Tag Archives: bushwalk

Bushwalking Fitness | Pt 2. Using a Heart Rate Monitor and a Smartphone to Measure Fitness Variables

Knowledge of which heart rate variables can help you to plan your training? Can a heart rate monitor help you decide whether you are over-training? How do you know if you are getting fitter? How can measuring heart rate variability (HRV) help you decide?

Disclaimer:  I am not a trained sports medicine professional, and therefore the advice given here needs to be checked with your doctor or fitness professional before application. Values vary enormously from person-to-person and depend on your health, age, gender and fitness level. Sometimes a value which would be excellent for a very fit person can indicate a heart malfunction for someone who has a sedentary lifestyle.

As mentioned in the previous post, there are now a number of low cost, high quality smartphone (both Apple and Android) apps which allow you to very accurately measure, and store, many of the heart rate variables of interest to bushwalkers and other athletes.

Aerobic Capacity (VO2 max)

This is one of the most reliable measures of your cardiovascular fitness, and measures your body’s aerobic capacity ie  ability to take up and use oxygen.

Some smartphone apps such as Polar Beat and many of the Polar wrist computers with OwnIndex®  can estimate this with 86-93% accuracy by measuring your heart rate (255 beats) over 3-5 minutes, when you are lying flat at rest.  The watch takes into account your resting heart rate and HR variability, along with body weight, height, and activity level. Care is needed in taking measurements in a consistent manner, usually as early in the morning as possible, before any activity, to allow day-to-day comparisons.

The improvement you may observe in as little as 4 weeks of aerobic training, is more important than the absolute value, and tells you whether your training program has been successful. I have used an F11 Polar wrist heart rate monitor for many years, and find that measurements taken every week give a very reliable indicator of my fitness trend.

You can download a copy of the Polar OwnIndex® chart,  which gives you an indication of your level of fitness, based on age and gender.


Heart Rate Variability (HRV)

Overtraining is a major worry for those who train hard and often, as it may take many months to years to recover. Fortunately, overtraining can be predicted (controversial) by some high quality heart rate monitors and appropriate apps, which are able to sense small variations in resting heart rate and heart rate variability, the variation in the time difference between peaks,  from day to day. In general, HRV decreases with overtraining and resting heart rate increases.

These apps (see previous post)  can measure your HRV, in a few minutes prior to each day’s training, and advise whether you need a rest day for recovery, or whether you are making real progress. They are sensitive enough to be able to detect an approaching illness, changes in stress level, over-training and even variation in diet, if coupled with a high quality heart rate sensor (eg BlueTooth Polar H7); far more reliable and sensitive than the Tanita body composition scales I had been using until now to measure fitness trends.

These apps are widely used by athletes and professional sports people and have a lot of sports science research to back up their reliability claims. In the few days, since I have been measuring HRV, I have found these apps  easy and quick to use and that they produce results consistent with my subjective assessment.

While trends on their own are useful, they are much more valuable if the trends can be correlated with changes in activity, diet, stress, training load etc. and several of these apps allow this “environmental” data to be logged simultaneously. Other apps such as Precision Pulse, allow training load to be calculated objectively, using the TRIMP method. Without an accurate measurement of your training load, a meaningful assessment of the trend is difficult.


Maximum Heart Rate (HRmax)

 If you are using a heart rate monitor to adjust your training load then you need to know your maximum heart rate (HRmax), as it is essential measurement to determine your training zones. This can be estimated by a formula, but the actual value (as measured by a heart rate stress test) will vary in the range ± 20 bpm for most people.

Many smartphone apps use one of these formulae to calculate your HRmax, but usually offer the opportunity to enter a user value, if you have had it measured accurately.

During my training sessions of about 4 km, which include a 200m climb and a similar descent, my maximum heart rate reaches an average of about 82% of my HRmax (162 for myself) and my average heart rate is about 63% of HRmax.


Resting Heart Rate (HRrest)

This is usually measured after 15-20 minutes of lying down, before your day starts. If you are using a HRM, wait until it stabilises. The value depends upon fitness, stress, diet and health status, which varies on a daily basis. Very low HRrest may indicate a heart abnormality in someone who is not an athlete.

 As you get fitter your resting heart rate should get lower. My average HRrest is 44, but varies daily  between 40 and 49. An increase of more than few beats can indicate that your are over-training, but there are many other possible explanations, hence this measurement on its own has limited value.

Heart Recovery Rate (HRrec)

Heart rate recovery, a measure of the drop in heart rate when you stop exercising, is considered an excellent measure of fitness, with a more rapid drop indicating a higher level of fitness. After 30 minutes, your heart rate should have returned to its pre-exercise value, and if greater than 120 after 5 minutes, you have probably pushed yourself too hard. Walking slowly (cool down) for 5 minutes after stopping exercise is advised to increase recovery and reduce heart stress.

An alternative method involves taking your pulse during exercise and then again 1 minute after cessation. Divide the difference by 10 to get the Recovery Rate Number.

  • Outstanding greater than 6
  • Excellent 4-6
  • Good 3-4
  • Fair 2-3
  • Poor less than 2

You should consult a doctor if it is 1.2 or lower, as there is a potential heart risk.

The recovery rate is independent of age, but is linked to fitness and heart mortality.


Orthostatic Heart Rate (OHR)

Your heart rate increases when you stand, and this increase is usually in the range 15-20 bpm. If it is greater than this you have probably not recovered from training the previous day, are under stress or have an illness approaching.  This can be used as a rough guide to your fitness, as the lower this figure, the fitter your heart.

