Day two of a two-day hike from Southampton Bridge, near Balingup, to Donnelly River Village.
There are few better feelings that being warm and dry in a sturdy tent while the rain buckets down on top of it. The sound of the rain and swaying leaves lulled me to sleep at Gregory Brook, but I woke up the next morning to thin rays of sunshine piercing through the tree canopy. I eventually mustered the courage to crawl out of my warm sleeping bag, and joined my hiking friends Bonny, Pete and Fahad for breakfast in the wooden shelter.
Fahad was on breakfast duty, and was in the middle of preparing some delicious shakshouka (basically eggs in spicy tomato sauce) by the time I arrived. We chowed down and sipped our morning coffees, enjoying the glistening stillness of the bush after a night of heavy rain. I took some time out to snap some photos of the campsite and the brook before we packed up camp.
We headed off later than planned, but not before we met Pack Animal (aka Dave), a legendary Bibbulmun hiker who’d left Donnelly River Village very early that morning to avoid the afternoon’s forecast storms. Pack Animal is easily the most prolific hiker of the Bibbulmun, and he’s clocked up more end-to-ends than is worth counting. His name appears dozens of times in every single logbook, always with the same annotation: “All good, nice sunny day”. We hadn’t been as careful in our planning as he had, and were dreading being caught in a major downpour. So, after a short chat, we hit the track.
The bush was green and wet, and alive with rivulets of runoff that occasionally crossed the track. Raindrops still clung to leaves and gleamed in the sunlight, and the occasional gust of wind would shake them off the soaring tree canopies and onto our heads. Thankfully, it was sunny and dried off quickly. After about an hour of mostly pleasant walking on foot trail and 4WD tracks in the sunshine, we made it to the Karri Gully picnic area on the Brockman Highway, and stopped for a group photo.
Karri Gully is one of the first sightings of the track’s towering karri trees for southbound hikers, and it was good to see them again after a series of somewhat unspectacular hikes further north on my quest to finish my end-to-end. After leaving the gully, we followed the track along the north side of the highway for about a kilometre before following it across the road and descending into the bush.
The track got wetter and more inundated as we dipped closer to the maze of tributaries that feed the Donnelly River. Before long, we reached the first of a series of moss-covered wooden footbridges over a fast-moving stream. The light was perfect, so I went scrambling in the bush to get just the right angle for a photo.
The sky got darker as we approached Willow Springs campground, our planned lunch spot, and short bursts of rain pelted us. We arrived at the campground in the middle of a particularly fierce squall, and considered pushing on until the weather improved, but it quickly abated and we were able to enjoy a hurried lunch at one of the picnic tables.
The intermittent showers continued after lunch, eventually forcing me to stow my camera in a dry bag. We trekked under more towering karris for a couple of hours, then reached a decommissioned road bridge that crosses the Donnelly River, which was still not flowing.
We turned onto Snake Road, another old 4WD track that leads all the way to Donnelly River Village. Luckily the showers eased, making for an enjoyable walk for our last six kilometres into “town”. We passed an abandoned campsite, climbed and descended a series of hills, then Snake Road spat us out into a grove of especially huge karris at the edge of the village. We took a break to take some photos, and listened to the amazing sound of the wind whipping through their towering canopies.
I made it to the village store feeling a lot better than I had the last time I walked this section a year ago, when I was 20 kilos heavier and significantly less fit. I had vivid memories of limping into town with seized muscles and aching feet, but this time I was only a little tired, and in need of a stretch. I found Fahad, who’d raced ahead, making friends with the tame kangaroos and emus that hang around outside the shop. I met the “mayor” of DRV, Andrew Sullivan, who is also a councillor at the City of Fremantle near my home in Perth. I ran around and got plenty of wildlife photos, before we loaded up my car and drove back to collect Pete’s car at Southampton Bridge.
