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BHP Hike Clothing

2019-03-02T01:48:23+00:00

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!

 

Craig

2/3/19

BHP Hike Clothing2019-03-02T01:48:23+00:00

The Prototype

2019-02-02T10:55:59+00:00

Just for something different, I want to tell you all about my mate Rob. He is someone who I consider has all the necessary attributes of an outdoor adventurer (remembering that, in a previous blog, we’ve already established humility as the most important).

Those of you who went on last years’ hike have met Rob. He and his wife, Wendy, provided us with some great support with our transport needs. It probably wouldn’t surprise you to learn that he is highly regarded in his local community. He is a man of faith, known for his service to others along with his humility, generosity, humour, work ethic and adventurous spirit.

Rob is one of those people who is just fun to be with. That’s not to say he’s not annoying in some ways. He looks twenty years younger than he is and, like Paul, he can blitz you in carrying a pack up a mountain even when you think you might have the edge on him in training. He’s lean, strong, determined and fearless. He’s always up for a challenge. Invariably, he will have weekend plans for some sort of adventure, even though he’s toiled on the job (as a builder) all week.

As a long-time local resident, Rob is intimately familiar with the Bogong High Plains. His knowledge and experience of the place is as good as there is. He’s probably forgotten more about this iconic location than what I’ve ever known. He lives and breathes this environment, hiking it in summer, skiing it in winter, four wheel driving or mountain biking it whenever there’s a chance. He does not, however, merely utilize the high country for his own purposes. He respects it. He understands the challenges, the impact of the terrain and weather, as well as the allure it holds for visitors. More than most, he is aware of how quickly plans can go astray. It is for this reason that he has a long history as a highly sought after (and successful) search and rescue volunteer.

Rob has been involved in numerous such operations over the years. Though not all have ended well, many have bordered on legendary status. In the winter of 2004, an advance rescue party led by Rob pulled off a heroic rescue of three men trapped in a ferocious blizzard near the summit of Mt Bogong. Those three would almost certainly have perished if not for the team’s intervention. Appropriately, the rescuers were later recognised with a National Bravery Award. In 2014, Rob was instrumental in locating the bodies of two back country snowboarders tragically killed in an avalanche in one of Bogong’s remote gullies. Rob, of course, would never draw any attention to such exploits. If it did come up in conversation, he would merely deflect credit to others.

That is why, apart from being a friend and peer, I also regard him as a hero.

The high country is not just a nice place to go and visit. It’s a place where men can have experiences beyond the everyday, friendships can be deepened, respect can be earned and God can be encountered; particularly if it is approached with an attitude like Rob’s. If you are interested, you can read a short story called “The Rescue” – an account of Rob’s amazing rescue event – in a book called “A Chicken can make a Difference”. I have a copy. I also have an interesting newspaper article written about the event.

Craig

2/2/19.

The Prototype2019-02-02T10:55:59+00:00

Train hard, train smart!

2019-01-05T03:59:03+00:00

If someone were to ask you “Are you training hard in preparation for the hike?” your answer may well be a resounding yes!

What if the question was “Are you training smart?”

With less than three months to go, we’re probably moving into a different phase in terms of stepping up our training. Which makes that second question all the more important.

Training for a multi-day hike involves five variables. These are:

  1. The regularity of training.
  2. The intensity, or effort put in during the session.
  3. The distance of the hike.
  4. The terrain (eg hills).
  5. The weight in the pack.

In regard to regularity, our target has been twice a week. Given that we are not professional athletes, it is probably unrealistic to expect much beyond this. The other four can, and should, be increased over an extended period of time. This is where the “train smart” aspect needs to be applied.

It has been my observation that there has been a very significant emphasis on the “weight” component during this current hike campaign. We must remember that the purpose of training is to peak at the right time. There is no doubt that we need to train with heavy packs, up to 25kg as per the guidelines. But it is all about timing.

If you are superman, you might be able to train year round with 20+ kg in your pack. Otherwise, you will need to consider the timing of your training. Carrying a heavy weight on your back is an unnatural action for a human. You must build up to it slowly and be careful about how long you remain in this rarefied air. It has been our position all along that preparing for this hike is an eight month process. Loading up with extreme weight throughout this time carries three risks.

The first is injury. Carrying extreme weight places stress on the body, particularly if insufficient build-up time has been allowed. The more you load up and the earlier you do it, the greater the risk.

The second risk is burn-out. This happens when extreme weight is applied too early and is carried for too long. The result is, in peaking too early, the participant is therefore on a downward trend by the time the hike finally comes around.