Measurements should be made after 15 minutes resting in a supine position (HRrest) and then again 15 seconds after standing, or alternatively just take the maximum reached after standing.

Alternatively, the difference between the your resting HR and standing HR  can be recorded over a few weeks and the average used as a guide to decide the meaning of each day’s measurement and how to vary your training. My average difference (OHR) is 14 but varies widely between 6 and 31 depending on whether I have over-reached or have an illness approaching.


Heart Rate Training Zones

There are many apps and web sites that allow you to calculate your heart rate zones, if you know your resting pulse and maximum heart rate. If you don’t already know this, you can allow the app to estimate it from your age. Polar have a free app Polar Beat which can monitor your training while it is actually happening and store the results, but I prefer to use Walkmeter, as it gives excellent voice (Australian) feedback during the walk and  can be controlled with the remote.

Typically 60-70% of HRmax is your fat burning and recovery zone, 70-80% is your aerobic zone, 80-90% is your anaerobic zone, and 90-100% is reserved for interval training. Depending on your reasons for training, it is important to keep within the correct zones, otherwise all your efforts can be wasted

One of the main limitations of this method is that heart rate varies depending on dehydration (+ 7.5%), heat and humidity (+10 bpm), altitude (+10-20%) and natural biological variation (± 2-4 bpm). BrianMac


Related Posts

Bushwalking Fitness | Pt 1 Smart Phone Apps to Fine Tune your Bushwalk Training  
Bushwalking Fitness | Pt 3 My Choice of Smartphone Apps for Fitness Training
Other Fitness Posts

Some more references

Bushwalking Fitness (14)
Training with iThlete
Maximum Heart Rate (BrianMAC)
Heat Rate Training Zones (BrianMAC)
More about the Polar Fitness Test 
Heart rate training limitations 
What Makes a Difference in Heart Rate Recovery Time After a Workout?
How Long After Working Out Does Your Heart Rate Return to Base?

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Bushwalking Fitness | Planning a Bushwalk Training Session

What are the essential components of a bushwalking training session? Why are warm ups and cool down important? What types of stretching should be used and when? 

Disclaimer: I have no training in sports medicine nor am I an elite athletics coach, so the advice given below should be discussed with a professional and modified to suit your age and fitness, or you can read the links to the research I have provided and decide for yourself.

This post is to alert bushwalkers to recent changes in the advice given by sports coaches and researchers and to offer some safe alternatives, which can be incorporated in training sessions for bushwalkers, leading to more enjoyable bushwalking.


 In the 80’s, coaches and sports medicine practitioners were recommending static stretches before exercise as a way of preventing injuries and muscles soreness. Unfortunately, this incorrect advice is now incorporated into the pre-walk routines of many bushwalkers.

Recent research has shown that static stretches before exercise don’t prevent muscle soreness or injuries and can actually be counter-productive by reducing the explosive power of major muscles, for as long as several hours after the stretching.

Essential components

If you wish to reduce muscle soreness and injuries, the most important thing  you should do before exercise is to warm up fully and only once this has been done, attempt some dynamic stretches. 

Dynamic stretching increases range of movement, blood and oxygen flow to soft tissues prior to exertion. Increasingly coaches and sports trainers are aware of the role in dynamic stretching in improving performance and reducing the risk of injury. (Wikipedia)

Traditionally stretching before exercise has been static  (ie held for 10 – 60 seconds at maximum contraction), but more recently dynamic stretches, typically swings and lunges, have become favored, as they mimic more closely the actions which occur naturally in the activity and can be considered part of the warm-up. During the controlled swing, the maximum stretch is reached but is not held and this is then repeated in a fluid motion. These are the sorts of activities you see Olympic runners and swimmers doing just before they reach the starting blocks.

After strenuous exercise, low intensity cool down exercises, involving the muscles just used, such as slow walking, are essential to remove metabolic products such as lactic acid from the muscles, to return the body to a pre-exercise levels, to reduce muscle soreness and aid in quick recovery.

 Static stretching can be used as part of the cool down as it stretches tightened and contracted muscles back to original size, and in so doing produces a feeling of relaxation. For those over 65 years, this is the ideal opportunity to increase flexibility, without the risk of injury, as the body is already warm.

Example of a Training Program for Bushwalking (Thanks Jarrad)

Warm up

This may take more than 5 minutes initially, but this will soon decrease with familiarity. Once you have completed the dynamic warm up, try some light repetitive exercise eg walking up and down stairs 10 times just prior to stepping off for your walk. Alternatively, commence your training session at a slow pace and low intensity for the first few hundred metres.

Your training walks

Logically, your training sessions should exercise all the muscles you will be using on your walk. In a gym environment, it is difficult to know which muscles to exercise and upon which to give more focus, but when actually walking this all happens automatically.

If your aim is to walk off-track with a heavy pack, in hilly, rough terrain then that’s the training you should do. If you intend walking on the flat with a light day pack then that’s how you should exercise.  Training off-track has the additional benefits of developing balance, and adding interest to what can be repetitive and boring.  Balance is an often ignored attribute of a good walker, and can have a major impact on speed of movement and safety.

Don’t forget to build up slowly: increasing either distance or speed a little each day, beginning on the flat and increasing the steepness of the terrain, and adding weight to your backpack at regular intervals, when you feel you have reached your maximum speed.

