backpacking: what shall i take?

1:40 p.m. on October 11, 2003 (EDT)
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I'm off to australia in the new year, and i don't know what to pack, everyone suggests different things, just wondering if anyone could tell me what the most useful thing they took was, and what they wished they'd left behind. I don't want to be lugging around a load of stuff i won't use! Cheers x x x

12:41 p.m. on October 12, 2003 (EDT)
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Backpacking in Oz

Quote:

I'm off to australia in the new year ...

A couple questions - where in Oz, and when in the new year? Remember that Oz is as big as the lower 48 state and has a wide range of climates - dry and hot in summer (Nov-May) in the Red Center, hot and humid along the coast in the tropics (northern coastal area - we dripped with sweat in the humidity in Queensland in April, sort of like Florida's climate), snow and blizzards in the Snowy Mountains in winter (a few years ago, 4 supposedly experienced backcountry types died in the environs of Mt Kosciusko in a multi-day blizzard, and a different year, there was a major avalanche that hit the ski resort of Thredbo, destroying a number of houses - it's been featured on one of the Discovery Channel programs on natural disasters). And Tasmania is a whole other climate. I will assume you won't be going to New Guinea (the part that belongs to Australia), which is still another type of climate. So your question is the same as if you asked "I am going backpacking in the US, what should I take?"

My basic advice is read up on the part of Oz you are going to be backpacking in (Blue Mountains is nice, or Snowy in summer - their summer, of course). Just take the same stuff you would take for the same climate in North America, shifted 180 degrees for the time of year (since the seasons are opposite). You can get maps from Omni Resources (http://www.omnimap.com/), plus other publications. Adventurous Traveler bookstore (http://atb.away.com/index.html)has all sorts of guidebooks. (hmmmm, checking the website, it looks like they are now part of Amazon - boooo! it used to be really great to call them on the phone and get personal advice on their guidebook selection. Well, it's still a good source, it looks like).

12:40 a.m. on October 13, 2003 (EDT)
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I agree with Bill. Your question is just too general to give any specifics. Other than shorts, tee-shirts, a swimsuit and a light jacket, what you might take totally depends on what you are doing. Are you actually backpacking and camping or hosteling and dayhiking,for example. I spent some time there in the late 80's and found some fully stocked camping stores in Sydney and the other big cities-Karrimor in Sydney is one I remember. Prices could be higher or cheaper depending on what you are looking for. As for travel guides, I highly recommend Lonely Planet (usually aimed at lower budget travelers) and Insight (more upscale and more culturally oriented) which together make a good combination. I didn't actually camp that much and didn't get into the Outback so no advice for that, but there is plenty to see, even if you don't get out into the interior. If you want to do some serious hiking in beautiful country, go to New Zealand instead. Oz has it's own beauty and is a great place but NZ is my favorite because of the great variety of scenery in a smaller area. The Milford Track alone is worth the trip. It's a hassle because it's very regulated (seems an oxymoron for hiking)as far as making a reservation, etc. but well worth the effort.

Quote:

I'm off to australia in the new year, and i don't know what to pack, everyone suggests different things, just wondering if anyone could tell me what the most useful thing they took was, and what they wished they'd left behind. I don't want to be lugging around a load of stuff i won't use! Cheers x x x

12:15 p.m. on October 13, 2003 (EDT)
(Guest)

Thanks, that kinda helped, I'm planning on going out there in January and going all the way around the outside and then down the middle, i think i've got my timings right so i won't melt or freeze because i'm in the wrong place at the wrong time, I'm also heading to NZ when i'm done with Oz. I'm going to be staying in Hostels most of the way round and bush camping from Perth up to Darwin in May, but all the equipment is provided for that. Any further suggestions would be great!

3:36 p.m. on October 13, 2003 (EDT)
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Hi, I'm not sure how much experience you have, so if this seems a bit too basic, I apologize. If you are camping, hiking and hosteling, probably the basic stuff you would take on any trip will do-a decent size backpack, good boots, some layers of clothes for warmer weather, plus the cold weather you might find in NZ. And, if you will be camping out or staying in huts (as opposed to hostels)a fairly warm sleeping bag.

Design Salt and JagBag (a NZ company) sell sheet sleeping bag liners (for the Hostels, if you don't have one already) online and I've seen the Design Salt silk and flannel ones at REI. I don't think you will run into any cold weather in Oz at all in January (their summer), but it might get cold at night in the outback-never been to the middle so not sure-if you are going on an organized tour there, I would guess they have a list of what to bring. I recall just laying out in my sleeping bag and a bivy sack somewhere between Canberra and Sydney and slept just fine. I think Melbourne was a bit cooler, but I was there towards the end of summer-it was still hot inland (80's-90's)if I remember right-they said it would get up to 120 or even hotter in mid summer in the interior.

