My first overnight hike was (quite literally) a painful experience. Three days hiking in Wilsons Promontory with my partner was meant to be a fun new adventure, but I was miserable. And it could have been avoided if I hadn’t forgotten one very important piece of gear.
I like to write multiple lists and double check everything before travelling. Preparing for our first overnight hike was no different. I was quite nervous leaving the comfort and convenience of home and I wanted to be as prepared as possible to ensure things went smoothly. The top of my list was the essentials – food, water and shelter.
Shelter was easy. We had purchased a hiking tent and tested it in our living room. It was small, but I opted to call it ‘cosy’. Two foam mats and two borrowed sleeping bags later, and the ‘shelter’ category was looking good.
Water I was concerned about. We would be trekking for three days, two nights, and it wasn’t guaranteed that water would be available at the campsites. Down to Woolies we went to purchase bottled water. After stuffing three 2-litre bottles of water in my backpack, I was questioning the weight. But these thoughts were pushed aside by the satisfaction of knowing I wouldn’t die of thirst.
For food, my partner had suggested wraps would be a simple meal to have out on the trail. I thought: “Great! I’ll cook up a delicious rice and black bean burrito mix to take with us”. That’s right. Cooked rice. And black beans. To be honest, I was completely oblivious to the fact that this would weigh so much. The realisation hit me when I pulled what felt like a concrete brick out of my backpack after our first day hiking. I tried to insist we eat as much of it as possible on the first night so I wouldn’t have to carry it again the next day.
I’m sure there were a lot of other items in our backpacks that enjoyed a scenic tour of Wilsons Prom then were never invited on a hiking trip again. Extra jumpers, spare pairs of shoes… But even with my checking and double checking, it wasn’t until we arrived at Wilsons Promontory that the biggest mistake was revealed. I’d forgotten to take the waist belt for my backpack.
I’d removed it to use my backpack as a travel bag on a previous trip – and not put it back on again!
I’d only walked about 200 metres before I started to complain. It was the start of three days of miserable hiking. I couldn’t even appreciate the beauty of the national park – I could only think of the excruciating weight on my shoulders. Don’t get me wrong, the rice and bean wraps were a hit. Our neighboring campers were eyeing off our meal as they cooked up their instant noodles for dinner. But the reality was, I was sore, miserable and felt like I’d failed.
But as you Wild Women know, trying, failing and dealing with adversity all helps you grow and build resilience. So here’s a few lessons I’ve learnt since my first overnight hike.
Don’t forget your waist belt!
This is not the advice you usually read for overnight hikes, but as I learnt the hard way, you will suffer without it. Even if you’ve managed to pack light, you don’t want to carry a few days worth of gear on your shoulders.
Do your research on what to pack
There’s so much information online about what to pack for an overnight hike. Articles like this one are very useful for planning what gear you’ll need. Make sure you read up on the destination as well as what to pack.
There’s some hiking gear that is absolutely worth the investment
You don’t need a whole lot of fancy gear to head out on the trails, but there are some things that make it a more comfortable (and therefore enjoyable) experience. Not long after this first overnight trip, we invested in some water bladders and a portable stove. Since then we have also added sleeping mats and light-weight sleeping bags to our gear stash.
Don’t take it too seriously
If nothing else, we can look back on this adventure and laugh. It was a rough time, but the first of many overnight adventures. And while I don’t pack rice and beans anymore, I do usually pack some little luxury or snack (like these epic Wild Women cookies) that is totally worth some extra weight – you have to enjoy the experience after all!