Unfortunately not everybody has access to a suitable training environment, so your gym programme will need to exercise all the muscle groups you will be using, developing the balance and strength that climbing on rough terrain automatically produces. I highly recommend that you incorporate a Pilates or yoga class or two, as they incorporate stretches which focus on the core muscles so essential for balance and carrying a backpack.

Cool downs

  • 3 -5 min slow walk
  • 5 -10 min Static Stretches (eg www.brianmac.co.uk/stretch.htm)
  • Refuel: both fluid and easily digestible food (eg fruit or sport drink)

Once, again Brian Mac has a number of very good stretches that should be conducted after exercising. The longer you can hold a stretch for, without bouncing, the more benefit you will gain. To start with hold a stretch for about 20-30 sec and conduct each stretch twice. Those over 65 years, may need to hold for 60 seconds to get maximum benefit.

Another site which is also very helpful is:


It has pretty much the same stretches as the Brian Mac site, and maybe a few alternatives if you find that some of the stretches are hurting etc.


Brian Mac


Peak Performance

Related posts 

Bushwalking Fitness | Is stretching a waste of time?
Bushwalking Fitness | Stretches for Bushwalkers
Bushwalking Fitness (9)

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    Bushwalking Navigation | Documenting Your Route Plan

    How do you document a route plan? How can you use Google Earth to check the route and save pics of critical navigational decision points? How do you use mapping software to plot and export the waypoints to your GPS, print the route and elevation graph? How can you annotate your map pdfs? How do you protect your maps from the weather?

    This post is part 2 of  Bushwalking Navigation | A Route Plan Workflow

    Getting the “big picture”

    The first step in planning any trip is to read guide books, talk to other bushwalkers and search  bushwalking forums, websites and blogs to discover which routes are popular. 

    Once you have decided on your intended route you will need to check water availability, weather conditions, locate existing tracks, property boundaries and permitted camping spots.  Don’t forget to check photographic websites such as Flickr, which give a good idea of popular sites and the scenery to be expected.

    Next study the terrain to work out your likely speed, keeping in mind height gains and losses, the density of vegetation, the amount and difficulty of any off-track walking, and the presence of waterfalls in creek lines, which may need to be bypassed.  Once you know these you will be able decide how far apart your camping spots can be and determine each day’s starting and finishing times.

    I have discussed many of these navigation techniques and route plan design in previous posts (21) and won’t go further into detail now.

    Finding a Map

    You should never rely solely upon a GPS for critical navigational decisions and for this reason bushwalkers should always carry topographic maps covering the route, and the surrounding countryside just in case you get off track. These can be purchased from a local map or outdoors shop, and are usually available at 1:50,000 scale but sometimes at 1:25,000, which provide more detail, for popular areas.

    If you are walking the Heysen Trail in South Australia, there are two excellent guide books (Northern and Southern), with log books readily available available which include maps that are adequate for most walkers. The CFS also publishes (Mapland) excellent map books, and these too are available from map and outdoor shops. Many downloadable walking brochures for our parks are available from the Department of Environment’s Parks SA website.

    With digital maps readily available, many people are using mapping software to select just the relevant parts of maps and to enlarge these beyond the 1:50K scale than is usually available in printed maps, making it easier to see the contour and creek lines. If you are lucky enough to live in NZ, you can download 1:50,000 maps free of charge and even Australia has 1:250,000 maps for free download from Geoscience which are useful for getting the big picture and planning access roads.

    Using Mapping Software

    My apologies to Windows users for the following Mac centric discussion. 

    As a MacBook Pro user I have used MacGPS Pro mapping software for many years to import my scanned maps, plot my routes and export the waypoints to my GPS. A print out of the waypoints file is an essential record of each waypoint’s  name, grid reference, comments, and elevation

    One big advantage of mapping software is that it is possible to enlarge the map on screen to locate the exact position of known waypoints  or to determine the grid reference to 7 figure accuracy of any point you can see. Once you have decided on your waypoints you can rapidly link these to form a route, calculating distances and bearings automatically by dragging from point to point, and plotting a route elevation graph by selecting the route single click. The elevation graph is useful for estimating time to be taken.

    From MacGPS Pro

    The disadvantage of using a Macintosh is that without a Windows emulator, such as Bootcamp, and an installed version of Windows, OziExplorer software doesn’t work.

    For older Macs (not using intel cpu) use Virtual PC or for new OS X Macs with the Intel CPU use either Bootcamp or emulation software called VirtualBox or ParallelsVirtualBox (Sun Microsystems Inc.) is free for personal use. It works in OS X on Intel Macs. (OziExplorer – Running OziExplorer on a MAC or Linux Computer )

    There is a way to overcome this and that is to import the maps from the disc in .ecw format into a graphics program such as Graphic Converter, select the relevant part and then save as a PICT or TIFF file.  Some of the .ecw image files are small enough to import directly into a mapping program such as MacGPS Pro.

    Often the .ecw image file will be accompanied by a matching .map calibration file and providing you keep it in the same folder as the ecw file, you can then import into MacGPS Pro and automatically calibrate the map. You could of course still do it the old way which was to scan and process a hard copy of the map.

    Assuming there is no matching .map file available, calibrating a digital map using MacGPS Pro requires that you first rotate the map (using GraphicConverter) so the northing gridlines are horizontal and then enter the full 7 figure grid references of four widely spread points, usually near the corners of your map.

