A note of caution about this guide: I’ve bought most of my hiking equipment with the intention of it seeing me through both the Bibbulmun Track and the Pacific Crest Trail. Given I planned to be using it for at least 5,000 kilometres of hiking, I haven’t made a lot of compromises on quality or weight of my gear. If your only goal is to do the Bibbulmun, or just trails in non-alpine regions of Australia, it’s possible to put together a full thru-hiking kit for much less than I’ve spent.
A note on prices: Gear prices listed are the standard retail prices I found on the listed businesses’ websites. I picked up a lot of my hiking gear on sale, so I paid significantly less than the total listed here. You should be able to do the same if you shop around – some of it was even on sale when I posted this guide.
The big three
My 68-litre ULA Circuit has been with me since day one of my hiking career, and it’s one of the few pieces of gear I haven’t upgraded. It’s lightweight, durable, and well-designed for the day-to-day routine of long-distance hiking. It’s also extremely comfortable, thanks to a sturdy internal frame and a wide hip belt. The enormous hip belt pockets have plenty of room for everything you might need in a pinch, like your camera, map, snacks, earphones, sunscreen, lip balm, hand sanitiser and PLB (I’ve literally kept all these in the hip belt pockets simultaneously). A big mesh pocket on the back is ideal for storing other items you’ll need to take out mid-hike, such as rain gear or a hat. Bungee cord webbing doubles as a clothes line, allowing you to dry wet clothing while you hike. Two big side pockets can each fit two one-litre Gatorade bottles, which are easy to remove and replace while walking. Everything else goes in the single internal compartment, which is huge. The one thing it lacks is an Osprey-style suspension panel to allow your back to breathe, but that’s a minor gripe when you consider its weight, durability and versatility.
Pros: • Big hip belt pockets • Mesh compartment is really useful • Durable • Easy access to water bottles while walking
Cons: • No suspension panel • Not a true ultralight pack • Only available from USA
This thing is my home away from home when I’m on hiking trips, and it’s easily my favourite piece of gear in my backpack. It’s got more than enough room for me and all my gear, or for two people without gear. It also has fantastic ventilation when you leave at least two of the side doors open – which I do 99% of the time. In serious storms, you can close all four doors and be effectively sealed off from the weather, thanks to the waterproof cuben fiber material – which doesn’t degrade with age like silnylon does. The Duplex is around half the weight of my old Marmot Force 1P, which didn’t even have room for my backpack. It’s a non-freestanding tent, meaning it uses trekking poles rather than tent poles to provide the structure. It can take a few tries to learn how to pitch it correctly, but is extremely quick to set up once you’ve got the technique down. I use this with 8 MSR Mini Groundhog Stakes (10 grams each), which have good holding power in soft soils.
Pros: • Ridiculously lightweight • Plenty of room • Pitch in 2 minutes
Cons: • Expensive • Needs trekking poles • Stakes not included • Only available from USA
Yes, yes, I know, it’s hideously expensive – but I think it’s worth every penny. I bought this on an impulse at Paddy Pallin in Perth after three freezing nights of terrible sleep on the Cape to Cape in my pathetic summer sleeping bag, and I’ve never looked back. It’s filled with 850+ loft down, and rated to -7°C (20°F). I’m a big fan of the draught collar, which is essentially a tube of insulation that surrounds your neck when you’ve got it all cinched up, trapping the warm air in. 90% of the time on the Bibbulmun I’ve got it at least partially unzipped, but it’s great on those really cold mornings. After 70+ nights of use, including the entire Bibbulmun, it’s still good as new. Mine is the 200cm length, but it also comes in 180cm and 165cm.
Pros: • Extremely warm • Compresses small • Lightest weight down
Cons: • May be too hot for warm sleepers • Expensive • Down is useless when wet
Like my sleeping bag, I bought this primarily for the Pacific Crest Trail, where camping on snow is often necessary. As the name “Xtherm” implies, it’s designed to keep you warm. It does this by shielding you from the cold ground, and reflecting some of you body heat back at you. It’s the gold standard in that regard, with an insulation R-value of 5.7 – far better than most other sleeping mats on the market. My favourite feature is its pump sack, which you use to inflate it by squeezing air through the bag. Using your breath is inadvisable because it’s a) tiresome and b) introduces moisture into the mat, which degrades it and compromises its insulating properties. When not being used as a pump, the sack doubles as my clothing bag to save weight. I used to have the larger Xtherm Max as I’m 6’1″, but swapped it for the regular size when I realised it was unnecessary. Anyone under 6’3″ should be fine with the standard size.
