My Bibbulmun gear

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


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Loaded up for a weekend on the Bibb. I added the patches soon after I bought it. Go Pack Go!

Backpack: ULA Circuit
Cost: 235 USD (approx 316 AUD) from ULA
Weight: 1.162kg

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


Tent: Zpacks Duplex
Cost: 599 USD (approx 807 AUD) from Zpacks
Weight: 539 grams + stakes

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Pitched at Monadnocks, with all four storm doors closed. I generally leave them open for anything less than a strong storm.

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


Alpinlite

Sleeping bag: Western Mountaineering Alplinlite
Cost: 836.95 AUD at Paddy Pallin for members
Weight: 935 grams (for my XL size)

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


Sleeping


Thermaresst

Sleeping mat: Thermarest NeoAir Xtherm
Cost: 429.50 AUD from Wild Earth
Weight: 430 grams

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


APILPREMRGGNPillow: Sea to Summit Aeros Premium
Cost: 49.95 AUD at Wild Earth
Weight: 79 grams

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!


Navigation


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Personal Locator Beacon: ACR ResQLink
Cost: 299.90 AUD at Snowys Outdoors
Weight: 130 grams

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


Maps

Official Bibbulmun Track maps and guidebooks
Cost: $11.50 per map and $11.95 per guidebook (8 of each)
Weight: Variable

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.


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Compass: Suunto Clipper
Cost: 34 AUD at Wild Earth
Weight: 5 grams

A tiny compass that can clip on to a strap on a watch or backpack. Not much else to say!


Kitchen


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Stove: Soto Windmaster
Cost: 99.50 AUD at Wild Earth
Weight: 67 grams

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


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Pot: Toaks Titanium Pot 750ml
Cost: 43.18 AUD on AliExpress
Weight: 103 grams

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


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Spoon: Sea to Summit AlphaLight Long Handled Spoon
Cost: 9.50 AUD at Wild Earth
Weight: 27 grams

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?


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Knife: Victorinox Executive 81
Cost: 27.99 AUD on Amazon Australia
Weight: 21.5 grams

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


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Food bag: OPSAK 12″ x 20″
Cost: 13 USD at REI
Weight: 23 grams

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


Miscellaneous


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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.


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Water treatment: Steripen Ultra
Cost: 189.50 at Wild Earth
Weight: 141.5 grams

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


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Trekking poles: Black Diamond Trail Ergo Cork
Cost: 169.50 AUD/pair at Wild Earth
Weight: 510 grams

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


ANMOSH

Bug net: Sea to Summit Nano Head Net
Cost: 16.50 AUD at Wild Earth
Weight: 11 grams

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.


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Headlamp: Black Diamond Revolt
Cost: 79.50 AUD at Wild Earth
Weight: 89 grams with 3 AAA batteries

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


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Battery bank: Xiaomi 10,000mAh Power Bank
Cost: 39AUD on Kogan
Weight: 228 grams

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.


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Raincover: Sea to Summit UltraSil Cover 50-70L
Cost: 48.50 AUD at Wild Earth
Weight: 113 grams

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?


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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.


Clothing


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Shirt: Icebreaker Cool Lite Long Sleeve
Cost: 129.95 AUD at Paddy Pallin
Weight: 166 grams (Medium)

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.


Pants

Pants: Prana Stretch Zion
Cost: 119.95 AUD at Bogong Equipment
Weight: 385 grams

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.


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Shoes: Salamon XA Pro 3Ds
Cost: 199.50 AUD at Wild Earth
Weight: 400 grams/pair

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.


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Jacket: Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer (no hood)
Cost: 258.30 AUD at Wiggle.com.au
Weight: 197 grams

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.


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Underwear: Icebreaker Anatomica Boxers
Cost: 40.46AUD for members at Paddy Pallin
Weight: 70 grams (Medium)

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.


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Outer socks: Darn Tough Hiker Micro Crew
Cost: 17.80 USD a pair at Amazon
Weight: Who cares? They’re socks.

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.


