Category Archives: subject_intro

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Welcome to the NPA

Getting ready for your first walk with the NPA

It’s great to have you join us on your first NPA bushwalk. Here we’ll run through just a few things to help you with packing, preparing and choosing your first walk. Happy walking!

Packing What gear do I need?

 What clothing to wear?

Practical and comfortable clothing is key. Go for light, loose clothing: this helps you stay cool and comfortable. Avoid tight fitting clothes and/or jeans. We recommend:

  • Collared shirt (sun protection)
  • Long, loose shorts
  • Sunhat, glasses and sunscreen  (sun protection)

Check the local weather forecast to gauge how hot/cold it’ll be on the walk and tweak your gear to include extra layers if it’s cooler, and more drinking water if it’s going to be hot.

What shoes to wear?

Again, comfort is the key here. Start with a pair of sports shoes that you’re comfortable in and your feet are used to. For your first walk we recommend:

  • a pair of light and comfortable runners
  • ankle length socks

What to pack

Don’t rush off to expensive camping stores to buy fancy gear for your first trip – you’ll probably find that you’ve got everything you need sitting at home. Find a small, light backpack to carry:

  1. Water2 Litres is usually enough, split between a few old soft drink bottles.
  1. Food: Morning tea, afternoon tea and lunch. Carry food that doesn’t need preparing and snacks that are easy to eat on the move.  e.g. sandwiches, fruit, nuts, muesli bars & lollies/chocolate to boost energy levels. Pack a few extra snacks in case you get back later than planned.
  1. Personal medication (e.g. asthma inhalers) – your trip leader will have a first aid kit.
  1. Everything else for Grade 1-2 on our complete gear checklist.

Lastly, if you’re worried about gear getting wet, just double wrap it in garbage bags.

Choosing your first walk What makes for a good first walk?

Where to find out about our walks
All NPA trips are listed in the activities program (produced quarterly) and weekly short notice bulletin email (sent Wednesday evenings), you can also view the program on our website.

Transport and other details
Each trip description has a little icon indicating what kind of activity it is – bushwalk, canyon, paddle, cycle etc. Most will have basic details about the walk such as the distance, grade, meeting point and what sort of terrain to expect.
Regardless of the trip length in the activities program, double check with your leader when they expect to finish before committing to being home at a certain time for dinner! There’s nothing worse than having to hurry through a bushwalk or shorten the trip because someone in the group has to make a deadline.

The nature of the walk
Everyone walks for different reasons, and every leader leads their own walks a bit differently. Some leaders prefer fast-paced walks, others like leisurely strolls with plenty of time for lunch breaks and photos. Some like to name every plant, and others like to enjoy broad vistas.
Spend a few minutes thinking about why you want to go bushwalking. Then flick through the program and get a sense for the types of trips that our leaders run. If you can find a leader that leads walks in a way that suit the reason you want to walk, then you will find it more enjoyable.

Grade
Walks are graded from 1 to 6 where 1 is the easiest and 6 is the hardest. If you’re new to bushwalking, it’s a good idea to choose an easy walk (grade 1-2) to start with to help settle in. If you’re relatively fit and have done some walking in the past then you might feel okay tackling a grade 3 on your first trip. More about walk grades.

Day before the trip
On the day before your trip make sure you hydrate well by drink plenty of water and get a good night of sleep.  Double check the weather forecast and for any disruptions to your travel arrangements (e.g. rail track work).

Things changed & you can’t make the walk anymore?
We know that life gets crazy at times. Please just let your leader know if you can’t make the walk anymore.

On the day Get the most out of your walk

On the morning of your walk
On the morning of the trip, here are a few tips to help you feel great and start your walk smoothly:

  • Enjoy a good breakfast, and double check your gear and walk details.
  • Aim to be at the meeting point and ready to start walking 10 minutes before the actual starting time.
  • Go to the toilet before arriving – many meeting points don’t have a toilet.

On your walk
On the walk, have fun and enjoy yourself, but just keep a few things in mind:

  • Stick with the group, and if you’re finding it hard to keep up then chat to your leader.
  • Leave nothing in the bush, no rubbish not even orange peel.
  • Be mindful of other people on the track: give other groups plenty of room to pass

After your walk
At the end of the walk, remember to say thanks to your leader – they are volunteers and put in a stack of effort to organise the logistics of getting NPA members out into the bush. If someone has given you a lift, then it’s nice to offer them some petrol money or shout them a coffee instead.

You may also want to exchange contact details with a few people you met on the trip. Many of our members make life-long friends through the activities program. You may find some NPA members that live close by and can share transport to the start of walks.

Getting into it Enjoying a life long love of walking

What worked for you?
When you get back home from any activity, have a think through what parts of the trip you enjoyed most. Was is the walking pace, views, coffee, people or other things? Then flick through the activities program to find your next adventure!

