Welcome Maddie to your new accomplishments, muscles and self-empowerment. This young lady (11) is my niece, she joined myself and her cousin Sheldon (14) who is now well known on my hikes, he’s completed over 250km with me. This was Maddie’s first multi-day hike, approx 30km over 2.5 days and it wasn’t an easy one. We faced changing plans, overcome challenges which she handled maturely and confidently.
I parked the X-trail on Driver Rd and we joined the Bibbulmun Track with the Murray campsite the destination. Spent a day at the campsite on the river to explore, relaxed and then returned the next day.
Her new backpack from Kmart broke in the first couple of hours but this did not sway her from the task. She immediately went into fix it mode which would have made her grandmother (my mum) extremely proud.
Things can happen quickly when you are hiking, I learnt to not panic, keep calm and make good decisions.
Maddie carried own gear/consumables that weighed 11kg. Maddie is tall, determined and very fit from her athletics which she takes seriously.
In fact when Maddie asked me to come along, I asked her to perform a task for me. To carry a 10kg backpack for an hour. Maddie did it and walked to her friends house with her hiking boots on.
Maddie did well, I have invited her to come on a longer hike in Autumn, with a better quality backpack. We will look at how we can keep the weight to a manageable level which can be a challenge for smaller people.
A gift from hiking is self empowerment
Maddie popped her head out of the tent during the night. To unexpectedly see a million stars out to greet her. It was a moonless night. This new young hiker woke her cousin up, out of his sleeping bag and together they enjoyed the show.
If your kids show any sign of wanting to do some hiking, please encourage it and see it through. Make something happen for them.
It truly is an amazing experience for them. Kids learn self empowerment out here which is the only true empowerment.
The 5 Day Three Peak Hike was designed specifically for young people & Duke Of Edinburgh Award and ran over the recent school holidays. We began our journey south at the Brookton Hwy / Bibbulmun Track intersection. Ending at the Three Ways Tavern in North Bannister 76km away.
The hike was made up of nine teenagers between 13 and 17 years old and three guides including myself. Seven of the hikers were participating to complete a level of their Duke Of Ed Award. Duke Of Ed requires groups not to be more than seven participants, so I split the five girls and four boys.
Prior to the hike, I met with most face to face and a few families over the phone. Then a week prior to the start we all met up to do a pack shakedown to go through their packs to keep their weight as low as possible.
A bus from Landsdale Bus Charter picked us all up at the Cockburn Train Station as this was central and easy for parents to reach. I thank small business owner Neville from Landsdale Bus Charter for his professional and friendly service. He played his part in making this hike great.
We arrived at the trailhead 9 am, not too early as our first day was deliberately only 8.5km to the Canning Campsite. We all sat in a circle and discussed expectations. A plan for the day and things I wanted to incorporate immediately.
Most of the teens had no or little hiking experience so I knew this hike was going to challenge them, but I also knew they could do it. I know they were going to complete something new and amazing. I told them hiking is 90% mental.
I had three ideas I wanted to incorporate into the hike. The Leave No Trace principals, Hike Your Own Hike and Mindfulness. Rather than sitting down and discussing them like a class I subtly brought them in during the day when they matched something we were doing.
The first day was all about feeling. Feeling our bodies during the first 8km, our backs, legs, hotspots to prevent blisters. Feeling our packs and adjusting them. We stopped often for one reason or another but that was good, I was encouraging them to speak up for themselves.
One of the hip belt straps snapped in the first hour haha, my guide Tamika had a spare strap that she was able to adapt to his pack.
Mind over matter
Some of their packs were quite heavy, over the recommended pack bodyweight ratio. How quickly they adapted to hiking with a pack really surprised me. We did place a big emphasis on wearing the pack correctly.
I have never been an ultralight gear hiker, even if I could afford them I still wouldn’t. It is more important to have the right gear and wearing it correctly than weight.
