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No. 1 hiking tip: Be prepared

By Lisa Martin - 22 October 2015 11

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In the land-locked ACT, getting out to enjoy the warmer weather may mean hiking or mountain biking in Canberra bushland.

But in many of these areas, including parts of the Tidbinbilla and Namadgi reserves, there is no mobile phone reception.

If you’re a solo hiker as I am most of the time, there are a few steps you should take before heading out in case the unexpected happens.

It’s all too easy to trip and take a fall and at this time of year and the snakes are coming out. I saw the biggest red belly black snake of my life while out walking near Corin Dam.

To play it safe, tell someone where you’re going and what time you’re expected back when you’re heading out for a hike.

It’s a good idea to also carry a personal locator beacon with you. I have one of these and carry it every time I head out for a hike. They’re light, compact and easy to carry in your backpack. Beacons retail for a few hundred dollars through fishing, boat, aviation, bushwalking and camping stores, but it’s an investment that could save your life.

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A personal locator beacon will work in areas without mobile reception. When a beacon is activated, satellites transmit the signal through ground stations to the national search and rescue coordination centre in Canberra.

It’s best to buy a GPS beacon if possible. A GPS beacon can provide its location within 20 minutes.

When a signal is detected, search and rescue officers will first check if the beacon is registered. You can register your beacon for free with the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA). When you register, information you need to include is your contact number and emergency contact/s. Your emergency contact should be the person you would usually tell where you’re going such as a family member, partner or friend. You can also add trip details. It’s important to keep all contact details up to date.

You can register your beacon online via your computer or mobile phone at www.amsa.gov.au/beacons or by phoning 1800 406 406.

If the rescue coordination centre can’t contact you, they will phone your emergency contact. This helps the officers determine your location and task the nearest search and rescue personnel such as police or a rescue helicopter.

Having a registered personal locator beacon is your best chance of being rescued as quickly as possible.

It’s also important to make sure you bring sufficient water and food with you on your hike, as well as some warm clothing. Plenty of water is a must – I can’t think of any hikes I’ve done in the ACT where there’s been a water source in the area so bring a few litres along if you can.

The weather can change quickly in the mountains so it’s best to be prepared in case of cold or rainy conditions.

I always carry more food and water than I probably need – a sandwich and some fruit, biscuits and muesli bars, and I always have a jumper and long pants with me just in case. A first aid kit and a torch are also a good idea.

Check the weather forecast before you go. If rain is predicted, it’s probably best to leave the hike to another day.

What’s Your opinion?


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11 Responses to
No. 1 hiking tip: Be prepared
zllauh 8:49 pm 26 Oct 15

Are there any other hiking places other than Mt Ainslie .
and also a place where i can get affordable equipments ? :p

shellcase 9:46 pm 23 Oct 15

Gaiters, hutchy, extra layer etc in the pack and if you can afford one a satphone. They can be rented but sometimes you get one with a battery that dies quickly or the device has suffered some abuse. I do a lot of remote area touring as well as high country walking, decided a satphone was worth the expense.

HenryBG 8:18 pm 23 Oct 15

Grimm said :

… if you have no REAL survival skills, don’t go out alone, ….

Going out on your own is far deadlier than having no skills. All the skills in the world won’t save you if you are bitten by a snake, take a bad fall, or suffer unexpected health issues and you have nobody around to dash for help.

Grimm 11:42 am 23 Oct 15

HenryBG said :

Your biggest danger is hypothermia. Even if you want to walk in shorts and Tshirt, always take extra layers just in case.
And shorts are a terrible idea anyway – the guy with the gaiters has the right idea.

It’s always a risk, especially in the mountains where the temp drops pretty low at night even in summer. You get stuck, you get wet and if you can’t make fire, you’re screwed. Spare, dry clothes are a very smart idea. As is something like light, plastic/nylon rain gear. I have a jacket and pants that pack down to the size of an average travel coffee mug and weigh a couple of hundred grams combined. Not exactly expensive either.

My best advice to people is, if you have no REAL survival skills, don’t go out alone, and stick to the marked trails.

Your PLB won’t help you if you get bitten by a brown, a tiger or an alpine copperhead. You’re likely to be dead before anybody finds you, so prevention is a much better bet. The snakes you can see aren’t the ones you have to worry about.

A PLB is great if you are out alone and break a leg/ankle or are otherwise immobilised. Or if you are lost, but that wouldn’t be an issue if you had any navigation skills, so you should have stuck to the bloody marked trail you had no business leaving. If you can’t read a map, use a compass and use features of the land to determine your location effectively, or you don’t have a GPS, use some common sense and stay on the marked trail.

Also, better to have it and not need it, than need it and not have it. First aid kit, small tarp or space blanket, dry clothes, rain gear, plenty of food and water and a knife. Those things should always be in your pack at a minimum.

Probably a bit much for something like the tracks through Tidbinbilla or places like that though. I don’t know how you’d possibly get lost out there, or not see other people.

rosscoact 2:43 pm 22 Oct 15

blandone said :

Seriously, it’s “Walking”. Even the sign in the photo says walking, enough with the hiking already.

Unless you want to buy any sort of gear for that activity, then it’s hiking

Ezy 2:31 pm 22 Oct 15

blandone said :

Seriously, it’s “Walking”. Even the sign in the photo says walking, enough with the hiking already.

Take a hike mate.

HenryBG 2:05 pm 22 Oct 15

Your biggest danger is hypothermia. Even if you want to walk in shorts and Tshirt, always take extra layers just in case.
And shorts are a terrible idea anyway – the guy with the gaiters has the right idea.

Kim F 12:44 pm 22 Oct 15

I carry an PLB. One should never expect or rely on mobile phone coverage but it is worth noting that there may be some locations that will be out of range of your Telco but may be in range of another Telco. If you dial 000 or 112, your phone will connect to the strongest available network.

blandone 11:12 am 22 Oct 15

Seriously, it’s “Walking”. Even the sign in the photo says walking, enough with the hiking already.

Grimm 10:27 am 22 Oct 15

While a GPS PLB isn’t a bad idea, people should be aware that it can take up to 5 hours for the alert to be raised, unless you have LOS to one of the geostationary satellites. Not ideal if for instance you get hit by a snake.

Snakeproof gaiters. Seriously. They have saved my arse on more than one occasion. I really think if you are trudging around the bush in summer without them, you are mad.

Southmouth 10:20 am 22 Oct 15

I take one of those cheap blue tarps (small) and some 4mm nylon rope so i can quickly get out of the rain, and it weighs next to nothing.

I agree a PLB is a must. If you get bitten by a brown snake or funnelweb then it is really the only chance you’ve got if there is no mobile coverage. It’s the “unlikely” events that’ll kill you.

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