I am far from an expert on the place and haven't been there for years, but I did spend some time camping in NZ, so here's my two cents. Again, it all depends on where you are going and what you are going to do. The country has everything from beaches to volcanoes to glaciers and mountains.
I know the South Island of NZ fairly well for a tourist, not so much the North Island. If you go to Queenstown, there is plenty to do. It is sort of the Aspen of NZ-skiing in winter, everything else in summer. While the North Island can be quite warm, depending on where you are-Bay of Islands for example-if you are in the mountains on the South Island, it can get quite cold. There are permanent glaciers and snowfields year round in the Southern Alps and the weather can change dramatically in a matter of hours. I think the weather is much more unstable than Northern California up in the high Sierras. Never, and I mean Never, go into the mountains in NZ (South Island) without at least a daypack with extra clothes, food and decent rain gear. I've seen it go from shorts and tee-shirt weather to freezing rain or worse in an afternoon. Doesn't happen all the time, of course, but once is enough. On the Milford Track, I went from shorts and tee shirt in the morning, to parka and snow gear in the middle of the day (on a high pass)back to shorts at the end of the day. Don't worry about water, once you are above the sheep farms, the water is okay to drink and plentiful. I would just bring a water bottle or hydration pack and fill it along the way. There are huts to stay in along the most well-known tracks. They sometimes have Primus-style kerosene stoves, but I'd bring my own little butane powered stove along with a small cook kit-get one that takes the blue gas canisters that you can buy everywhere if you don't already have one. If you prefer a liquid stove, white gas can be hard to find sometimes so you might find yourself burning whatever you can find.

The local NZ tourist offices or the parks will have maps (usually free)of the tracks and where the huts are. There are campsites in almost every town, no matter how small. Many have small cabins or caravans (small travel trailers)parked permanently you can stay in for a reasonable fee. Probably more than a hostel, but you have your own private space. Almost all the commercial campgrounds I stayed in had a big kitchen and decent toilets and showers (some fancier than others, of course). I took a tent and rarely used it except when I was bike touring and found myself in the middle of nowhere or wanted to save a few bucks. One campground I stayed in even gave us a cabin for the price of a tent space because it was raining so hard and they felt sorry for us. The first time I went, I got there towards the end of February. I brought gear for every weather condition I could think of based on what I had read and made out okay. I bought a fleece jacket and fleece pants down there and still have them. Camping and backpacking is big there so you should be able to buy anything you forgot or might need. I bought a sleeping bag and a few other odds and ends. I don't know about prices these days-depends on how the dollar is doing. Lonely Planet has a book called Tramping in New Zealand which I recommend-look for it on their website under activity guides-you might find it in a well-stocked bookstore. They have a bulletin board like this one on their website-you might check it out.

One more thing-I rented a campervan (a mini motorhome)for a couple of days. It wasn't cheap, but if you are with a couple of other people, you might try that. Only problem-you have to get used to driving on the left-I drove in NZ a lot, and rented a car in Queensland (Oz)too-it takes a lot of concentration at first and you have to remember which way to look for cross traffic.

Quote:

Thanks, that kinda helped, I'm planning on going out there in January and going all the way around the outside and then down the middle, i think i've got my timings right so i won't melt or freeze because i'm in the wrong place at the wrong time, I'm also heading to NZ when i'm done with Oz. I'm going to be staying in Hostels most of the way round and bush camping from Perth up to Darwin in May, but all the equipment is provided for that. Any further suggestions would be great!

1:09 a.m. on October 14, 2003 (EDT)
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Quote:

...I don't think you will run into any cold weather in Oz at all in January (their summer), but it might get cold at night in the outback-never been to the middle so not sure-

When we were in the Red Center (Alice, Uluru, etc) in late summer, it was definitely shorts weather (well, all Aussie males wear these stubby shorts with long socks much of the year anyway, but I had to stop in the local Super K-Mart to get some to supplement the one pair I had brought). In the evenings it was cool enough to wear a light windbreaker. We were tent-camping for the most part, although we did rent a camper-van part of the time. Never did stay at a place to plug in the microwave or TV, though. In late April, it was also pretty warm out there, as well as in most of Queensland that we were in.

Reminds me - there are caravan parks all over the place. You can rent a parked caravan, just as if it were a cottage in a motel. Some of the caravan parks have lots of permanently parker caravans (that's "trailer" in Antipodean talk).

Down around Melbourne and Adelaide, we found the beach areas really cold. They sit on the Antarctic Ocean, after all, and the wind has a straight blow up from Antarctica. But this was in contrast to having camped in the Outback for a week before getting there in hot dry weather. If Macca reads this, he can fill you in much better, since he is a resident. I was going to go down to the solar eclipse last December, which was right on the southern coast. The area I was considering was a little inland, to get the clear weather. Macca advised me that the weather would probably be in the 50s (Celsius, that is). I could probably have survived, having grown up as a Desert Rat, but decided against suffering that way. No need for a warm sleeping bag in that area. But the south coast and Tassy are much cooler, as is Kiwi-land. Sheet sleeping sack for hostels and the Red Center (and north coast), warm sleeping bag for Tasmania, south coast beaches, and NZ. And it sometimes does rain along the coastal areas - really hard. So take some rain gear (it will be needed in NZ).