Pros: • Keeps you warm • Pump sack doubles as stuff sack • Light
Cons: • Slightly noisy when rolling around • Expensive • Requires inflating
Taking a pillow is pretty luxurious for an ultralight hiker, but I’ve never been a fan of the clothes-in-the-stuff-sack method and I value a good night’s sleep more than I value a minimal amount of extra weight. This thing is my guilty pleasure!
I picked the ResQLink over the more popular SPOT because the SARSAT satellite network it uses is allegedly more reliable than SPOT’s Globalstar. It also doesn’t have any subscription charges, unlike the SPOT, but it lacks the other device’s ability to send an “I’m OK” message or be tracked online.
Pros: • Reliable • No subscription charges • Five-year battery life
Cons: • No “I’m OK” message function
Official Bibbulmun Track maps and guidebooks
Cost: $11.50 per map and $11.95 per guidebook (8 of each)
Even if you’re relying primarily on the Guthook app or a GPS device for navigation, always take printed maps as a backup. The guidebooks are invaluable for navigating tricky sections (turn left after the big boulder, etc.), and are also full of suggestions for great lookouts or lunch spots that you might otherwise miss.
A tiny compass that can clip on to a strap on a watch or backpack. Not much else to say!
I used to have an Optimus Crux, but replaced it with a Windmaster after I picked up one for cheap at the Mountain Designs closing down sale. As far as I know, it’s the best-performing ultralight stove in windy conditions – miles ahead of the Crux, which simply wouldn’t boil anything when it was windy enough. It’s not quite as effective as the MSR Windburner, but it’s well worth the tradeoff in weight unless you’re hiking Tierra del Fuego. It comes with a piezo ignition, a three-prong pot support and a heftier four-prong support for bigger pots, but I’ve never needed the larger one.
Pros: • Super light • Great performance in windy conditions • Piezo ignition
Cons: • Detachable pot support can get lost
A super light titanium pot that’s just the right size for a solo thru-hiker. I can fit a 110 gram gas canister and my stove inside it and still get the lid on. Straining holes on the lid are great for draining the water from noodles and rehydrated dishes. Usually doubles as my coffee cup.
Pros: • Super light • Fits 110 gram gas canister • Strainer lid
Cons: • No handle insulation
I prefer long handled spoons so I can stir my dinner without getting food all over my hands. I used to have a spork but found it’s perfectly easy to eat noodles with the spoon.
Pros: • It’s a spoon • It’s long • Comes with a mini carabiner
Cons: • I don’t know, what do you want from me?
This ultra-minimalist Swiss Army knife is perfect for thru-hiking. The knife is nice and sharp, the scissors and file are great for cutting nails, and the tweezers are handy for splinters.
Pros: • Tiny and light • Many functions
Cons: • Knife is very short
These clear plastic bags have double seals to keep odours from escaping, which makes them great for concealing your food from hungry animals and insects. Just don’t overfill them, or they’ll split (as I discovered). I bought mine during a Massdrop sale, but they’re otherwise quite difficult to source in Australia for a reasonable price. I’ve bought alternatives on eBay that claim to do the same thing, but they’re not nearly as well made.
Pros: • Odour proof • Clear • Durable
Cons: • Hard to get in Australia
Water containers: Maximus sports drink bottles
Cost: 3.15 AUD at Coles
Weight: Almost nothing
Two of these fit perfectly in one side pocket of my ULA Circuit backpack, where they’re easy to grab while hiking. The bottle opening is also the right size for a Steripen. Cheap, easily replaceable and fairly strong.
A nifty device that zaps water with ultraviolet light to sterilise any nasties. Takes 90 seconds to do a litre. Micro USB rechargeable. One charge will usually last me at least a week on the trail.
Pros: • No bad-tasting chemicals • Rechargeable • Quick and easy to use
Cons: • Doesn’t work with cloudy water • Batteries are affected by cold • Doesn’t fit all bottles • Doesn’t treat water on bottle mouth threads
If you haven’t tried walking with trekking poles before, do yourself a favour and take some for a test drive. They make it noticeably easier for me over just about every kind of terrain, and are a real knee-saver when going down steep slopes. Mine work a double shift, supporting my tent at night as well. Black Diamond’s Flick Lock system makes them really easy to adjust on the fly, and they don’t slip when properly tightened. I find the cork handles much more comfortable than rubber, as they don’t get slippery with sweat.
