When your walk takes you places where a backpack won’t do you need a different kind of kit.
1 The Barrow (or cart, buggy, trolley, pram…)
Over the last 8 years I have walked more than 15,000kms for charities and causes beside the highways and byways of Australia. Sometimes it is a shorter walk of only 600-1,200kms regularly passing through towns so a backpack suffices. When my walks take me further from towns or through summer, when I require more supplies and drinking water than usual, I use a barrow or cart. I have used a few different designs, the first being a light alloy bike trailer, converted with handles, I pulled 1,400kms from Melbourne to Newcastle across the Victorian and NSW Alps. I flipped it around near Sydney to negotiate a narrow road and discovered pushing is way easier than pulling. The one I am using now, nicknamed Dory, I designed from what I learnt from the first carts. Dory is light, built from alloy. She had a deep carrying capacity ideal for carrying more than a week of water and supplies between towns or roadhouses. When she is balanced well she is almost weightless on a flat sealed surface, even fully loaded weighing over 100kg I can push her with 1 finger (inclines, declines, gravel, grass, sand and headwinds are a different story).
Like bushwalking and bike touring a light, weather proof, easy to use tent or hammock is absolutely necessary. There are many brands on the market ranging from $100 to $1,000. If you look mid-range you can always find something reliable and high quality but remember you get what you pay for. The other thing you can consider is going ultralight but this is not comfortable for an extended time. Over the last few decades of solo wilderness and charity walking I have tried everything from sleeping inside logs, under rock ledges, snow caves to mountain huts, I’ve scraped holes into the ground lining them with grass and wrapping myself in a silver rescue blanket but usually I set up a tarp using walking poles and rocks or carry a small tent, recently I started using an ultralight hammock (it is nice to be off the ground). I have been very fortunate to have the support of 3 Australian owned and made companies who have helped with discounts and donations. Mont Adventure Equipment came on board as one of the first supporters of The Happy Walk and gave me a pro-athlete deal on their one person Moondance 1 tent. It is the perfect size for a solo adventurer. Terra Rosa Gear, specialising in ultralight custom built shelters, donated a wind and rain break tarp and made a more spacious tarp suitable for camping alone or with others. I used the larger tarp a lot while walking around Tasmania and last year the rain/wind break came in handy while trying to escape the elements during my rest stops. This year Tier Gear made me a custom ultralight Goshawk hammock with fitted tarp. Tier Gear also makes custom made gear to order but hammocks are his specialty. For privacy I like the tent, for sleeping under the stars I love the hammock but for simplicity the tarp is perfect.
3 Sleeping Gear
I use a variety of sleeping bags, depending on the season. While walking across the Nullarbor the temps dropped to -5C so I used a good alpine bag, the Brindabella, which came from Mont Adventure Equipment. For hygiene reasons I always use a liner or inner sheet with my sleeping bags. Sleeping bags are not washed often but an inner sheet can be washed as often as you pass a laundry. During the most recent leg the nights varied from 9-25C so I used an ultralight custom made synthetic 3 season quilt from Terra Rosa Gear in the hammock with a $2 insulating car windscreen shield to protect my back against the wind. In the tent I use a light 2/3 length Pacific Outdoor inflating foam mat sent to me by Wilderness Sports Jindabyne which gives me about 2cm of insulation and comfort off the ground. Wilderness Sports Jindabyne is another great Australian family business who have supported me since The Happy Walk was just an idea.
4 Toilet Trowel
I am a “leave no trace” walker so when I make camp at night I dig a hole deep enough for my morning movement then cover it when I break camp so nobody but the best tracker would know I had even been there. I see so much human waste and toilet paper strewn around rest areas and behind trees and rocks. It is disgusting! Unacceptable! Dig a hole, it’s quick and easy and helps keep this beautiful country free from unsightly human filth. My trowel is small and lightweight with 15cm marked on it so i know my toilet hole is deep enough to prevent being washed out in the storm or dug up by wildlife. If rocks prevent me from getting the ideal depth I heap some big rocks on top.
5 Emergency Beacon
At night I sleep with an emergency beacon beside me in case something happens like I’m injured during a stampede through my camp. Walking beside the highway there are few risks but just to be safe I keep it close while sleeping. I use an old school 1st generation SPOT device. It communicates via satellite with my exact GPS location. I can use as an emergency beacon or to send a pre-programmed check in message to social media and my parent’s email address. It also works as a tracker but it costs a bit for that extra service.
