You may have heard the expression “The weather on the Bogong High Plains has its own agenda” (Those who went on last year’s hike are probably rolling their eyes as they read this). The reason this quote keeps popping up is because it is so true. Consequently, the environment we will be hiking through demands that serious attention be paid to clothing needs.
Essentially, being adequately clothed for a high country adventure requires three types of layers for the upper body. Next to the skin is the base or thermal layer. Merino or wool blend products are ideal for this. They insulate against both cold and heat and do not retain body odour like many other products (particularly polypropylene!) Many of us have found that a short sleeve merino T-shirt for hiking and a long sleeve version for night time use is ideal.
Next is the insulation layer(s). Again, this can be merino, or some sort of fleece/wind stopper fabric. The number of layers of insulation required depends on the type of garment(s). Two lighter layers will give you more adaptability than one warm, bulky layer. Another option is a lightweight down vest or jumper.
The final, outer layer is the shell. This consists of a waterproof jacket, and is arguably the most important article of clothing in your kit for a hike such as ours. Warning: if you were thinking of saving money by purchasing a cheap jacket of inferior quality, forget it. This hike demands a high quality jacket.
Serious bushwalking rainwear has a number of specific features. Above all, make sure the garment is made from quality fabric and that it is seam sealed. Look at the inside to check that all the seams are taped securely; without this (or with an inferior version) the garment will likely leak badly in severe weather.
As well as being waterproof, it needs to be breathable (at least to some degree), otherwise the slightest bit of exertion whilst wearing the jacket will bath you in sweat. The more breathable it is, the more you will pay for it!
Typically, traditional bushwalking rain jackets are long both in body and arm length, to cover hips and hands when the weather is at its worst. They have a generous, adjustable hood and wrist cuffs, velcro closures to cover the zipper, a draw string waist to trap body heat when required and some extensive external pockets. Expect to pay at least $250 to get something of suitable quality. As a general rule, the further north you go from this price range, the greater the degree of breathability.
A selection of waterproof jackets (on some high quality models!)
Below the waist, layers are less numerous but still important. Many find walking in shorts is generally quite comfortable in autumn on the High Plains, with lightweight long pants for night time. “Zip-off” type hike pants are ideal – walk in shorts and zip the legs on when it gets cold. The real debate centres around the need for waterproof over-pants. While perhaps not essential, I would place them in the “highly desirable” category. In extremes of weather (cold, wet or windy), you will be glad you packed them. They do not need to be as expensive or high tech as the jacket in order to be effective. Some people ponder the need for thermals under the long pants. My advice would be to forget thermals and get a lightweight pair of over-pants to do the same job with more versatility. You might also have to factor in the quality of the hike pants. Whichever way you go, think twice before leaving the over-pants behind when heading to the Bogong High Plains. If you do go without them, make sure your hike pants are quick-drying.
There are some other articles of clothing to consider. Make sure your undergarments are suitable and comfortable. Wear one pair of good quality hiking socks (Aldi merino?) and take one spare pair. Wear a sun hat/cap for hiking and have a lightweight beanie or similar to keep you warm at night. Gloves, also not essential, are worth thinking about. A lightweight, close fitting pair is probably more practical than bulky ski type gloves.
My final pitch would be to try not to take more clothing than is necessary. But make sure the clothing you do take is up to the job. After all, “The weather on the Bogong …” – well … you know what I mean!