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Liner socks: Injinji Liner Crew NuWool
Cost: 34.95 AUD from Wild Earth
Weight: See above

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.



B064-AP-154279Bandana: 
Buff
Weight: 20 grams
Price: 34.95 at Wild Earth

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.


Rain gear


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Rain jacket: Marmot Crux
Cost: 111.58 USD at CampSaver
Weight: 241 grams

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.


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Wind shirt: Patagonia Houdini Wind Jacket
Cost: 129.95 AUD at Paddy Pallin
Weight: 102 grams

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.


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Rain pants: Marmot Precip Pants
Cost: 129.95 AUD at Wild Earth
Weight: 252 grams

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.

 


Other stuff


  • Cheap wool beanie
  • Army surplus hat
  • Cheap thermal tops + bottoms from Kathmandu (for sleeping)
  • Toiletries bag
  • Medical kit
  • Earphones
  • Charging cable
  • Various stuff sacks
  • Plastic trowel
  • Tent stakes
  • Camera
  • Phone

I hosted an “Ask Me Anything” on Reddit shortly after I finished the Bibbulmun this July, with plenty of great questions! Read it here.

 

The Meetup that nearly wasn’t

Duration: 2 days

Distance: 44.9km

Since completing my monster 16-day hike from Northcliffe to Albany in April, I’ve been on a mission to finish the Bibbulmun Track before the summer. As I inched closer to my goal of a sectional end-to-end, this section, just north of Collie, became an ever-more glaring omission from my map. It’s a tricky section to do as a standalone hike – especially over just one weekend – requiring a lift to a dirt road in the middle of nowhere, and at least one other hiker crazy enough to drive to Collie at an ungodly hour of the morning. Knowing I’d never find a trail angel generous enough to ferry me around that early on a Saturday, I abused my position as a volunteer organiser with Young Perth Hikers by making a Meetup event of it.

I’d hoped to find a couple of other hikers who were as keen to do that stretch as I was, but the few who did RSVP dropped off in the days before the hike. By the Friday, I only had one other attendee – a guy named Mariusz who wasn’t replying to my messages. Given our recent epidemic of no-shows to Young Perth Hikers events, I wasn’t feeling confident about driving down to Collie in the hopes that he turned up. But, the universe delivered, and Mariusz responded to my pestering text messages the night before the hike. He’d been at work (reasonably), and hadn’t seen my messages. To my amazement, not only was he keen, but he’d roped a friend into coming with us. We arranged to meet at the Collie McDonalds at 7:30, and I packed my gear.

Getting out of bed at 5AM was every bit as painful as I predicted, but the early-morning drive down to Collie more than made up for it. Fueled by a McDonalds coffee, I enjoyed the trip down the Forrest Highway as the sun slowly crept above the horizon. I met up with Mariusz and his friend Max as arranged, and we headed out to Harris Dam, dumped my car and continued on to the start point. On the 45-minute-long bumpy ride down a series of corrugated dirt roads, I learned that Mariusz and Max were both Polish telecommunications riggers in Australia on working visas, building mobile towers. Sadly, they hadn’t brought their equipment to set up an impromptu tower at the campsite. Nonetheless, we found the spot where the Bibbulmun Track crosses Harvey-Quindanning Road, and loaded up.

We set off under a thick blanket of fog, which made for some spectacularly eerie views through the dense native forest in the early morning. As we ascended the first hill of the day, an ominous droning noise pierced the mist, escalating from a drone to an almighty din as we climbed. The whole thing was all very Stephen King-esque. Or was it H.G. Wells? We soon discovered the source of the noise – a massive mining conveyor belt that stretched as far as the eye could see, and was running hell for leather. The belt transports raw bauxite from a mine near Boddington to a refinery 51 kilometers away at Worsley, where alumina is separated for aluminium smelting. After ducking our heads to ensure they weren’t sanded off, we scurried under the belt and continued through the forest.

