Tag Archives: equipment

Bushwalking in a Mouse Plague

Ever wondered how you need to protect your equipment when camping during a mouse plague? Is there anything you can do to avoid attracting them?

Having recently (April) walked in the Vulkathunha-Gammons Ranges in the north of South Australia, I was surprised to find how adaptable the house mouse is to an arid environment. Of course,  it had been one of the better seasons on record, and water was laying in small rock pools which normally would not have existed.

Sitting around our campfire we were amazed to see twenty or so mice approach within a few metres, looking for leftovers. On retiring, we soon realised how much noise a few mice can make as they run over your tent, gnaw at your tent and pack, and pick through your scraps. There is nothing quite like a gnawing sound to keep you awake, as you wonder which expensive piece of your equipment is being destroyed.

On rising, many of us noticed damage to our gear; holes in our packs and tents, even those that had been placed off the ground. Those who had been game enough to sleep with only a tent fly or in a bivvy sac had horror stories to tell.

While mice don’t conjure up the same element of fear, methods of protection from mice have some similarities to those needed when walking in bear country.

Safeguarding your Gear

The key to protecting your gear is to securely isolate your food from your gear or if you can’t do that make the food undetectable to smell.

This means adopting a combination of the following:

  • keeping your food, including leftovers, in airtight bags
  • not leaving food scraps around to attract them
  • keeping the food outside your tent and pack
  • isolating your pack from the ground, by suspending it between two trees on a very thin rope
  • making the rope unclimbable by making it long and thin (heavy nylon fishing line)
  • placing spinning obstacles on the cord such as drinking straws or soft drink bottles
  •  use your billy to store your food and put a rock on top

Some observations are that mice :

  • can climb trees
  • can eat through plastic containers, canvas, rip-stop nylon
  • can run along ropes
  • love to eat foam mats, and the handles of your walking poles.

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Bushwalking Equipment | Which Type of Walking Pole is Best?

Should my poles be adjustable in length? Which material should they be made from? Do my poles need shock absorbers? Are the new ultra-light, foldable poles worth the extra expense?

While I don’t have much experience with poles other than my collapsible  poles which have shock absorbers, I hope to summarise some of the discussion I have read.


Adjustable poles are a definite bonus as they need to be lengthened for downhill and shortened for uphill. There is however a downside and that is the additional  weight and the remote possibility that they could collapse. Fixed length poles overcome this problem by having a longer hand grip so you can move your hand up and down to suit the slope, but I suspect this is a less than satisfactory solution due to the difficulty of adjusting the wrist strap and the inability to place your palm over the end of the pole when descending to give additional support. They usually come in several sizes.


Most poles are made of high tensile aluminium, not unlike tent poles. Graphite versions are available, and for those  that wish to go ultra-light, they are an obvious but more expensive choice, weighing less than 300 g.

Shock absorbers?

I am not sure about their value over difficult terrain, but they could be effective on hard surfaces at high speed. For some applications such as crevasse crossing they are a disadvantage as they don’t allow the same ability to measure resistance on snow bridges. There seems to be a fair bit of consensus that shock absorbers are just another thing to go wrong, and if they do, difficult to repair in the field.



I like the idea of being able to stow my poles inside my pack, next to my tent poles. Having them on the outside is an invitation for them to get caught during shipping and for the attachment points to get ripped from your pack. Field tests show foldable poles to be very reliable, fast to assemble and lock together firmly. Usually they have three sections and join together like tent poles or an avalanche probe. When folded they are not quite as compact as the collapsible, telescopic type, but are shorter and lighter.

Well know brands include Black Diamond and Leki and they usually come in three or four sizes. If you need a pole as an integral part of your ultra-light tent you will need to select length carefully. They are however “chokable” ie the handle section collapses/expands a little to allow for the different lengths needed for ascent or descent.

Other features to check before purchase.

Are the rubber and metal tips easily interchangeable?
Are the wrist straps comfortable?
Are the baskets a suitable size for use in mud or snow?

See also

Bushwalking Equipment | Are Walking Poles Useful for Bushwalkers? 

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Bushwalking Equipment | Are Walking Poles Useful for Bushwalkers?

Do walking poles “save” your knees? How many poles do you need? How does the use of walking poles vary with terrain? Which type of pole is best for bushwalkers? Do poles need to be adjustable in length?

I am a convert! 

Having just come back from a 3 day walk  in the Flinders Ranges (Chace & Druid Ranges) there is no doubt in my mind that walking poles prevent injuries and assist to take some of the stress from your knees. This was the first time I had used walking poles off track in a rugged arid environment with scree slopes, thick bush, rocky outcrops, rocky river beds and bush 4WD tracks and they came out winners in each situation.

How could anyone not want to use walking poles I ask? Well perhaps my own situation can add some insight. 25 years walking in a variety of environments throughout SA, VIC, TAS and NZ and never once used walking poles on an expedition.