Frequently asked Questions

  • Are there toilets?
    Walks start from many different meeting places, some with toilets, but many without. So make sure you go, before you go!
  • Do I really need to bring lunch?
    Yes, always carry lunch with you. Even on short day walks it’s a good idea to carry lunch or at least a substantial snack. This gives a buffer in case the trip takes longer than expected, or you end up enjoying yourself so much out there that you stay for a bit longer!
  • I am an experienced bushwalker, can I do a grade 5 for my first walk?
    We always recommend that you start with an easier grade walk on your first walk with the NPA. This gives you a chance to get used to the group and find your feet. For most people, start with a grade 1-2, for those with some previous bushwalking experience and good general fitness a grade 3-4 may be more appropriate.

Other activities Other activities run by the NPA

Our NPA members love bushwalking, but we’re more than just a bushwalking club. Our activities program regularly contains other kinds outdoor activities too. In summer, you’ll typically see more canyoning trips on the program. In winter, cross-country skiing or snowshoeing trips. And all year round there may be trips involving camping, cycling, abseiling, bird watching and so on, too.

There’s a lot of overlap between the outdoor activities that the NPA does, and information on topics like water collection, water treatment and etiquette are all relevant. For more specific details on outdoor activities, follow the links below.

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Gear for Day Walks

Suggestions for things to pack and wear on a day walk

Gear for day walks varies on the length and grade of the walk as well as weather conditions and how remote the track is.

Walks become more remote the further they are from roads and mobile reception. In remote areas and on longer/harder walks carry more emergency supplies and stuff to help cope with the unexpected. On short, easy walks, just carry the basics.

Day-walks can be split into three types:

  • Well marked tracks, not too steep or long: Grade 1-2.
  • Longer tracks, steeper sections, but still on well-defined tracks: Grade 3 walks.
  • Longer, remote walks, with steep difficult sections. Can be part or all off-track: Grade 4-6 walks.

For Grade 1-2 walks carry basic gear including any personal medication. For grade 3 walks, carry a more comprehensive kit to cope with changing conditions. For grade 4-6 walks, pack a full gear kit.

The group can share certain items (e.g. first aid kit), although on longer, harder walks, it’s best for everyone to carry at least some items to help cope with the unexpected (e.g. whistle, space blanket, backup food).

Carry a PLB on walks that go outside mobile phone reception regardless of the grade or length.

Download the Day Walk Gear Checklist.

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Leave No Trace

Enjoying natural areas and leaving them in pristine condition

The best and most beautiful things in the world
cannot be seen or even touched -
they must be felt with the heart. Helen Keller

There are many different reasons why people head into natural areas to go bushwalking. Maybe to escape the hustle and bustle of everyday city life, maybe to clear the mind, maybe to get fresh air and exercise, or simply appreciate the beauty of nature. Whatever the reasons for heading into the bush, going there brings a unique connection to it, and nothing is more heartbreaking than seeing natural areas trashed by current and previous visitors.

Natural areas in Australia are important habitat for native wildlife including vulnerable and endangered wildlife. Having negligible impacts on natural areas is more than just carrying out rubbish. It extends to how much noise the group makes – maybe yelling at someone at the front of the group scared away a bird from its nest and young?- or even the smallest disturbance to rocks – perhaps that forced an insect out into an area where it is unprotected from predators.

Visitors to natural areas have a responsibility to help protect these areas from any degradation by following basic minimal impact bushwalking principles. Leave No Trace Australia is an organisation dedicated to inspiring and promoting responsible use of the outdoors through research, partnerships and education. It’s a national non-profit group that runs workshops and courses on the subject of minimal impact bushwalking.

The Leave No Trace guidelines describe best practice for visiting natural areas. They consists of seven principles:

  1. Plan ahead and prepare
  2. Travel on durable surfaces
  3. Dispose of waste properly
  4. Leave what you find
  5. Minimize campfire impacts
  6. Respect wildlife
  7. Consider hosts and other visitors

Check out this interactive website for tips on keeping natural places wild.

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Footwear

Everything you need to know about bushwalking shoes

Follow your feet. Unknown

Suitable footwear makes for a far more enjoyable bushwalk, and nowadays there’s a vast array of footwear options to choose from. Bushwalkers can be seen using anything from runners through to medium-weight boots depending on temperature conditions and terrain, but each shoe type has trade-offs around comfort, protection, and weight to name a few. Views vary, from walkers being very keen on their type or brand, to accepting anything that fits their general requirements. More experienced walkers may have a range of footwear, and select the pair best suited for the trip. It’s important that all footwear is well fitted and kept in good condition before, during and after walks.

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Foot Care

Looking after your bushwalking feet

Be sure you put your feet in the right place,
then stand firm. Abraham Lincoln

Feet take a lot of wear and tear in day to day life and even more so on a bushwalk: the whole weight of the body is supported by feet as well as the additional weight of the pack. It’s easy to forget to look after your feet, but it’s important to carry out regular maintenance and checks to keep them in the best possible condition.

