Stop and think. Recall where you last saw them, and if possible retrace your steps through where you’ve been since you last saw them. If you have no luck finding your glasses, then make use of your group for assistance out. Buddy up with another person that can point out obstacles such as logs and edges. You may even find that physically linking arms with another bushwalker if the way that you feel most safe tackling the track.

Hearing aids

Using hearing aids as a bushwalker

Hearing aids are also a relatively common piece of equipment among bushwalkers. Great to hear other people and be part of the social experience of bushwalking as well as hearing all of the wonderful sounds in nature like bird calls, frog calls and so on.

Things to be careful about:

  • Keep them clean.
  • Adjust settings to suit surroundings and background noise interference – i.e. wind noise (see https://deserthearingcare.com/blog/hiking-and-hearing-aids).
  • Store them away safely at night and when you aren’t using them.
  • Carry spare batteries.
  • Keep them dry: water damage can be detrimental to hearing aids, so always carry something with you that you can dry hearing aids overnight (moisture build up from sweat and dampness during the day https://deserthearingcare.com/blog/hiking-and-hearing-aids. If you are caught in rain it is best to remove hearing aids and place them in a waterproof container. If you cannot do this, keep them as dry as possible using a broad brimmed hat and rain jacket with hood. It is possible to purchase water resistant hearing aids, so if you are frequently in wet conditions, this may be an option. Or alternatively using a protective wrapping.

HearingDirect recommends the following actions if your hearing aid gets wet:

  • Use a dehumidifier for hearing aids during the night when you do not wear them. There are plenty of types available and you can ask your audiologist to recommend you some if you are unsure which one to choose. Popular devices are Amplicomms Dry Boxes and the Dry & Store to remove moisture.
  • Open the battery door, take out the battery and leave it to dry naturally. You can use a soft tissue to absorb visible moisture.
  • Turn to your audiologist for advice or take the hearing aid to a specialist as soon as you can to prevent further or irreversible damage.

Under no conditions use a hair dryer or put your hearing aid in a microwave or an oven.

Other resources:


Bushwalkers using wheelchairs

Bushwalking using a wheelchair is a lot of fun and helps you ‘get away from it all’. It means thinking through things a little differently in terms of carrying all camping gear as well as food, water and backup supplies in case of unexpected changes. This requires a bit of thinking around gear suitability, including how heavy and bulky the gear is as well as whether it suits the conditions.

Here we run through various types of adaptive equipment, selecting, using it, and looking after it.

We also have a separate post on safely providing people that use wheelchairs with assistance.

Equipment Wheelchair equipment

Manual wheelchairs users may consider the following alternatives or adaptations:

Below we summarise the adaptive equipment we used and the pros and cons and things we learnt.

  1. FreewheelTM

    A front wheel attachment that lifts the front casters of a manual chair off the ground. Lightweight and portable, an excellent option for travellers. Price approximately $800.

    • Lightweight and effective way to convert standard day chair into all-terrain setup.
    • Relatively cheap.


    • Can be quite fiddly to set up.
    • Set-up must be set to a specific chair (can’t easily swap and share).
    • Can be hard to get used to using for some, ideally practice and training is needed before using over long distances.

  2. BatecTM

    An electric power assistive front wheel for his manual day chair. The device clips onto the front footplate to raise the casters and be used on moderately rough terrain. The device is controlled similarly to a motorbike for steering and throttle and allows speeds up to 20km/h. Battery life depends on how fast it’s going and the surface.

    • Can carry a lot of extra gear.
    • Easily manages fire trails.
    • Limited strain on body due to power assist.


    • Battery life limits the distance you can go – need to be prepared with spare batteries if going a long distance.

  3. All-terrain Tyres
    Large and wider wheels and tyres which can be attached to a manual wheelchair. These come come in various sized and can be adapted to fit almost all manual wheelchairs. Allow for smoother and easier access over rocky and uneven surfaces, less prone to punctures, and grippier over wet, slippery surfaces. Approx $700 a set.

    • Easy access over uneven terrain.
    • Can attach to almost all manual wheelchairs.
    • Cost effective way of adapting a regular wheelchair into all terrain chair.


    • Another piece of equipment to purchase in addition to having regular wheels.

  4. Handcycle
    Recumbent or kneeling equipment powered by arms, or attachment to manual chair.

    • Less strain on body by using a pulling action rather than a pushing action to propel the chair (with option of power assist also in the case of a hybrid model).
    • Ability to load up gear on the front of chair.


    • Expensive equipment e.g. Batec hybrid ~$10,000 (but may be affordable for people with NDIS support or Lifetime Care Insurance).

  5. Mountain Trike
    All terrain outdoor wheelchair, which uses a pushing action to propel the chair. It can be used on the beach, off-road trails, snow and mud.

    Movement powered by two levers for wheelchair user’s arms. It uses handbrakes like a bicycle. It turns by twisting wrist left or right on dominant hand.

    • Provides more power than push rims.
    • Can be operated with one arm (or with one strong arm and one week arm).
    • Lightweight.


    • Expensive equipment. ~$8,000

Manual and Electric wheelchair users may consider 4WD options, or sherper-assist solutions such as the Trailrider.

  1. Extreme X8 – 4×4 Electric Wheelchair
    All-Terrain powered wheelchair can navigate many steep and rough routes. It can be used on the beach, snow and also can be used on off-road trails and bushwalking trails.

    • Can go up or down one or two steps with assistance.
    • Able to maneuver easily (especially good for people who don’t have much upper body strength).
    • Wheelchair user has control of chair.


    • Battery life limits the distance you can go.
    • Can’t be driven into water (rivers, creeks, sea) because of electric motor.
    • Expensive equipment (>$10,000, but may be affordable for people with NDIS support or Lifetime Care Insurance).

  2. Trailrider

    Single wheeled all-terrain chair which allows access to tracks that are not wheelchair accessible, including tracks with stairs. The chair is has handles at the front and the back which allows “sherpas” to guide the rider up and down a range of tracks.

    • Can go up and down stairs.
    • Single wheel means the Trailrider doesn’t get jammed on obstacles.
    • Lightweight (23kg) aluminium chair with strong welded joints -Frame folds in half for easy transport.
    • Cargo compartment holds equipment and hiking gear.
    • Seat with a high back, foot and arm rests for comfortable sitting.
    • Can hire Trailrider for free from some National Parks in NSW.


    • Wheelchair user isn’t in control of Trailrider.
    • The TrailRider required a minimum of two “sherpas”, with up to four needed when going up steep inclines.
    • Some people wouldn’t have enough friends suitable to be “sherpas”.
    • Expensive equipment (~$7000).

Selection Selecting a wheelchair

  • Main message here is – Talk to your Occupational Therapist, Physio or treating clinician (if you have one).
  • If battery powered – Check the battery life of any assistive devices will last the distance, plus additional movement (e.g. firewood collection etc).