Why not?

Walking poles are heavy. They get in the way when you are walking. They are likely to break. They cost too much. Just another piece of useless technology. Only those past their prime need them.

 These are some of the arguments you hear when walking poles are being discussed by the unconverted and I have to admit that I have used some of them in the past. 

Well my conversion wasn’t instantaneous. I found myself using two poles on the wet grassy slopes of the Mitcham foothills during my training walks. Previous experience had shown me that descending steep muddy slopes covered in wet grass was a catastrophe-in-waiting. Several times on every walk I found my feet slipping out from under me on the steep descents and on one occasion I fell flat on my back and it has taken months to recover from the damage. So walking poles were the solution. No more falls  a few stumbles but each time saved by my poles.

What are the disadvantages?

Obviously weight, difficulty of stowing inside or outside your pack and more importantly over reliance upon poles, so that agility and balance suffer. No one can say the cost is too great as I have seen them on sale for as low as $19 a pair.

Do you need two poles?

This depends largely on the terrain and whether you need support on both sides at once. The track to Frenchmans Cap in Tasmania is an example of terrain where you need two poles, as the track is very muddy, incised, narrow and often filled with muddy water, making the edges invisible. Two poles allow you to straddle the track , so that a sudden slip to one side can be caught by using the appropriate pole.

In other environments, such as thick scrub, two poles would get in the way and can actually lead to falls as they get caught in the bush.

I found that one pole was more than adequate, for both climbing and descent. Just like the early bushwalkers such as Warren Bonython used when exploring the Flinders, although undoubtedly a lot lighter and more versatile than they used.

WARNING: using only one pole can lead to additional strain on the leg opposite the pole as weight is taken off the leg closest to the pole and you may find yourself with a sore knee. I am reassessing my advice that one pole is adequate, after having experienced knee pain for the first time. Another member of my group, also using one pole, had the same sore knee.

Do poles need to be adjustable in length?

I found that for descending poles need to be longer than for ascending, so the ability to adjust length is important, although there are ways around this problem. Some would argue that adjustable poles are more likely to suffer from failure and are difficult to repair.

Check out my next posting which will compare various styles of walking poles made from a variety of materials.

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Bushwalking Equipment | Adjusting The Harness of Your Bushwalking Backpack

Just bought a new backpack and forgot to ask how to adjust it? Heard conflicting methods? Feel that your pack needs some fine tuning to make it more comfortable?

Well there seem to be as many different opinions on how to adjust your pack as there are packs. Of course the three basic designs, internal frame, external frame, and no frame will each be different, but the general principles are the same.

Pack Size

However for adjustments to be comfortable you must start with a backpack that fits your body. Firstly you must select a pack which is the correct length for your torso length. Usually the manufacturer will have a diagram on their website which shows you how to measure this, but usually it is the distance in cm between the C7 cervical vertebra, the largest protrusion at the base of your neck and the iliac crest, the highest point on your hipbone, which can be found by running your fingers down you ribs. Men and women usually have different manufacturer’s sizes for the same torso lengths and while related, body height is not the the perfect predictor of torso length.

Choosing the correct pack size 

In some situations, where pack volume is more important, you may be forced to get a larger size, despite it not being a perfect fit.

If you have selected the correct size then it will be possible to adjust the attachment points of the shoulder straps to the pack so they are just below the tops of your shoulders (1-2″, 2.5-5cm), while the waist belt will sit over your hip bone, not above it.

To help you adjust the harness of your bushwalking backpack,  I suggest a full length mirror, a partly loaded pack and someone to help you hold the pack in position as you adjust the straps. 

There are usually six straps that need to be adjusted:

  1. hip belt (NB this is not meant to be a waist belt)
  2. hip stabiliser
  3. sternum
  4. shoulder
  5. load lifter 
  6. suspension adjustment

1. Put on your pack and lean forward, tightening your hip belt over your hip bone, so that the middle of the hip belt is covers the iliac crest ( top front of your hip bone) and the buckle covers your belly button. If the hip belt padding from each side touches when the belt is tightened then you have chosen a pack or a belt size (if removable) which is too small as the padding will prevent the hip belt being tightened sufficiently. You need to leave at least 3 cm either side of the buckle after the hip belt has been tightened to allow for different clothing thicknesses.

2. The hip stabiliser or anti-sway straps  prevent your pack swinging from side to side as you walk, by pulling your pack closer to your hip belt.

3. The sternum strap should be half way between your breasts and collar bone and not so tight as to constrict your breathing. Its function is to stop your shoulder straps falling off your shoulders, not to carry the load. When tightened it also prevents your shoulder straps rubbing against your arms and armpits.

