The Overland Track – advice from a first timer

Planning to hike the Overland Track and not sure what gear you need?

You have read all the advice (including our Overland Track ebook) and STILL want more information?

Just love to read about other people’s experiences to build up your knowledge base before you tackle one of the world’s Best Hikes?

Want to hike the Overland Track solo but not sure if you can?

In this post we share some reflections of a recent solo Overland Track trip by Matthias, a young German guy who now lives in Hobart. He did the walk in late 2008.

Matthias has a fantastic blog called Mattworldwide that we have been following for the last few months as he documents his time in Australia, and in particular, Tasmania. He is a great bloke, who is a really interesting thinker and VERY organised. (maybe it is his German background)

We communicated a fair bit before his trip and he used our Walking the Overland Track ebook to help him plan the walk. .

Matt and his first mud on the Overland Track
Matt kindly agreed to us reproducing some of his comments about the walk. We strongly encourage you to read the full story and his extensive notes on his blog post Overland Track 2008. We have added some comments in italics.

Matt’s thoughts and recommendations:

This trip was my first long hiking trip and I knew that a lot of things would go wrong and that I would make mistakes. It was mostly about getting experience, and I got a lot of helpful experience. After all, here are some thoughts and recommendations from me based on my trip:

– A 1 litre water bottle is not enough, when it’s hot and sunny it can happen that you run out of water very quickly, like it happened to me on the first day. Whenever you find a good possibility to refill (like a creek) drink as much as you can and then fill up your bottle completely. It can be a long walk until you get another possibility to refill.

Agree in part, water is very heavy and there are many opportunities to refill on the track. Because we have walked the track so often, we know where the creeks so take some extra but not too much!

– Maybe don’t take bottles at all. Next time instead of a bottle I will carry a flexible water tank with about 2 litres that I can store in the top pocket of my backpack. I’ve seen a lot of people carrying these and they have a tube that goes to your mouth so you can drink easily anytime. I think that’s more convenient.

– If you’re camping with your tent, take some string with you. It can be a bit difficult to fix all sides of your tent on the tent platforms that are provided at most huts. The biggest problem is that they don’t have hooks in the middle of the platform and they are all different size, so it’s good to have some string so you can fix your tent if there are no hooks left on the platform.
Agree, or an alternate we use is large elastic bands (they stretch)

– It’s helpful to carry a tea towel to dry your dishes. You don’t need soap, just take a sponge with a rough surface on one side.

A large “Chux” works really well as a tea or body towel. They dry quickly as well.

– I didn’t have real hiking trousers and carried old cotton shorts and long replacement trousers. It’s definitely worth investing in good water-proof and dirt resistant hiking trousers. Take some with zip-off legs and you only need to take one pair of trousers with you.

Cotton is always a no no, once wet it will take a LONG time to dry.

Only wear rain clothes when it actually rains. Most rain clothes are so wind resistant that you will sweat a lot more by wearing them. One day it looked like rain so I put on my rain over trousers. After a few minutes of walking I changed again, it was too hot.

– The quality of my sleep depends much on the quality of my pillow, I found out. It’s a good idea (thanks Frank) to carry an empty pillow case and fill it with clothes when you go to sleep. I didn’t take one with me (somehow forgot) and most nights I had very bad sleep.

Take a light daypack with you, a small backpack for daytours or sidetrips. It doesn’t need to be ergonomic or expensive, a very cheap one that can be folded to small volume will do fine. It’s very good to have a daypack if you want to do some sidetrips like the climb to Mount Ossa or Cradle Mountain. You can leave your big pack at the junction (everyone does that, sometimes there are even platforms to store your backpack) and put lunch, water, first-aid, valuables etc. in your daypack. I didn’t carry one and made the mistake of taking my water bottle up to the summit of Cradle Mountain. What a mistake, you definitely need both your hands free to do all the dangerous rock climbing.

Matt on top of Mt Ossa – December 2008 – check out the snow in the background

– It’s worth doing a precise menu and food planning even if it doesn’t really sound necessary. I didn’t do much planning, I just took a lot more food than necessary to be able to extend my stay by several days in case I wanted to. In the end I didn’t extend much and brought a lot of food back home from my trip.

Agree, we have a large section of how to plan your menu in Food to Go, our hiking cookbook.

– Also it’s good to carry dry food and mostly things that only need added water, as water is supplied on the track. I carried some cans with tuna or soup with added bacon etc., but cans take up a lot of weight so next time I’ll leave them at home, except maybe tuna which is small and good.

– It worked very well for me to dry some food using a food dehydrator. While it didn’t really work drying fruit (was ugly and it’s cheap at Woolworths anyway) I was successful with drying spaghetti bolognese or sweet curry rice with banana. Next time I will prepare more dried food. A friend I met on the track carried 1kg of oats and a pack of milk powder, so every morning he was cooking oats for breakfast. Sounds nice and easy, but maybe it gets boring after some days.

Drying food is great – check out this post on how to dry spaghetti

– I probably wouldn’t carry a camera tripod anymore. While I got some really nice photos that wouldn’t have been possible without it, at 1.5kg it’s simply too much weight. Every kilo counts.

– My tent was way too heavy. It weights around 2.5kg, I will try to replace it with a 1kg one before I go hiking again.

I always carry too many gas cans. Half of the trip I still used the almost empty can from my cycling trip earlier this year. With the right gas stove (I have a good one from Kovea) they almost last forever. One 230g gas can is definitely enough for a 8 day hiking trip, even if you use it twice a day or more to cook stuff. It’s good to go inside the hut for cooking, less wind saves you gas.

Check your footwear before you leave!! In my ‘group’ there was a girl who had to fix their shoes with duct tape every day because they were falling to pieces after one or two days. Fortunately she found a ranger who could supply tape. It’s a long walk and it can kill your shoes, I’m surprised how worn my own (pretty good) shoes look after the Overland Track.

Yep, many people have this problem. This guy had a lot of trouble with his old boots and had to evacuate.

Mosquitoes, there are so many of them!! If you don’t take any of the common sprays or cream you will get really annoyed by them. Especially if you wear shorts or t-shirts they will bite you everywhere!

Don’t underestimate temperatures. Even if it’s very sunny and hot during the day, it can become surprisingly cold at night. If you’re camping in a tent, make sure you carry a warm sleeping bag or additional clothing for the night.

There was snow on the Overland Track in December and January this year. Conditions can change quickly at any time of the year.

Many thanks to Matthias for his great insights. Don’t forget to check out all his Overland Track posts , they are excellent reading.


  1. Time Outdoors says

    Thanks for the great blog. I start my Appalachian Trail hike on Monday if you want to follow along on my blog.

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