Here is some advice from Illawarra Walks on the types of clothing and equipment we recommend for our Australian walking trips. And remember that the weather can change so be prepared for anything.
1. Waterproof Clothing
- A waterproof jacket serves two functions – to keep you dry and to keep the wind out. Cheaper plastic or nylon rain coats are good for keeping the rain out, but unfortunately they do not breathe meaning that you’ll still get wet from condensation.
- By far the best jackets are made from waterproof AND breathable fabrics such as Gore-Tex. These wick your body moisture through the Gore-Tex material to the outside of the jacket through one-way pores. Goretex and other similar jackets aren’t cheap but most of the quality outdoor equipment stores have sales where prices can often be reduced by substantial amounts.
- Your waterproof jacket is a practical item, designed to keep you warm, dry and comfortable in the bush. It is not a fashion statement! Whatever material your jacket is made from, it must be large. There should be plenty of room inside so that in cold weather there’s room for you to wear layers of warm clothing underneath. Make sure the jacket is long enough to cover your thighs and come nearly to your knees. Long sleeves are recommended and are wonderful for protecting your hands in cold, wet weather. Lastly, it needs to have a large hood so you can wear it with a warm hat underneath.
- Some people like to wear waterproof over trousers during wet weather. Others swear that walking in shorts is better as your legs dry out quickly.
2. Clothing for cold weather
The best thing is to wear light summer style clothes with additional layers. Layers work well as they can be adjusted throughout the day as the conditions change.
You will also need:
- A warm jumper. The best material these days is polar fleece or equivalents as they are lightweight and dry very quickly if they get wet. Wool, on the other hand, is heavy and takes a long time to dry. Cotton is not appropriate.
- A warm hat is an important weapon for winter use. Did you know that you lose 40% of your body heat through your head?
- If you suffer from cold hands, we suggest you invest in a lightweight pair of polypropylene gloves.
- In very cold conditions, thermal clothing is useful. Thermal clothing should be worn next to the skin to be most effective.
3. Clothing for Warm Weather
- We recommend thin synthetic materials for summer walking – cotton can get damp from perspiration.
- Shirts should have collars and sleeves to help prevent sunburn. Long sleeves that can be either rolled up or rolled down are a good idea. Light colours will keep you cooler. Specialist shirts have vents to allow for airflow.
- Shorts are great for hot weather, but use plenty of sunscreen. Long trousers are great for sun protection and also for cooler weather. Trousers that have “zip off” legs are a good compromise.
- A sun hat is obviously essential. Choose a hat with a brim all the way round as this keeps off more heat and sun than either baseball caps or a soft floppy cotton hats. Good hats also come with some mesh ventilation in the middle and a chinstrap to keep it on when the wind blows. Choose a hat that packs easily into your case and day pack.
- Sunglasses are also essential for all walking in Australia.
4. Day Packs
- The best piece of advice we can give is to make sure it’s big enough! As a minimum you need to fit in your lunch, water bottle/s, wet weather gear, warm jumper, camera and other personal bits and pieces. A larger pack weighs and costs very little extra and you’re unlikely to regret it.
- Well-padded shoulder straps are a must as your pack is inevitably going to feel heavier as the day goes on. Padded waist/hip belts are also very useful as they help take some of the load off your shoulders. A chest strap is available on most good packs these days and it will stop the pack from sliding around on your back whilst you bend over or walk on uneven terrain.
- Several pockets or sections can also be handy, allowing you quick access to things like sunscreen, your water bottle or snacks.
- Most packs are not waterproof so it’s always a good idea to line the pack with a heavy-duty plastic bag. You can also buy a pack cover, which does an excellent job of keeping most of the rain out.
- Some daypacks have a curved back and this allows more air to circulate, a fabulous idea for comfort. Whilst other hikers have wet backs, with one of these daypacks your back will remain dry.
What you wear on your feet can make or break your walking holiday. Unfortunately, what’s great for one person is not necessarily the best for another.
Here are some things to consider:
- Boots versus walking shoes – that’s largely an issue of personal preference. Walking shoes don’t provide anywhere near as much ankle support as boots though.
- The weight of the footwear is important. You only need something suitable for day hikes on tracks. A good fit is the most important thing. They should wrap round the foot with an even, snug hold over all parts of your foot. You should look for comfort across the balls of the feet. Your toes should not press together or touch the end of the boot – this is especially important for downhill walking. Your heel should not move inside the boot when you walk. And a laced up boot should not put pressure on the top of your foot or hurt your ankle.
