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Bush Safety Advice

Whilst there is plenty of adventure to be had in the bush, there are also several dangers that can pose a threat to your safety. This shouldn’t stop you from enjoying yourself however, as most safety risks can be avoided with proper knowledge and preparation. Follow our guide below on how to stay safe when enjoying the outdoors.

 

Staying Warm & Dry

 

When spending time outdoors, it is important that you are prepared for all kinds of weather. Depending on the conditions you expect to encounter, you should pack the appropriate clothing, shelter, and sleep system for the environment you’ll be exploring. Staying warm and dry is paramount in the outdoors as the risk of hyperthermia can be deadly.

When it comes to clothing, a proper layering system is key. You’ll want to layer up with garments that are lightweight but provide significant warmth, so that you can take them on and off as you heat up and cool down. We don’t recommend wearing cotton while out exploring as it doesn’t wick moisture away from your body, meaning it can get wet very quickly and it also dries slowly. Wool and synthetic fleeces are a much better alternative as they provide warmth even when wet and are quick to dry. Your layering system should consist of four main pieces: a baselayer (ideally merino), a midlayer (perhaps a synthetic fleece), an insulated layer (down or synthetic), and a waterproof shell as your outer layer.

When the sun sets, the temperature will drop, so ensure that your sleeping bag and sleeping mattress provide enough insulation for a warm night's sleep. When choosing your sleep system for a trip, check your sleeping bag comfort rating and sleeping mat R-Value to assess if it will be warm enough for the expected temperatures. It is always a good idea to pack plenty of warm clothes and to have a sleep system that exceeds the expected temperature, allowing for any unforeseen conditions during the trip.

Keeping yourself dry while out on the trail is crucial as wet clothing can make us colder, so make sure you have the right rain gear for the job. A quality waterproof jacket, pants, and boots will help you stay dry on the trail even if the weather turns. Keeping your pack and contents dry is just as important. A pack cover will keep your backpack dry from the rain, whilst a pack liner or dry bag can provide an extra line of protection to keep your important items dry inside your pack.

The items you bring with you will undoubtedly vary between hikes, depending on the location and season of your trip. This will heavily influence what you should bring when hiking and camping, so always make sure that you research the conditions you could face and pack appropriately.

 

 

Navigation


Whilst there is adventure to be had in exploring unknown places, it is crucial that you do it safely to avoid a potentially disastrous situation: getting lost. Navigation is a crucial skill for exploring the backcountry, so it's important that you have the right tools and knowledge to do so safely. A compass and a topographic map of the region are effective navigational tools that should be taken on all hikes in unfamiliar areas. Additionally, electronic GPS devices are great for navigation as you can easily load in maps of the region (just make sure it has plenty of charge in time for the trip). Before you set off, ensure that you are comfortable using these navigational tools. If not, there are navigation courses and plenty of resources online to teach you the basics. Check out our introduction to navigation.

In the worst case scenario that you do get lost or there is a serious emergency, you should carry a PLB (personal locator beacon) or emergency satellite device which is capable of notifying the authorities even in remote areas. Some local authorities and visitor centres in popular outdoor destinations have PLBs available to hire for free. You should always let friends or family know your plans before you set out, including where you are going, your intended route, and your estimated time of return. This means that they can trigger search and rescue if you do not return at the scheduled time. Additionally, before your hike, you should also complete a trip intention form (google “trip intention form [your state]” to find the relevant document for your area). This allows you to register your trip details with an emergency contact, who can contact the relevant authorities if you do not arrive home on time. The intention form allows police to assess the situation and plan a potential search and rescue operation efficiently.

 

 

Hydration & Fuel

 

When working up a sweat outdoors, it's easy to become dehydrated in the process. Dehydration in the bush can cause serious issues like confusion, weakness, and, in severe cases, even death. It’s therefore vital to stay well hydrated before, during, and after a hike. Always bring more water than you think you will need, and check whether there are safe water sources to collect additional water during your hike. But remember - streams can dry up quickly, so it's essential that you research further than simply checking for water sources on a map. If there are reliable water sources, make sure you bring a water treatment solution like a water filter or water purification tablets to safely drink the collected water. Alternatively, carrying a lightweight stove will allow you to purify water by boiling it (ensure that you bring water to a roiling boil for at least 1 minute). Check out the many water treatment options available at Paddy Pallin here.


To carry your water, you can bring water bottles, a water hydration bladder, or both. Hydration bladders vary in size from 1-3L and provide a convenient way to hydrate while on the go, meaning you’ll be less likely to forget to drink water during your hike. Adding electrolyte powder to your water is also an effective tool to stay hydrated on hot days or when sweating excessively, as it provides your body with a replenishment of essential nutrients to maintain proper fluid balance.


When you’re working hard, you’ll want to keep your energy levels up. Packing adequate food and snacks is essential to ensure that you don’t crash. Take a mixture of your favourite chocolate and lollies, as well as some slow release energy options like fruits, trail mix, and granola bars.

 

 

First Aid


Every hiker should be comfortable administering first aid before heading out on a trip. Competence in first aid will mean you can treat your hiking partner and yourself for any injuries you might encounter on the trail, from bumps and scrapes to snake bites. If you lack some of these skills, there are plenty of online resources and first aid courses to learn from, which will give you the confidence you need should an unexpected situation arise. Whilst having the knowledge is vital, you must also ensure that your first aid kit is appropriately equipped before you set out. The contents of your first aid kit may vary depending on the trip, so make sure you pack according to the environment and conditions. You can find comprehensive first aid kits at Paddy Pallin here.

 

 

Wildlife

 

When out in the bush, it’s important to remember that you are entering land that all sorts of wildlife call home. You must ultimately treat their habitats with respect and also ensure that you are keeping yourself safe in the process. 

Snakes are common in the backcountry, and will often be found sunning themselves in open areas like walking tracks. Always keep an eye on the path, and if you spot a snake, stop and wait for it to pass - do not try to move it. Carry a snake bite kit in your first aid kit, and ensure that you know how to treat and deal with a snake bite in case of emergencies.

Do not feed the wildlife under any circumstances, as this can cause serious harm to native animals. Carrying your food in a sealable container is important (especially when camping) to prevent animals from smelling food and burrowing into your tent. Similarly, food scraps should be transferred to an airtight container or kept in your car if you are car camping. Soap and detergent can be harmful to some wildlife, so make sure that you wash well away from creeks and streams. Take all of your rubbish home with you or dispose of it in a lidded bin.

Always keep a respectful distance from wild animals, and keep dogs on a leash in areas where wildlife is prevalent. Avoid driving on country roads at dawn and dusk as many native animals will come out to feed at these times.

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