Focus on tramping

Jennie Meynell
Thursday, January 7, 2010
Bushwalking and tramping. Image: Getty
Tramping, or bushwalking, is a great way of getting out and about and relaxing in natural surroundings. And, once you have basic equipment, it is possible to go almost anywhere and at a minimal cost — both to you and to the environment. We look at the pros and cons of strapping on those boots (that are made for walking…).

What are the benefits of tramping?
Getting out in to the country is something that the whole family can do together — although it depends on the actual walk, generally hiking relies upon few special skills. It's a great way of getting out and seeing Australia (and the world) close-up, enabling you to see flora and fauna that is otherwise overlooked. It can also be done anywhere and in groups of friends, making for excellent days out — not to mention the relief from everyday stress that it brings.

Physically, tramping will work the leg muscles. The exact muscle groups it works to some extent depends on the terrain that you are covering, but they are likely to include the calves, quadriceps, hamstrings and gluteus muscles. The back and shoulder muscles are also likely to see some action, and particularly if you are carrying a back-pack (and you should be). Your heart and lungs will also be exercised, and so bushwalking can be a great cardiovascular work-out.

Some people, once they have got the bug for tramping, will also go on to enjoy other related activities that may include rock-climbing, abseiling, mountaineering, fell running, orienteering, paragliding and "survival" skills such as bushcraft.

What is needed to bushwalk?
Although some people do hike in training shoes and shorts, to some extent this depends on the route to be followed and the weather conditions. Wherever you go, always be prepared for sudden changes of temperature and other weather conditions, and particularly if you're planning to walk at any altitude. For more challenging walks a pair of sturdy, ankle-high boots is recommended. It's ill advised to hike in denim as, once it's wet, it takes forever to dry and chafes the skin.

Other items you must take include:

  • A compass and the ability to know how to use it
  • A map of the route and the general area (ditto re: compass)
  • Plenty of water — several litres per person
  • Plenty of food, preferably that won't fall apart
  • A whistle
  • A waterproof jacket
  • Waterproof matches
  • A mobile telephone in case something happens (but be prepared for it to be out of range)
  • A basic First Aid kit, including tweezers for tick removal
  • A plastic bag in which to carry home your litter

Items you should consider taking include:

  • Thick gloves
  • Beanie
  • Scarf
  • Several layers of clothing to add to if the weather gets cold
  • Spare pair of thick socks
  • Waterproof trousers
  • Gaiters
  • An emergency flare
  • A torch
  • Your camera
  • Walking pole

What other precautions should I take?
Always make sure there are enough people in your group, and that the route you are intending to take is suitable for all members of the party. Tell somebody who is reliable when you are leaving, where you are intending to go and when you expect to be back — and make sure they raise the alarm if you are not back in time.

Ensure you warm up and cool down after a hike. Don’t do too much strenuous walking until you've broken out in a light sweat, and you might want to consider stretching after you have finished your walk. Stop for plenty of rests along the way, drink water and eat regularly, and particularly if it's cold. And don't stray off the path!

Anything else?
Hiking is a hugely enjoyable activity that's enjoyed by millions across the world. You get to see amazing peaks and places that you'd never be able to get to otherwise, and meet friendly, like-minded people along the way. It creates a huge sense of achievement when you return from your bushwalk, having reached the goals you set out to achieve.


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