    Top Left:  Easting 0263000 Northing 6540000, Grid Zone 54J, AGD94

    From MacGPS Pro

    You must also enter the UTM grid zone and know the projection and map datum eg I am using a portion of the Oraparinna map for a forthcoming trip

    From MacGPS Pro

    NB UTM Grid Zones is SA are either 52 (far west), 53 (west) or 54 (central and east)

    Annotating your pdfs

    Annotated portion of Oraparinna map

    There are several programs (I use Skim) that allow you to annotate a pdf. This is particularly useful as it allows you to add grid references to the margins of your map (NB MacGPS Pro has a menu item “View/Gridlines” which does this automatically for you) and add notes about the route. Most programs allow you to add arrows showing routes and highlights. Once you have done this, you can export as a pdf and if you have the full version of Acrobat take advantage of its ability to reduce the file size significantly, to as much as a tenth.

    Using Google Earth to Plan a Route

    Google Earth can be used to visualize the route, finding 4WD tracks, checking whether creek lines are heavily vegetated and to see if ridges would be easier going. Cattle, goat and sheep tracks converging on a creek line probably indicates a waterhole, spring or a shallow crossing. Rainwater tanks, galvanised iron shelters, windmills and bores can sometimes be seen in Google Earth, even if they are not marked on the map.

    Flinders Ranges: Google Earth screen capture

    Simply import your .kml file showing your waypoints and then zoom in and tilt to see your route in 3D. Use a screen capture program, such as  Snapz Pro X, to capture pics of significant parts of the route, with your waypoints shown. Save these to your iPhone, camera or print, for later reference while on the walk.

    NB I can never get my GPS waypoints to exactly match those in Google Earth, as I assume it uses a different map datum

    Protecting your maps

    One of the advantages of printing your maps from pdfs is that you can print them in A4 format which means they can either be laminated back-to-back or placed in a map case without the need for folding.

    Other relevant posts

    The Bushwalking Navigation series

    Other Resources

    Department of Environment’s Parks SA website
    Bushwalk Australia Forum
    Friends of the Heysen Trail

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    Tramping the Routeburn Track in New Zealand

    Tramping (bushwalking, trekking, hiking for non-NZanders) the Routeburn Track recently showed me how variable the weather in the South Island can be….sunny one moment, foggy and raining the next, with snow falling a few hundred metres above the tree line. What fantastic scenery!

    I’ve just come back (mid-November) from tramping the Routeburn Track over three days starting from the Routeburn Shelter and finishing at The Divide, with overnight stops at Routeburn Falls Hut and Lake Mackenzie Hut.

    While not a difficult walk,  full wet weather gear and winter clothing is essential for safety reasons, even in summer. Waterproof boots make the days much more comfortable.

    This was a most enjoyable walk despite the fact that it rained for most of the time, as the alpine scenery was awe-inspiring with the mists swirling into the valleys, the snow capped mountains towering hundred of metres above and thousands of waterfalls, which are often non-existent in drier months. Sometimes the sun would break through the clouds revealing the majestic scenery and the glacial valleys with their braided rivers. It’s no wonder that the South Island is the location for the Hobbit and Lord of the Rings movies.

    I did not regret having booked a bed in the huts through DOC, as enjoying the camaraderie of fellow walkers, often from distant parts of the world, along with the evening talks by the hut wardens were highlights. In wet weather, there is nothing like a warm fire to dry out your clothes, and a comfortable mattress at night, without the sound of roaring winds and pelting rain. Of course, there are disadvantages, such as a lack of privacy and the disruption to sleep by snorers and those getting up in the night to go outside.

    The DOC huts (pdf brochure download) offer a touch of convenience and comfort not available to those who pitch a tent.

    November is at the beginning of the walking season and as such the risk of avalanche is often present to the extent that the track is either closed or helicopter transfers necessary to avoid the danger. This proved to be true in our case, with a heli-shuttle operating past the overhanging snow cliffs from Lake Harris to the Harris Saddle shelter, ……at our cost of course!

    I never cease to be amazed by those who attempt such walks without even a waterproof jacket and sand shoes, which offer no protection against the freezing cold rivulets crossing the track. No wonder people have died from hypothermia on this track before!

    Some more closely related posts: Routeburn Track (8)

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    Review | The Shell Guide to the Routeburn (NZ) Track by Philip Temple | Pt 3 Route Guide

    Planning to complete the Routeburn track in New Zealand? Want some hints from someone who has walked the track many times? Interested in the flora and birds? This article is a part review of the 40 page Routeburn Track Guide by Philip Temple, published by Whitcoulls in 1976, which has become a NZ tramping classic and still contains valuable information.

    © Bushwalker

    Route Guide

    The track is 39 kms long and average travelling time according to Philip Temple is only 13 hours ” … so that a very fit, skilled tramper with a light pack might accomplish it in one summer’s day.

    As is common, he recommends completing the walk in 3 days

    Day 1 Routeburn Lodge (Shelter) to Routeburn Falls Hut(8km, 2.5hrs, + 250m)
    Day 2 Routeburn Falls Hut to Harris Saddle (4.8 km, 1.5 hrs, +300m) and then to Lake Mackenzie (10.5km, 3 hrs, -300m)
    Day 3 Lake Mackenzie to Lake Howden (9km, 3hrs, +?m) to Milford Road. (3.2km, 1 hr plus 1hr if climb Key Summit, – 150m)