In terms of the above list, there is a third risk; that being that too much weight too early leaves the participant battling to maintain their training and therefore unable to effectively increase things like intensity or taking on more challenging terrain. This means that the capacity to train harder as the hike approaches is actually diminished due to the challenge of simply maintaining the heavy weight.

Paul, flat out training

For these reasons, I submit that the “weight” variable may actually be the least important of the five (assuming that a minimum level is being adhered to and increased appropriately over time).

If you’ve been battling with carrying extreme weight, now might be a good time to ask yourself some questions like:

  • “How does my body really feel at this point in the process?”
  • “Am I feeling fresh and ready to increase the intensity, or am I battling to hold my ground?”
  • “Are there any niggling injuries evident?”
  • “Is the training resulting in noticeable improvement?”
  • “Am I training differently to what I was three months ago?” (Too much weight often results in an inability to increase the intensity).

If you feel you’ve overdone the “weight” component, there’s no shame in backing off for a time to work on the others. If you’re on track, you should be well positioned now to step up other components. More hills, more intensity!

While we’re talking about pack weight and training smart, let’s talk about the method of loading your pack. This requires some thought. If you merely open your pack and throw in bags of rice until it reaches the desired weight, you do your body no favours. Carrying the bulk of the weight at the bottom of the pack places more stress on the lower body, increasing wear and tear. You need to position it higher. Place lightweight material at the bottom and put the weight further up to ease the strain on your body. Likewise, try to get the packs centre of gravity as close to you as possible. Use the tension straps to pull the load in against your back, allowing you to walk in a more natural, upright position.

Our first compulsory training hike is only a couple of weeks away. Here’s a heads up; the emphasis on that day will be on getting up Mt lofty as quickly as possible. It is not a competition to see who can carry the most weight. The minimum pack weight required for the day is 17kg. Go above that at your discretion, but be warned – the only thing of interest to Jonathan and I that day is how quickly we can all get up (and down) the hill.

Train hard, train smart!

Craig

5/1/19

Train hard, train smart!2019-01-05T03:59:03+00:00

5 Things to Consider Doing Before the Hike

2018-12-16T04:54:34+00:00

As a general rule, I’m not a huge fan of New Year’s resolutions. Most of the time, they become a rod for our backs and cause us to feel guilty when we don’t stick to them. However, given that the New Year will mark three months until our hike, it might be a good time to evaluate how our preparation is going. It also probably coincides with the need to focus more on team rather than just individual. Here are some ideas which you might not have considered. They are not meant to be prescriptive, just possibilities worth exploring. They might also prompt some other thoughts …

  1. Set yourself a target body weight to begin the hike at. Something which is achievable and realistic. Of course, it will require some commitment. What body weight do you think you need to be to carry the pack with maximum comfort? What will you need to do to get there? Will you tell anyone else about your goal as a way to keep yourself accountable?
  2. Make a sacrifice. Perhaps you could give something up for a time, in order to be better prepared. It might involve a change in diet, or a change to your weekly routine to allow more time for training. You could make a personal commitment toward specific training venues or targets.
  3. Contribute something to the group – something which has benefit beyond that which you gain yourself. Take the lead on arranging a group training exercise or an overnight camp out. Put your hand up to help organise group requirements like the hike menu, first aid or transport arrangements. Put something on the website or run a social media campaign.
  4. Search the Bible for passages which speak of God’s creation and how we experience him in the wilderness. Scripture is full of examples of people who went into the wild places to be met by God. Compile a list. Share it. Gain inspiration. Here’s a favourite of mine to get you started – Amos 4:13.
  5. Commit to prayer. This is something we are often flippant about. Consider getting serious. Maybe you could liaise with a prayer partner or team. Consult other team members in regard to specific prayer needs. Prayer is potentially a powerful tool to enhance our preparation.

So there you have it. Don’t feel pressure to have to do specific things, just be open to possibilities. Often we have to be intentional in order to get the best results.

5 Things to Consider Doing Before the Hike2018-12-16T04:54:34+00:00

The Most Important Thing

2018-11-24T06:39:35+00:00

What is the most important quality for someone who aspires to complete a multi-day hike in a challenging place like the Bogong High Plains?

It’s a good question, with many potential answers. All are legitimate contenders for the title.

Fitness is obviously high on the list. Quite rightly, much of our energy is focused on the physical preparation which our hike demands. We train regularly, for many months, in order to equip ourselves. As we become fitter and stronger, our confidence increases. Self-belief – an important quality in itself – rises accordingly.