When we arrived at the campsite I explained to them the importance of filling in the campsite logbooks for any required evacuation and for track statistics.
The other way we all adapted very quickly was social. Four of the girls were friends and came from the same school. The rest were all from different schools and there was up to a 4-year age difference, they inspired me. I never intended to have ice breaker activities, I just let it all blossom naturally.
I brought in Trail Names, to encourage leaving their usual life behind. We were no longer our names, ages, school or expectations.
The Trail names quickly became a fun and favourite topic of conversation. They ranged from Salad because his hair was styled like a lettuce leaf to Shapes because he had a different flavoured box of Shapes for lunch each day. Nutz because she loved eating them and Pink Panther. Llama, Wren, Snood, Sniff which started as an actually sniff but I explained that this would be hard to write in the logbook haha. Sly Fox only 13 and most experienced hiker in the group. He has now hiked about 230km with me.
Day two almost doubled the km we walked on day one. It was flat and included a virgin jarrah forest and many wildflowers. We ironed out pack and feet issues before we left. We only stopped a couple of times for blisters and the planned breaks. I brought in mindfulness and mind over matter activity by suggesting we walk the last few km in bare feet.
This proved to be a big challenge to all of us, especially from the gravel under our feet. I did not mind the ones who chose not to participate or who did not complete it. Speaking up for yourself and hiking your own hike was just as important. I even told them that they could put their boots back on and the reply I received was “No way! I’m going to do this” I remember at one point Nutz passed me and said “I’ve decided that the slower I move the longer it will take” About seven of us completed it, we were all very proud of ourselves and celebrated with high fives.
We arrived at the beautiful Monadnocks campsite. A campfire was already going, started by a family also staying in the shelter. We never planned to stay in shelters, we enjoyed our tents.
Day Three brought us a double climb of Mt Cuthbert and Mt Vincent, the most challenging day mentally. Some found the climbing difficult, but I told them that we knew 100% that their legs could do it, we were having enough breaks, so it was a mental challenge, a change in attitude towards it.
We witnessed an adult Dugite on Mt Cuthbert who had just caught a lizard for its breakfast, this was a highlight. The view from the top was as stunning as ever, we stayed an hour up there. We had fun taking photos, exploring the area and we did some mindfulness by sitting away from each other, in 10 min silence overlooking forest below which seems to go on forever.
On Day Three at Sullivan Rock, we said goodbye to three hikers and one guide Thanks, Lou! Two were returning home as their hike was three days. Thanks, Dennis (Uber driver and family friend) and a dad who picked them up. One of the hikers made the brave decision to ask to go home which I respect. A good hiker and life lesson are also knowing when enough is enough and be proud of your effort.
We had a campfire every night, they became a special and important part of the adventure. The campfires heated us in the cold, boiled water. We all sat around them which encouraged conversations, games and songs.
Ticks became a part of our hike whether we liked it or not, they went from being annoying to a competition of who had the most, I won with about nine.
On day four we were planning to stop for lunch on top of Mt Cooke but the wind gusts were so strong, it was almost blowing us over.
Our way down from Mt Cooke we were being led by members of the group, everyone had the opportunity to lead. I told them that if I noticed us going off track, I would not say anything. The group believed that we were on the track. It wasn’t until a member stopped me and asked me if we were. I stopped the group and checked the GPS, I then announced to them we was off track. As a group, we made decisions to get ourselves back on track. We chose to not turn back but to use the GPS to head in a southerly direction where we would run into the track under large powerlines which we could also use a landmark.
At around midday and back on the Bibb, I received a severe weather warning which I investigated immediately as I knew that soon I would lose all phone signal. Winds of up to 90km per hour were forecast for that night so I told everyone that we would all need to sleep in the shelter, not our tents. As it happened there was no severe winds and the night passed calmly. We shared the shelter with two other hikers, it was cosy and fun. Lots of snoring apparently.