4. Shoulder straps should be adjusted evenly so that the pressure on each shoulder is the same and the pack is not tilting to one side. Generally speaking about a third  of your weight should be on your shoulders and these straps proportion the weight between your shoulders and hips. Some people prefer to have 80-90% on the hips, so choose whatever feels comfortable for you at the time and feel free to change the proportion during the day as you develop sore spots. Tighten the shoulder straps and the weight goes from your hips to your shoulders. The shoulder straps should be in contact with your shoulders and you should not be able to place your hand between your shoulders and the strap. The pack attachment point should be just below the crest of your shoulders, and the bottom of the shoulder pad, a hand width below the top of your armpit.


5. Load lifter straps should be evenly tightened and tight enough so that your pack does not hang away from your body, pulling you backwards, but rests against it. If the suspension is correctly adjusted, and you have purchased a pack that matches your body  length, then the load lifter straps should be angled downwards from your pack to your shoulders at about 45°. They also shift some of the weight from the top of your shoulders to the upper chest area, but if the angle is too steep they will lift the shoulder straps from your shoulder.

6. The harness length can be adjust by lifting the lumbar padding and adjusting the buckle and strap or the velcro.

If the pack is still uncomfortable, then the internal frame stays may need to be removed and bent to more closely match your spinal curvature or perhaps curved away from your shoulder area to move the pack away from your head if it keeps bumping on it.

Comfort also depends on how you load your pack, with heavier items towards the middle near your shoulder blades to keep the centre of gravity close to your body. The lighter items such as clothing and sleeping bag can go at the bottom. Over riding this principle, you should keep the items you will need first in setting up camp near the top, especially if it is raining.

When crossing a river it is a good idea to undo the waist belt and sternum strap in case you need to jettison the pack, otherwise you can easily float down stream with it.


Similar Posts

Packing for a Bushwalk
How do You Organise Your Food for a Multi-day Hike? 
Bushwalking Boots |Selection and Fitting Criteria 
Bushwalking Workflow | Repacking the Next Morning 

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Saving Time with a Bushwalking "Thermos"

Ever wished you didn’t have to light your stove in the morning just to make a hot drink? Ever had hot water left over after your evening meal that you have wasted? Does you cup serve more than one function? When its raining, have you ever wished you didn’t have to go outside your tent to light your stove?  Ever wanted to sleep in for another fifteen minutes but didn’t have the time? Like to pack your tent in a leisurely fashion without worrying about your tea/coffee getting cold? Save time with an insulated vacuum  flask and add very little extra weight.

Zojirushi Tuff Slim Stainless Steel Vacuum Bottle

The solution to all these problems is a “lightweight” stainless steel vacuum insulated flask which can be pre-heated and filled with hot water the previous night and will still be warm the next morning. With a wide-mouthed flask you can soak your dehydrated food in hot water during the day and have it ready for dinner or have hot porridge for breakfast. No longer do you need to get up fifteen minutes earlier to light your stove just to boil one or two cups of water, and then wait for it to cool down before you can pack it away.

Intuitively a “thermos” would seem like an additional, unnecessary piece of equipment to take on a bushwalk,  but is it really? It can replace your mug (135 g) and maybe one of your smaller water bottles (100g), so it is not all added weight.  Some fuel can be saved each morning, which would otherwise have been wasted heating the stove and billy and your valuable “sleep-in” time increased. If you are using a wood campfire then the time saving is even greater. Get cold feet at night, then here is you solution?

Heat Retention

Use a spare sock or stubby holder to increase insulation and reduce heat loss. On a cold night use it as a foot warmer in your sleeping bag. With these tricks and pre-heating, I have managed to maintain coffee at the standard McDonald’s temperature of 60°C for over 12 hours. This is a little cooler than usual coffee connoisseur’s range 155ºF/70ºC – 175ºF/80ºC but its OK for the bush. Unfortunately, smaller flasks cool more quickly than large, so most bushwalkers are starting with a size handicap. The easy pour lids that allow you to pour by pressing a button or lifting a tab seem to lose heat faster so try to avoid these and instead select one with a screw top. Take the claims on the flask boxes and their websites with a “grain of salt” as many have been proven to be grossly inaccurate. If you have the opportunity to compare flasks and don’t have a thermometer, touch the outside; the one that is hotter will cool the fastest.

Well regarded brands include:

  • Sigg Thermo Trend (.3L, .7L, 1.0L) which will supposed keep water hot for 14 hours
  • Thermos Thermax Light and Compact (0.47L/325g, 0.75ml/475g, 12hrs) They also have Thermos TherMax Ultimate Flask 0.5L Graphite at 310g which is supposed to keep hot for 24 hours.
  • Aladdin (apparently has won some comparison tests, but many have had trouble with under performance with the 1L Stanley model)
  • Zojirushi Tuff-Slim (0.5L/450g) 167°F/75°C @ 6 hrs. / 117°F/50°C @ 24 hrs. Rating is based on water at a starting temperature of 203°F (95°C) at a room temperature of 68°F (20°C). Zojirushi have been specialist vacuum flask manufacturers for ninety years.