6 UHF Handheld Radio
This is more of a courtesy than a necessity. I keep the UHF radio set on channel 40, the general chatter station used by truckies, travellers and road work crews. If I am walking through a high risk area, like across a long narrow bridge, I turn on the radio, put out a caution call letting heavy vehicles know where I am so they are not caught by surprise when I’m in the middle of the bridge crossing. I also announce when I am clear and no longer a danger. If I walk at night or in poor visibility I keep the radio turned on and chat with the truckies. At night it helps keep me alert listening to their garbled or static banter. My UHF radio cost $15 and gives approximately 3kms of range or line of sight. It isn’t weather proof so gets packed away in the rain.
7 Rain Jacket
Mont Adventure Equipment came to my aid again. I use their Hammerhead Jacket. It is bright yellow, high visibility is important in the rain. I bought the XL so it came down low over my thighs because I don’t bother with rain pants. It is light, breathable, hooded and is a perfect wind breaker. The larger size also allows me to layer clothing underneath in cold weather and still have plenty of unrestricted movement. Many road workers and cyclists have admired my Hammerhead Jacket. It is tatty, ripped, frayed and stained now but still does the job.
For most of this walk around Australia I have not been near fresh water. It costs a small fortune to buy so I carry only enough to drink and add to my cereal when between towns and roadhouses, this can sometimes be up to a week. Without spare water to wash I improvise with baby wipes. Each evening, when I climb into the tent, I ration myself 10 baby wipes to clean the most dusty and sweaty zones. I still stink after about 4 days but not as badly as I would without a nightly wipe down. Because baby wipes are non-compostable I hold onto them in a reusable zip lock bag until I walk past a rest area bin. I spray or powder my shoes with eucalyptus or tea tree to prevent bacteria and fungus and rub tea tree oil between my toes before putting on my sleeping socks. For this leg I have been given some dry shampoo and look forward to trying it out. Although the more time I spend without washing the less oil builds up in my hair. I have a clean plant based diet which also significantly contributes to less body odour.
I use a small light fold up stool. It fits nicely into Dory and is always near the top so I can take it out as soon as I stop for a break. Having somewhere to sit which is not on the ground with the ants and tics is great. I put my stool close to Dory so I can use her to rest a water bottle, food, book, reading glasses and mobile phone on her. The stool is low so sometimes I can sit behind Dory and partially shelter from the wind. Sitting feels so good when you’re walking 40-45kms a day. I love being able to take off my shoes, air my feet, let the heat and swelling go down and allow my socks and shoes to dry. This is all so much easier with a seat. Until you lose your seat you have no idea how valuable an item it is.
There are parts of Australia where flies gather in plague proportions. They will drive you crazy but the flynet delays the onset of madness. A flynet is an essential part of any walker’s kit. My worst experience with flies was in the Pilbara in 2015 as the easterlies came in near at the end of cyclone season. I literally had thousands of them on me all day. I was coated in fly shit, on my skin, clothes and Dory, I was breathing fly shit through the flynet. They clung to the tent before sunrise, waiting for me to emerge and stayed with me until after dark. I walked into the night so I could set up camp without the tent filling with flies as I climbed inside. At the worst I had them crawling under my clothes, the insect repellent I had been using was poisoning me and the flies were constantly finding their way under the flynet, even under my sunglasses. One day, walking into a headwind, a fly laid a maggot on the flynet in front of my mouth and the wind blew the maggot through the mesh onto my mouth. I have not been okay since and have panic attacks when flies start buzzing near my face. Without my flynet I would not be able to continue walking around Australia. My flynet is my sanity.
There is a lot of stuff in my kit I haven’t listed, like safety lights, pee bottle, sun hat, repair kit, first aid, etc, but the above is pretty much my essential gear. I have a few tricks up my sleeve to improvise when something breaks or is lost but usually I start with everything I need to make the walk as easy as possible without compromising too much on weight. I can walk with much less but because I am walking such long distances alone without a support vehicle I carry enough to maintain a minimalist level of comfort. I love it! I love the challenge! I love the rewards! I love being out here amongst nature and under the stars. It is a good life.