- Leather has been the long time favourite with many walkers but these days is generally only used in heavier boots, which are mostly not necessary for day walks. Most light – medium weight boots are of good quality and have synthetic uppers. These are durable, but do not keep the water out. If you can pay some more, have a look at boots with a waterproof membrane such as Gore-Tex. The membrane is a very clever product built into the boot material so, though it can’t be seen, it lasts for the life of the boot. Dry feet will be more comfortable, smell less, and be less likely to blister if conditions get tough.
- The soles of the boots are extremely important. Look for soles that are thick enough to protect your feet against sharp rocks that might press into the sole, and with a chunky pattern that will provide better grip on slippery tracks.
- Do they feel comfortable? Walk around the store for at least 20 minutes. Some stores provide a steep ramp, allowing you to test the boots on the uphill and downhill. Many of the good stores will allow you to take a pair of boots home and try them indoors for a few days – if they don’t feel right you should be able to return them for a full refund.
- We recommend you go to a specialist adventure shop and listen to the advice provided by sales person in the store. However, remember that what the boots feel like on your feet is much more important than what they look like, how many special features they have, what brand they are or what they cost! And you are the best judge of that – not the sales person.
- Finally, we often see people who are wearing cheap, ill-fitting, loose, sloppy socks, which is an absolute recipe for disaster! Wear socks that fit firmly. Spend that bit extra and buy socks with shaped heels and good cushioning – your feet with thank you at the end of the day! Some people like to wear one pair of socks, others prefer two pair... it is up to you. Once again, avoid loose socks that are too big.
At the end of the day, there are lots of different boots in the stores. Take your time.
- These are not necessary for most Illawarra Walks but are easy to justify if you do lots of walking. They are designed to keep rain, grass seeds, sand, mud, leeches and other unwanted items out of the top of your boots. They come in a full range of sizes from huge mountaineering styles through to short, lightweight ones. Most of them wrap over the boot laces, around the tops of boots and upwards over the lower part of your legs. Sensible, practical gaiters should have some stiffness, so they will sit upright around the lower part of your legs, and not slip down. Also, they should go on and off without needing to remove your boots. Gaiters also provide useful leg & sock protection whenever there are scratchy plants over the track or grasses full of seeds.
7. Satellite and Mobile Phones
- If you want to be sure that you’ll get reception everywhere, then you will need a satellite phone. We recommend satellite phones for self guided walking holidays. These can be hired from many outlets, and additionally a GPS would also be very useful (possibly in addition to your phone).
- We would appreciate any feedback about the service provided by any of these companies.
- If you haven’t got a satellite phone then it is essential that you at least carry a mobile phone if you are doing a self-guided Illawarra Walks holiday. Note that there will not be reception in all of the walking areas though.
- With some phones, reception can be improved by purchasing a small external aerial that can clip onto our mobile phone. Our experience is that these aerials can increase signal strength by 1 to 2 bars, and often allows us to use the mobile in places where there would otherwise be no signal.
- The emergency phone number from mobiles is 000 – this allows you to use any available network (even if it is not the one you subscribe to). Another useful tip is that text messaging requires less signal strength than voice communications. You may not be able to make a call, but you can still often send or receive a text message.
8. Walking Sticks
- More and more walkers are discovering the benefits of using one or two walking sticks. A stick can provide valuable support when walking on uneven ground and can significantly reduce jarring on knees and ankles when walking downhill. There are several different styles of handles, so you can find a comfortable grip. Look for a stick with a spring mechanism built into it, which will reduce jarring on wrists and elbows.
- Your new stick will no doubt travel in your suitcase so make sure it collapses small enough to fit.
9. Water Bottles
- For a full day walk, you really need about 1.5 litres of water in cool weather, up to about 2.5 or even 3 litres during the heat of summer. It’s a good idea to drink lots before you start walking to prevent dehydration later in the day, and to make your day more enjoyable . Personally we don’t see any need to purchase brand name water bottles – it’s perfectly OK to use reusable soft drink bottles which are light weight, plentiful and easy to obtain.
- Many people like camel packs – a “built in” water sack that sits snugly in your day pack and has a tube from which you can drink. If using one of these hydration systems, it is good practice to have a spare bottle of water in your pack.
10. Other Considerations
- Please consider using handkerchiefs instead of tissues – they last a lot longer and are much better for the environment.
- Toilet paper: carry some for emergencies but please bury everything. Anything else is unsightly and thoughtless and tissues / toilet paper seem to take ages to degrade.
- First Aid: if you are doing a self-guided trip you will need to carry your own complete first aid kit. If you are doing a guided trip then you should still carry personal medications and a blister kit.
Where to get your stuff
177 Kiera St, Wollongong 2500
(02) 4225 2888
Aussie Disposals Wollongong
2/221 Crown St, Wollongong 2500
(02) 4225 9329
Mountain Designs Wollongong
125 Crown St, Wollongong 2500
(02) 4225 8386