    They also make the 12 oz (0.35L) Zojirushi Stainless Steel Mug (SM-CTE35) with built in Tea Strainer. A great idea for Chai tea or if you don’t like tea bags.

Amazon.com Product Description

This Zojirushi Stainless Mug comes with a tea strainer that allows you to brew fresh tea right before drinking. It features vacuum insulation to keep beverages hot or cold for hours, nonstick interior for easy cleaning, 2-inch wide mouth (easily accommodating ice cubes), detachable and easy-to-clean tea strainer with handle, and a secret compartment on lid for tealeaves and teabags. The screw-tight lid provides better heat retention compared to commuter mugs, and prevents leaks. The body can be washed under running water, but the bottle should not be soaked in water. It’s backed by a 5-year warranty for heat retention. 

      Wide-mouthed flasks
      You might like to consider getting a wide-mouthed flask which is more versatile, easier to eat from and clean, but is less well insulated and slightly heavier. Good examples come from Zojirushi eg the Tuff-Mug SM-AFE35 (12oz/0.35L/450g wide-mouthed (5cm) thermo,  which can keep water at 181F (81°C) for 1 hour or 140F (60°C) for 6 hours). Rating is based on water at a starting temperature of 203°F (95°C) at a room temperature of 68°F (20°C) The Tuff-Mug has room for storage of a teabag and a non-stick interior for easier cleaning. Some mention that wide-mouthed flasks are more difficult to drink from and that you may need a cup too, but in the bush this is a luxury most will do without.

      Zojirushi Stainless Steel Tuff Travel Mug

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      Campfire or Stove?

      Should you ever burn firewood? Is it OK to use firewood for a cooking fire? How do you maximize the weight savings by using a wood fire? How should you establish your fire to minimize the amount of firewood needed? When can I use a campfire? What should I do to minimize the risk of a bushfire?

      The last time I used a campfire for cooking was about 20 years ago. Since then I have used a succession of stoves such a Bluet gas, Trangia, and MSR Whisperlite, so it was not without some deep thought that I used a wood fire again, this time in the Vulkathunha-Gammons NP.

      Why make the change back to a bygone era?

      Well the main reason was the weight saving (0.8 -1.0 kg) by not needing a stove and fuel bottle, the remoteness of the campsites and the ready availability of firewood which made it forgivable in my mind. The Gammons is an arid region and as such tree growth is very slow, but creek beds abound with firewood deposited in the last flood and while some may argue that this debris is the home of many animals, I doubt that our group’s impact was significant. That is not to say that in some more accessible locations, such as Mambray Creek in the lower Flinders Ranges our actions would be an environmental crime.

      Is it ever OK to burn firewood?

      Well what are the alternatives? Shellite (white gas), methylated spirits, butane/propane gas. Are these fuels any better than using firewood? Are they fossil fuels? Do they pollute the atmosphere? How much CO2 was released in the mining process to produce the metal needed to make the stove and fuel bottle? What about the energy requirement of extracting, refining and transporting the fuel? Do they use scarce food resources to make fuel? Isn’t wood renewable? Are we depriving animals of their homes when we burn firewood? The decision is not clear cut and ultimately must depend on your personal perspective. Certainly there is a level of camaraderie around a campfire that can never be achieved sitting around a Trangia.

      Minimising the use of wood.

      If you are going to have a campfire keep its fuel consumption to a minimum, burning only enough wood for essential cooking and to provide optimal light and heat. Judge how much wood you will need until bedtime and don’t build up the fire late in the evening, so that there are flames after you have gone to bed. Try to suspend cooking utensils above the flames to minimise cooking times and don’t heat more water than you will need. Use rocks to shield the fire from the wind and start the fire in a pit so the coals can safely be buried before retiring.

      Reducing the risk of starting a bushfire

      Use a moderate size fire so sparks don’t blow on to tents or into the bush. Put out your fire with water before retiring and then bury the extinguished coals. Leave your fire pit so that it is not obvious there has been a recent campfire. Don’t have a breakfast fire, instead storing a hot drink in your Thermos overnight, to reduce the need for fuel and save time. Only light a fire outside the bushfire season and as advised by NPWS.

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      Bushwalking Gloves for Scrambling?

      Ever come home from a bushwalk with broken finger nails, splinters from and cuts to your hands caused by vegetation? What is the solution?

      My walk in the Vulkathunha-Gammons National Park last weekend was the third time I have taken a pair of lightweight cotton gloves with me when bushwalking in Australia.