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Sun Protection

How to protect yourself from the sun

The Cancer Council’s “Slip, slop, slap” campaign is one of the most successful in Australian advertising history and has become part of Australian contemporary language. “Slip on a shirt, slop on sunscreen and slap on a hat” was the original campaign in the early 1980s, and was more recently extended to include “seeking shade” and “sliding on sunglasses” too.

Being well protected from the sun is an important part of bushwalking safety. Bushwalkers need to limit sun exposure to avoid dehydration, heat stroke, fatigue and skin cancers. Selecting good sun protection products such as hats, other clothing and sunglasses is essential. It assists to make sensible behavioural choices like planning the walk to avoid excessive sun exposure, having a well-shaded lunch spot, and making sure that everyone in the group is coping with the weather and the pace.

Spending time planning the walk and selecting comfortable and effective sun protection puts a bushwalking group in a better position to have a safe and enjoyable trip.

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Drinking Water

How much water to carry on a day walk

All the water that will ever be,
is right now. National Geographic, October 1993

Water is critical for life: humans need water for all basic biological processes to happen including muscle and nerves to function. These processes are all crucial for feeling good and making good decisions on a bushwalk.

Figuring out how much water to carry starts back home in the planning and preparation stage. Water requirements increase in hot and humid conditions and when active. Part of the trip preparation process involves looking at the weather forecast, figuring out what terrain the trip involved and also dressing appropriately for the conditions.

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Water Treatment

When, where, how and why to treat water

We forget that the water cycle and the life cycle are one Jacques Cousteau

Water treatment is the act of cleaning water to make it safe for drinking. Clean, fresh drinking water is essential for survival and healthy living, yet access to the equipment and technology to do so is not something to take for granted. A 2007 study found that 3900 children died a day due to unsafe drinking supplies1. More recent studies fear that due to water scarcity the situation will only get worse, and engineering companies are working hard to develop technological aids to combat the situation.2

Adequate safe drinking water is something that is easy to take for granted in developed countries because the process of how clean drinking water gets to a household tap is hidden. In Sydney, 80% of drinking water supply comes from the Warragamba Dam. The rest comes from a variety of sources, including a small amount from the Kurnell Desalination Plant. Sydney Water, the supplier of Sydney’s drinking water supply, follows the Australian Drinking Water Guidelines (2011) to provide a clean source of water.

The first principle listed in these guidelines states “The greatest risks to consumers of drinking water are pathogenic microorganisms. Protection of water sources and treatment are of paramount importance and must never be compromised.” Therefore, ensuring access to clean water supplies is also important on a bushwalk. Sometimes this means searching for clean sources or water, and at other times this means treating water.

In the end, the choice to treat or not treat water is a personal one based on knowledge of how clean the source is and what the individual’s immune system can handle. If unsure, err on the side of caution and treat water before using.

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Water Collection

How to find and collect water in the bush

Access to good drinking water is essential for human life. The human body can last for several weeks without food but only a few days without water. In developed countries, most urban-dwellers take potable water for granted – turn on a tap and water is there – but outside of cities, and especially in remote areas, reliable water sources are precious.
Not all campsites have water, so walks must be planned such that everyone in the group carries sufficient water supplies or collects water from reliable sources en-route. Hence, managing water on a bushwalk requires adequate research and planning regarding the itinerary and gear requirements (e.g. water containers to collect and carry enough water), the expected pace of the group, campsites and water sources.
It’s common that daywalkers carry all their water supplies, but since every extra litre of water adds an extra kilo of weight, it’s extremely challenging to take sufficient water supplies for more than a day or two. Overnight walkers ideally select campsites close to water or organise water drops at regular intervals along the track.
The amount of water an individual needs to carry depends on the distance to the next reliable water source, the effort to get there, the air temperature, and individual needs, but as a general guideline, when walking in moderate spring conditions allocate half a litre for every hour of walking. On hotter days, ideally aim to hit a water source towards the middle of the day. On overnight trips where bushwalkers don’t expect to find additional water supplies, they tend to carry 4-6 litres of water.
Over time, individual water needs will become known, and it becomes easier to estimate water requirements for particular tracks and conditions.

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On-track Navigation

Learning how to navigate along a pre-existing route

When you think about navigation, thick impenetrable scrub and vast empty wilderness spring to mind. But navigation is not only for off-track walking. It’s just as important when following established routes, that is, on-track walking. Unlike other parts of the world, not every route is signposted in the Australian bush! Also, routes fade, reform and changed over time. Following a track, trail or path blindly can very quickly take you to somewhere completely different to where you intended.

Typical navigation decisions that bushwalkers face on an established routes include:

  • “Do I take the right or left fork at the junction?”,
  • “Does the track continue on the other side of the creek now”, and
  • “Is this the last water source for 10km?”

On-track walking means using pre-existing ways to get from A to B. On-track navigation involves planning a route that links these ways together. By comparison, off-track navigation is where bushwalkers plan and walk their route without following established ways. Both types of navigation rely on following the plan, staying found and recognising reliable map features.

Famous on-track walks in and around Australia include: the Great North Walk, the Overland Track and the Larapinta Trail.