Light weight camping and hiking demands good organisational skills, particularly in an environment like the High Plains. Even in the lead up, we need to be well equipped, having sourced appropriate gear which suits our purposes. This involves research and knowledge as well as the time commitment involved in putting a kit together. There is a need to load packs appropriately and operate efficiently on the trail and in camp.

Our hikes are built firmly on the foundation of teamwork. Being a team player is extremely important. Operating in isolation simply doesn’t work. Even if it did, the participant would miss the rewards of being part of a team.

High Plains hikers need to be resilient. Clearly, this applies in a physical sense. But it doesn’t hurt to have a thick skin either. Sometimes, amongst a group of mature men, things need to be said (in love) in order to get the best outcome. Then there are the obstacles. Last time around showed us clearly that things don’t always go to plan. This time, so far, we seem to be tracking well. But brace yourself! Challenges will come; if not in the lead up, then almost certainly on the hike itself. It is important to persevere through the tough times, seeking help as needed.

I could go on and on … but let’s get back to the original question. Which of these qualities is most important?

This may come as something of a surprise and will no doubt spark serious debate. But in the opinion of this hiker, the number one requirement comes from outside this list. I believe the most important quality for someone embarking on a hike such as ours is humility.

I have spent a lot of time over many years on the Bogong High Plains. If I have learnt one thing it is this – NEVER, EVER underestimate the demands of this environment. We are undertaking a challenging task. Go to any website detailing the High Plains and you will find three common themes – notoriously unpredictable weather, challenging terrain and the need to be well prepared. The high country is spectacular and beautiful. Our hike will be an amazingly rewarding experience. But this place must be respected.

Those of us who have been before face the threat of complacency. Do not assume that the next experience will be the same as your last. All of us would do well to clothe ourselves with humility (Colossians 3:12). Never think you’re on top of it. Don’t start telling yourself you’ve done enough or you’ll do it later. There is always more to learn, more to give and more to share. Seek advice. Be honest about your challenges. Expect to be tested, but do not fear the process. Be confident but not arrogant. Pray for each other. Offer support where you can.

This is why being part of a team is such a rewarding experience. That which, individually, we might find quite daunting becomes so much more achievable in the company of others.

Some thoughts to chew on, eh! I hope posts such as this might promote some further interesting discussion. Stay tuned for next month’s blog – 5 things to consider doing before the hike.

Craig

24/11/18

The Most Important Thing2018-11-24T06:39:35+00:00

2019 Hike Training Targets

2018-11-07T05:15:34+00:00

General Training

Aim for 2 x pack walks per week for a minimum of 1 hour each. Aim for occasional longer (2-3 hour) walks as part of this program.

By start of November    –              10kg minimum

By start of January           –              15kg minimum

By mid-February              –              20kg minimum

By start of March             –              25kg minimum

Train at 25kg for around 3 weeks then back off for 1-2 weeks prior to the hike to let your body recover. Continue to train during this period, but only at an intensity which allows you to start the hike feeling fresh and ready to go.

Compulsory Training Sessions    –

January 19                               – 6am Saturday at Mt Lofty

February 16                              – 6am Saturday at Mt Lofty

March 7                                    – 7pm Thursday at Mt Lofty

Overnight Practice Hikes/Camps

Aim for one before Christmas and one after.

Other

Aim to increase weight gradually rather than with a sudden large increase.

2 x pack walks per week is a minimum target. If you are doing other forms of training, these should be ‘as well as’, not ‘instead of’.

Training targets are a guide. They are meant to serve you, not rule you. Listen to your body and train accordingly.

Compulsory training sessions are exactly that – compulsory (barring an emergency). The aim is to have the entire group together for these sessions. Please make whatever arrangements are necessary to make this happen. If it is not possible, we will endeavour to change the dates, but not at short notice.

2019 Hike Training Targets2018-11-07T05:15:34+00:00

Hike Groups

2018-11-04T08:10:45+00:00

Craig (leader), Michael G (2IC), Michael O, Marcus, Michael D, Ian, Peter H.

 

Jonathan (leader), Brenton (2IC), Peter M, Paul, Nathan, Hugo, Rob.

Hike Groups2018-11-04T08:10:45+00:00

The Great Bag Debate

2018-10-17T07:57:54+00:00

A good sleeping bag is of critical importance on a bushwalk, particularly during autumn in the high country. Given the amount of time you will spend immersed in your bag, it may be the most used piece of equipment in your kit.