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Being winter, the forest was an explosion of green leaves, often hanging off the blackened trunks of the recently-burnt bush. We reached Possum Springs campsite after a couple of hours of relatively easy walking, and stopped for a quick morning tea. I buzzed around the rammed earth shelter for a few minutes, testing my new camera – a Sony A6000 – and was disappointed to learn (thanks to a few glaringly overexposed shots) that I’m not the manual photo wizard I thought I was. I’ll stick to aperture priority mode for now. The break was redeemed by Mariusz’s delicious homemade protein balls, and Max’s tasty homemade jerky. All I had to offer in return were some Red Rock chilli-coated peanuts, but they graciously traded with me anyway.

The rest of our Saturday was mostly more of the same verdant forests, alternating here and there between vehicle tracks and purpose-built walking trail. None of us were overly hungry so we decided to skip lunch, preferring to push on to Yourdamung campsite, our destination for the day. About an hour before the shelter, we passed through a low, swampy area that was a nice break from the usual tall trees and pea gravel. There was even enough water about to justify a short wooden footbridge. We made it to Yourdamung by mid-afternoon, and set up camp for the night, weary after walking 26.8 kilometers since our early-morning start. Mariusz had lugged a six-pack of beer the whole way, which we didn’t even finish – and as is Bibb tradition, we all had way too much food.

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I know which way I’m going!

We enjoyed a sleep-in the next day, having been promised a comparatively sedate 18.1 kilometer hike to Harris Dam by the Bibbulmun Track guidebook. The stroll through the forest was pretty, in the way that all the bush around Collie is pretty, but otherwise fairly unremarkable. We pushed on, and made it to the Harris Dam campsite in good time. We stopped at the shelter for a lunch, after my hiker hunger finally took hold of me. I devoured two salami and hummus wraps, and way more M&Ms than is reasonable.

From the shelter it was an easy half an hour walk to the dam itself, which is a popular picnic destination for Collie locals and visitors alike. We passed several families and a series of quaint wooden bridges on the approach to the dam, then climbed up to the top of the dam wall. From the top we could see Harris Dam’s off-take tower, a peculiarly Stalinist-looking concrete structure that sucks up drinking water for further treatment. The unusual sight was welcome to me, as it meant I’d linked up another section of track to the bits I’d done, which now extended all the way from Harvey-Quindanning Road to Albany, and most of the bits north of HQ Road as well.

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In Soviet Collie, water pumps you.

Doing a sectional end-to-end is a game of diminishing returns, where it generally becomes more difficult to organise the remaining sections the more you’ve done. I was grateful to Mariusz and Max for making this bit possible, and helping me get 44.9km closer to my goal. After a much bumpier ride down yesterday’s roads in my poor Honda Accord, I dropped the guys off at their car and took the stunning drive through the farmland of the Lower Hotham Valley on my way home.

 

Bibbulmun guide

This is intended as a guide for the absolute beginner. If you’re an experienced hiker you probably won’t find much here for you, but hey – you don’t know what you don’t know! Feel free to comment below for advice, or suggested additions to this guide.

The Bibbulmun Track is a walking trail that stretches from Kalamunda, on the outer reaches of Perth, to the south coast harbour town of Albany. Over its (roughly) 1000-kilometer length, the Bibbulmun winds its way through dense native forests, passes through a handful of sleepy country towns, climbs up and down ranges with magnificent views, and traverses the white, sandy beaches of WA’s powerful southern coast.

To walk the whole track is an adventure in contrasts, where the reward for your hard work is to see the world change before you at the speed of a human being. I’ve lived in Western Australia all my life, but it wasn’t until I walked the Bibbulmun that I really appreciated what a rich and incredibly diverse landscape we’re blessed with.

Walking the Bibbulmun has been one of the best things I’ve ever done – not only because it whipped me into shape after years of being overweight, but because it gave me an appreciation for adventure and the natural world. It also helped me to better understand my body’s abilities, and made me realise how much more I could be doing with my life! I’m passionate about the Bibb, and am forever encouraging others to give it a go. If you’re inspired to try, here’s (some of) the info you’ll need to make it happen.