Trial, practice and tweek Trial, practice and tweek a wheelchair

Test out equipment before tackling an overnight bushwalking track. Pushing over rough terrain for any length of time is quite unusual in an urban context, so test out your endurance on some similar tracks near home first. The more comfortable you are with your gear and the better your fitness, the more you will enjoy the bushwalk.

Two good options for day bushwalks near Sydney that cover (somewhat) similar terrain to the Old Gibber Road in Myall Lakes include:

  • Narrabeen Lagoon – an 8.5km circuit around Narrabeen lagoon. Practice the south section a few times, as this is unsealed and more typical of the pushing effort expected in Myall Lakes National Park. Roughly two-thirds of this track is on sealed pathways, so this gives you a good sense of what a long distance feels like to push, but be aware that the Myall Lakes tracks are all unsealed.
  • Lady Carrington Drive – a 10km through trip all along an unsealed road. We suggest tackling this starting from the south side and ending at the north side near the cafe and visitor centre (this means the first hill is a big downhill – not a big uphill). This track condition is typical of what you might expect at Myall Lakes, but far more undulating. You could consider doing a shorter section of this track as an out-and-back for say 2km starting at the visitor centre to get a sense for what a ‘firetrail’ terrain feels like.

It may be wise to talk to your health professionals about appropriate gear and training/tests that best prepare you for this trip.

Some things to practice include:

  • Pushing on gravel paths/roads and getting comfortable with all-terrain adaptive equipment additions (e.g. FreewheelTM).
  • Loading up your chair with gear and pushing it while loaded.
  • Setting up tent, sleeping mat and bag and getting into it (e.g. floor to chair transfers). For people prone to skin and pressure injury, it’s very important to test if sleeping mats are appropriate for comfort and support, and do not create or aggravate any skin or pressure injuries.

Lastly, think through appropriate assistance that you as a wheelchair user might request and practice what this assistance looks like, making sure to minimise injury for the person providing assistance. For instance, using the handles of a wheelchair to push someone for an extended period of time may become uncomfortable with a heavy pack, so consider alternatives such as using ropes or raising the pushing handles of the wheelchair.

Optimise chair set up
With carrying additional gear on a bushwalking trip, a wheelchair can easily become unbalanced, making the journey extremely challenging, unpleasant and potentially dangerous. Hence, it’s worth spending a bit of time thinking through your chair setup and attachments and testing out what works well for you at home.

  • Try to distribute gear weight around chair so not all the weight is at the back.
  • Can you load some gear on the front? E.g. Freewheel rackTM.
  • Cargo nets can support surprisingly heavy weights, and are great for storing heavy items such as water bottles.

It may make sense to adjust the ‘tippy-ness’ of your chair for this trip. If your chair axel is set further forward, the chair will be more tippy and prone to flipping even with a small amount of additional backpack weight. Setting the axle back can alleviate this to some degree (but there will still be a limit to the total weight you can load onto the chair).

For overnight trips – floor to chair
Floor-to-chair and chair-to-floor transfers are one of those relatively unusual movements that you have to do regularly when camping to get in and out of the tent. Find a technique that works well for you that is reliable and minimises the risk of injury.

Some options to ease floor to chair transfers include:

  • Use a push-up handle to increase height of push and reduce pressure on wrist.
  • If using a FreewheelTM this can be used to assist with a transfer. Video link.
  • Ask someone to ‘lend a knee’ to add additional height for you to push off from.

Consider working with your health professional to find a technique that works well for you and anyone that is providing assistance.

Check and Pack Check and pack your wheelchair

Make sure you’ve got all the parts and repair kit.

It’s a good idea to carry spare parts and be comfortable dealing with likely mechanical failures.

Unfortunately, wheelchairs (and adaptive equipment like the FreewheelTM) can have quite specific parts, so it’s not always easy to share repair kits and tools. It’s worth putting together a small repair kit that meets exactly the needs of your chair should anything break in the bush.

Repair kit component could include:

  • Puncture repair kit (tire levers, patches, glue).
  • Spare inner tubes (correct size to for wheelchair and FreewheelTM).
  • Spanners, allen keys etc. specific to your chair (Note: you may be able to use tools on your penknife for some repairs to save carrying two items).
  • Screws, bearing etc.

If unsure, chat to the service provider that maintains and services your equipment and find out how best to prepare and prevent typical mechanical issues.

Use in the Field Using your wheelchair in the bush

  1. On trail
    Many longer bushwalking tracks will not have toilets along the track. However, there will very likely be many places along the track behind a tree where wheelchair users can discreetly do their business (including catheterisation if this works best for you).

    Some wheelchair users find that using a temporary indwelling catheter can be a great way of reducing the stress around toileting on bushwalking trips (make sure to carry spare backup intermittent catheters though, and syringe to remove indwelling catheter in case of blockage).

    If nervous about toileting, start with a shorter walk and work your way up to doing longer trips as your confidence to manage these concerns increases.

    Stay hydrated and adapt to weather conditions
    Carry plenty of water to stay well hydrated on the track.

    Wheelchair users may be more susceptible to hot and cool weather. If hot weather conditions are forecast, wear light loose clothing that protects from the sun, and consider pouring water over legs and core during the trip to prevent overheating. If cool weather conditions are forecast, wear several layers, a warm hat and gloves. In rainy conditions, as well as using a rain jacket, consider rain pants as a way of keeping legs warm.

    Getting a little assistance on a bushwalking track can go a long way to making the trip far less exhausting, more social and enjoyable and give you time and energy to actually enjoy your surroundings. For more details on assistance techniques see post on providing assistance.

  2. In camp
    Setting up tent
    A few things that wheelchair users may find helpful when pitching their tent at camp include:

    • Pitch tent on firm ground, or at least ensure that the entrance is on firm ground. This is the area that you will typically wheel over most often.
    • Store gear and other equipment near the front of the tent for ease of access.
    • If wheelchair is stored outside the tent overnight, remove cushion and take into tent to keep dry (it may rain, or condensation will form overnight).

    Cooking & campfires
    Campfires are great fun. A few things that wheelchair users may keep in mind include:

    • If possible, raise up your stove or campfire. This provides an easier working space for wheelchair users to add wood and cook on the fire. At some campsites, there are designated campfire grates for this.
    • Think about ways to organise gear to prevent you from going back and forth between the fire, your tent and your bags. Consider keeping all food and cooking equipment in a calico bag that can be hung from the back of your chair or stored underneath.

Care and Maintenance Care and maintenance of your wheelchair

Look after yourself and your gear when you get home. If you notice any recurring pain or injuries from the trip, don’t leave it to chance, get a medical professional’s opinion.

