The next thing I needed to do in preparation for hiking the Bibbulmun Track (see my previous blog for the background to this crazy idea!) was to work out what to take with me. As with all long distance hiking, the lighter your pack the better your journey will be.
The most important item on any hike is a pair of comfortable, well worn-in boots. On my first attempt at hiking the Bibbulmun Track end to end, I was thwarted by very nasty blisters, caused by my boots being slightly too loose and rubbing on my heels. In my defence, I find it difficult to get well-fitting boots because my second toes are longer than my big toes. Therefore, if my boots fit well at the heels, my second toes end up getting battered on hikes and eventually, the nails turn black and drop off. I have met a lot of people with the same foot conformation so, if this applies to you, you may need to choose between sore toes or blisters on your heels.
I have since found a fabulous tape called fixumol, which I put on my heels and toes at the start of a hike as a preventative measure and add more of as ‘hot-spots’ begin to develop. Since I started using this I haven’t had a blister. It doesn’t do much to help the toe nail situation though!
The next most important consideration for a long distance hike is your pack. If you are doing more than a day walk on the Track, you will need to take a lot of equipment: sleeping gear, cooking equipment and food, a change of clothing, basic toiletries, a first aid kit and maybe a tent. My basic gear, not including food and water, weighed about 13 kilograms (see the list at the end of this blog). It’s important to ensure your pack fits comfortably and has a good hip belt to keep the weight on your hips rather than on your shoulders. When buying a backpack, try on as many packs as you can before making a decision, and ask the shop assistant to add weight to them and adjust the straps to fit your body so you can assess how the pack distributes the weight.
How much food you need to take will depend on your metabolism, how long you are walking for, and which section of the track you are doing. A practice walk of three or more days should give a good indication of how much food you need, otherwise allow about one kilogram of food per day. The towns on the Bibbulmun Track are pretty spread out, with the greatest distance between two towns being 202 kilometres. This occurs on the first stretch (on a north to south hike) between Kalamunda and Dwellingup and involves walking for at least 10 days with no opportunities to resupply. This creates a logistical nightmare.
Unless you can talk friends into bringing supplies to you, which could be difficult to coordinate, you’ll need to do a food drop before you go. It may be several weeks before you arrive there on foot, so make sure your food parcel is water- and vermin-proof by packing the food in plastic bags, inside plastic boxes, inside another large plastic bag. Then bury it. It’s a good idea to split your food into two parcels and bury them in different places to reduce the chances of losing everything. Make a note of where you’ve buried the food in your journal because you’ll be desperate for it when you eventually get there!
How much water you’ll need to take will depend upon the time of year. Water is available from tanks at each of the 48 campsites along the
Track so, if you walk in the spring when water is plentiful and temperatures are not too high, you could get away with carrying about two litres of water. You’ll need more if you walk when the water supply is less reliable. The tank water is potable but if you get water from natural sources along the way it’s a good idea to treat it. I took water purification tablets on my first hike, but the treated water tasted so foul I couldn’t drink it! Nowadays, I use an ultraviolet wand which doesn’t affect the taste of the water.
The following list is what I take on multi-day hikes on the Bibbulmun Track.
Silk sleeping bag liner
Socks x 2
T-shirts x 2
Polar fleece jacket
Knickers x 3
Matches / lighter
Plate / dish
Swiss army knife
Water bottle holster
Anti-inflammatory cream & pills
Guidebook (with maps)
Mobile phone (doubles as camera/clock)
Mobile phone charger
Notebook and pen
Book to read
You can add to this if you like, but remember you will have to carry whatever you take!