    Routeburn Falls Hut. Photo taken by Steffen Sledz

    Day 1 Track Notes

    Bridal Veil Ck footbridge 1 hr
    Birds: parakeets, robin, fantails
    Flora: Montane beech forest dominates between 500 – 1150 m with three species of beech: red (lower, warmer slopes), mountain , silver. Forest floor thickly carpeted by coprosma, fuchsia, ribbonwood, pepperwood and on the Hollyford slopes, kamahi, broadleaf and totara.
    Upper flats: arrive after couple of hours, to cross the river by bridge. The Flats (702m) were the upper limits of horse traffic.
    Looking north up the northern branch of the Routeburn you can see Mt Somnus (about 5.5 km away, true 32.5°, GR E0280942 N5048358, 2282m) and further away to the right is Turret Head (16 km across Dart, 62.4° True, GR E0292265, N5051650, 2350m)
    Routeburn Flats to Routeburn Falls Hut (976m) 3.2 km, walking time 1.25hrs. The lower hut is DOC and the upper private.
    Flora: giant mountain buttercup blooms in early summer in the beds of the higher creeks

    Lake Harris, Routeburn track, from the path from Harris Saddle to Conical Hill. © Zoharby

    Day 2 Track Notes

    1. Routeburn Falls to Harris Saddle, the boundary between Mt Aspiring and Fiordland national parks.

    Flora: giant buttercup, flowering spaniard, daisy, gentian, ourisia, hebe, snowgrass.
    The track above Lake Harris may be impassable if snow covered and should not be attempted in bad weather.
    Views from Harris Saddle: Hollyford valley to west, and behind that the Darran Mountains with Mt Christina (2692m)12 km away to the SSW ( 232° T). Mt Tutoko ( 2964m) to the north.
    If you have time there are excellent views to be had by climbing Conical Hill (1515m) to the north of the saddle.
    Harris saddle only has emergency shelter

    2. Harris Saddle to Lake Mackenzie

    About 2km from the Saddle there is a track intersection with Deadman’s Track and after another 2km a large square rock which can be used as an emergency bivouac. Don’t waste time on this section if the weather forecast is looking to be poor.

    Looking north, “…..you will be able to see right down the Hollyford to Lake McKerrow and the sea at Martins Bay ….” 8.5 km to the south (200° T), at the head of the Hollyford Key Summit (GR E0272856 N 5033572) stands out.

    Great reflections of Mt Emily (1815m) to the NE can be obtained in the lake early morning or evening.

    Mackenzie Hut at Mackenzie Lake, Routeburn Track, New Zealand. © Steffen Sledz

    Day 3 Track Notes

    1. Lake Mackenzie to Lake Howden via Earland Falls

    Views: Hollyford and Darrans
    Flora: veronica scrub, beech forest, red of rata blossom in summer.
    Birds: sweet notes of the bellbird, rattle and bell call of the kaka, whooshing beat of the bush pigeons, waxeyes at forest edge, brown creepers deeper in the bush, black backed gull on rocky bluffs.
    After 2 hours reach Earland Falls. After another hour you reach Lake Howden.(671m)

    2. Lake Howden to Key Summit (919m) to The Divide shelter on Milford Road

    View from Key Summit, Routeburn Track NZ © Metapede

    Great views from Key Summit which is a botanists mecca, where “… stunted beech trees take the place of subalpine scrub and merge into perhaps the finest bog and swamp region .. with plant life ranging from sundews, bladderworts and orchids to bog forstera, bog daisy and bog pine.”

    Related reading

    iPhone app: What Bird NZ

    Previous Routeburn Track Planning posts

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    Bushwalking Fitness | Pt 1 Why, How and When?

    How does bushwalking fitness differ from general fitness? Are there specific training methods that will help bushwalkers?  How long in advance should I start training for a specific bushwalk?


    You will enjoy your bushwalk much better if you are fit, so that you have time and energy to talk to your fellow bushwalkers, admire the environment and take photos. Getting fit requires a well balanced program to develop the strength to carry a backpack, leg strength (quadriceps and knees) for hill climbing/descent, aerobic fitness and stamina. The two key components are cardiovascular (heart) fitness  and motor fitness (particularly strength, endurance and balance).

    Getting fit can take many months, up to six for a strenuous multi-day expedition,  so don’t leave it till the last moment! Intense training under expert guidance can shorten this to as little as 6 – 8 weeks, for an 80% gain of what you could have achieved in 6 months.

    If you have access to a fitness consultant/personal trainer, perhaps at your local gym, seek advice before you start training. Have the trainer determine your current fitness level or perhaps measure it yourself. I have posted some ideas to help you do this previously. Using your Smartphone to Monitor Fitness Levels for Bushwalkers and Hikers

    Check with your doctor, whether you have any underlying health problems that could preclude certain types of training. Decide, in consultation, whether you need upper body strengthening exercises, how many sessions you will require, their type and their duration per week.

    Your aerobic conditioning program should keep your heart rate high (65-85% of maximum rate, adjusted for age) and last 30- 60 mins per day, leaving some rest days. Interval training over at least a  three month period can further increase your cardiovascular fitness.

    Stamina and strength training should replicate the terrain and weight carrying you will experience when bushwalking. There is little point in training on the flat, for short durations, at high speed with no pack, if your bushwalking is likely to be over hilly terrain, with a heavy pack and for 8-10 hours at a time. Gym fitness often doesn’t translate to fitness on a bushwalk.

    Try stair climbing, if you have no hilly terrain near your home, or perhaps use a treadmill with an incline or a stepping machine. Start wearing your backpack as you get fitter.

    In general, try to reproduce the terrain, weight carrying, duration and speed needed during your training. Be careful to build up slowly and not to overdo the frequency, intensity and duration of training too early. Don’t ignore the value of building up balance and  movement skills, which will allow you to move faster over difficult terrain. Scrambling skills are very useful!