For your equipment, do a check when you get home, remove mud, sand, oil the parts, do any repairs. Get it serviced regularly.


Assisting People with Disability

Safely providing assistance to other bushwalkers on the track

Providing assistance to other bushwalkers including those with disability can make a trip far more enjoyable for everyone involved. For bushwalkers that use a wheelchair, a little assistance can go a long way to making the track a little easier and allow them to take in the scenery and enjoy the trail.

When providing assistance, do so in a way that is respectful of the person you are providing assistance to and yourself. This means that you must ask the person first before you provide assistance, and how best to do it for them, as well as thinking about how to do it without injuring yourself.

Below we describe a variety of ways that you can provide assistance.

Manual push How to manualy push wheelchairs

Bushwalker assists wheelchair user by pushing their chair.
Good for when sections of the terrain are steep, or the wheelchair user is feeling tired.
Best if there are a few bushwalkers who can take turns assisting.

People who are assisting can push with two hands from behind (less social) or with one hand alongside wheelchair user (more social but wheelchair user needs to correct steering more).

Pros: Less strenuous on the wheelchair user than pushing on their own.
Cons: People who are assisting may find pushing a wheelchair difficult when wearing a full pack, or for extended periods of time – to reduce this adjust pushing handles of wheelchair to a optimal level.

Huskying How to husky a wheelchair

Bushwalkers assist wheelchair user by pulling their chair with a rope. They attach one end of a rope to their waist strap and the other end to the frame of the wheelchair.

Helpful technique for going up and down steep terrain.
When going uphill, people who are assisting pull from in front. When going downhill, people who are assisting pull ropes from behind to slow wheelchair user down.

Pros: Wheelchair user still has control and can contribute a lot in terms of direction and extra power while not busting a gut to do every inch of the trail.
Cons: Works best if there are a few people to assist.

E-huskying How to e-husky a wheelchair

Roping up a manual wheelchair user to another wheelchair user that has an electric power assist device, and both taking advantage of the electric power assist.
Can be used on smooth sections of trails, where both wheelchair users have good control of their chairs.

Use a slip knot when attaching the rope to the manual wheelchair to ensure there is a reliable quick-release. This is so the wheelchair user can disconnect if they want to.

Establish hand or vocal signals so manual wheelchair user can communicate when they need to slow down.

Pros: Manual wheelchair user can still push, but it is a lot easier for them.
Really enjoyable and easy assist for both the person giving e-huskying assistance and for the manual wheelchair user.
Cons: Electric power assist device uses up batteries significantly faster when having to pull two chairs – so bring spare batteries.

Adaptive equipment

Adaptive equipment for bushwalking and safely providing assistance to other bushwalkers on the track

All bushwalkers use adaptive equipment, whether that’s walking poles to help reduce knee pain or specialised equipment like snow tents to survive extreme weather conditions. For bushwalkers with disability, adaptive equipment may include physical aids such as wheelchairs and hearing aids, as well as their standard bushwalking gear.

Adaptive equipment reduces disability by helping overcome some barriers. It enables people to do so many more things. We are now entering an incredible technological era, where adaptive technology is not only improving at an exponential rate, but it is too, becoming far more affordable. The newly rolled out NDIS and various insurance schemes are also making equipment more available to more people.

For bushwalkers with mobility disabilities, adaptive equipment tailored to handle bushwalking conditions, such as an all terrain wheelchairs, opens up many tracks than what could be done using a wheelchair designed for city use. For bushwalkers that use hearing aids, being able to join in the social side of a bushwalk and share the experience with others is great. We’ll run through a few types of adaptive equipment below as well some ways that you may be able to safely provide assistance to bushwalkers with disability on a bushwalk.

Bivy Bag

Everything you need to know about bivy bags

Life is an adventure,
it's not a package tour. Eckhart Tolle

A bivy bag (aka bivvy sack) is a waterproof jacket for your sleeping bag. Sometimes spelt ‘bivy’, sometimes ‘bivvy’, both these terms are short for ‘bivouac’ meaning a temporary (usually minimalistic) shelter. They are thin, lightweight and compact, making them a lot smaller (and often cheaper) than a tent. Being so small, it’s possible to sleep almost anywhere with a bivy, including small patches of clearing, rock faces and so on. Hence, they are generally considered a more flexible shelter option than a tent. Like tents, bivies come in four-season varieties making some models suitable for alpine conditions (e.g. Outdoor Research Alpine Bivy).

There is no perfect shelter and bivy bags are not perfect. One disadvantage of a bivy bag is that you are likely to get some condensation forming on your sleeping bag as there is very limited air flow. This is ok if you can easily dry your sleeping bag out, but not ideal for extended trips in wet conditions. The other consideration is comfort: in undesirable weather, you can bunk down in a tent with a cuppa, where a bivy is small and closed area. Depending on the design some bivies are not great in heavy, sustained rain or in areas with lots of mozzies as some have a simple opening for your head at the top with no insect screen. Each bivy bag design is different and some deal better with these issues then others, so it is worth keeping an open mind about their potential.

Check & pack Checking and packing your bivy

Bivies are relatively simple to check and pack. Most setups are simply one piece of material, similar to the outer material of a tent. Some have a small set of poles and perhaps pegs as well, and in which case, follow the same procedures to check and pack these as you would do for a tent.

In general, the key things to check are:

  • Are all the parts there?
  • Are the seems intact and waterproof?
  • Does it work, and is there any damage?
  • Is it clean? Some gear may pose biosecurity risks if dirty, as there is a risk of transmission of diseases, pollen, spores, seeds and so on into uninfected regions.
  • Do you have a repair kit for that part in case something breaks in the field?

Even weight distribution and ease of access are key concerns when deciding how to pack your bivy (or indeed any items in your backpack). Since a bivy is only needed at camp, it’s generally packed near the bottom of your pack, but make sure you can access it in rain without getting your gear soaked.

Depending on the bivy design, the material may be relatively heavy, so aim to get it near to your back. Since the bivy is soft and flexible, consider using it as padding between hard bulky objects to stop them moving around (e.g. stove, gas, billy). Ideally, waterproof the bivy as you want to minimise the risk of your sleeping bag getting wet when slipping inside the bivy. Your sleeping bag is the most important thing to keep dry, and since it comes into close contact with the bivy, it’s worth spending time wrapping it in a dry bag or bin bag to keep water out (most manufacturers provide a lightweight waterproof covering). Avoid packing the bivy in a way that creates direct contact with sharp objects (e.g. edges or poles, pegs) as they may tear the material. Wrap lightweight waterproof cover around it (usually supplied by manufacturer).

