Coming on a hiking trip
This page aims to be an introduction for those taking their first few hiking/bushwalking trips. Experienced hikers will have known or seen most of the content on this page. For those taking the plunge to step out of your comfort zone into our wonderful wilderness, this is the page to start. We all hope to enjoy our time out in the bush, become a better member of the team and make everyone happy on the trip, and this will hopefully achieve exactly that.
Cover Pic: Grose Valley from Butterbox Pt
What to expect
When you sign up to a hiking trip you should see:
a trip leader in charge of leading the way and arranging most of the trip
sometimes more experienced members will co-lead the trip. They might also be arranging part of the trip, but some might be more in the back offering advice
other trip members just like you. They may vary in experience levels, some crazy experienced while some might not. They are the people you'll see throughout the entire trip, from the start till the end, all enjoying the experience as much as you do
The trip leader is usually the person who posts/announces the trip and organises everything, from route to sometimes transport and accommodation. There is another page dedicated to how to become a trip leader. In every trip, it is the responsibility of the trip leader, and you can safely assume that:
The trip leader (or any co-leaders) will do wayfinding and all you have to do is follow them
They will try their best to look out for your wellbeing, arrange breaks after a treacherous section, and make sure you can catch up with everyone
Coach you through difficult sections, such as those involving rock scrambling or climbs.
Handle emergencies such as injuries
Advise you on all the preparation work needed to safely be on a trip. This includes bringing water, food, or on overnight camping trips tents and sleeping bags.
Making sure you pack properly for the trip, bringing all the essentials
Additional things they do include socialising with trip members, knowledge sharing or even wildlife spotting
Essentially, the trip leader will take care of everything bush-related. They are here to look after you and respond to any concerns you may have. Trip leaders should only lead on routes they are familiar with (or capable of), so the instances of incidents occurring on trips is very rare. Some people tend to fear venturing out to unfamiliar places but knowing what the trip leader is supposed to do should relieve some of the fear.
In every trip there is always your side of things that trip leaders cannot take care of. This will be fully your responsibility and not the trip leader. A trip will only be good for everyone if you put in your effort and deal with tasks on your side independently. This includes:
Arranging transport [for carpooling trips]. Trip leaders will help to make sure everyone has a ride, but asking for a ride is your responsibility. If a list of people offering a lift is sent out, you will need to contact them individually and ask them to join for a ride. If you do not ask you will not be coming on the trip. This is one of the many items where you, not the leader, have to make the effort to arrange.
Catching public transport [for public transport accessible trips]. Trip leaders will advise on which train to catch, usually from Central. However, meeting the train and showing up at the station is your responsibility. Trip leaders cannot help if you can't find the train, miss the train or are running late to make the connection. Any questions on public transport should go to transportnsw.info or other transport staff, NOT the trip leader.
Meeting with the leader. If you're at the meetup point you should make an effort to meet up with the leader. You should be the one texting the leader on where they are. If a trip leader doesn't see you at the scheduled time they will see you as a no-show and leave without you.
Managing availability. Unless otherwise stated you should allow full-day availability. This usually means as early as 8 in the morning, down to 3 pm-midnight. Trips further away from Sydney will require an early start time, sometimes 4 or 5 am. Many trips do overrun, getting out of the trail at 8 pm, and when dinner is accounted this will mean you get home at midnight. Leaders will be very frustrated if you show up and do not have the required availability
Reading emails. Emails may be long but contain a lot of important information. If they volunteer their time to type an email then you should return the favour and read it. Not reading an email can mean missing out on important info and is a safety risk.
Fit for a full day, intensive outdoor activity. If you are extremely fatigued or intoxicated you will be sent home and likely blacklisted. Catch a good sleep before coming on a trip, this is usually at least 6 hours. If you are partying the day before it's generally fine but if you show up with extreme fatigue you will be sent home and it will be your last trip. Alcohol is generally permitted mid to end of trip, not at the start. If you are doing a hike the day before, make sure you have the strength for another day of hike.
Know your medical conditions. If you've injured yourself previously, have a twisted ankle or knee and are still in pain, then you should not go on a hike. Remember that if you are unwell in the middle of the bush it will be hard to arrange support, and you will likely have to walk out with all the pain.
Trip leaders, like any good people, may advise slightly on it but should not be responsible for it. Trip leaders will get very annoyed (and will seriously consider rejecting you next time) if you bother them on items within your responsibility, or fail to fulfill them.
No-Show / Running late
People do run late, trip leaders included. If you are running late for the meetup time you should text the trip leader and notify them as early as possible. This way alternative arrangements can be made. If you are running late for a train and have missed the scheduled departure, consider yourself to have missed the trip. Many intercity trains (such as Blue Mtns Line) run at 30mins-1hr frequencies and trip leaders will not wait half an hour just for you.
If you really happen to be running late, try make arrangements yourself before asking the trip leader. Will you be able to catch the next train and still make the connection? Will you be able to drive/join a car ride instead and catch up with the group? If none of this works, then consider yourself to have missed the trip. Running late and not contacting anyone will make you a no-show.
If you have missed the trip, do not attempt to join the group midway into the trip, unless otherwise advised to. Venturing into the bush by yourself comes with risks and the trip leader cannot be responsible if you take reckless actions. Trip leaders will also be focusing on leading the trip, not responding to your questions about where you are. Asking the trip leader for the route is also time-consuming and they will often be unwilling to do it on a trip. If you miss the trip, go home, sleep well, and don't be the trouble maker.