      Many of our bushwalking tracks in Australia require fighting through thick prickly undergrowth, scambling up loose scree, or clinging to steep slopes where every bit of support can be lifesaving. We all know that 3 point contact with the ground, using both hands and feet, is well advised in steep terrain.


      Gloves are invaluable in preventing injury and more importantly allowing you to make better use of your environment to improve your safety. While gloves could be a disadvantage in rock climbing, when scrambling they are a definite advantage.

      What sort of gloves should I get?

      Gloves for use when scrambling in Australia should be cool, lightweight and cheap. Cotton thread or string is the ideal material although leather reinforcement at wear points can be useful. Want to go high tech, then try Dyneema reinforced gloves which are cut resistant and very lightweight? Need something more grippy, then  buy a pair with PVC dots? If you need something warmer, then try a pair of polypropylene inserts

      Where do you get such gloves?

      Well you could use the types of gloves used by cyclists or skiers, but they are unnecessarily expensive. Why not try your supermarket or hardware shop in the garden section? Here cotton gloves cost only a few dollars.


      Thanks to Lester for convincing me of the necessity of gloves when bushwalking in the harsh Australian environment.

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      Bushwalking in the Vulkathunha – Gammon Ranges, South Australia | Pt 1 Trip Planning Resources

      Where are the Gammons? Why visit the Gammons? When is the best time to visit the Gammons and how long do you need? What level of experience do you need and does it require any special planning and equipment because of its remoteness? What resources are available to help you plan, appreciate and enjoy what you see?

      UPDATE: there has been a mouse plague in the Gammons (April -? 2011) and I would advise taking your tent inner, storing food outside your tent in air tight bags and hanging your food out of reach.

      Bushwalking, Vulkathunha-Gammon Ranges National Park ……..in brief

      Gammon Ranges 

      Vulkathunha-Gammon Ranges National Park is an arid wilderness of spectacular rugged ranges and deep gorges 400 km N of Port Augusta off the Copley-Balcanoona Rd. The park has important cultural significance for the Adnyamathanha people who are the traditional custodians of the region. There are several access points, both for 2WD and 4WD vehicles, with the heart of the park offering challenging wilderness bushwalking experiences. The park includes limited caravan sites, bush camping, 4WD touring tracks and several accommodation options. Bookings are essential for hut accommodation and shearers’ quarters. The park adjoins Lake Frome Regional Reserve and shares a boundary with Arkaroola Wilderness Sanctuary. Vulkathunha-Gammon Ranges Traditional Owners and DEH co-manage the park. ” (DENR )

      Google Aerial view of the Gammons

      View Larger Map


       The last 100 km is largely over dirt roads, which can sometimes be badly corrugated. If you wish to set up a base camp at Grindell Hut inside the Park, I recommend that you use a 4WD as the tracks are sometimes sandy and the wheel ruts can be deep. Many conventional cars will not have sufficient ground clearance. Make sure you carry essential spare parts for your vehicle and read the RAA Outback Driving booklet. 

      Up-to-date road conditions can be checked via the Far Northern and Western Areas road condition hotline – 1300 361 033 or by visiting http://www.dtei.sa.gov.au. Alternatively call the Desert Parks information line on 1800 816 078.

      Google Map Directions Adelaide to Copley (just north of Leigh Creek)
      SA Outback Fuel Chart
      Google Map Directions Adelaide to Copley( just north of Leigh Creek)
      Google Maps Copley, Vulkathuna – Gammon Ranges Nat Pk and Arkaroola Village

      Outback Driving (RAA)


      If you are planning a trip to northern SA (eg the Gammons) check the forecast carefully as the temperature is often in the high twenties or low thirties, when it is in the high teens in Adelaide. My experience is that it is often 5 -10 degrees warmer than Adelaide but colder at night. 

      Check the Weatherzone climate statistics for Arkarooola  , the nearest weather station or visit the Arkaroola Wilderness Sanctuary’s Climate Information page which compares the climate with other capital cities.

      Long term averages show May to early September to be the  best from a temperature perspective (mean max 19-20 deg C). Mean minimum temperatures are 3-7 deg C, (lightweight sleeping bag weather). Days of rain 3, mean rain 6-10 mm (you may even risk just a fly depending on the month)

      Further north in the Gammons, water can also be short supply after six months with little rain. A spring/early summer trip is risky as most rain falls in December-March as the tail ends of monsoons sweep down SE from the Kimberley and most will have gone by then.

      Fire Bans

      All wood fires or solid fuel fires are prohibited from 1 November 2010 to 31 March 2011. Gas fires are permitted other than on days of total fire ban. For further information, please contact the Port Augusta Regional Office (08) 8648 5300, the Wilpena Visitor Centre (08) 8648 0048 or the CFS Fire Bans Hotline 1300 362 361.  Timely reminder of fire restrictions in parks (DENR 103kb pdf)

      Time Required

      The Vulkathuna – Gammon Ranges are a long drive of 8 – 9 hours from Adelaide, over unsealed roads from Copley, which can be badly corrugated depending on how recently they have been graded. For most people, the two days of travel encourages you to spend a minimum of  3-5 days in the Gammons, including some time at the Arkaroola Wilderness Sanctuary and the Paralana Hot Springs which are a short drive away. If you based yourself at Grindell Hut within the Park, then  it would be possible to spend a whole week in the Park and then at least another three days at Arkaroola.