Chapter photo by Allysse Riordan on Foter.com / CC BY-NC-SA

Use in Field Using your bivy in the field

In dry weather conditions, using a bivy bag is easy. Choose a flat area free from pointy rocks or roots, that will not flood in rain and clear of other risks such as falling tree limbs. Lay out the bivy bag and slip in your sleeping bag. Larger bivy bag will also take you sleeping pad inside, but tighter fitting bivy bags may require you to have your sleeping pad outside. If the bivy bag has poles or guy lines secure them in place. With open topped bivy bags, close up the gap using the to a small gap leaving plenty of room to breathe. You can even do the set up (sleeping bag into bivy) at home before setting out and just unroll the whole bivy-sleeping bag set up in one.

Consider laying out a groundsheet and setting up a tarp over the top. This helps protect your bivy bag and helps to keep your gear dry in rain. There are lots of different options, so play with it and find what works well for you on your trip.

Practice using your bivy at home first. This means you become familiar with all the material and how everything fits together. Remember you’ll be tired after a day of walking and it’s nice to be able to know how your tent fits together, rather than having to figure it out for the first time in the field!

If you haven’t used your bivy for a while, you can test if it’s still waterproof by setting it up in the backyard and using a hose to spray it with water. This is an easy way to determine if there are any issues (again, much nicer than finding out at 3am in the field!).

Remember that you are more exposed to weather conditions such as rain, wind and cool weather in a bivy than in a tent, so it’s worth taking additional clothing layers to stay warm. Also, think through where and how you’ll store all your other gear. Unlike a tent, where packs can be protected from wind, rain and animals, with a bivy bag, your pack will stay out overnight. Be sure to waterproof gear well and store food securely. Carrying a large heavy duty plastic bag can be a useful way to store your pack overnight.

In wet or windy weather, choose somewhere as sheltered as possible to set up your bivy. This could mean finding an overhang or sheltered clump of trees for windy protection. If the weather conditions are wet, place the sleeping pad inside the bivy bag for extra protection of the sleeping pad (if the bivy is indeed large enough to fit over the pad).

Chapter photo by moosepics on Foter.com / CC BY-NC-ND.

Care & Maintenance Caring and maintaining your bivy

For bivies, the main material maintenance is similar to care for the outer part of a tent. For bivies with pegs and/or poles, again, care and maintenance is essentially the same as for tents.

Cleaning and drying
The bivy is fairly prone to picking up mud and dirt on trips so it’s worth spending time cleaning it well when you get home and before packing it away in a long-term storage. Check that the material is clean by running your hands over both sides of the material and removing any mud, earth or sand using warm water and non-detergent soap. Check any zippers, guy lines and other attachments too.

Air out the bivy thoroughly (using indirect sunlight) and make sure it’s completely dry before packing away in a cool dry place. Never use artificial heat or direct sunlight to dry the material as this can melt or damage the materials.

Washing and improving breathability
Many bivy bags are constructed using breathable materials with a durable water repellent (DWR) treatment similar to quality raincoats. Read your bivy bag instructions for washing and reapplying the DWR. This usually means using a washing machine to apply the DWR and a tumble dryer to help set the DWR and improve the material breathability. This with rain jackets this a process that you may benefit from doing each year or so.

For bivies, the most likely repair you will need to do in the field is repair a rip to the main fabric. Remember to pack a repair kit for mending fabric (e.g. Coghlan’s Nylon Tent Repair Kit). Typically, your field repair kit will be small, with only those essential items necessary to make temporary in-field repairs. Back home, you can revisit your field repair and decide if you need to do a more thorough job.

Check that the sealant is still intact, and periodically apply DWR to the fabric.

Long-term storage
Make sure that the fabric is clean and bone dry before storing it in a cool dry place. It’s a good idea to store the fabrics loosely to allow a small amount of airflow and prevent mildew buildup.

Chapter photo by bradbox on Foter.com / CC BY

Selection Selecting a suitable bivy

Bivy bags are great lightweight shelters for bushwalking, with many different types to choose from. They are great options for people seeking a lightweight, smaller alternative to a tent. Traditionally used as an emergency shelter, bivies are now fairly common amongst the outdoor community, particularly for people that frequently need solo gear and are doing trips where weight considerations are critical (e.g. long distance walking, multi-day climbing etc). When used correctly, bivies can be just as durable and comfortable as tents, however, the type of bivy must be well matched to conditions you typically expect to use it in. If weight is the key concern, a bivy may be the answer, but bear in mind that some one-person tents these days are also extremely small, compact and lightweight (e.g. Zpack Duplex).

Modern-day bivy bags are typically made from two types of material: the underlayer made from similar fabrics to tent floors (e.g. durable nylon), and the upper layer made from a lighter weight waterproof and breathable nylon.

Some key considerations:

  • Is a bivy appropriate for this trip? Will there be lots of heavy rain? Would I like to sit up and read/play cards? Can I share with someone else? If the answers are yes, it may make more sense to share a 2-person tent.
  • Size: A bivy that’s too small also won’t be warm because the sleeping bag is pressed up against the wall, flattening insulation and making it less effective. A bivy that’s too big will have a lot of extra air space and won’t be easy to warm up (rarely a problem). Generally, a bivy that provides a little extra room is the best option, and you can store a few extra items there also.
  • Tent-like protection above head: Some bivies have a larger section of fabric at the head (called ‘bivy shelter’ rather than a ‘bivy sack/bag’) which can be propped up with poles or a guy line to create a tent-like structure over the head and protect from rain and wind. It adds a small amount of extra weight, but may be worth it to make it easier to read and organise gear.
  • Managing condensation: The biggest issue with bivies is the buildup of condensation due to poor air flow. Look for models that have breathable material, and ventilation options. You can also reduce condensation by airing during the night. Using a sleeping bag with a water-resistant shell can be helpful to reduce the risk of your insulation getting wet.

Some examples of bivies:
Twilight bivy

Black Wolf Cocoon

Another option that some bivy users prefer is to add an additional protection from rain via a tarp. This can be a great option in weather conditions when rain is expected.

Image source: https://www.outdoorgearlab.com/topics/camping-and-hiking/best-bivy-sack/buying-advice

Chapter photo by hungrydog on Foter.com / CC BY-ND

Overnight Walks

Preparing for an Overnight bushwalk

When you’ve already give the day walks a go, overnight walks are the next step. Here you’ll learn about sleeping over in the bush and the equipment you need for that.

Walking with an experienced group of people is a great way to learn the nuances of the skills and gear that help make bushwalking safer and more enjoyable. Here we will tackle the core topics to help you get out there and enjoy these amazing places.