Really can't make it into the trip? Trip leaders often understand if you have to drop out but this should be done as reasonably early as possible. This means if you're rostered for work, you should let the trip leader know as soon as your shift is confirmed. If you're sick let them know and they'll also be fine. What's not OK is people who don't show up on trips and never contact the leader on their whereabouts. This is considered a no-show and will get you blacklisted. Do not make up fake reasons such as being sick, as we can easily spot fake reasoning and place you on a blacklist. If you really did sleep over or forget there's a trip, be honest and it'll usually be fine (letting the trip leader know you slept over is not no-show).
Communication with leader
Unless otherwise stated all communication should be through email. Some people may opt for other forms of communication such as instagram groups but you should always assume email communication. Check your emails regularly, at least once a day. Reply to emails when you are told to. Read all the conversations, as mentioned above it is a safety risk if this is not done.
Emails of the same subject from different people will automatically bundle up in your mailbox, called an email thread. This allows you to jump up and down in conversations. When you reply to emails, watch for who you are replying to. If you are communicating personally, then only relevant parties should be included. If you are adding details for everyone on a trip, or asking a question that others might want to ask as well, then go "reply all". Replying to all allows everyone to see the conversation on the thread and respond. Be inclusive wherever possible, and reply all.
A phone number of the leader is usually supplied for timely communication. If you need to communicate you should always text the leader, not call the leader. Calling is only preferred when the person is likely driving. Calling on the trip leader for non-urgent requests, such as where they are or where the train is (well as mentioned above you should not ask about train finding) you will get the leader very annoyed. Getting the pieces together in the start of the trip is already a challenge for the leader and you should not disturb them further with calls.
When asking a question to a trip leader, these elements should be seen:
Research first. Has it been mentioned in trip leader's emails? Is it readily available online? Google first, then if in doubt ask. Many info of popular hiking tracks are available online, same as tips you might need on a trip. Do not ask things already mentioned in trip leaders' emails or trip descriptions.
Detail your effort. If you've researched online slightly for the trip then mention it to the trip leader as part of the question. They will be happy to see the reasoning behind your question and give you a good response. Trip leaders like people who put effort into their part. Show that you are willing to help.
Be direct with your question, and use concise wording. Go straight to your main question and all the explanations at the back. No one wants to read lengthy paragraphs of nonsense.
Keep pleasantries out of it. Some people type long paragraphs trying to thank trip leader for their effort but it serves no purpose but to waste time. A simple thank you would do. The best way to thank a trip leader is by doing your part and making the trip fun for all.
If you have pictures, links, try to include as much as you can. A picture speaks a thousand words.
Proper footwear and apparel
Similar to any outdoor activities not having proper footwear and clothing is a safety risk. You will be refused onto the trip if this is not adhered to.
Footwear: Sneakers are fine, hiking shoes are preferred. No high heels please. Different people have their preferences and sometimes they walk bare foot. Good hiking shoes will give you good grip on surfaces and waterproofing will keep you dry.
Apparel: Keep your expensive bulky coats at home. Everything on a hiking trip should be as lightweight as possible. For a day hike synthetic/polyester t-shirts with long trousers are recommended. Cotton t-shirts are fine but you'll get cold when they are wet, and are therefore not preferred. Merino wools are good for multi-day hikes or in snow, and can be worn similarly to synthetic t-shirts. If you think you'll get cold, bring a light fleece and not a bulky heavy jacket. Heavyweight down jackets are often not needed on a day hike and not preferred on overnight hikes. No one wears heavy jackets on a hike as you will overheat quickly. Synthetic or merino fleeces are good, and some can be bought at a fairly cheap price.
Backpacks: You must carry only one backpack. No shopping bags are allowed as they restrict your mobility on a hike. With your backpack you should be able to fit all essentials inside and not have parts dangling on the outside- they will get trapped in the bush. Ideally your backpack should come with waist straps- this will be explained down the line.
Preparing to sign up- fitness for a trip
Planning for public transport
Train timetables can be easily found on the website of major transport operators.
In Sydney head to TransportNSW.info or google "[Train line name] timetable". Try to use a timetable and not google map directions. Also check for weekend trackworks in the same website or by planning the trip and see if the exact train departure shows up. There are only 4 regional intercity rail lines in Sydney: BMT - Blue Mountains, CCN - Central Coast & Newcastle, SCO - South Coast and SHL - Southern Highlands.
Try use the journey planner supplied by Transport for NSW, link here. If there are trackworks the directions provided by google maps or tripview may not be accurate.
Packing for a trip
Bring enough water. People can run out of water and suffer from dehydration or even heat stroke on a hot summer day. No water, no trip. A general rule for how much water to bring for summer:
1 hr hike = 500mL water
This means a 6 hr hike will require 3L water, and 8 hr hike will require 4L. Water can be heavy but is an essential part of hiking in hot weather. This is for reference as some people consume less water, and some consume way more. As usual it's entirely fine to mix and match drinks- a bit of tea, a bit of juice, a bit of energy drinks, as long as the total volume reaches this required level. Remember that the amount of water to carry is proportional to the duration of the hike, not the distance.
For winter: 2L of water a day for all trips.
Between summer and winter: this depends on the weather. Usually somewhere between 2-3L. However if the temperature exceeds 30 degrees, consider it as summer.
If you run out of water or not bring enough you will be sent home. In summer this is strictly enforced for the safety and wellbeing of yourself and others. Remember that if you run out of water, someone else will have to give you water which compromises on their safety.