The final day was a 19km flat stretch to North Bannister where the Bibbulmun Track meets the Albany hwy. We arrived an hour early which shows you how stronger they became physically and mentally in a few short days. We relaxed at the roadhouse eating ice-creams and hot chips.
Everyone who participated on this the Five days Three Peak Hike that made it as special as it was and I am eternally grateful, especially to Tamika (The Lorax) and Lou (Loulou) my two amazing guides and friends.
“The photo above is Didier a week before he departed for his 2016 end-to-end of the Bibbulmun Track. He spent months researching and preparing. But nothing prepares you better than just getting out there.
– This article was written for the July 2018 issue of the Mundijong/Serpentine newspaper The Crier –
As we are now into winter and possibly your first overnight hike. You may not have the gear you need. But you don’t want to spend a fortune maybe not much at all on gear.
You may want to try hiking and gear out before you spend your money on something that will last for years
There are several options to getting hold of some cheaper or free gear, lets look at them.
The over $50 basics you just must have are a one-person tent, sleeping bag and sleeping mat. A 2 person tent can be shared a with someone else.
A tent must be carried on the Bibbulmun Tent even if you plan to stay in a hut/shelter.
Gear needs to be suitable for hiking, smaller and lighter the better. Most of us would like to carry lighter gear, but hiking is about being real not always comfortable. During my end to end of the Bibbulmun track, I carried an average of 19kg which I do not regret. It helped me become the hiker and person I have become now. Find out what your limit is.
As long as you can carry it in your pack and it all weighs 17kg, that is reasonable to expect.
From your family and friends – Hiking and camping gear is something many people have in the shed and forgotten. They would be happy to see it used and you may also be able to keep it after or buy it off them after you try it out. But a warning check the gear, put up the tent, don’t assume it was looked after even if it wasn’t used.
The only reasonable place you can hire gear in Perth is the Bibbulmun Track Foundation; but they are very heavily booked during the hiking season. You can hire a tent, sleeping bag, sleep mat, everything you need. They only carry good reliable gear as it is hired out to end to enders.
Purchase 2nd hand
You can purchase reliable 2nd hand tents online as my friend Louise and I discovered. Two one person 3 season tents for $100. The biggest consideration is that it’s a 3 season tent so can take the heavy rain, it can fit on or in your pack and its not too heavy. You can expect a suitable one person tent to weigh around 1.8kg. You can find much lighter, but the price increases dramatically.
A 50 to 70 litre backpack is the typical size for overnight hikes. You can easily buy 2nd hand packs online on either Facebook, gumtree for instance. You will find everything from dodgy, to unsuitable to quality bargains. Do your research beforehand on brands but mainly features and then search for that. I have recently seen 50 to 70 litre packs going cheap online which may sound great. But they are unsuitable for hiking because they are designed for climbers. They are long very narrow packs, which are difficult to pack with everything you need.
Your sleeping bag
Whether to buy or not buy a 2nd hand sleeping bag is a personal choice, you can get the bag washed and you can buy a sleeping bag liner which slips into your bag. It helps keep your bag clean, increases its temperature rating depending on the fabric and if it is a 2nd hand bag, keeps you separate from the bag. On the Bibbulmun Track in winter you need a bag with a comfort rating of no higher than -5. Or a sleeping bag, liner combination. Down in a valley it can easily get down to 0. Each sleeping bag has a , comfort, lower end and extreme rating. My Sea To Summit bag has a comfort rating of -5. I’m a warm sleeper so even in the -5 conditions of the Blue Mountains I was comfortable in simply shorts and t-shit
Your sleeping Mat
A reliable and comfortable hiking sleeping mat is important if you want a good night’s sleep. When you are hiking for a few days, you can expect to be using your mat around 10 hrs a night because you need the rest to recover. The risk in buying a 2nd hand mat unless you buy it early and test it out at home a few nights is obvious. Do not leave the repair kit at home, been there done that, fortunately I have not needed it but it’s useless at home.