What to wear?
Clothes you’ll need on a bushwalk

What to carry?
Gear for overnight walks – everything you need for day walks plus gear for sleeping – a shelter, sleeping bag, pad, inner sheet and pillow.
Meals and cooking gear
Personal locator beacon

What to know?
Water collection
Water treatment
Map reading
Bites and stings
Using weather forecats
Sun protection
Leave no trace
Bushwalking etiquette

Inclusive and Accessible

Preparing for an inclusive bushwalk

Bushwalking is for everyone. Traditionally when we promoted accessibility for bushwalking we really only promoted very short, flat and smooth footpaths. The NPA has created a new framework, Naturally Accessible that helps improve access for all. Naturally Accessible is a new approach that improves access for people with limited mobility, for older people, wheelchair users, people with arthritis.

Naturally Accessible improves access to bushwalking by providing details about the track conditions and what people can expect. Currently, walks are graded as accessible or not accessible, but disability and access is not binary. By providing details about barriers and facilities along the track you can choose if the walk is suitable for you.

On this website, we don’t have a separate section on how to bushwalk with a disability as such. Most information about how to bushwalk is not disability specific, but where we can we include tips that can help, eg with pitching a tent. Information on Day Walks and Overnight walks.

Where to walk?
A list of traditionally accessible bushwalks.
A list of Naturally Accessible bushwalks.

Providing Assitance
Adaptive equipment for bushwalking
Assistive techniques

Meals and cooking

Meals and cooking in the bush

“There is no sincerer love than the love of food” George Bernard Shaw

Food tastes extra good on a bushwalk. You can keep it simple or be extravagant but whatever you do you can keep it nutritious and delicious. Having the right types of food with you, not only keeps moral going strong during the walk, but also gives your body enough fuel to not only just to survive out there, but thrive!

Great foods for bushwalking are those that are nutritious and easy to carry. On short walks, you can get away with taking heavier, more gourmet foods, but on extended walks, lightweight foods are key.

Everyone has different tastes and preferences when it comes to food, and we’re certainly not going to tell you what you have to eat. Instead, we’ll run through some basic guidelines for nutritional and food attributes to help you decide what to pack for a bushwalk, as well as some examples of menus to help you get some ideas for what’s right for you. If you want to skip to some sample overnight bushwalk menus go here .

About Food

Energy, nutrition & physical properties of bushwalking food

“If you don’t take care of your body, where are you going to live?” Unknown author

We’re familiar with the words ‘nutrition’ and ‘energy’ concerning the foods we buy. It’s almost all we hear when we’re bombarded with adverts on the way to the shops, and have an endless selection to choose from. On a bushwalk, we’re limited by how much space we have in our backpacks, how much weight we can carry and how well the food travels away from a fridge and being tossed around in a backpack. For short trips, we can get away with some heavy foods, but on longer trips meals have to be lighter.

While a balanced diet consisting of fresh fruits and vegetables is important on a day-to-day basis, the primary concern when packing food for a multi-day hiking trip is energy. The aim is to maximise the energy contained in food while minimising the weight, as weight is generally the limiting factor on extended bushwalking trips.

It’s also important to select foods that you find are easy to eat, digest and enjoy while being active in the bush. Everyone is different, and a diet that works well for one person is totally wrong for another. It’s a great idea to test out some foods at home before taking them bushwalking, that way you can test out quantities and double check that your stomach agrees with the food!

Last but not least, remember that the value of food goes beyond nutrition: it provides a connection and is a wonderful social element too. It’s a nice feeling to be able to sit down and share a meal with others and get to know them a little better in the process.

Energy Getting the right caloric intake on a bushwalk

The energy stored in food is measured in kilojoules (kJ), or calories (Cal), and these typically expressed on the packaging in terms of energy per serving, and per 100g. One Calorie is equal to 4.184 kJ, and although both units are commonly used on packaging, the kilojoule (kJ) is the SI unit of food energy in a nutritional context.
The term ‘calories’ is slightly confusing. The small calorie (‘cal’) is the quantity of energy needed at a pressure of one atmosphere to raise the temperature of one gram of water by one degree Celsius. The large calorie (‘Cal’) is the quantity of energy needed under the same conditions with one kilogram of water, so one ‘Cal’ is 1000 cals. The large calorie (‘Cal’) is also known as the ‘food calorie’ and is the one listed on the back of food packaging.

Nutritional information typically looks something like this:

It contains information about the total energy, as well as how much fat, protein, sugars and so on it contains. Nutritional information is typically further broken down into serving categories for ease of use by the reader:

  • Servings per packet: this tells you how many servings are contained in the entire box/bag/can/jar/package that the food came in, and helps you to calculate how if the amount of food contained is sufficient.
  • Serving size: this tells you the typical size of a serving per person. Beware that many serving sizes are typically smaller than what a hungry bushwalker wants to eat! Test out serving sizes at home before committing to a long trip.
  • Average quantity per serving and Average quantity per 100g: these are the breakdown of various nutritional components (energy, protein, fat etc), so you can get a sense of what nutritional components the food comprises of. Broken down per serving gives a good sense of what you get per serve, whereas the average per 100g allows you to compare between food types using a standard quantity.

For example, using the nutritional information standardised per 100g, you can get a sense of how the energy density varies between high-density foods (e.g. biscuits), compared to foods with high water content (e.g. apples).

The following table gives an easy visual representation of how their energy and nutritional contents differ:

ITEM breakdown (per 100g for comparison)
Energy2020 kJ1720 kJ218 kJ
Protein6.3 g24.3 g0.3 g
Fat, total21.2 g35.2 g0.2 g
- Saturated12.3 g23.9 g0 g
Carbohydrates, total65.4 g<1 g14 g
- Sugars18.5 g<1 g10 g
Sodium497 mg635 mg1 mg

Biscuits are a ‘high-energy’ food for their weight, compared to fruit: biscuits have around 10 times the amount of energy compared to their equivalent weight in apples. In day-to-day life, we generally try to limit energy-dense foods, preferencing a mixed diet with plenty of nutrition, however, on a bushwalking trip, we tend to prefer foods with higher carbohydrate and fat content than normal to get the most energy per gram of food weight we’re carrying. This is not an excuse to get carried away: you should still aim to eat a balanced and healthy diet, just be mindful of your increased energy needs.

Energy density is calculated as follows: energy density = no of calories/weight.

Energy Density typeEnergy (kJ per 100g)Food examples
Very low250Apples, celery, tomatoes
Low250-630Pasta, couscous
Medium 630-1670Weetbix, two-minute noodles
High>1670Cheese, biscuits, nuts

Some foods are more energy-dense than others. That is, the amount of energy per gram is higher. This comes down to the components, in particular how the ratio of fats to carbohydrates to proteins varies.

Fats are around twice as energy-dense as carbohydrates and protein (37 kJ/g compared to 16 kJ/g):

Energy sourceEnergy density (kJ/gram)
Adapted from "Chapter 3: Calculation Of The Energy Content Of Foods - Energy Conversion Factors". Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. Retrieved 30 March 2017.