    Training for long days of bushwalking requires long days of training. Concentrate on legs, back and lungs! The number of sessions will vary, but 2-3 sessions per week with a backpack, gradually increasing to the likely weight will be most effective.

     Some Tips

    Aerobic exercises could include:

    • climbing AND descending hills or stairs
    • running, cycling, skiing, snowboarding

    Don’t forget to:

    • warm up and warm down with a 10-15 minute aerobic warm up and 5 – 10 minute warm down
    • Stretch for 15 minutes after warm up and immediately after your workout.


    RMI Training Recommendations ( pdf download)
    An RMI Guide Shares his Views on Training (pdf download)
    Training for climbing, trekking and skiing…. ( IcicleUK.com)

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    Bushwalking Trip Plan | Routeburn Track, New Zealand | Pt 3

    Previously I looked at how to plan a walk to the  Routeburn Track in the South Island of New Zealand from Adelaide, South Australia, how to search the internet for information, whether November is suitable from a weather perspective,  reviewed commercial packages, and costed the logistics.

    The next stage in tramping the Routeburn Track will involve locating relevant maps, and preparing a detailed route plan.


    High quality image files may be downloaded free of charge from Land Information NZ (LINZ) or paper copies purchased from map retailers. 

    • geoTIFF (138 MB) (no margins, suitable for mapping software, have calibration data embedded)
    • TIFF (79 MB) ( full paper map including legend)
    • Topo50 map legend (858KB) (Additional to the Topo50 GeoTIFF)
    • Important Topo50 information

    The relevant Topo50 (1:50K) Maps are CB09 Hollyford, CB10 Glenorchy and this whole area is covered by Topo250 Te Anau #25 (1:250K)

    The relevant ones from the old series of maps, now replaced by Topo50 were Map 260 D40 / C40 Milford, Map 260 D41 Eglinton, Map 260 E40 Earnslaw

    Routeburn Track Map download ( from Routeburn Track Independent Tramping Southland/Otago – 2010/2011 season – DOC) 

    Routeburn Track Route
    Most trampers seem to do the walk in 3 days, with 2 nights in one of the DOC huts, but it would be feasible to do it in one day, if you were fit, travelling light and admiring the scenery was not a high priority.

    One Way
    Time 2 – 3 days
    From Routeburn Shelter, head of Lake Wakatipu
    To The Divide, Milford Te Anau Road
    Distance 39 km
    Huts 4 Great Walks Huts, 2 Great Walks Campsites
    Grade medium
    Highest Point
    1277m, Harris Saddle
    Lowest Point 450m
    Maps Topo50 (LINZ) CB09, CB10; Topo250 25                (Source: Backcountry NZ)

    Detailed track notes are provided on the Backcountry NZ website

    Routeburn Shelter to Routeburn Flats
    8 km
    2.5 hours (2)
    Flats to Routeburn Falls
    3 km
    1.5 hrs (1)
    Routeburn Falls to Harris Saddle
    5 km
    2 hrs (1.5)
    Harris Saddle to Lake McKensie
    10 km
    3 hrs (3.5)
    Lake McKenzie to Lake Howden
    10 km
    3 hrs ( 3.5)
    Lake Howden to Divide
    (Source: Backcountry NZ)
    3 km
    1 hr ( 1.5 hr)


    I have added all my bookmarks to Delicious, the  social bookmarking site, where you can see my Routeburn tagged bookmarks and those of others. Filter the bookmarks by tag eg “tracknotes”, search by tagger’s name eg “oz.bushwalkingskills”, or select those that have been bookmarked often, which is usually an indication of their value.

    Web Research

     Read other posts in this series about the Routeburn Track

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      Bushwalking Workflow | Campsite Selection, Set Up and Pack away.

      What do you look for in the ideal campsite? How important is water? What about shade? When should I set up? What is the sequence of unpacking? How do I select a campfire or toilet site? Minimal impact camping and its implications for bushwalkers.

      Camp Early

       I always like to get into a campsite in winter by about 3.30 or certainly no later than 4.30 pm. This gives me time to make a cup of tea, find where the nearest water is, put up my tent  and perhaps even have a brief nap before dinner. I like to begin making my dinner in daylight.

      Use established or natural campsites

      Your campsite may be in a Park, require a permit and have special regulations. Check before you go.

      Those of us who walk in wilderness, untracked areas, can choose to camp wherever there is a natural campsite. We should of course never clear an area and preferably should use a site that someone has used before. At the most, you should sweep away fallen twigs and loose stones, so you don’t have an uncomfortable night. Good advice is only to spend one night in each campsite so the site doesn’t get too damaged.

      Not like the old days, when the first step was to cut down a few saplings to make tent poles and pegs, then sufficient bushes to make a thick mattress and finally wood for the fire!

      Select sites with shelter, water and wood

      “Select sites with shelter, water and wood” is the traditional advice which was once given to bushwalkers.

      I can remember always looking for a campsite with lots of fallen logs which could be used for a campfire, but I wouldn’t advise this anymore. Firstly there are too many campsites which are bare, as the result of campers collecting all the fallen wood for their fires and this has been recognised many Parks Authorities, who now insist on the use of fuel stoves. A bare campsite can only mean that all shelters for local animals have been destroyed. Fallen timber does of course mean that the trees nearby are regularly dropping branches, which means that it is not a good idea to camp under them. Too many people have been killed by fallen gum tree branches!

      Shelter is of course necessary from the wind and perhaps sun.

