Walking and Fishing in Comfort
Quenton HiggsIt doesnâ€™t happen a lot, but occasionally I encounter someone on the track and you get the remark â€œgee, youâ€™re carrying a big heavy pack thereâ€. I guess this can be interpreted as one of two things:
a. youâ€™re carrying more than you need or,
b. you must be out for a long time. Iâ€™m never sure how to take it but I do know that when I am walking I like to be comfortable. If that means carrying a bit more weight then so be it!
Unlike suburbia if youâ€™re in the Tassie bush where one minute can be warm sunshine and next a freezing blizzard you should be, no, must be well equipped. Situations like this put true meaning into Abraham Maslowâ€™s Hierarchy of needs ie. you need the basics of shelter and warmth before you can enjoy other pleasantries eg. fishing/photography, that contribute to well being.
With this and the aforementioned comment in mindÂ Iâ€™ll tell what, in my opinion, you need to pack to have a comfortable walking/fishing expedition whether an overnight or longer duration. There are no shortcuts and with a bit of experience you can keep the weight to a minimum.
Itâ€™s great to have a comfortable rucksack to carry your gear. Mine is 75 litres and you need all of this capacity for overnighters to be safe, not sorry. Some packs have a lower zippered compartment for easy stowage and quick access to gear like a sleeping bag but they can leak if going through deep water. Additionally a waterproof pack liner is great in the wet or if you have to swim. I prefer the one piece top load canvas pack, as canvas is more waterproof and durable. Look for generous outside, rear and top pockets. Side pockets can be a problem when scrub bashing. Ensure the harness isÂ correctly fitted - your outdoor shop will help.
Several huts dotted about the Central Highlands seem like paradise at times when there is a bunk free. But I always carry a two-man tent and lightness depends on the thickness of your wallet. All reputable outdoor shops in Tassie carry a wide choice of four season tents weighing from around 2.5 kilos upward and priced to $900. My tent weighsÂ three kilos including pegs and poles. I like to carry a light weight fly 2.5m x 2.5 for a â€˜kitchenâ€™ shelter â€“ great if youâ€™re stuck in a tent for hours in the pouring rain. A space blanket to insulate and protect the tent floor is also handy for first aid. Super down sleeping bags (-5C will suit most Tassie conditions, but temperature ratings are not gospel so seek advice) are compact and light and combined with a silk liner and Â¾ length sleeping mat you are fairly sure of getting a reasonable nights sleep. Try for all up weight pack plus tent/shelter 10 kgs.
It is a good idea to buy a multi pitch tent; i.e. the inner and outer skin pitch at the same time, or can be pitched inner first. Although single skin tents are light they are cold and a build up of condensation drips on you. Â
Warmth i.e. efficient clothing
Cotton clothing - singlets, shirts, jeans etc can be OK in hot weather but pretty horrible in the wet and cold and can be dangerous as they donâ€™t dry out. You should use dedicated walking gear. Thermal gear is lightweight and gives a great safety margin. Donâ€™t pack more clothing than you need to handle wet weather. Good outdoor shops can advise you on dress layers and its worth talking to their staff and other walkers. Learn from successive trips too!
So what should be included? This is definitely personal choice but I wear a pair of budgie smugglers and if itâ€™s cold, top and bottom polypropylene thermals. I pack spare thermals that take little space. Long polypropylene trousers have zip off legs so they can become shorts for warm weather and staying below the waist I wear thick woollen socks and chuck a couple of extra pairs in. High grade technical socks are much better.
For my liking, after a day of walking though water there is nothing worse than getting up next day to wet boots and wet socks. With dry socks your body temperature will quickly warm the inside of the boot. Make sure you purchase good sturdy boots, preferably single piece full grain leather uppers that will provide sole and ankle support. Some bush walkers wear sneakers but I reckon why risk an ankle injury when miles from nowhere. Again there is heaps of choice but I prefer the Gortex lined boot that assists in drawing moisture away from my feet thus keeping them warmer.
Get your boots professionally fitted and make sure your boots are not too small. This is a mistake many people make.
Trekking through the wet highland heath will quickly saturate trousers below the knees and water will gravitate into your boots. Canvas gaiters really help and they also offer good protection from leaches and snakes.
Above the waist I wear a long sleeve nylon shirt and in cooler weather a polar fleece, no zip. If the weather comes in a Â¾ length breathable jacket that is zippered with Velcro front seal and waist draw string will provide much needed protection from chilling winds. Make sure the jacket has a generous hood with a flexible peak that helps to keep the weather off your face or in my case my specs! A fleece beanie and good gloves are essential.
Enroute type gear, map, compass (GPS great when navigation is tough) sunglasses, sun-block, insecticide, water-bottle and a first aid kit will add to your comfort. Most small first aid kits do not contain bandages suitable for treating snake bite so I always carry two additional four inch rolls and keep them easily accessible for this eventuality. Hopefully it wonâ€™t happen! A plastic trowel slipped in the side pocket is handy for digging! Once Iâ€™ve made camp itâ€™s bliss to relax in gear other than the stuff Iâ€™ve been in all day so I include a pair of fleece track pants, a down vest to go over a thermal top and light weight shoes. Pack tally thus far 15kgs.
Specialised pre-packed trekking meals are readily available but they can be expensive, although a full meal can cost under $9. If you can afford it go for it! Supermarkets have heaps of dehydrated product from vegs to fruit to meat so check these out. Beware of salt content and also take note that freeze dried food has a much higher nutrient content than most dehydrated food. I have met walkers who make it their hobby to make all their own dried food and this would be the most economical if you have the dedication. Design a menu for the duration plus an extra day. I prefer to separate tucker into bags for breakfast, lunch and dinner as they easily recognisable and can tuck more easily into ever decreasing space. A few treats e.g. fresh onion, fruit bars, nuts etc. are great for the spirits, speaking of which, a wee dram of brandy added to dried apple and custard is special. Remember you will need plate, cup, utensils, pans, stove and fuel to enjoy gourmet meals! A fuel stove is essential. If cooking after dark some lighting is pretty handy and there is a range available; the latest LED head lamps are fantastic allowing hands free cooking. For three days I reckon my food will weigh around five kilos; tally now 20kgs.
Health and well being
This is the really good part, in my case heaps of hopefully very productive fly fishing. It is only really enjoyable in the knowledge that shelter, warmth and food have been well taken care of. After-all, this is what weâ€™ve taken all the trouble for.
Whilst itâ€™s not about the Central Highlands I love the following verse about well being and the good stuff we like about our sport:
The Kingâ€™s white road is troubless
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Anon.
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