The Horror Packing Mistake I’ll Never Make Again

Tamara Hutchins (aka @tamhikes), an avid hiker, is the co-founder of women's adventure group Melbourne Girls Outside and a member of our Australian SWW community.
We asked her to take on the ever-popular question, "what should I pack?"; specifically, what is different about her bag for a day hike and for a multi-day hike?

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Never again will I ever forget my sleeping bag. I can assure you, this item is forever burnt into my memory after what felt like an endless, bitter night spent on top of the Cathedral Range without one. Adding insult to injury, we woke to ice on our tents the following morning.

Hopefully most people will never have to learn their lesson by enduring the longest and coldest night of their lives like I did, but I can assure you: unless you’re making a list and checking it twice, you’re bound to forget at least one item when packing for a hike of any length.

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PACKING FOR A DAY HIKE

As a seasoned hiker, my daypack always contains the same core items, regardless of the distance I’m covering. Why? Because you never know when 8km might turn into 16, and that beautiful sunshine into an absolute downpour.

This is my list of must-haves:

  • 18L Jack Wolfskin backpack, with a hip belt that fits my phone and a pull over rain cover for when the weather turns

  • 3L water bladder, which saves so much time/energy compared to constantly pulling out a drink bottle

  • Lightweight First Aid kit, complete with Wonder Woman Bandaids

  • Sunscreen because ranga life – I will get burnt in the middle of winter!

  • Spork and more than the amount of food I need, because you never know if you’ll get lost, super hungry or if your hiking buddy will get FOMO when they see your jerky or Bear Naked bar come out!

  • Waterproof jacket, preferably one with ventilation zips under your armpits for when it’s raining but steamy

  • Hat/beanie (sunnies just slip down my nose as I look down and drive me insane), and

  • Ventolin/antihistamines, because I’m allergic to life

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PACKING FOR AN OVERNIGHT/MULTI-DAY HIKE

When it comes to overnight/ multi-day hikes, packing becomes a whole new ball game. I remember agonising over so many forums before buying my items, trying to figure out what I should get, and of that, what I could actually afford.

These are my key pieces of advice:

  • Borrow gear from anyone and everyone while you figure out what works best for you. It’s expensive and trust me, it is incredibly disappointing to spend your hard-earned dollars on the perfect lightweight mat just to find out its rating isn’t warm enough for the locations you’ll be sleeping.

  • If you’re not used to carrying a heavy pack, keep in mind that the standard is you shouldn’t be packing more than 30 per cent of your bodyweight.

  • Have your pack fitted by a professional. The difference that it makes on the load you have to bear is incredible, especially on those longer hikes. Take note of where you feel the weight most as well; some of us will feel it more on the shoulders than the back than the hips and so on.

  • Always bring the guilty pleasures! For me, that’s a 700ml pop-top rollable bottle filled with a nice Pinot Grigio. It’s a delicious treat to look forward to at the end of a long day slogging it out on the trail.
     

On top of my regular daypack items, this is what I always take when camping out:

  • Larger backpack – I alternate between a 55L BlackWolf and 65l Jack Wolfskin depending on the hike length and amount of gear required

  • Sleeping gear - a Naturehike two-person tent, sleeping bag, mat and liner, inflatable pillow

  • Cooking and drinking items - a water purifier, stove and pot set, gas canister, collapsible silicone bowl/cup for cooking and plastic mug

  • Food - three meals per day that I am away plus snacks

  • Extra clothing (it’s all about the layers) - waterproof jacket, thermals, spare socks/underwear, down jacket, gloves, beanie 

  • Pair of thongs for walking around the campsite in (getting in and out of boots late at night will drive you nuts!)

  • Map + Compass

  • First Aid kit including an emergency blanket...and insect repellant!

  • Hygiene items - wipes, toilet paper

  • Head torch + spare battery

  • Matches + fire starters

  • Heat packs like HotHands Warmers (they are a godsend when it’s cold!)

  • Lightweight towel

  • Playing cards!

  • And dry bags to ensure that nothing gets wet.
    (PS. The rule of thumb is to also double bag your sleeping bag; so line your dry bag with a garbage bag, stuff your sleeping bag in, twist the garbage bag shut then close your dry bag as you normally would.)

Epic list aside, everyone will have different must-have items in their packs, just as we all have our own guilty pleasures.

I am only a few years into the hiking scene and my pack has already changed so much from those initial adventures. My last piece of advice is to just find what works best for you outside of the bare essentials (water, food, safety, shelter, navigation, light, clothing, sun protection), just find what works best for you and will also make your time on the trails more enjoyable.

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Follow Tamara on Instagram at @tamhikes

Check out Tamara's women's adventure group Melbourne Girls Outside