      Panorama of Grindell’s Hut, showing the hut and the landscape surrounding it. (Peter Neaum 2009-09-10)

      Bushwalking Experience Level

      The Gammons are remote with the nearest major town, Leigh Creek, a hundred and thirty kilometres away to the west, which takes about 2-4 hours, depending on the state of the road. In addition to the remoteness, water supplies are unpredictable, the temperatures much higher than Adelaide and the terrain rugged, with significant exposure at times, when climbing the waterfalls. A high level of navigation skill, using both map and compass and GPS, is required as most of the walking trails are off-track with no signage and no trail markers. This Park is designated as being unsuitable for beginning bushwalkers, with experience of multi-day hikes, the ability to carry heavy loads and self-sufficiency in terms of first aid and training a necessary requirement. The carrying of an emergency beacon (PLB), GPS, relevant maps, mobile phone and even a UHF radio in case of emergency communication with nearby stations is advised. Don’t forget to leave your trip intentions form with the Ranger at Balcanoona.

      Flinders Ranges, Eyre Peninsula, Outback South Australia 4wd  Tracks and Repeaters Brochure  (5.5Mb, pdf)

      Department Environment and Natural Resources

      Park Passes
      Park Closures
      Trip Intentions Form (323kb pdf)
      Vulkathunha-Gammon Ranges National Park (647kb pdf)
      Wildlife of the Desert Parks (419kb pdf)
      Balcanoona Shearer’s Quarters Booking Information (145kb pdf)
      SA National Parks Guide – Flinders Ranges and Outback Region (816kb pdf)
      Vulkathunha-Gammon Ranges National Park Weetootla Hike Network brochure (686kb pdf)


       John Chapman’s Gammon Ranges


      Maps: 1:50,000 Topographic Illinawortina, Nepabunna, Serle, Angepena
      Northern Flinders Ranges (1.4MB pdf)
      South Australian Outback (1.2MB pdf)
      The Map Shop 
      Map index:  Arkarooola – Gammon Ranges – Yudnamutana – Farina
      Map Index:  North Flinders – Wilpena – Blinman – Leigh Creek – Balcanoona
      RAA Flinders Ranges & Outback Maps 

      Further Reading 


      South Australia: Vulkathana – Gammon Ranges (ABC, Program One: 29 December 2003 )
      The Grindell Murder Case (Flinders Ranges Research)
      Gammon Ranges Bunyip Chasm (ExplorOz)
      Grindell Hut ( ExplorOz)
      Vulkathunha-Gammon Ranges National Park (Wikipedia)
      Department of Environment and Natural Resources Search Results| Gammons
      Biological Survey of the North West Flinders Ranges (near Leigh Creek) (4.48mb pdf)
      Gammon Ranges National Park Access Guide and Newsletter 2006 Autumn Edition (SA Association of Four Wheel Drive Clubs Inc) (149kb pdf)
      Arkarola Wilderness Sanctuary Activities (nearby tourist accommodation)


      Gammon Ranges (Flikr) 

      Scientific Expeditions Group (SEG)

      Vulkathunha Gammon Ranges Scientific Project (VGRaSP)
      Vulkathunha Gammon Ranges Scientific Project | General Description (VGRaSP 118Kb pdf)
      Analysis of Rainfall in the Gammon Ranges of South Australia 1992 – 2002  (1.7Mb pdf SEG)
      The Gammon Ranges Project – Monitoring in a Remote Area D.J. Kemp1, C.J. Wright and S.A. Jewell Department for Transport, Energy and Infrastructure (pdf,338Kb)


      C. Warren Bonython. Walking the Flinders Ranges. Adelaide: Royal Geographical Society of South Australia, 2000.

      The story of Warren Bonython’s walk from the Crystal Brook in the south to Mt Hopeless in the north.  xiii, 231 p. [32] p. of plates :bill. (some col.) ; 24 cm. 

      Adrian Heard. A Walking Guide to the Northern Flinders Ranges. State Publishing South Australia, 1990.

      An excellent book, describing 3 circuit walks of around one week’s length in the Gammon Ranges and briefer notes to the Arkaroola Sanctuary area. Recommended if you are planning a long walk in the Gammon Ranges. Probably out of print, price unknown.

