Want to get into overnight hiking but not sure how to start? Whether you’re an experienced day hiker or new to the outdoors, there are a few important steps that you need to take in planning your first overnight hike. To get the ball rolling, we’ve put together a few pointers to get you out on the trail!


Find your trail

There are a lot of great resources for finding overnight hikes, but guidebooks are usually the most comprehensive, next to talking to people with experience. We have some guidebooks available in store at Paddy Pallin, but if you get the chance, the conversations you have with the staff about where you’re thinking of going might turn out to be even more useful! You’ll also want to look on hiking community sites like Trail Hiking Australia and your state Parks website, as they will have lots of important information like length, grade, and starting and finishing points and any information about areas that are temporarily closed or damaged.

For your first overnight hike, look for something graded “easy” with well marked trails and make sure it is no more than 10-15km per day. Even if you’re an experienced day hiker, long routes and scrambly terrain are much slower when you’re carrying a full pack. Have a look at the map to work out where important features like water sources, toilets, and camping spots can be found. In Australian summer, you can’t depend on the “river” on the map to have much running water, so make sure to check these things out before you go so you’re coming prepared.

Two hikers out on the trail as the sun sets

Check the forecast and Parks office

It’s important to know the forecast before you set out on the trail. You need to make sure that your sleeping bag, shelter, layers, and rainwear are sufficient for the conditions. For your first hike, avoid extremely cold conditions and heavy rain.

It’s also a good idea to check the Parks website to make sure there aren’t any track closures or hazards (deer culls, fire danger, flooding). If you’re unsure, give them a call. They should be able to answer your questions and give you more information about water sources, camping and fire restrictions.


Skill up

There are some skills that are really important to have before you set out on an overnight hike. Whether you’re taking a map and compass, a GPS device, or an app on your phone, you need to know how to navigate. Some outdoors clubs will run navigation workshops, which are really useful tools. It’s essential you feel comfortable using your chosen navigation device before you head out on the trail overnight.

First aid is also an invaluable skill, for life in general, but on the trail in particular. You should know how to treat cuts, burns, snake bites, and hypothermia before you set out on your first overnight hike.

It’s essential that you learn how to use your equipment before you go, even if you’re going with someone else who is more experienced than you. Make sure you practice setting up your tent, turning on your stove, and using your water filter at home. You don’t want the first time you do it to be in the cold and dark when you’re tired from hiking.

Photograph: Lachlan Gardiner

Communicate with your trail mates

Poor communication can turn an exciting trip into a grumpy slog. Make sure to sit down with your hiking buddies and work out who’s bringing what, how far you’re going to hike, and how you want to hike. Are you going to be up and out by the crack of dawn, or wake up slowly over a hot breakfast and a couple of coffees? Having these conversations before you begin will mean you’re able to enjoy the hike a lot more because you’ll know the details are all sorted out and you haven’t forgotten anything.


Make sure you have your gear

Heading out without the right gear is asking for trouble. For your first hike, you may want to borrow equipment from friends and family. You’re not going to know exactly what kind of gear you want straight away, and you can build up your kit over time as you figure out which items you’re willing to spend lots of money on, such as hiking boots, and which you can maybe get away without, like an inflatable pillow (though they are a nice luxury). 

Waterproofs, clothing, hiking maps and compasses that you will need for your first overnight hike.

Arc’teryx Covert Cardigan, Patagonia Torrentshell, Black Diamond Spot, Suunto A-10 Compass, Scarpa Terra Boot, Blue Mountains South Map

Whether you’re borrowing, hiring, or buying, never head out without the following items:

For a more comprehensive pack list for a two-day hike, click here.

Camping gear needed for your first overnight hike, and many overnight hikes after that

Mont Moondance Tent, Equip Rec 2 First Aid Kit, Sea to Summit Flame Sleeping Bag, Nemo Tensor Sleeping Mat

Set a home base

Once you’ve found your trail, checked the weather, packed your pack, and gathered your mates, you need to set a home base. A home base is a trusted person that’s not on the trip and can sound the alarm in case of an emergency. Tell them exactly where you’re going and what time you should definitely be back. When you get home, give them a call to let them know you’re home safe.

It’s also a good idea to register your trip with the police by filling out a trip intention form. In some areas, like the Blue Mountains, you can borrow PLB’s (emergency beacons) for free, and in other parts of the country, they are available to hire for a small fee.

Photograph: Lachlan Gardiner

Overnight hiking is an amazing way to get further into nature and explore places that can’t be accessed on a day hike alone. With a little preparation, a few key skills, and the right gear, you can enjoy weekends spent exploring the bush, desert, coast, or mountains.

Where are you heading on your next overnight hike? Share with us on Instagram!


#ExperienceIsEverything | #PaddyPallin


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About The Author


Some 80 years ago, a young bushwalker's dissatisfaction with the limited and heavy bushwalking equipment available prompted him to design and make his own. Before long, word spread, and Paddy Pallin's lightweight, functional designs were soon in demand among fellow bushwalkers. From its early days the company has concentrated on supplying bushwalkers, travellers and adventurers with the highest quality and most advanced products and knowledge. Since 1930 the company has grown to become Australia's leading supplier of specialist outdoor and travel gear. The company, still owned by the Pallin family, now has thirteen stores throughout Australia as well as online, mail order and corporate sales divisions. We are using our vast wealth of knowledge, and experience, to build an online community where we can share our stories, reviews and tech tips to help you research and plan your next adventure.

One Response

  1. Pru

    Nice post. Hopefully it will encourage beginners to give it a go. Regardless, in the end that first step is the beginning of a learning curve but the main thing is to get out in nature.


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