Gear ideas for a wilderness hiking trip

What equipment do you need for a long hiking trip?

What is the best gear for a multiday hike in Tasmania?

What gear do you need for the South Coast or Port Davey Track in Tasmania?

This is a follow up by guest poster Larry, who recently completed the Port Davey Track walking from Scotts Peak Dam to Melaleuca in the South West National Park in Tasmania.

In this post Larry makes some great suggestions about his gear selection and what modifications he made to his standard gear list for this wilderness hiking trip. It is an excellent resource for anyone planning an extended bushwalk.

Equipment notes:
I used John Chapmans notes extensively and couldn’t recommend these more highly. I’d corresponded by e-mail with John before the walk and very much appreciated his generous advice and counsel. I used the internet extensively and everyone I contacted for information was very generous with their advice and time. The web is a tremendous resource.

I use Garmin GPS units and have discovered some free topographic maps (Shonky Maps) which give much more detail than any of the purchased map products I’ve seen. I’ve got these uploaded into the GPSmap 60Csx that I now use for walking. The Port Davey Track is shown on Shonky Maps and it is pretty close to the actual route. So I recommend Shonky Maps for Garmin users, not least because it is free.

The Garmin GPSmap 60Csx unit is relatively new as my Etrex Legend C stopped communicating with my PC and I didn’t trust it any more. I can’t speak highly enough of the GPSmap unit. All of these units are supposed to be able to deal with a dunking but I normally wouldn’t rely on this. On this trip the GPSmap went swimming several times inadvertently and was often very wet. It not only survived but seemed entirely unaffected by this treatment, for which I was fervently grateful. It is not a cheap unit but it has my endorsement and deservedly so.

My solo walking is usually done with an old Wilderness Equipment gortex bivy bag and a tarp but for this walk I decided to invest in a single man tent. I ended up purchasing Vango Force Ten Helium 100 which appealed with its 1kg all-up weight. This performed extremely well and I can highly recommend it. I had some condensation issues but nothing that wouldn’t be expected in such conditions from any tent.

My only modification was to replace the (what I thought were undersized) pegs with some titanium pegs for about the same weight. The tent is a keeper for solo winter walks. It had to cope with some wild winds and did so without causing me any worry.
I paired the new tent with a new tarp to give me some protected storage and living space as the vestibule space in the Helium 100 is minimal.
I ended up replacing my old proofed nylon tarp with a spinnaker tarp with dyneema guys from a UK ebay store and was very impressed with the light weight. Even the reported issues with noise from the stiff and crackly material didn’t worry me at all.

In trying to minimise weight for this trip I decided to give my old MSR XGK stove a rest and after some internet research decided on metho as a fuel for this trip. I experimented extensively with what US hikers call soda can stoves which was heaps of fun and despite being impressed by their effectiveness, ended up buying a Vango titanium triad stove which has integral fold out stand and pot support. It is incredibly light but requires measuring fuel and some priming of the stove to avoid a slow start.

I’d perfected my ‘old bastard’™ priming system in practice which worked fine during the trip despite being fiddly. I wouldn’t go this route again for a winter trip as the fiddliness of the procedure tempted me too often not to bother with a hot drink at times when I would have really benefited from one. If anyone is interested in how I primed the stove I’d be happy to correspond with them.

I’m partial to wet darkrooms and film-based cameras but have started to use a Ricoh GR Digital Camera for snaps. I decided to take this camera with me on this trip. I prepared by purchasing an additional battery and an additional 2gb SD card. On day two of my walk it stopped powering up which annoyed me mightily. Not only was I carrying some dead weight but I was missing some really powerful shots. Things are never so impressive as when you don’t have a working camera to record them. Next time my Olympus XA and some film is going in my pack.

Headlight / lantern
For some time now I’ve had a Black Diamond LED headlamp (with the separate battery compartment) which I’ve used (and abused) quite extensively. This came with me and lasted and lasted and lasted. It was still going strong after 10+ days with some long nights in which it was used quite a bit. I’ve never really tested how long it lasts and have to confess that I still haven’t

I’m used to candle lanterns but for this trip decided to invest in an LED lantern. I got a cheap one on ebay labelled “Elemental” which is powered by 4 AA cells. I filled it with Duracell Ultras and used it extensively through the long nights. The ebay advertising indicated it would provide 40 hrs of light which I took with a grain of salt. It is still going though on the same set of batteries and after being inadvertently turned on in my pack and remaining on for who knows how long during one day illuminating the inside of my pack.