Energy-dense foods tend to be high in fat and carbohydrates and have low water content (the energy density of water is zero). These are foods like biscuits, chips and cheese. Low energy foods such as fruit and vegetables tend to have high water content. For a bushwalking trip, it makes sense to prioritise energy-dense foods over foods with high water content, especially for multi-day trips where weight becomes a concern. On walks longer than a few days you will need to start considering nutrition more broadly then energy, including foods like dehydrated fruits and vegetables to ensure you are getting all your key nutrients.

Energy intake for bushwalking
The average energy intake for adults is 8700 kJ[1]Australia New Zealand Food Standards Code, 2013, Standard 1.2.8, Nutrition information Requirements, Australian Government, however, the exact energy requirements of any given individual varies with body size, age, activity, gender, metabolic rate, fitness etc.[2]Montoye, HJ 2000, Energy costs of Exercise and Sport, in Maughan, E (ed.), Nutrition in Sport, Blackwell Science Ltd, USA, Chapter 4, pp. 53 – 72.

Below is a table adapted from Xtreme Gourmet High-energy, lightweight recipes for the outdoor enthusiast by Sonya Muhlsimmer and Stephen Lake.

Technically speaking, you could just carry enough rice to gain all your energy requirements on a multi-day bushwalking trip. However, carrying a variety of foods not only ensures that you meet your additional nutritional requirements, but it also gives you options to eat what your body feels it can digest at the time, as well as ensuring a good appeal and appetite for food. Sure, you’ll survive, but your body won’t be operating optimally under these conditions.

Nutrition Getting the right nutritional intake on a bushwalk

After eating, we use food to fuel, build and repair our bodies. Carbohydrates give us energy that keeps us moving. Protein builds, maintains and repairs tissues. Fat provides energy, maintains core body temperature, and is critical for normal brain development and nerve function. Fat also helps with making hormones and transporting and absorbing fat-soluble vitamins, such as vitamins A, D, E, and K.

Vitamins and minerals are essential nutrients in day-to-day life because amongst other things, they bolster our immune system, helping us battle infections. They are also important in strengthening bones and muscles.

As a general rule, carbohydrate-rich foods are good sources of energy before and during exercise, and protein-rich foods are great for repair and recovery afterwards (at the end of the day). It’s also important to snack regularly to keep up energy levels.

Water is also essential for staying hydrated and feeling great on a bushwalk.

Carbohydrates are biomolecules found in food and can provide energy when consumed. Carbohydrates come in two forms – simple or complex – and both have different properties in terms of how they release energy to the body.

Simple carbohydrates are foods high in glucose sugar like lollies and honey. They are short-term energy resources that the body can use immediately.

By contrast, complex carbohydrates release energy slowly. Fibre and starch are complex carbohydrates found in foods like bread, pasta and rice. Fibre also keeps our digestive systems regular and healthy. Fibre is the indigestible (by humans) part of plant foods found in fruit and vegetables, beans and legumes. However, on an extended bushwalking trip, it isn’t practical to carry large amounts of fresh fruit and vegetables, so instead dietary fibre can be found in other foods, for instance, oats for breakfast, wholemeal pasta for dinner.

Research studies have found that consuming carbohydrates prior to an event can improve performance up to 6%[3] Hawley, JA, Schabort, EJ & Noakes, T 2000, Distance running, in Maughan, E (ed.), Nutrition in Sport, Blackwell Science Ltd, USA, Chapter 42, pp. 550 – 561. Before a harder or multi-day bushwalk consider eating 8-10 g/kg body weight of carbohydrates in the days leading up to the bushwalk[4]Jeukendrup, AE 2000, Cycling, in Maughan, E (ed), Nutrition in Sport, Blackwell Science Ltd, USA, Chapter 43, pp. 562 – 573.

During the bushwalk, keep energy levels up by carrying food and water and stopping regularly to refuel. Research suggests consuming (eating or drinking) 30-60g carbohydrates per hour during an endurance event is optimal[5]Australian Institute of Sport (AIS), 2011, Fuelling your success, AIS Sport nutrition, Carbohydrate – the facts, Australian Government. So healthy snacking on the track can be a good thing.

Below is a table adapted from Xtreme Gourmet High-energy, lightweight recipes for the outdoor enthusiast by Sonya Muhlsimmer and Stephen Lake.

Some lightweight high-fibre foods include:

  • Beans and pulses. Carry dried beans or pulses such as chickpeas and lentils. To save cooking time, partially rehydrate the amount you need for dinner during the day in a small amount of water (and old peanut butter jar works well).
  • Wholegrain and wholemeal pasta are excellent sources of fibre but takes longer to cook. Consider thinner pasta options for faster cooking.
  • Brown or wholegrain rice. Also takes longer to cook than white rice. Consider soaking rice during the day to speed up cooking.
  • Nuts. Almonds, pecans, and walnuts have more fibre than other nuts.
  • Dried fruit. If fresh fruit isn’t available, dried fruit offers a fibre-full snack. A 50g portion of dried figs is 4g fibre.
  • Porridge and bran based cereal are high in fibre and lightweight.

Fats are biomolecules found in foods and are made up of components known as ‘fatty acids’. They are an extremely concentrated form of energy (37 kJ/g), which is roughly twice that of carbohydrates and proteins[6]Campbell-Platt, G 2009, Food Science and Technology, Wiley-Blackwell, USA.

Food rich in fat include meats such as fatty pork, lamb, beef and chicken (particularly with skin), oily Fish (Salmon, mackerel, trout, tuna) and also small fish such as sardines, herring and anchovies, nuts, seeds and grains (cashews, almonds, walnuts, sunflower seeds), dairy foods (butter, cream, full fat milk and cheese) and some fruits (avocados and olives).

There are four different types of fats (saturated, monounsaturated, polyunsaturated and trans) and our bodies deal with them all slightly differently. Polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats are generally healthier options to saturated and trans fats.

Saturated fats tend to raise LDL (Low-Density Lipoproteins) cholesterol levels. LDL cholesterol is considered ‘bad’ cholesterol because it contributes to the narrowing of the arteries, which can lead to cardiovascular diseases (such as heart disease and stroke). Foods high in saturated fats include butter, lard, full-fat milk, cheese, coconut & Palm oil, fat-cut meat, poultry (with skin).

Trans fats also tend to raise LDL blood cholesterol and lower HDL cholesterol. HDL cholesterol is ‘good’ because it carries cholesterol from the blood back to the liver, where it is broken down, reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease. Trans fats are even more damaging than saturated fats because of the lowering of HDL cholesterol. Examples include hydrogenated oil (found in processed foods e.g. cakes, pies etc).

Polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats help to decrease the bad (LDL) cholesterol and increase the good (HDL) cholesterol. Polyunsaturated fats have a slightly greater impact than monounsaturated fats.