I’m doing what now?

The track is officially measured as 1003 kilometres long, divided into 58 sections, each ending in either a town or a campsite. Most of the sections are somewhere between 20 and 25 kilometres long, or about a full day’s walk for the average hiker. Near Perth, the campsites are closer together, allowing most hikers to walk two sections in a day – known as “double hutting”.

Each campsite has a three-sided shelter, a water tank, a drop toilet and picnic tables. The facilities are world class compared to most long-distance trails around the world. The Bibb’s campsites are far better than those on the famous Appalachian Trail, but not quite as lavish as those in Tasmania or New Zealand.

If you’re of average fitness, you could expect to finish the Bibbulmun in somewhere between 40 and 65 days, depending on your pace and how many rest days you take in towns. If you’re an experienced long-distance hiker, you could aim to finish in as little as a month.

Life on the Bibbulmun is pretty simple: You wake up each day, walk as far as you can, camp, and repeat. You’ll be carrying your whole life on your back, so you’ll need to make sure you have the right equipment and supplies to make it work.

Gear

For a thru-hike or multi-day section hike you’ll need:

The big four

  • Backpack
  • Tent (for emergencies, and in case the shelter is full)
  • Sleeping mat
  • Sleeping bag

Navigation

  • Official maps, available through the Bibbulmun Track Foundation
  • Official guidebooks, even more useful than the maps, also available through the Bibbulmun Track Foundation
  • Compass (some say optional, but I always take one in case I get lost)
  • A personal locator beacon (PLB – not optional for any responsible hiker)

Kitchen

  • Stove and fuel
  • Lighter, matches or flint
  • Pot
  • Cup (optional)
  • Spoon or spork
  • Knife
  • Food bag
  • Dishwashing cloth (I can get by without detergent, but you may prefer it)

Bathroom

  • Toothpaste and toothbrush
  • Hand sanitiser
  • Toilet paper
  • Trowel (for digging holes for #2 between campsites)
  • Wet wipes (for prison showers)

Miscellaneous

  • Water containers for at least three litres
  • Some method of water treatment (filter, UV lamp, chemical)
  • Trekking poles (optional, I swear by them)
  • Sunscreen
  • Bug headnet
  • Headlamp
  • Phone
  • Battery bank + cable
  • Rain cover for backpack
  • Waterproof backpack liner
  • First aid kit

Clothes

  • Shoes
  • Insoles or orthotics (optional)
  • 1 x hiking shirt
  • 1 x hiking pants or skirt
  • 1 x insulating jacket (puffy or fleece)
  • 2 x underwear
  • 2 x hiking socks
  • 1 x sleeping socks
  • Thermal top for sleeping
  • Thermal bottom for sleeping
  • Beanie
  • Hat
  • Gloves (optional)
  • Rain jacket
  • Rain pants

Food

  • Breakfasts (pre-made oat sachets are a good option here)
  • Lunch (generally cold food that doesn’t need too much preparation)
  • Dinner (dehydrated meals are popular for dinner)

Check out my gear list for some ideas.

Weight

The key difference between hiking equipment and regular camping equipment is its size and weight. 4WD campers have the luxury of an engine with a few hundred horsepower to lug all their gear around, while hikers only have their own two legs. Traditional camping equipment is rarely suitable for hikers, so you’ll need to buy equipment that’s designed for hiking. Like anything, this can vary enormously in price and quality.

If you’ve got a decent budget, I’d recommend looking at equipment made by speciality manufacturers in the US like Zpacks, Enlightened Equipment, ULA and others (detailed gear reviews coming soon!). In my humble opinion, the Australian outdoor gear industry is still stuck in the 1980s, when heavy packs were a source of pride and durability was the biggest concern. With a couple of exceptions (like the excellent Tier Gear, Wild Earth and Paddy Pallin), the Australian industry seems to have decided it’s simply not going to even try and keep up with technological advancements that are making it into the mainstream of the global hiking community.