      John Chapman  Bushwalking In Australia, 4th edition 2003

      320 pages, A5 in size – full colour throughout, 181 colour photographs, 56 colour topographic maps, 

      Thomas, Tyrone 50 walks in South Australia Hill of Content, 1992

      Paperback, 168 p., [8] p. of plates : ill. (some col.), maps, 180mm x 120mm x 11mm. The Flinders Ranges and Kangaroo Island are featured in the walks over terrain ranging from coastal scrub to mountains and arid desert. ISBN: 9780855722111

      Barker, Susan and McCaskill, Murray (Eds) Explore The Flinders Ranges RGSSA Adelaide 2005

      A ‘must have’ for all travellers and admirers of the Flinders Ranges.  Recommended by tourist authorities; ideal for tourism studies and school projects.

      Osterstock, Alan Time: in the Flinders Ranges. Austaprint,1970

      56 pages, A5 in size, 8 colour photos. Covers the geology and history of the Flinders Ranges.

      Osterstock, Alan The Flinders in Flower. Austaprint,1975

      53 pages, A5 in size, 25 colour photos. Describes 27 of the most common flowers of the Flinders Ranges.

      Corbett, David A Field Guide to the Flinders Ranges Rigby, 1980

      A field guide to the plants, birds, mammals, insects, reptiles, fishes, frogs, rock types, landforms and a brief history.

      Pedler, Rosemary Plant Identikit: Wildflowers of the Northern Flinders Ranges  Rosemary Pedler1994

      This pocket size booklet describes, with accompanying colour sketches, 70 of the most common plants of the northern Flinders Ranges

      M. Davies,  C.R. Twidale, M. J Tyler Natural History of the Flinders Ranges Royal Society of South Australia Inc 1996

      This 208 page A5 book describes the history of settlement and exploration, the geology and minerals, fossils, landforms, climate, soils, vegetation, aquatic life,invertebrates, mammals, birds, reptile and amphibians and aboriginal people . It is well illustrated with B&W photos, graphs, tables, maps and has an extensive reference list

      Thomas, Tyrone 50 walks in South Australia Hill of Content, 1992

      168 p., [8] p. of plates : ill. (some col.), maps ; 18 cm.  ISBN     0855722118 (pbk.) : Includes index.
      Subjects     Hiking – South Australia – Guidebooks.  |  Walking – South Australia – Guidebooks.  |  South Australia – Guidebooks.

      Morrison, RGB  A Field guide to the Tracks and Traces of Australian Mammals Rigby 1981

      This unique 198 page field guide contains a large number of B&W photos of tracks, diggings, droppings & scats and bones and skulls of Australian animals which helps with identification. [ISBN 0 7270 1489 7

      Bonney, Neville & Annie Reid Plant Identikit Common Plants of the Flinders Ranges Neville Bonney1993 [ISBN 0 646 15406 0]

      This pocket size booklet describes, with accompanying colour sketches, 51 of the most common plants of the Flinders Ranges, including the Gammon Ranges National Park

        Creative Commons License This article by Bush Walker is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

      Bushwalking Boots |Selection and Fitting Criteria

      Having difficulty in deciding what sort of hiking boots to buy? Should I get tramping boots with a Gore-Tex lining? How grippy should the soles be? What about one piece leather boots? Mid or high sided; what should I get? How do I make sure I have the correct size?

      My latest boots: Scarpa ZG10 GTX

      Some selection criteria include:

      • Type of walking
      • Season
      • Type of sole
      • Type of midsole
      • Amount of ankle support
      • Weight
      • Waterproofness
      • Cost
      • Material
      • Comfort
      • Fit
      • Lacing

      The first step in choosing a pair of hiking boots is to decide which type of walking you will be doing, as this determines the type of boot you will need. Will you be walking on roads, on trails, above the snow line or off track? Will the track be slippery, rough, wet, icy or sandy? How much weight will you be carrying? Generally the greater your pack weight the more ankle support you will need and less flexible the sole should be so that you don’t feel  the stones you are walking over.

      Boots are rated according to season, a bit like tents ; 2 season, 3 season and 4 season. The correct selection can be critical if you are walking above the snowline or in icy melt water as frost bitten feet can easily occur with 3 season boots.

      The type of sole is critical as it determines how grippy it will be, so if you are likely to be climbing over wet rock or tree roots, then you will need soft grippy rubber soles. The problem is that softer rubber wears quicker, so you need to be prepared to have them resoled or buy new ones more often than you would with hard rubber. Not all boots are resoleable, so  check before you buy. Usually a resole costs about a third of a new boot, but it does of course have the advantage that you have already broken you boots in.

      The type of mid-sole decides how stiff your boot will be. You may want a stiffer midsole when walking over rocky ground and a more flexible when on soft or smooth ground. If you need crampons for crossing ice or will be doing some serious scrambling then you will need a stiff mid-sole that doesn’t flex.