This two-day hike inspired me to re-do the sections around Balingup and Pemberton, but it will probably have to wait until after I do the Pacific Crest Trail next year. I’d thoroughly recommend the Southampton Bridge to DRV stretch to anyone looking for a weekend among the karris. At about three hours drive from Perth, it’s doable on a regular weekend if you’re prepared to get up early enough. Unfortunately there are no transport links to DRV, so you’ll need to take two cars or make other arrangements.
A week ago, a Finnish couple hiking in the Perth Hills were the victims of a terrifying and brutal attack. The violent encounter happened on Fern Road in Paulls Valley, just a few kilometres from the Bibbulmun Track’s northern terminus. The Finnish man and woman, both 33, were walking along the road when a man allegedly tried to run them down with his 4WD ute, before leaving his vehicle to attack them with a shovel.
The driver allegedly assaulted the Finnish man, leaving him with a serious head wound. After a scuffle, the Finnish woman managed to seize the shovel and hit the alleged attacker. Another hiker then arrived to help the couple hold down the alleged assailant until police arrived. Thankfully, both hikers have since been discharged from hospital.
At the time of writing, 36-year-old Sawyer’s Valley man Matt Whittaker was in jail, awaiting trial on one charge of attempting to unlawfully kill. Police say he did not know the two hikers prior to the incident.
The attack has shaken the Perth hiking community, most of whom know the track as a place of safety and tranquility. It has also attracted plenty of media attention. “TERROR ON BIBBULMUN TRACK” proclaimed page one of Monday’s edition of the West Australian, along with a two-page spread complete with photos of forensic detectives alongside the Bibbulmun’s iconic waugyl markers. I received Facebook messages from a TV reporter looking for information on the good Samaritan hiker, as did many others in hiking Facebook groups. The story led several TV news bulletins.
Unfortunately, much of the reporting lacked context, and fed many of the misinformed fears about hiking. I spoke to Bibbulmun Track Foundation (BTF) lead guide Steve Sertis about it.
“It was sensationalised quite a bit,” Steve said. “Probably the worst was Channel Ten’s black and white footage of a guy walking down the track with a shovel. They dramatised it.”
Steve said he stressed to reporters that while the couple were hiking the Bibbulmun, they were doing so on a section that is essentially in the outer suburbs of Perth. “All the footage that I’ve seen shows the dirt track,” Steve said. “If they’d turned the camera around 180 degrees they would have seen bitumen.”
As Steve points out, this was not some Wolf Creek-style remote horror story. The site of the attack was just 3 kilometres from Kalamunda’s main street, as the crow flies. From an end-to-ender’s perspective, it’s practically in town. “[The journalists] really cut out a lot of stuff I told them,” Steve said. “It made it look like it was a remote area out in the bush, which is not the case. This is a very random incident that could have happened anywhere. It’s the first time there’s ever been an assault that we’re aware of.”
I don’t want to minimise the terrible ordeal suffered by the two Finnish hikers. Encountering a violent or dangerous character on the track would be the nightmare of anyone who walks it. But it’s also exceedingly rare, and far less likely to occur in the bush than it is in the city.
Still, like airplane travel, there’s something about hiking in the bush that stokes people’s imaginations, despite its relative safety. Since it hit the news, several non-hiker friends have asked me what I thought about the incident. “Don’t you worry something like that might happen to you when you’re out there?” asked one friend. “What if you had no one else with you?”
These kinds of fears are common among non-hikers and people considering solo hiking for the first time. Being away from the safety net of civilisation can be unnerving at first, and it’s easy to imagine all kinds of scary scenarios when you’re three days from the nearest town with no phone signal. “Yes, you’ve got to think about personal safety, but from the perspective of ‘do I have my first aid kit’ or ‘what happens if I break my ankle or get bitten by a snake’,” Steve said. “I tell people the worst thing that’s likely to happen to them is they’ll get a blister.”
Steve said he could think of two people who have died while out on the track since its formation in the late 1970s – one of a heart attack, and another of a different medical condition. Another male hiker went missing near Walpole in 2013, and a coronial inquest ruled he likely drowned.