A fully-stocked ultralight backpack using mainly gear from decent overseas manufacturers will cost somewhere between 2000-3500AUD. If that makes your eyes water, it’s possible to put together a reasonably lightweight backpacking kit with gear from Paddy Pallin, Wild Earth and a few other retailers for less than 2000AUD. If you’re on a tight budget, it’s still possible to put together a kit with gear from AliExpress and sale items – watch this space for gear reviews on how to make that happen!

Food

Restocking food has been one of the biggest dilemmas for my hikes. Each of the towns on the Bibbulmun has at least a mini supermarket, but the range is often limited and the prices are high. That said, it’s totally doable to do a thru-hike solely on town-bought supplies if you don’t mind paying a little extra and you’re not a fussy eater. I’d actually recommend this option for an end-to-end, because it supports the communities that host you and it saves you from agonising over a nutrition plan before your hike.

If you’re picky about what you eat or you have specific dietary requirements, you can make dried meals with a dehydrator and vacuum sealer, and ship them to yourself along the way. Most hotels, hostels and post offices along the track will happily hold resupply packages for you, just be sure to call in advance before you send them.

If you take this option, be warned – you WILL get sick of the food you make yourself, so be prepared to improvise. Either plan to supplement your meals with town-bought supplies, or make sure you cook up a decent range of dishes. In the past, I’ve hiked with a mix of homemade meals and supplies bought in towns.

You’ll want to make sure you get plenty of calories – about 4000-6000 a day is recommended for long-distance hikers. Sugars and fats might be your enemy in the real world, but they’re your friend on the trail. If you’re walking upwards of 20 kilometres a day for weeks at a time, it’s a battle to keep weight on. On my last 16-day section hike from Northcliffe to Albany, I lost 5 kilos – and that was with a calorie-rich diet, while stuffing my face in each of the towns I visited.

Water

Unless something goes wrong, all your water will come from the tanks at campsites or taps in towns. Tank water should be treated, either with a filter, a UV lamp or some chemical treatment method. Tank water is often yellowish from the tannins in the leaves that get stuck in the shelter gutters, but is still perfectly safe to drink once treated. Some hikers drink straight out of the tanks without treating the water, but I wouldn’t take the risk.

Fitness

Anyone with an average level of fitness should be able to complete an end-to-end, so long as they actively manage their body and don’t injure themselves. For me, that meant getting a pair of custom orthotics from my podiatrist after experiencing some serious arch pain on multi-day hikes in the Darling Range. They cost nearly $700 and don’t look like much, but they’re probably the best money I’ve ever spent on hiking gear. Ever since I got them, my arch pain has been a non-issue. If you ever got foot pain while walking, it’s worth going to a podiatrist to get your feet assessed.

I also maintain a rigorous stretching routine when I’m on multi-day hikes, to keep my legs from seizing up and to protect my knees. My kneecaps tend to rub against their track if I allow my IT band to get too tight, so I make a point of stretching it and rolling it out whenever I get the chance.

Blisters are a big problem for many hikers, so it’s worth experimenting with different shoe and sock combinations to see what works for you. I’ve never had a single blister since I started wearing Injinji toe socks as a liner, underneath thicker wool socks (in my case, Darn Toughs). Many other hikers swear by this method, but feet are very personal things!

Everybody’s body is different, so do some training hikes to work out any physical issues you might have, and how to manage them.

Climate

The only bad time to walk the Bibbulmun is summer. It can get extremely hot in WA between December and February, and the risk of bush fire is too great. Spring and autumn are the most popular times to walk the track, but winter is my favourite because I love seeing all the creeks and rivers in full flow. Rain and flooding can be a problem that time of year, but it’s generally nothing that can’t be overcome with good rain gear and a positive attitude. The Pingerup Plains between Northcliffe and Mandalay Beach are usually inundated in late winter and spring, but many hikers believe it’s worth a few days of wading to see their magnificent wildflowers in full bloom. Western Australia generally doesn’t experience snow or extreme cold, although it can get a little chilly at nights and in the early mornings, so warm clothes and sleeping gear are a must.

