Put Your Best Foot Forward: How to Hike
by Zilla Gordon
We’re surrounded by some of the most picturesque hikes in the country but with quick-changing weather, remote wilderness and undulating terrain, the state’s big peaks can sometimes feel out of reach. Experts say it all comes down to preparation.
Practice makes perfect
Nathan McCulloch, Lead Trainer at F45 Moonah, said when choosing a walk, you have to know your limits.
“To hike in Tasmania, you should have a base level fitness that allows you to easily maintain ‘pace’ for a 60-to-90-minute walk five days a week,” he said.
If you’ve been considering a more challenging walk like the 12.8-kilometre Cradle Summit track, Nathan suggests adding some body-weight exercises or gym classes to your training schedule.
“On day-hikes we take supplies and you’d be surprised how much of a toll that extra weight can take on your body – especially when you combine that with unfamiliar terrain and undulating trails,” he said.
Your body’s recovery time is key for walks like the Overland Track or the Three Capes walk where you’ll be walking day after day.
Nathan suggests upping the kilometres you walk each week and focusing on resistance training to help your body handle longer distances.
Test your equipment at home
Wild Wombat Walks owner Jarrah Keenan, who has been guiding walkers through the 447,000 hectares of the Tarkine for more than 10 years, agreed.
A common trap for new hikers was waiting until they got to a campsite before they tried putting up their tent for the first time.
“It’s better to know how a tent works when you can go inside [your house and] Google how to put it up,” Jarrah said.
And sometimes the most mundane of problems can develop into something unexpected. Jarrah knows people whose hikes have ended with helicopter trips after blisters developed into open wounds.
The tell-tale sign of a blister is a ‘hot spot’ where your foot might feel tender and warm. “That’s when you stop the entire group,” he said.
“Better to deal with it then-and-there with Band-Aids.” Any overnight hiker should also sign up for a First Aid course, carry a first aid kit and a Personal Locator Beacon.
A load off your shoulders
When it comes to equipment, Jarrah said good quality gear is lightweight but can be expensive. Renting kit or opting for second-hand tents, packs and boots can help.
A four-season sleeping bag with a minimum of 600 grams of down is a must, even when hiking in summer.
“Snow has been recorded on the Overland Track at least once a month since 1983 – you will get snow in January, February and March,” he said.
A good quality three-season tent will hold against summer snowfall, but it was important to not pick something too heavy, he shared. “
With a three-person tent, one person carries the fly, one carries the inner and one carries the pegs – then you’re down to 1.2kg each,” Jarrah said.
Another way to lighten your pack is with dehydrated meals.
“If you take fresh food on a two-night three-day walk, you’re looking at the same weight of food as a dehydrated 10-day walk,” Jarrah said.
Ditching for the ‘gram
With weather quick to go pear-shaped in Tasmania, Parks and Wildlife Service Senior Ranger Brendan Moodie said walkers shouldn’t feel ashamed to turn around.
“People see the Instagram photo and they just keep pushing it,” he said. “That’s when people get into trouble, because you still have to walk back out.
People think they can travel four – five kilometres an hour, but for some of the walking tracks in Tassie, that might take you two – three hours to do.”
Brendan recommended chatting to a ranger about your walking plans. “We’re always really happy to talk to people if they’re after information,” he said.
With around 40 per cent of the state protected as national parks and reserves, there’s lots to explore here, and some planning, practice – and good weather – may be all that’s stopping you getting from peak-to-peak.