Pros: • Light • Durable • Comfortable cork handles
Cons: • No shock absorbers
A head net that that stuffs into a tiny pouch. I keep it clipped on to my shoulder strap when I’m not using it.
This versatile headlamp is the whole package – it’s rechargeable with a standard Micro USB port, has a red setting, and chucks out 300 lumens at its max setting. It can also be dimmed all the way down to a faint glow, and has a lock button to prevent it being accidentally turned on and draining the power. It comes with rechargeable AAAs, but can also take regular AAAs. I take some Duracells as a backup just in case.
Pros: • Red setting • Rechargeable • Lock button • Can take standard AAAs
Cons: • Not as bright as non-rechargeable lamps • Some reported recharging issues
So many hikers buy battery banks that can charge other devices quickly, but can’t charge themselves quickly in towns. This one has a 5V/2A input, allowing it to fully charge from empty in 5.5 hours where most other chargers would take 10. It can charge an iPhone 6 from empty three and a half times on one charge. Just make sure your charger and cable are also at least 5V/2A or it will default to slow charging.
I’m not really convinced this is worth the weight, because my pack seems to get wet regardless of whether I put it on or not, but the pack liner always protects the important stuff. I haven’t yet had the guts to leave it at home on a rainy hike.
Pros: • Drainage hole • Packs down small • Easy to fit
Cons: • Do you really need one?
Pack liner: Nyloflume bag
Cost: 2.75 USD each on eBay
Weight: 25.9 grams
Nyloflume is an American product designed to protect food items when houses are being fumigated. It also doubles as a great pack liner, and is pretty tough.
Icebreaker gear is expensive, but seems to be regularly on sale at a lot of retailers. Their merino / synthetic blend strikes a great balance of breathability and durability, and it dries super fast. I’ve never felt overly hot in this shirt, and it doubles as an effective base layer under a down jacket or fleece.
I’ve bought three pairs of these nylon pants as I’ve dropped sizes since I took up hiking, even though they only seem to have one Australian stockist. They’re stretchy, breathable, and they have a built-in belt that gives you plenty of latitude as you lose weight on the trail. Button clasps at the bottom allow you to keep them rolled up for wading. I previously owned the zip-off version, but switched back to the standard pair as I never used them in shorts mode.
I bought these after my Merrells fell apart on me after just two months. They’re super comfortable (for me) with a wide toe box, and have a nice thick sole to protect your foot from rocks. I’m a huge fan of the quick laces, which take two seconds to do up. As a result, I take off my shoes and dry my feet at every rest break.
This is supposed to be the be-all and end-all of ultralight down jackets, but I’m not convinced. It’s ridiculously light and filled with 800-fill water-repellent down, but it’s just not warm enough for me on the coldest of mornings on the Bibb. When I’m next in the US I’ll upgrade to the Enlightened Equipment Torrid Apex.
Light, breathable, quick drying and they don’t get that smelly after days of wear. I’ve worn one pair for at least 30 days of hiking with no obvious wear yet.
How many brands of socks come with a lifetime guarantee? If these ever get a hole in them, Darn Tough will replace them. They’re thick, tough, odour-resistant and really comfortable to wear. They can be hard to get in Australia, but it’s worth the effort of international shipping. Look out for them in Massdrop sales.
I wear these under my Darn Toughs as a liner to keep my toes from rubbing against each other while I hike. Since I’ve adopted this system, I’ve had zero blisters over more than 700km of hiking.
I got this for a pretty steep discount at the Mountain Designs closing down sale, but I wouldn’t pay RRP for it – it’s just a piece of fabric you could easily make, after all. That said, it’s great for keeping the sun off my neck / keeping dust out of my face when it’s windy. It also doubles as a drying cloth.
A decent seam-taped jacket with chest pockets that double as ventilation zips, and extra padding on the shoulders to stop your backpack straps from wearing through the material. Seems to be harder to find since I bought it, it may be discontinued.
A great option for hiking in light rain, or just when it’s cold. Much lighter and more breathable than a rain jacket, but it’ll keep a decent amount of moisture off you and it’ll take the sting out of cold winds.
These do a pretty good job at keeping rain off my lower body, but are sweaty and uncomfortable to walk in. Such is the problem with all rain gear. Ankle zips help, but not much.
- Cheap wool beanie
- Army surplus hat
- Cheap thermal tops + bottoms from Kathmandu (for sleeping)
- Toiletries bag
- Medical kit
- Charging cable
- Various stuff sacks
- Plastic trowel
- Tent stakes