A cold night at Dookanelly campsite

Advice

There are plenty of great online resources with more info on long-distance hiking. For gear reviews, I often rely on Outdoor Gear Lab. For advice specific to the Bibbulmun, the Bibbulmun Track Hikers Facebook group is a useful resource. Maps, other guides and information on diversions can be found on the Bibbulmun Track Foundation website.

That’s it?

That’s it. Walking the Bibbulmun takes some preparation, but it’s something that anyone of average fitness and mobility should be able to achieve. If you’re attempting an end-to-end for the first time, you’ll inevitably develop your own way of living on the track that will probably vary a little from the directions in this guide. Embrace it, and figure out what works for you.

Happy hiking!

Day 16 of my 16-day/335km section hike from Northcliffe to Albany on the Bibbulmun Track.

Distance: 24.6km

Terrain: Mostly flat coastal ridges and bitumen.

I woke up at Muttonbird after a night that was blissfully free of millipedes, thanks to the bug netting on my tent. I ate my last breakfast of the trip, and packed up my things for the last time with a mixture of sadness and relief. I was looking forward to the achievement of walking into Albany, and completing my longest hike yet. I was looking forward to showers, hot food and a real bed, but I knew I’d miss the spectacularly uncomplicated nomadic lifestyle I’d been leading for the past couple of weeks.

I wanted to make Albany as early as possible, to give myself time to freshen up and enjoy all the wonders of civilisation before I boarded my late afternoon bus back to Perth. So the sun was barely over the horizon when I hoisted my backpack – lighter than ever – onto my back, and began the walk through the wind farm.

The terrain was much like what I’d been walking along all the way since Denmark, save for the addition of the giant, twirling wind turbines. Every now and then I’d get a spectacular view up and down the coast, before turning briefly inland and fording through more scrub. I reached the last turbine a couple of hours later, where I had a good view of how far I’d come.

Soon after I arrived at Sandpatch campsite, where I enjoyed my last lunch on the track. As it’s the last shelter before Albany, Sandpatch had a reflections register that was full of the inspiring musings of those who were about to finish or were just setting out on an end-to-end. Sadly the shelter was destroyed in a bushfire less than a couple of months after my visit. I presume the red book went up in smoke with it, so I’m glad I snapped the last of B Man’s poems, which I’d been eagerly reading at every shelter of my journey.

After departing Sandpatch, the track left the coastal ridge I’d been following since Denmark and began to descend towards King George Sound. I got my first glimpses of Albany on the way down, from all the way across the harbour. After a long descent, the track finally reached sea level. The rough, rocky path gave way to bitumen at the edge of the sound, marking the beginnings of civilisation.

I stowed my walking poles for the last time, put on some music, and enjoyed the stroll around the harbour. A sign offering free whisky tastings at the world-renowned Limeburners Distillery nearly tempted me to stop, but I didn’t think my sweat-drenched clothes and three-day-old funk would quite fit in with their tasting room’s upmarket ambience.

Buildings became bigger and more regular as I approached the centre of town, and soon I was walking past beautiful historic houses on residential streets. I crossed a couple of train tracks, passed the replica Brig Amity, rounded the Dan Murphy’s and finally arrived at the southern terminus.

I felt a wave of joy when I touched the unassuming wooden marker. I’d made it. I stood there for a few minutes, enjoying the moment.

A father and son interrupted my daydream when they turned up on a pair of mountain bikes, clearly kitted out for the Munda Biddi cycling trail, which starts at the same point. “How far are you going?” I asked the dad. “Oh, only as far as Manjimup,” he replied. “Would you mind taking my photo before you go?” I asked. He did, before they saddled up and rode off.

I walked into a Rivers clothing shop and bought a clean shirt to wear on the bus, then spent about two hours trying to find the one working public shower in Albany. After a meal at Hungry Jacks – definitely the best Whopper I’ve had in my life – I trudged down to the bus station and boarded the coach for the long ride home.