The BTF doesn’t have a complete picture of incidents on the track, partly because they are usually handled by other agencies without the Foundation’s involvement. But the BTF does contribute data on reported injuries and other incidents to UPLOADS, a national data set on guided outdoor activities.
In its most recent year of reporting, the two categories associated with hiking (walking/running outdoors and camping in tents) had a relatively low injury rate of around 6 per 1000 participants. Granted, these are guided activities only and they’re not exclusive to hiking, but the risks are low. It’s a cliché, but you’re far more likely to be killed in a car accident on the way to a hike than you are on the Bibbulmun Track.
That said, there are risks associated with walking the Bibbulmun that require a basic level of knowledge and preparation to be properly mitigated. The biggest risk factor, according to Steve, is walking at the wrong time of year. “People go walking in summer and aren’t prepared for the amount of water they might need,” he said. “The Australian bush is so dry, and creeks don’t run.” I generally stop hiking around mid-November and don’t pick it up again until March, depending on the weather. Snakes are more active in summer, tanks run dry, heatstroke is more of a concern, and the bushfire risk is generally high.
In January 2018, a hiker was airlifted by a helicopter from the Helena shelter in the Perth hills minutes before it was destroyed by a bushfire. He was incredibly lucky to be spotted by an aircraft as the fire approached.
Breaking, fracturing or spraining something in a fall is my biggest concern when I’m hiking solo, but it’s unlikely to be fatal unless it involves a serious head injury. I always pay close attention when scrambling over rocks or walking on especially uneven terrain. I also carry a Personal Locator Beacon (PLB) so I can summon help if something like this happens. PLBs are not unreasonably expensive, and should be considered compulsory on any hike outside of phone service areas.
Exhaustion, dehydration and hyponatremia (running out of body salts) can all afflict hikers, and require some level of management to be avoided, but it’s only a case of knowing your body and consuming the right amount of food and water. I suffered some mild hyponatremia at Long Point, near Walpole. It was an unnerving and extremely uncomfortable experience, but it taught me how to prevent it in future. In short, take more breaks and keep up your salt intake.
Getting lost is one of the most common concerns, but the Bibbulmun is well-marked and usually easy to follow. I use maps, guidebooks and the Guthook app mostly to tell me how far I have to go, and only rarely to check that I’m still on the right path. Missing a turnoff is the easiest way to lose the trail, but all you must do is retrace your steps until you find a marker.
Wildlife are probably the most overstated risk on the track, because snakes and spiders are scary. While the common dugites and tiger snakes you’ll encounter on the Bibbulmun are venomous, they like to keep to themselves and will almost always get out of your way before you’re aware of them. They can be sluggish in the mornings but are not a problem if you pay attention to your surroundings. I generally wear gaiters on overgrown sections, just in case. Spiders are almost not worth mentioning – they look scary, but leave them alone and they’ll return the courtesy.
Other people are the biggest concern of many hikers, especially women hiking alone. While the track has more than its share of odd characters, I’ve never met anyone who I’ve felt threatened by. That said, I’m a 28-year-old man and I haven’t lived the experience of being a woman alone on the track – though many regularly do.
While it’s important to keep all these risks in mind when you’re planning your hikes, I don’t think they should ever dissuade anyone from hiking in the first place. On the scale of risky activities it would be buried somewhere near the bottom, and that’s before you even consider the many physical and mental health benefits of hiking. Managing your risk is essential, but the bigger risk is missing out on an incredible experience.
Day one of a two-day hike from Southampton Bridge to Donnelly River Village.
Q: What do you do the weekend after finishing the Bibbulmun?
A: Go hiking on the Bibbulmun!
Normally I’m reluctant to drive any further than Bunbury on a regular weekend, but after a month of slogging through some comparatively uninspiring sections of the Bibb in my quest to finish my end-to-end I was hankering to get back to the karri forest. My hiking friends Bonny, Pete and Fahad were organising an overnight hike from Southampton Bridge, near Balingup, to Donnelly River Village, so I gladly joined in.