Entertainment and information
Long hours of darkness can’t all be spent sleeping. I took a small mp3 player (iRiver) which runs on one AA battery. This was used a lot and I appreciated being distracted from the rain on the tent by some Miles Davis.

On John Chapman’s advice I took a very small Sony walkman radio (runs on one AAA battery). As he indicated I was able to use it to pick up weather reports at dawn from 936 AM Hobart ABC. During the nights the reception from more distant stations was pretty impressive also.

Clothing / Waterproof gear
As shell gear I took my well used goretex jacket, less well used goretex overtrousers and some goretex overmits. I wouldn’t do that again. The OTs and overmits didn’t get used. They are good for rain but useless if you are wading through water which I was for lots of the time. I wouldn’t bother with them for walking in the South West of Tasmania.

I’d also replace my heavy goretex jacket with something that is windproof and lighter. I was generally very wet not from the rain but from creeks and mud holes which isn’t such a problem if the wind-chill is manageable. My goretex jacket was very much overkill in the weight department for something that was used predominantly to keep the wind off wet base layers.

As a winter walk this was a good one. It has provided me with some very memorable moments unfortunately unrecorded photographically. I’d happily do it again but probably won’t as I have some other walks that are still waiting to be done. Caveat pedis!

Many thanks to Larry for this detailed hiking gear analysis and list of “must haves” . He made some great suggestions and given us new ideas and concepts for gear selection when planning a multi day bushwalk. It has certainly made us have a rethink about what we will take to Tasmania later in the year.

Larry is very happy for “Our Hiking Blog” readers to contact him if they have any questions about the hiking gear he selected and where he sourced it. His email address is forbes at iinet dot net dot au (remember to remove the dots and replace with .’s etc)


  1. Ken says

    I’m thinking of getting an Olympus mju 850 SW as it is water resistant and not expensive and seems a good option for when dampness is a risk.

    Thanks to Larry for sharing his gear suggestions.

  2. Frank and Sue says

    Hi Ken,
    Not sure if I would go down that path. I am not sure of the model but my daughter has a “newish” Olympus “””””Waterproof””””” camera and it has failed several times and been back for a 6 week repair once. Not sure I would buy one again…….

    Larry did a great job on the Port Davey Track report and the gear report.

  3. Living Juice says

    Thanks for the valuable information, especially about the gortex gear! Hell of a way to burn through cash when there is other more important things to purchase.

  4. Ian Hill says

    Interesting. Mates & I did a lot of annual 5 day walks – Snowy Mts, Bogong high plains, Croajing coast, etc in the ’80’s & ’90’s, and managed to get down to 21kgs even then. I still have the excellent Macpac cascade & -12 deg Fairydown sleeping bag. We usually shared a home-made 4-man Itsa-pattern tent with tarp, then a Macpac Eclipse (which the married kids have snaffled). My Pentax MX was held against the upper chest for intant access, under the jumper or parka, held by a bit of shaped car tube & army webbing, never wet, always warm & fog-free for photos, even when skiing. Swum the Lerderderg with the Pentax, and got it out fast enough to photograph my mates’ embarassing nudity as they arrived at the end of the swim with packs wrapped up in plastic!

    Fuel was shellite for a very reliable Optimus 99 bought second-hand from a MBW colleague, with home-made al windshield & toastrack. 300ml of shellite was easily adequate for these trips. Technical gear was limited to a plain swiss army knife, an aluminium spoon, a bomb-proof 2 x AA Techna torch with a home-sewn velcro strap for headlighting while cooking, and a home-made AM earplug radio with earth pin and 32 guage copper aerial we threw over a tree.

    Oh, and we took 5m of 6lb fishing line, 2 hooks and a bubble, and had to hide behind trees to bait it for trout at Quambat Flat!

    I wonder if our walks were, in fact, lighter & better equipped, with more home-made, fun-to-use gear than those on this website?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *