Jack Thwaites: Pioneer Tasmanian Bushwalker

We love reading about historical characters who bushwalked in the “good old days”.

Their gear is fascinating, their clothes look so different to what we wear today, equipment such as tents and backpacks look heavy and not too waterproof.  They were tough  trail blazers who could improvise and live off the land.

When we think about the adventures they had, and the untouched wilderness they explored, it is with a touch of envy and a huge amount of admiration.

Jack Thwaites on Mt Arrowsmith, 1928

Jack Thwaites on Mt Arrowsmith, 1928

In this post we share some of the terrific images from the Jack Thwaites Bush Diaries website.  We take a particular emphasis on his gear, clothing and tent.

Check out these great photographs and compare it to your gear. Think about the evolution of hiking gear over the last 70 years and wonder how tough it would be to tackle a long trip.  Think about your current gear that is  lightweight, weatherproof and quick dry.  We hope it gives you a great appreciation of the toughness of these pioneer bushwalkers.

Jack's pack - note the cane frame

Jack's pack - note the cane frame

So, who was Jack Thwaites?

From his Wikipedia entry:

Notable Achievements

  • Founded Hobart Walking Club with E.T. Emmett in 1929.
  • Undertook early journeys to the South Coast (1928), Du Cane Range (1931), Frenchmans Cap (1934) and Federation Peak (1948/49)
  • Joined the party which made the first official crossing of the Overland Track in January, 1931
  • Responsible for much of Tasmania’s National Park nomenclature, particularly in the Frenchmans Cap region and the Cradle Mt-Lake St Clair National Park.
  • Pushed strongly for the conservation of Tasmania’s wilderness and historic areas through his work on National Park boards and the Scenery Preservation Board.
  • Made valuable contributions to the Youth Hostels movement (YHA), both in Tasmania and nationally.
North Col, Tasmania 1936

North Col, Tasmania 1936

That is a pretty impressive CV and one that many of today’s adventurers would be proud of.  To have trail blazed many areas in Tasmania is a huge feat. To us, he is an inspiration.

Jack's pack

Jack's pack

We really encourage you to check out all the photographs and information on the Jack Thwaites Bush Diaries website.  Frank got lost there for hours. The site is  maintained by Simon Kleinig, an Australian writer presently living in London. He is the author of Jack Thwaites: Pioneer Tasmanian Bushwalker and Conservationist. The book is published by Forty Degrees South Pty Ltd and was short-listed for the 2009 Tasmanian Book Prize.

What is the oldest piece of hiking gear you still own?  Do you use it?  Why?  Drop us a comment below,  we would love to hear from you.

For our international readers, bushwalking means what it says, going for a walk in the bush! (or multi-day hiking, or treking, or tramping!)

A camp on the Arthur Plains, Tasmania

A camp on the Arthur Plains, Tasmania

Many thanks to Anne Thwaites, Jack’s daughter,  for permission to reproduce the images here.  Anne tell us there are still some copies of the book available, the details are here.  Thanks also  to Simon Kleinig for his terrific assistance. It was fun reminding him of the great summer weather here while he is in snowy London.


  1. Neil Newman says

    Hi there,

    I was just wondering if you knew anymore about the backpack pictured on this page with the cane frame. I live in Wales in the UK (the Old South Wales!) and found one identical whilst clearing out the loft. Any information such as maker and year would be great!


    • Frank says

      Hi Neil,
      Thanks for dropping by the site. I can’t help you with maker and year of manufacture of the pack I am sorry.

      My guess would have been made in the 1920’s. I will post a question over at the http://bushwalk.com forum. There are a lot of knowledgeable people there who might be able to help you out.

      I will post any answers back here and you should get notified of the update.


    • Frank says

      Hi Neil,
      Just heard back from the guy at BWT.
      His father thinks it is a Bukta pack but that is about all he could help with:

      The whole comment was:
      My father suggests the brand could be “Bukta”. His is similar. Metal frame. Only two pockets (side ones).

      Good luck

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