Examples of bushwalking foods that are high in polyunsaturated fats include:

  • Brazil nuts/walnuts
  • Linseed (flaxseed)
  • Chia seeds

Examples of monounsaturated fats include:

  • Almond/canola/olive oil
  • Avocado
  • Peanuts
  • Hazelnuts
  • Cashews & almonds

Proteins are made up of amino acid chains and large biomolecules. We need protein for growth and repair of muscles, and our protein requirements go up with the more activity we do as indicated by this table. Men generally need higher levels of protein intake than females[7]Jackson, A 2007, Protein, in Mann, J & Truswell, AS (eds.), Essentials of Human Nutrition, 3rd edn, Oxford University Press, Chapter 4, pp. 53 – 72.

Below is a table adapted from Xtreme Gourmet High-energy, lightweight recipes for the outdoor enthusiast by Sonya Muhlsimmer and Stephen Lake.

High protein foods are lean meat, poultry, fish, eggs, tofu, nuts, seeds and legumes/beans. Both animal and plant sources of proteins contain different essential amino acids, so it is important to eat a variety of protein foods to acquire an adequate mix of amino acids.

Great bushwalking foods high in protein include:

Vitamins and minerals are naturally occurring chemical compounds found in foods and are vital for a range of cellular processes. They are required in small quantities in the diet because our bodies cannot synthesise them naturally.

The best sources of vitamins and minerals are healthy unprocessed foods. For instance:

  • Vitamin A is essential for eye health and immunity against infections, and can be obtained from eating oily fish (salmon, sardines, herring), full cream dairy products, butter and table margarine, egg yolk, and bright coloured fruits and vegetables (carrots, spinach, apricots, mango, pumpkin, broccoli).
  • Vitamins B (e.g. B1, B2, B3,B6, B12) help release energy from food, and are important for the nervous system and digestive health, amongst other functions. Vitamins B are found in fish, meat, eggs and dairy products, leafy green vegetables, beans and peas.
  • Vitamin C is important for keeping skin, bones and connective tissue healthy, helping wounds heal and preventing infections, as well as helping absorb iron from food. Vitamin C can be found in many fruits and vegetables: berries, citrus fruits, kiwis tomatoes, broccoli, sprouts.
  • Calcium, a mineral that is essential for building strong bones, muscle and nerve function and blood clotting, is found in milk, cheese, yogurt, canned sardines, salmon, Asian green vegetables and tofu. Calcium works together with vitamin D to make healthy strong bones and teeth.

Electrolytes are a specific kind of mineral with an electric charge that allows cells to function and communicate. Electrolytes are lost through sweat, so when we work hard, we must replenish our body’s electrolyte supplies by eating. For example, too little of the electrolyte potassium can lead to cramps. Bananas are a excellent source of energy and are also high in potassium, which is why you often see tennis players eating bananas between games.

Since electrolytes are lost via sweat, as bushwalkers, we must be particularly conscious of replenishing electrolyte supplies on hot days and when bushwalking across harder terrain.

Physical properties What physical properties of food should you look for?

When you carry a backpack for hours on a multi-day hiking trip, loaded with gear, food, clothes and all the necessities that are supposed to make your life comfortable, you begin to appreciate the value of light-weight resourceful packing.

Shape, size, weight, robustness and so on really do start to matter when packing your life for the next few days (or weeks) into a bag! Too heavy, bulky a backpack diminishes your enjoyment of the walk and can cause back and knee injuries. Fragile foods crumble, or worse, leak everywhere over your pack.

Here, we run through some key food properties to consider when selecting great meals and snacks for bushwalks.

The best thing about eating on a bushwalking trip (other then it been yummy and good for you) is that feeling as your pack gets lighter and lighter as you go!

On longer trips, food and water usually add up to being the heaviest items in your pack, and can easily contribute several additional kilograms if you’re not careful to think through exactly what you can carry given the terrain, length and nature of the trip. Having said this, you don’t have to deprive yourself of all nice foods. In fact, sometimes it can be really nice to feast out, providing you’re comfortable with the additional weight (remember, you’ve got to carry out all leftovers and packaging). You can eat yummy, health and lightweight food.

Tailoring your menu to track conditions can also work in your favour. Say the first day is relatively easy going, you may choose to carry in some heavier food for a great meal on the first night, but then eat simpler, lighter foods on subsequent days.

You can ease the weight of your pack by consuming the heaviest and most perishable items first on the first day of your trip, but consider carrying dried food for subsequent days of the trip (e.g. high energy snacks like mixed nuts and fruits, dried noodles & pastas, powdered milk for your cereals) instead as they are much lighter. Tip: you can pre-mix cereal, powdered milk and sugar (if desired), and just add water when you eat.

In short, there are two fundamental ways to save weight when selecting what food to carry: 1. the ingredients themselves, in terms of energy density and composition; 2. the packaging.

  1. Ingredient weight

    The energy density of a particular food, that is, the weight in terms of caloric value is a key consideration on long trips {link to Energy chapter above}, where food weight adds up quickly. Selecting foods that have a high energy-to-weight ratio is critical here.

    Another way to save weight is to consider dried options. Water is heavy- one litre of water weighs one kilogram! Many foods have dried alternatives available in standard supermarkets. The great thing about dried food is that you can rehydrate them during your trip using water collected as you go. This way, you save weight dramatically as the water is not included.

    Some examples are:

    • Powdered milk instead of fresh or long-life milk
    • Dried vegetables (peas, corn) instead of fresh
    • Dried chickpeas/lentils instead of canned

    The internet is also full of weird, wacky and yummy surprises for what you can do at home with a dehydrator, including everything from dried hummus through to full menu options. But you don’t have to get a dehydrator, there are plenty of lightweight options available off-the-shelf (e.g. ContinentalⓇ pastas).

    Full dehydrated meals (aka ‘Freeze dried food’) can be bought in most camping stores. These are convenient options for long trips, but are generally expensive have limited selection and lack flavour.

  2. Packaging weight
    Packaging weight is the other component of overall menu weight that is worth giving some thought, particularly on longer or harder trips where backpack weight matters. Plastic packaging is significantly lighter than glass or cans, so selecting lighter packaging helps reduce overall food weight too, both before eating the food and carrying out rubbish. For instance, plastic fish sachets (e.g. Safcol Salmon), rather than tinned fish sachets can save give your around 25% more food for the equivalent weight (e.g. John West Pink Salmon).

    Often, decanting items into plastic zip-lock bags at home can save substantially on packaging weight and rubbish volume, however, be conscious that this does increase your plastic consumption for the trip significantly. Hence, if there is a way to reuse existing packaging, or bulk package items rather than individually package them then do this (e.g. pack porridge oats for three breakfasts into one bag rather than three individual ones). Be mindful that decanting sterilized foods, such tinned meats, will cause them to start going off, so best to leave them unopened in their original package until needed.