I last did this section on an eight-day hike at the same time last year, from Balingup to Pemberton. I was 20 kilos heavier at the time, so I was looking forward to testing out my new and improved self on the trail, now that I had a baseline. Bonny and I left Perth around 6:30 on the Saturday morning, and enjoyed a drive through stunning rolling farmland on the way in to Donnelly River Village (hereafter referred to as DRV) from Greenbushes.
We met Pete and Fahad at the DRV general store, where we unloaded our gear and hopped into Pete’s 4WD for the drive to the start point at Southampton Bridge. The route took us along a scenic dirt road that hugs the banks of the Blackwood River, offering more spectacular views of brilliant verdant farmland and the churning river. Our pleasant drive was interrupted when we came across a massive pile of tree branches, which must have fallen onto the road during the recent stormy weather. In the immortal words of Russell Coight: Nothing for it.
We managed to break some of the smaller branches off by hand, but we couldn’t do much about the biggest branch that was still blocking the road. Pete came to the rescue with an axe he’d kept in his boot, eventually splitting the larger branch after a strenuous few minutes of chopping. We hauled it away, and headed on.
We reached Southampton Bridge shortly after, loaded up, and started walking back down the road we’d driven in on – which happens to also be the Bibbulmun. Soon enough we turned off to a smaller road that leads steeply up a hill to Millstream Dam, the main source of drinking water for the Bridgetown region. After 30 minutes or so of huffing up the road in intermittent rain, we reached the entry to the dam (public access to the dam isn’t allowed) and followed the track off the road and into the forest.
The wind picked up as we ascended through the bush, bringing more rain with it. The wet, squally weather was much like what I experienced in this section last year, and I think it’s one of the best ways to experience this part of the track. Sure, nobody likes getting soaked, but to see the forest alive with running water and glistening leaves is a really authentic way to immerse yourself in that environment.
We stopped for lunch at a big log, occasionally interrupted by more brief showers. I was nervous about my new camera, which I had wrapped up in a plastic rain cover on the outside of my pack that I didn’t entirely trust. Every time I took it out to get a photo it would get coated in raindrops, which I would fastidiously wipe off before bundling it away again.
Eventually the clouds parted, and we spent much of the afternoon hiking under blue skies. We followed the track through the forest until it descended to a well-graded logging road, which we walked along for a few hundred metres before veering off onto another 4WD track. An emu darted across the track just in front of us while we were halfway up a hill, and the others heard another scurrying around the bush shortly after. Pete ventured off to try and snoop it out for a photo, but to no avail.
A little over a kilometre before the campsite we came across an ephemeral stream, which was cascading over a dip near where it crossed the track. Sensing an opportunity to play with my new 10-stop neutral density filter, I let the others go ahead and whipped out my tripod. I had to set it up in the water to get the best angle, but after some trial and error I managed to get a few decent shots of wispy white water spilling over some rocks.
After about half an hour of tinkering I packed away my gear and continued on. I smelled the smoke from the campfire while I was walking along the ridge above Gregory Brook, and descended into camp to find the others settling in. The campsite is one of my favourites of the whole Bibbulmun, because the brook for which it’s named wraps around the shelter on two sides. It was flowing with some force while we were there, serenading the whole campsite with the sound of rushing water.
I set up my tent behind the shelter, and joined the others for a delicious dinner prepared by chef Pete. The highlight was the fried saganaki cheese soaked in fresh lemon juice, which was simply mouthwatering. Who said hiking has to be spartan? After way too much food – including a delicious sago dessert, courtesy of Bonny – I crawled into my sleeping bag and fell asleep to the sound of the running brook.
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.
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.
I hosted an “Ask Me Anything” on Reddit shortly after I finished the Bibbulmun this July, with plenty of great questions! Read it here.