Quote:

.... They sometimes have Primus-style kerosene stoves, but I'd bring my own little butane powered stove along with a small cook kit-get one that takes the blue gas canisters that you can buy everywhere if you don't already have one. If you prefer a liquid stove, white gas can be hard to find sometimes so you might find yourself burning whatever you can find.

Be aware of the restrictions on carrying stoves on airplanes these days. Check with the airline first before you show up with a stove in your luggage (checked or carryon). Look at the "Fuelnames" website to get the equivalent names of fuel (it's actually based in Australia)

3:12 a.m. on October 14, 2003 (EDT)
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Bill has a good point about stoves. I was down there long before all the terrorist alerts and so on. I took an MSR XG-K, but it was new and of course no fuel in the bottle. I don't remember anyone even looking at all, but times are different now. That might be a good reason to take a GAZ or something similar that uses a cartridge/canister. You can take the stove and just buy the canister in country. Just be sure to ditch the canister before getting back on a plane. I've got a Primus Gaz 270-cost $25. Smaller ones cost about $40-50. Bill might recommend something better. I bought mine as a backup and just used it once so far, but it does the job with no fuss. I can see why people like them.

Bill-I found Mike Buckler's fuelnames FAQ on a site called ultralite-hiking.com (used with his permission). I had no idea how complicated fuel names would be around the world. I always wondered what "meths" was. I never realized it was basically just alcohol. I used it in NZ when I couldn't get anything else-horrible stuff-low heat output and it gets used up like crazy.

Caravan parks were a novelty to me. I also stayed in a couple of campgrounds (usually near a town) with little cabins, like miniature A Frames-a pair of bunk beds, a little table with 2 chairs, and usually power with a light and plug for an electric kettle (usually included as well). Way better than a tent when it's raining.

Quote:

Quote:

...I don't think you will run into any cold weather in Oz at all in January (their summer), but it might get cold at night in the outback-never been to the middle so not sure-

When we were in the Red Center (Alice, Uluru, etc) in late summer, it was definitely shorts weather (well, all Aussie males wear these stubby shorts with long socks much of the year anyway, but I had to stop in the local Super K-Mart to get some to supplement the one pair I had brought). In the evenings it was cool enough to wear a light windbreaker. We were tent-camping for the most part, although we did rent a camper-van part of the time. Never did stay at a place to plug in the microwave or TV, though. In late April, it was also pretty warm out there, as well as in most of Queensland that we were in.

Reminds me - there are caravan parks all over the place. You can rent a parked caravan, just as if it were a cottage in a motel. Some of the caravan parks have lots of permanently parker caravans (that's "trailer" in Antipodean talk).

Down around Melbourne and Adelaide, we found the beach areas really cold. They sit on the Antarctic Ocean, after all, and the wind has a straight blow up from Antarctica. But this was in contrast to having camped in the Outback for a week before getting there in hot dry weather. If Macca reads this, he can fill you in much better, since he is a resident. I was going to go down to the solar eclipse last December, which was right on the southern coast. The area I was considering was a little inland, to get the clear weather. Macca advised me that the weather would probably be in the 50s (Celsius, that is). I could probably have survived, having grown up as a Desert Rat, but decided against suffering that way. No need for a warm sleeping bag in that area. But the south coast and Tassy are much cooler, as is Kiwi-land. Sheet sleeping sack for hostels and the Red Center (and north coast), warm sleeping bag for Tasmania, south coast beaches, and NZ. And it sometimes does rain along the coastal areas - really hard. So take some rain gear (it will be needed in NZ).

Quote:

.... They sometimes have Primus-style kerosene stoves, but I'd bring my own little butane powered stove along with a small cook kit-get one that takes the blue gas canisters that you can buy everywhere if you don't already have one. If you prefer a liquid stove, white gas can be hard to find sometimes so you might find yourself burning whatever you can find.

Be aware of the restrictions on carrying stoves on airplanes these days. Check with the airline first before you show up with a stove in your luggage (checked or carryon). Look at the "Fuelnames" website to get the equivalent names of fuel (it's actually based in Australia)

6:53 p.m. on October 14, 2003 (EDT)
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Further suggestion for Oz advice

Katie -

You might also post your request for info over on mtncommunity.org on the backpacking forum. A bunch of Aussies hang out over there - Macca, animaland, Damo, etc. Macca occasionally drops in here on Trailspace, so I am surprised he hasn't chimed in. These guys are mostly climbers, so you could post on both the climbing and backpacking forums there. They also get over to NZ a lot, so they could give local advice for there as well.

August 27, 2014
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