      The next consideration is the amount of ankle support you will need and this is determined by the load you will be carrying and the nature of the track. Rough uneven ground with a heavy pack requires high sided boots so you don’t roll an ankle. This is the problem with wearing sneakers / cross trainers; there is no ankle support. (NB some ultralightweight walkers would suggest that with a medium weight pack that ankle support is not needed and would promote the use of lightweight DVs ( Dunlop Volleys) and KT-26s for more rugged tracks)

      The better the ankle support, the more waterproof and the harder wearing the sole, the more likely that the weight will be higher. So there is always a compromise to be made. We would all like to wear ultra-light boots but the degree to which we are prepared to sacrifice functionality for weight is a personal choice. As a guide, top quality 4 season leather boots weigh about 1750 g whereas good quality cross trainers will weight about 750 g.

      Are you going to walking through wet grass, shallow creeks or tracks that are rivulets? If so, one piece leather or a Gore-Tex inner is necessary. If the water is higher than the top of your boots then no matter how waterproof your boots are, the water will get in. If you want them to drain quickly, then probably you don’t want a Gore-Tex liner. Of course, having wet feet is normal in many bushwalking environments and can’t be avoided, even with gaiters. You just need to accept that when you walk through knee deep mud and water that you can’t avoid wet feet. Of course with use your Gore-Tex liner will wear away and a boot that depends on this liner will become very leaky. It is worth checking that the tongue of your boot is integrated, so that water can’t seep past.

      Cost is never irrelevant but the advice to “buy the best your can afford” is always true for your boots. Unfortunately, I have always found that the best is usually the dearest. There are however often bargains where a pair of boots might be marked down 30% if it is about to be discontinued. Often Club membership gives you a discount with some outdoor shops, or if not , always ask your favourite shop to match any competitor’s price

      To me comfort overrides all other criteria, as without comfort there is no point is bushwalking. It is difficult to enjoy a hike when you have blisters or the soles of your feet are tender. This is to some extent determined by the size of the boot you choose. Too small and your toe-nails will go blue and probably you toes will become blistered. Too big and your foot will move around and probably cause heel blisters. Check that the tongue of your boot is well padded as otherwise there can be considerable pain as the lacing forces it against the top of your foot. You may find that the boot where your smaller foot goes can be packed with a boot liner/inner sole or perhaps you can wear two socks on your smaller foot.

      The material your boot is made from also determines comfort,  as one piece leather boots take much longer to mould to your feet. Leather has its advantages however as it is more waterproof than fabric and more abrasion resistant. High quality leather boots will be made of a single piece of thick leather (2.8 mm thick) and this adds to the cost. Leather boots do however require much more care and it is not uncommon, even in top quality boots, for the leather to split and leak through the flexion points just above the toe cap.

      The fit of your boots is very important. As a starting point, ask for your normal shoe size plus a little ( half a size or 1 Euro size)  as you will be wearing thicker socks but remember it is very common to find that one foot varies from the other by up to a half size, so you must try on both boots.Check whether you have a narrow or wide foot, as some brands don’t have both fittings. You should put on as many socks as you intend to wear. Are you going to be wearing orthotics, in which case wear them when trying on your new boots. Wear your boots up and down stairs, checking whether the toes hit the front of your boots on the way down. If so, you probably need a bigger boot. Without your boot laced, check that you can just slide a finger firmly down the back of heel in both boots, with your toes forced to the front of the boot. If not, you need a bigger boot. Adjustments to boot volume can be made with thicker footbeds and foot comfort can often be increased with padded footbeds or those with arch supports.

      The lacing of your boots is more than just convenience. It determines how quickly you can put your boots on and take them off. The nature of the eyelets determines how quickly the laces will wear out and if they are not strong enough, they can pull out of your boots. A good lacing design will have hooks towards the top, which allow you to tighten more effectively and get your foot in and out more easily. Often the tongue will have a hook or loop towards the top which allows you to tension the tongue upwards.

      Related post

      Bushwalking Boots | Preventing Blisters in Poorly Fitting Boots

      Further Reading:

      Fit and Sizing Selection (Scarpa)
      Midsoles (Scarpa)
      Accessories (Scarpa)
      Boot Care (Scarpa) 
      How to Choose the Right Size… Advice on Fitting Boots ( Big Black Boots)
      Hiking Boots Buying Guide – Buy the Best Day Hiking Shoes (ABC-of-hiking)
      Hiking Boots – Features and  Characteristics (ABC-of-hiking)
      Hiking Boot Types – Different Types of Hiking Boots (ABC-of-hiking)
      Choosing and Caring for Footwear (Paddy Pallin) 
      Boot FAQ (v.1.5)
      FAQ – Equipment Footwear ( Roger Caffin)

        Creative Commons License This article by Bush Walker is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

      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.

        Creative Commons License
        This article by Bush Walker is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.