      Water should be close, but campers are always advised not camp to next to creeks and especially waterholes due to the possibility that you may prevent local wildlife from reaching their normal water supply. Camping too close is likely to increase the chance of pollution and you are recommended to camp at least 100m away. Most of use carry water bags (wine cask bladders for Australians) which can be filled and carried back to camp.

      My favourite is the MSR Dromedary bag which come in a variety of sizes, have a wide mouth opening to make it easy to fill and attach your filtration pump,  have a 3-in-1 cap, and  hydration and solar kits, so they can be multi-purpose. They are very tough and versatile having lasted me for 15 years at least.

      Check for potential hazards: overhanging gum trees, flash floods, polluted water

      In Australia, and no doubt many other countries, camping in a dry creek bed or narrow gorge is not a good idea, due to the risk of flash flooding.  Camp well above the flood plain. If you find a waterhole with a dead animal in it, then you will need to boil the water or purify it in some other way or move to another location. Check your water for suspended mica which may cause diarrhoea, although I have never found it caused this.

      Minimal Impact Camping

      If you do have a campfire, make sure you dig a hole for it first and cover this fully before you leave in the morning.

      • Where fires are permitted, use established fire rings, fire pans, or mound fires.
      • Do not create new fire-pits.
      • Burn all wood and coals to ash. 
      • Put the fire out completely with water and bury under soil.
      • Clean out campfire rings after use, leaving no glass, alfoil or plastics
      • Don’t construct camp furniture or dig trenches around your tent for drainage.
      • Don’t feed native animals and store rubbish securely

      “Take nothing but pictures, leave nothing but footprints …” should apply to your campsite.


      On Arrival

      As soon as you arrive, when there are no established toilet facilities, assign an area well away from water, with some privacy and let everyone know the location. If you have both males and females in your group you might like to assign two areas.

      Suggest suitable camping areas, indicate where the water is located and where the cooking area and perhaps campfire, if you’re having one, will be located.

      I always start by putting up my tent as soon as I arrive, especially if it looks like possible rain. My gear, that I will need for the night, comes out of my pack into my tent which I then drag it into the vestibule to keep it out of the rain once I have done this. If it is raining already, I wait until there is a break in the weather, before taking out my tent. If it is sunny, my first step is to put on the stove for a cup of tea.

      Next I take out my mattress, put it inside my tent and inflate it if needed or wait for it to self-inflate. My sleeping bag goes on top, I take out my torch and warm clothing for when the sun sets, get out my cutlery, meal, cooking utensils, stove, lighter and grippers. I then zip up my tent to keep out insects.

      Time now to chat to others, fill up my water bag, take a few photos, select the meal spot and help where needed with set up. A good meal site will have seating for everyone, a flat, clear area for the stoves and shelter, although as I have said before under a gum tree is not a good idea.

      Before leaving

      • Inspect your campsite and rest areas for rubbish and spilled food. 
      • Check no one has left belongings eg hanging from clothes lines.
      • Do not burn rubbish. “Pack it in, pack it out.” In some environments eg narrow, popular, river gorges this could even mean faecal material.
      • Clean out campfire rings after use, leaving no glass, alfoil or plastics

      A good reference is the A Guide to Better Bushwalking from Bushwalking Leadership SA , which has a  couple of excellent pages on environmental considerations.

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        Planning a Bushwalk | Using Dropbox and Google to Share and Store Information

        Want to share a map or form with those who need it but not send it to everyone in your bushwalk group? Do you have a spreadsheet you want to share? Want to send a questionnaire or “survey” to your hiking group? Want to set up a group calendar, so you can see  when is the best time to plan a hike? Want to share your photos or video clips after the walk?

        In Planning a Bushwalk | Using the Web to Share and Store Information Pt 1,  I discussed how the Web allowed us to share information so that only the latest version was available and easily accessible to everyone with a need-to-know. This post (Part 2) will help you to access specific websites and web tools which will help you to achieve these aims.

        Want to share a map or pdf with those who need it but not send it to everyone in your group? One way is to upload it to the web “cloud” where it can be easily accessed based on need and is available 24/7 without your intervention.  Both Google and Dropbox and possibly others, with which I am not familiar, offer this free service but for a limited amount.


        One such website where it is possible to do this is Dropbox, one of the  easiest ways to store, sync, and, share files online and which is available free for Windows, Mac, Linux, and Mobile. Watch the video about Dropbox. Dropbox offers free startup accounts with storage of 2GB, but larger accounts have a monthly fee eg 50Gb cost $99/year. By installing the Dropbox software on your computer or mobile, any file you add to your Dropbox, a folder on your desktop, becomes almost instantly available on any other of your computers, including mobiles, which has Dropbox installed or via a web interface if you don’t have access to one of your computers.

        While I am embarrassed to admit I have succumbed to this Dropbox ploy, everyone joining Dropbox gets a 2GB account for free, but if you click this link both you and I will get an extra 250MB for free on our Dropbox accounts because of this referral!

        There are mobile phone apps available for iPhone, iPad, Android, or Blackberry, although any phone with a web browser can always access the Dropbox website. Get access to critical files, such as booking confirmations, passport scans, drivers licence copies, route plans, emergency contact lists when on your bushwalk or while at local base, wherever you have a 3G service or wifi.

        Now you can share the contents of your public folder for your latest bushwalk with your mates even if they are using a different operating system to you. It’s as simple as sending them an email, with the  link to the file.

        Check out my Dropbox public folder, which contains the file How to use the Public folder in Dropbox.