If you want to buy new, look out for clearances, try cheaper stores like Anaconda, buying cheap mats like anything online is risky. Though check out online eBay stores read reviews on gear.
I haven’t included footwear on this list because all I ever recommend is comfortable walking shoes or boots. Walking shoes must have good grip. Whether you use shoes or boots is a personal choice. My brother in law and nephew have used their Big W hiking boots which cost under $40 for now over 120km, no complaints from either about comfort or quality.
I do most of my research on Youtube, by asking my hiking friends, other hikers then I make up my own mind. Unfortunately, advice I have received from a few different cheaper outdoor stores or who also sell non-hiking gear on more than one occasion which I won’t mention here was bad even potentially dangerous.
A Manager wanted to sell me a sleeping bag that was no where near warm enough for the conditions I told them about. Then a young sales person was arguing with me about a tent they said was a big one person but was obviously 2-person tent. They then insisted that the 2 after the name was the series not how many people it is designed to carry. Buy from the cheaper stores but research elsewhere.
You are always welcome to contact me about gear but I will also tell you Hike your Own hike extends to your gear. There is so much pleasure in researching and making up your own mind.
– Encourages Conversation
The quiet and peaceful environment of walking in nature away from the constant distraction of technology, expectations and noise naturally encourages conversation.
Because nature is so genuine it allows kids to be the same, to open up about what’s happening at school, with friends and how they are feeling.
The silence of a forest or a mountain view brings you to a deeper place, a foundation for strong relationships in everyday life.
– Brings Them To The Moment
The simple act of walking in nature brings you to the present moment, to focus on what’s in front of you, the constant surprise of what’s around the corner or beside you.
The moment you see a kangaroo or emu roaming beside you is amazing – Ben (15)
– Physical Exercise
Hiking is one of the most effective ways to burn calories and encourage healthy exercise. Instead of carrying everything, allow a smaller child to carry their own small backpack with their snacks and water.
I can’t believe I just hiked 18km with my heavy backpack, I feel incredible – Stacey (15)
– Self Reliance
I invited my 13yr old nephew and his dad on a 70km along the Murray River on the Bibbulmun Track. As my nephew’s confidence grew, I encouraged him to walk ahead and hike his own hike. He began to pay more attention to his surroundings, the trail markers and potential obstacles. He learnt to make good decisions with obstacles without doubting himself. But also to ask questions when he wasn’t sure because as I’ve already mentioned nature encourages effective communication.
The greatest thing I leant on this 5-day hike was self-responsibility – Sophie (16)
When I began hiking again after many years I was naturally cautious, which is not necessarily a bad thing. Being out there alone, you felt vulnerable and wanted a distraction from the discomfort.
The technology was the way out, my phone was always there with music, games, texting friends when I had a signal.
Using an online map or GPS is a very necessary tool to have while hiking, but how you think about it will dramatically affect how much you enjoy and benefit from your time out there.
Use the technology from a place of strength rather than fear. I went from using it from fear to not at all to now a place of strength. You will always perform a lot better from a place of strength.
A study by Ruth Ann Atchley and David L. Strayer discuss the effects on both adults and children who are spending more time on technology, media and less time participating in activities in nature.
In this study they had participants spend time in nature without any technology performing tasks that required problem solving and creativity.
Now when I do not have my smartphone at easy reach, I trust my judgement and my creativity shines, inspiration comes to me easily. I become more sensitive to the environment around me, I become present.
Now I hear noises in the distance, even a car noise sounds peaceful because it seems to be filtered by the trees.
The technology is now there for me and my client’s safety. I occasionally listen to music when I’m hiking.
There are room and necessity for technology in our lives, there just needs to be a re-balance of power. One of the reasons technology has such a hold on us is that it expands and changes daily, in order to keep up with it we need to be part of it.
Encourage our kids to leave their technology at home, lead your family to nature they will be healthier physically and mentally.