Richelle Olsen has a clear message for those who want to go bushwalking this summer – don’t plan your trip off Instagram.
The hiking guide said people often make plans after seeing beautiful pictures on the social media site of famous walks like the Razorback Track at Mount Hotham in the Victorian High Country.
“What people don’t realise is the Razorback walk, for example, it is an epic walk, it is beautiful, it is stunning, it is probably intermediate and it is 11 kilometres each way,” she said.
“That means it is a 22-kilometre walk – for a beginner that means they can bite off more than they can chew.”
Ms Olsen’s outdoor adventure company runs body-positive hikes and expeditions for women and non-binary people – with a focus on hikes that are suitable for those who have never been bushwalking.
She said she expected more people to head out bushwalking and exploring remote parts of Australia this summer because of COVID restrictions on overseas travel, and had some simple tips for those who were new to hiking.
“What I suggest to people is you can do sections of these epic walks,” she said.
“Just because you are going to the Razorback, doesn’t mean you have to do all of the Razorback.”
Ms Olsen said it was important for beginners to also know they don’t have to do a long and difficult walk to enjoy the outdoors.
Her suggestion for beginner overnight hikes in Victoria included parking along the Warburton Rail Trail in the Yarra Ranges, not too far from town, and walking in to stay for the night.
Another idea was catching the ferry to French Island and walking the six kilometres to the campsite.
Ms Olsen said rookie mistakes she often saw (and hikers should try to avoid) were people becoming dehydrated or badly sunburnt while bushwalking, suffering an injury from fatigue, or starting a day-hike too late in the afternoon and not finishing before dark.
She said joining a suitable hiking group was a great way for people new to the outdoors to meet other hikers and improve their fitness and skills.
Learn to reverse a caravan before taking it out
Tim Bates runs 4WD tours through Victoria’s High Country and expects busy roads and campgrounds this summer, with people new to caravanning and 4WD trips venturing to remote parts of the state for the first time.
That view is supported by the Caravan Industry Association of Australia, which earlier this year noticed a boom in caravan sales across all states, with reports of a jump in the number of people new to camping and caravanning.
Mr Bates said for those planning remote road trips it was important to pay attention to total fire ban days, to listen to ABC Radio for bushfire updates, to be aware of the risk of snakes, and to leave an itinerary with someone.
He also recommended anyone travelling outside of areas with phone reception to consider buying a personal locator beacon in case of an emergency.
“If you get into trouble, it is not a matter of if someone is going to come, it is a matter of when,” he said.
The beacons transmit a distress signal to emergency services through a satellite system.
But before new bush travellers set off, Mr Bates said booking into a 4WD course to learn how to drive in rough terrain could help.
“You’ll drive your own vehicle with a licensed instructor beside you and run over the basics of how a 4WD works,” he said.
For those who plan to tow a caravan for the first time this summer, Mr Bates said it was essential they learn how to reverse with their van before setting off.
“It is a big one. It is amazing how many people can’t reverse trailers and caravans. You do see that a lot,” he said.
“So reversing is a very important skill to know how to do and be comfortable doing it.”
Check your safety gear and stay off the booze when out on the water
Wesley Chandler is the president of the Knox Boating Fishing Club, based at Wantirna, in Melbourne’s outer east.
He said it was common to see people with their first boat rush to get onto the water, before they had properly prepared.
“People rushing, more worried about going fishing and not worried about the safety aspects of the process,” he said.
His had some important advice for those with a new boat licence.
“The main thing is to check your safety gear to start with and make sure the weather conditions are right,” he said.