Food size and volume is important because pack space is limited. Just because a food item is light, it doesn’t always mean it is a good choice, as the food may be light but extremely bulky. For instance, 500g of cornflakes takes up twice as much room as 500g of muesli, unless you crush it to powder form, which probably takes away the appeal of the cornflakes in the first place!

Tips for food packing:

  • Share the load (if you are going in a group) as much as you can on items such as coffee, tea bags, rice, pasta – you won’t need one whole jar of coffee yourself.
  • Discard as much packaging as safely possible and repack the food in zip-lock storage bags.
  • Make use of ‘hidden’ space such as inside your billy- e.g. pack squashy foods like tomatoes, or anything that tends to roll about in your backpack.
  • Label or colour code your lunches and dinners if you pack them in zip-lock bags, for easy identification.

If you want to get really serious about space saving, consider a vacuum sealer to pack down bulky food items and preserve them for longer (you can even vacuum seal toilet paper to save space).

Food robustness refers to how much the food survives being carried in a backpack on a bushwalk. Some items such as peaches, grapes and other soft fruits don’t carry well and are better left at home in the fridge to enjoy after the trip. Studier fruits and vegetables like apples and carrots are much more robust so do not squash easily and are great choices for bushwalking trips.

Food typeWhat to packWhat not to packNotes
Fruit and vegApples, carrots, cucumber, zucchini Peaches, grapes get squashed easilySofter fruits like tomatoes travel well if wrapped in a cloth and stored in a container or billy. Alternatively, carry sun-dried tomatoes as these are quite robust.
CerealMuesli, oats and breakfast barsCornflakes and rice bubblesCornflakes and rice bubbles turn to crumbs, so better to select more sturdy cereal.
BreadsWraps, and pitta breadLoaf of breadBread gets squashed easily and takes up a lot of volume compared to flatbreads and wraps. Wraps also stay fresh for longer than a loaf of bread.

Food longevity is a consideration on a bushwalk because it’s hard to keep food chilled. Some foods can last for months in a backpack without any trouble (e.g pasta), whereas others go off very quickly (e.g. meat), particularly in hot, humid conditions.

Generally, foods with high water content, such lettuce and cucumber, don’t last long, as well as animal produce (e.g. meat) and dairy (e.g. cheese).

On extended trips, where you need to carry all your meals, consider using dried and long-life alternatives.

Fresh food optionDried alternative
Fresh meatTinned Chicken
Fish (e.g. Safcol Salmon sachet)
Long life Tofu (e.g. bonsoy-firm-silken-tofu)
Beef jerky
Fresh tomatoes, celery, onions etc.Sun-dried tomatoes (e.g. sandhurst sundried strips)
Packet Cuppa Soups
Surprise peas
Fresh milkPowdered milk
Fresh fruitDried fruit (e.g. apples, apricots, sultanas)
CheeseLong life cheese (eg. dairylea-cheddar-cheese)
Garlic, onion, fresh herbsCapers, herb and spice sprinkles
Bacon pieces
Garlic flakes

So far, we’ve talked a lot about dried food, which may seem quite specialised, however, the reality is that you can get plenty of great bushwalking foods at your local supermarket.

Specialised dried hiking meals (e.g. Backcountry Cuisine) sold in camping stores look appealing for their ease of preparation, but tend to be expensive and often cost-prohibitive to many bushwalkers, especially on longer walks.

Most local supermarkets tend to stock all the ingredients that you need to prepare lightweight foods, it’s just a matter of looking in a different aisle a lot of the time. Asian supermarkets also have a great variety of long-life and lightweight foods.

We already touched on packaging in the weight category above, but we’ll go through it again here just to reiterate the point that you want to reduce your overall weight and volume of food you carry by minimising packaging.

Tins were once common-place for people going bushwalking, but plastic packaging is by far the most prevalent now. Tinned food such as tuna, sardine, salmon, baked beans, creamed corn etc. are convenient and make sure that foods carry well and last. Choose tins with a pull ring opener, so there is no need to pack a can opener (unless your penknife already has a can. The downside of tins and cans is that they are relatively heavy and you have to carry the empty tin weight back home. These days if bushwalkers are to carry these heavier foods they tend to use the plastic packaging, rather then tins.

Carry as little packaging as possible on the trip by spending a little bit of time repacking your food before heading off. For example, pack just enough coffee for the trip, not the whole jar. Take only enough muesli for the breakfasts you need.

Resealable plastic bags are great for carrying small amounts of food like hot chocolate, tea, coffee, sugar and milk powder. Small food safe containers are great for taking small amounts of butter, oil, salt and pepper.

Leave no trace by carrying all your rubbish out – all leftover food, paper and plastic packaging, cans, fruit peels and cores. Back home, recycle what you can.

Social The social properties of food

The value of food goes beyond nutrition: it also provides a unique opportunity for social connection.

At the end of a long bushwalk, there’s nothing nicer than gathering around and sharing a meal with friends. Food also plays an important part in boosting not only energy but also the group’s morale, particularly hard trips.

Here are some foods are easy to share on a bushwalk:

  • Scrogan or trail mix
  • Chocolate
  • Cheese platter – biscuits, olives, cheese
  • Jaffles – everyone loves a bite of a melted cheese and tomato jaffle!
  • Popcorn, chips and dip
  • Curry and rice dishes
  • Hot chocolates, soup, tea, or a port after dinner
  • Sushi rolls – it is possible and yummy

References   [ + ]

1. Australia New Zealand Food Standards Code, 2013, Standard 1.2.8, Nutrition information Requirements, Australian Government
2. Montoye, HJ 2000, Energy costs of Exercise and Sport, in Maughan, E (ed.), Nutrition in Sport, Blackwell Science Ltd, USA, Chapter 4, pp. 53 – 72
3. Hawley, JA, Schabort, EJ & Noakes, T 2000, Distance running, in Maughan, E (ed.), Nutrition in Sport, Blackwell Science Ltd, USA, Chapter 42, pp. 550 – 561
4. Jeukendrup, AE 2000, Cycling, in Maughan, E (ed), Nutrition in Sport, Blackwell Science Ltd, USA, Chapter 43, pp. 562 – 573
5. Australian Institute of Sport (AIS), 2011, Fuelling your success, AIS Sport nutrition, Carbohydrate – the facts, Australian Government
6. Campbell-Platt, G 2009, Food Science and Technology, Wiley-Blackwell, USA
7. Jackson, A 2007, Protein, in Mann, J & Truswell, AS (eds.), Essentials of Human Nutrition, 3rd edn, Oxford University Press, Chapter 4, pp. 53 – 72