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I have a confession to make….. I’m a lists person. Whether that’s my every day ‘to-do’ list that I take great pleasure in highlighting through in yellow marker, or the checklist I go through each time I write a post such as this essential packing list for hiking, so I don’t miss any important steps. I’ve no idea why it took me so long to write out a list that can be used each time we decide on a last minute ramble to satisfy one of Rob’s itchy photography trigger finger moments!

Our trip to West Head Lookout at Ku-ring-gai National Park is one such trip where we really should have been more prepared. It wasn’t until we starting to pull out the camera gear that Rob realised there was a crucial piece missing that connected his camera to the tripod and held it steady. I completely forgot to grab a hat and sunglasses (though luckily Rob had a spare pair of glasses in the car) and we really struggled to find somewhere to park and eat nearby which left us ravenous by the time we headed home.

Thankfully we were only on what is a local day trip for us so we coped just fine but, as we’ve decided to head out somewhere on a whim again this weekend (decision to be made today), I think it’s time I put this essential packing list for hiking together so we don’t forget anything on our next ramble. Most of these items can be kept ready in a backpack so you can just check all is in order the night before and then you just need to prep the other stuff ready to go in the morning.

Some of the items on the list may seem a bit excessive for a day away but in Australia, you can never be too complacent when it comes to rambling through National Parks or driving off the main roads; it can be all too easy to find yourself disorientated without phone reception or stranded if your car breaks down.


Dress Appropriately (and be prepared for all kinds of weather)

Boots or Shoes:

It can often come down to personal preference whether to go with hiking boots or lighter hiking shoes but either way, comfort must come first. Don’t choose a long ramble if you’ve got brand new shoes on; you could be asking for blisters galore. A good pair of sports/running shoes would be adequate if the terrain you are planning to walk in is reasonably gentle.


Great hiking socks are a blend of merino, polyester and stretch nylon. They remain breathable and comfortable no matter how much you sweat in them and the snug fit helps to protect your feet. Ordinary cotton socks are not advised as they hold onto moisture and can cause your feet to rub inside your shoes.

Shorts/Long Pants:

Durable, breathable and light fabrics work best. Jeans are not the best option because they make you sweat quickly and then they hold onto that moisture for far too long. If you do wear shorts, try and wear those that are fairly long and come to your knees to try and protect yourself from bushes. If you’re out on a ramble in winter, you may still want to bring some shorts with you – zip off hiking pants are a great invention! Personally, I love wearing activewear leggings any time of year.

Long Sleeved Shirt:

Choose a long-sleeved shirt with collar to give you good protection from the sun without the need to keep re-applying sunscreen or, if you really want something lighter, then opt for an active wear style t-shirt rather than a cotton one so that any sweat is wicked away from the body but remember to keep your skin protected with insect repellent and sunscreen.

Warmth Layer:

It could be a hot and sunny day when you head off on your ramble, but Australian weather can be a bit unpredictable and, if you get caught in an evening chill after walking all day, you can get surprisingly cold very quickly. For occasions like this, have a light thermal base layer packed into your backpack that you can quickly pull out and put on. Merino is our fabric of choice.

If you are going out in winter, it’s also wise to have a fleece, beanie and gloves hand or, if you are heading inland, you may even want something warmer than a fleece depending on how much you feel the cold.

Wet Weather Gear:

A light spray jacket is ideal both as a windbreaker (use as a thermal layer) and wet weather outings. It’s also wise to have a couple of disposable ponchos in your bag in case you’re caught out.

Hat & Sunglasses:

Always wear a hat when you are out in the Australian sun – preferably it has a wide enough brim to shade your entire face and even better if it shades the back of your neck too. A soccer/baseball style cap is not the best option but better than nothing and visors are really a no-no; the Australian sun will burn your scalp quickly, even in winter.

Sunglasses with polarised lenses are best but anything that protects your eyes from UV rays and glare off water is good to protect your eyes.

Emergency Items:

A basic, light weight medical grade first aid kit is pretty much essential. At the very least, make sure you have a compression bandage, triangle bandage and emergency blanket. Also pack in Panadol, antihistamines, antiseptic and any medication you need (enough for overnight in case you get stuck).

Not strictly emergency items but wise to bring is lip balm, baby or body wipes, insect repellent, sunscreen, moisturiser, headtorch, pocketknife, personal locator beacon, matches, map of the area and compass.

Other Gadgets & Gizmos:

We personally don’t go anywhere without a decent camera but, if you don’t have a photography mad person on your ramble, then a good smartphone is perfect for taking memories of your day (of course, you want to carry the phone for safety anyhow). If you’re bringing a camera with you, it’s also wise to bring extra SD cards and batteries (and USB charger for your phone for use in the car).

Food & Snacks:

You’ll need food for the day and also keep an emergency stash of energy bars, nuts and dried fruit just in case you find yourself inadvertently having to wait for a rescue or until morning light to carry on. Reusable ziplock bags are perfect for the job as they seal food really well and keeps it fresh for a really long time, and we also love the fact we can wash them and use them again and again.


Always have at least two litres of water with you. Ideally in a reusable BPA free silicone, stainless steel or aluminium bottle. To save room, you can now get foldable water bottles that are surprisingly leakproof and have the added advantage that they won’t get bent if dropped. It’s also a good idea to take some water purification tablets with you if you need to top up your water from a fresh creek or stream.


For a day ramble, a 20-25 litre capacity hiking daypack is perfectly adequate to carry everything that you need. We love the Australian owned Bigfoot Venture Waterproof Backpack as it keeps all our gear dry, is super lightweight and the straps can be adjusted so that you can turn it into a shoulder bag. It also comes with an extremely handy waterproof smartphone case in case of accidents with muddy puddles or a dunny disaster!

Rubbish Bag:

Don’t leave home or camp without it! Australia is a beautiful country, please don’t spoil it by leaving rubbish behind. Also take food scraps with you as our native animals can become very sick and malnourished from eating human food and encourages them to be less fearful of humans. This can lead to a dangerous situation for both you and them.

This seems like a lot of stuff to take with you on a simple day out but pack the items well and you’ll find you’ll have more than enough room in your backpack and it won’t be too heavy to carry throughout the day. The last thing you want to be is unprepared in case the day doesn’t go to plan.

If you know of any other items that should be included on this essential packing list for hiking, please let us know in the comments below.

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