        It is easy top access your Dropbox from your iPhone using apps such as Dropbox by Dropbox.

        Google also offers “cloud” computing with the ability to save files for access from any computer, much like Dropbox. In Google however, the files can use templates provided by Google Docs which at this time include the following formats:

        • Document
        • Presentation
        • Spreadsheet
        • Drawing
        • Form
        • Folder

        or can be uploaded in an existing format eg Microsoft Office and become part of your Google list in a public folder, just like Dropbox. This is explained in more detail in the Google Docs Blog below:

        “Instead of emailing files to yourself, which is particularly difficult with large files, you can upload to Google Docs any file up to 250 MB. You’ll have 1 GB of free storage for files you don’t convert into one of the Google Docs formats (i.e. Google documents, spreadsheets, and presentations), and if you need more space, you can buy additional storage for $0.25 per GB per year. This makes it easy to backup more of your key files online, from large graphics and raw photos to unedited home videos taken on your smartphone. You might even be able to replace the USB drive you reserved for those files that are too big to send over email.

        Combined with shared folders, you can store, organize, and collaborate on files more easily using Google Docs. For example, if you are in a club or PTA working on large graphic files for posters or a newsletter, you can upload them to a shared folder for collaborators to view, download, and print.

        You can also search for document files you’ve uploaded or that have been shared with you just like you do with your Google documents, spreadsheets, presentations, and PDFs. And you’ll be able to view many common document file types with the Google Docs viewer.” (From Google Docs Blog)

        A single Google account is much more versatile than Dropbox because it also offers you access to all of the following dedicated Google web applications:

        It is easy top access your Google Docs from your iPhone using apps such as GoDocs for iPad/iPhone by Lightroom

        In my next post (Pt 3) I will explain how to use these Google app and Docs.

        For more info check out my other posts:
        Web 2.0

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        Searching for Bushwalking Information on the Web | Search Engines and Social Bookmarking

        How can I find information about bushwalking / tramping / hiking? Has anyone else already bookmarked suitable sources (social bookmarking)? How can I effectively search the web (internet)?

        In my last post Bushwalking Trip Plan | Routeburn Track, New Zealand | Pt 1 , I set out some general questions which had to be first answered before beginning detailed planning and suggested that there were four good places to start  for this sort of general information. This post discusses generic skills, using search engines and social bookmarking, for finding information about bushwalking on the web, using the Routeburn Track in New Zealand as an exemplar.

        Search Engines

        Well, the easiest way is to search the internet and what better way is there to do this than using a search engine such as Google, Yahoo or Bing, the three most commonly used. The problem with this method is that the links found by these search engines may not necessarily be the best for you. For example Google ranks its links based on a complex algorithm which cannot directly take into account the accuracy of the information or the relevance to you personally. Its rankings are based upon keywords, recency, frequency of updates, quality and number of links to and from the site, number of visitors and other criteria which are secret.

        All three of these search engines allow an option to only search pages for Australia. This might seem a sensible way to filter the number of links found  for a search of the Flinders Ranges in South Australia or Otway Ranges in Victoria, but in fact this is not a good idea. Some of my best sources of information have been blogs by overseas visitors. Obviously for a search about the Routeburn track in NZ, this would not be wise either.

        Google Alerts

        Rather than continuously search the Web for new information, set up a Google Alert which will send an email to you as it happens, once a day , or once a week , with links to all the articles on the web that have appeared on the topic of your choice.

        To do so, you will first need a free Google account, which will also provide you with a free Google Mail account and access to the whole range of valuable free Google products eg Blogger, Docs, and Website. If you set up a Google Mail account first, you can use this new email address as the contact point for all your other Google products and therefore an added level of privacy and security.

        Social Bookmarking

        To make it more likely that you will find relevant bookmarks,  check one of the free social bookmarking websites such as Delicious.

        Delicious is a web 2.0 social bookmaking site which allows the public to search for information, based on the tags (keywords) which have been assigned to the URLs (web addresses) by Delicious members who have bookmarked them. As the site is the work of many people with an interest in your topic, the number of people who have bookmarked a site is a good indication of the potential value of the site and provides an alternative and, I would argue, better idea of ranking than that provided by a search engine.  Those who have bookmarked a site will be bushwalkers/trampers/hikers like you, with similar needs and interests.

        Although these will be public pages, you will  be able to select just the bookmarks I (username=oz.bushwalkingskills) have made or those of other bushwalkers you value, by adding us to your Delicious Network, but to do this you need first to become a free Delicious member. Fortunately you don’t need to wait for me to add my URls, as others have already added their “Routeburn” bookmarks to the public pages. By searching Delicious, you will be able to see who has contributed each bookmark on the Routeburn track and add significant  contributors to your subscribe list filter or to your network.

        Searching Delicious for the tags “Routeburn Track” brings up 62 public results (as of 13/1/2011) in the Everybody’s (public) category. It also shows the other tags which have been used for a particular URL, so you can add these and filter the results if you wish. Interestingly it gives a graphical time scale showing when the bookmarks were added and for the Routeburn the most URLs added was in March 2008.

        If you want, you can subscribe to all URLs with the tag “Routeburn” which will aggregate all URLs on the web with the tag “Routeburn” and bring them to your subscriptions page as they are added. Additionally you can subscribe to only the Routeburn tags by a particular user eg oz.bushwalkingskills, if you wish to narrow down the list. To do this however, you will need to join Delicious which is free.

        To find out more about Delicious:

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