Sleeping bag choice can initially be narrowed to an “either/or” discussion … down or synthetic. Each has its advantages. Down is of course a natural product, consisting of bird feathers (usually duck or goose), while synthetic bags seek to replicate the qualities of down using artificial means. It is worth pointing out that some outdoor adventurers object to using down purely on moral grounds, given that its production requires animals to be slaughtered! Then again, producing anything artificially places its own demands on the planet. We are all consumers!

Conscience issues aside, probably the most compelling reason for choosing a synthetic sleeping bag is the price. A price comparison of a down and synthetic bag of equal temperature rating will always be significantly in favour of the synthetic version. For some people, money talks loudly enough that this is all the information they need.

The other main advantage of a synthetic bag is that it is much easier to dry than down. In fact, drying a down bag in the field in any conditions other than a heatwave is close to impossible. Of course, this is only a problem if you get it wet in the first place! We’ll get back to this later.

My Kelty “Cosmic Down 20” down sleeping bag

The advantages of a down bag are in relation to weight and volume. The previous comparison of a down and synthetic bag would reveal that the price tag is the only thing about the synthetic bag which is lighter. The difference in weight is usually quite significant. As well as being lighter, down bags compress to a much lesser volume than synthetic ones. Given that weight and volume are of critical importance to the multi-day hiker, these advantages are significant. Even if you are willing to carry the extra weight, the size of the bag must be considered. A large volume pack looks like it has plenty of space until you start trying to cram a bulky sleeping bag into it!

For these reasons, in my experience, most multi-day hikers favour down bags. That’s not to say a synthetic bag wouldn’t work on our trips. But make sure your pack is big enough to accommodate it.

As for the problem of getting it wet, the obvious solution is … don’t! The chance of a sleeping bag becoming wet can be virtually eliminated by careful packing, use of dry bags/pack liners and putting a rain cover on your pack as appropriate. Keeping your bag dry at all costs is a high priority and one that is definitely achievable.

Once you’ve made your choice on the down/synthetic issue, you will need to decide on how warm you need your bag to be. In our case, being on the High Plains at that time of year will require you to be comfortable in sub-zero temperatures.

Be aware that your bags performance will be impacted by how well you care for it. Sleeping bags work by trapping a layer of air around you, allowing the body to heat it. The reason down is such an efficient insulator is that feathers on a bird have been designed to trap air in such a way that it keeps the body warm. It seems God knew what he was doing! Sleeping bags replicate this property. The fill in the bag takes time to “loft up” after it has been compressed, such that it will maximize the bags performance. Always lay it out well before you want to use it in order to get the best out of it. Keeping the bag compressed for extended periods can permanently restrict its ability to loft up, so do not store the bag in its compression sack when not in use.

Some hikers advocate the use of an inner bag (made of silk or something similar) in order to protect the sleeping bag and keep it cleaner (and warmer). Using one of these may mean you have to wash it less often. Actually, I don’t remember the last time I washed a sleeping bag. It was a very long time ago! If the bag is to be used by different people, a liner may be a good idea. If it’s just for you, it might not be necessary.  It comes down to personal preference.

As with all outdoor equipment, there are many quality sleeping bag brands to choose from. But remember that inferior bags (just like inferior boots, packs and other gear) can look very similar to the better quality ones. Be sure to ask the right questions and, if possible, buy from someone who knows the product!

 

Craig

17/10/18

The Great Bag Debate2018-10-17T07:57:54+00:00

2019 Route on Topographic Map

2018-10-15T10:27:56+00:00

The route for the 2019 trek can be seen on the map below. The map is best viewed full screen (icon at top right corner of the map). If you are interested in comparing this route to the 2018 route then please check out the map at the bottom of the Route & GPS page.

 

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Lf Hiker | E.Pointal contributor

NO NAMED GPX   

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2019
2019 Route on Topographic Map2018-10-15T10:27:56+00:00

Favourite Backpacks

2018-09-09T11:52:10+00:00

Of all the equipment which forms part of a bushwalker’s kit, nothing communicates as much about the person or their intentions as the humble backpack. One look at the size, style, condition and volume of the pack is enough to form some reasonably sound conclusions about what the user is up to. Hikers wear packs like overgrown badges of honour, some even willing to scuff them up a bit more than necessary in order to enhance their carefully sculptured hard-core image. Apart from being the largest and one of the most expensive tools of the trade, a backpack is of course the most visible, since its purpose is to carry all the essentials.

There is considerable variety of backpacks within our hiking group, as well as some consistencies. One of the most enjoyable parts of our journey over the last eighteen months or so, for me, has been to observe the way in which group members have made decisions about major items like backpacks and to see what they have come up with.

Michael O’s Mont “Backcountry”

There are the bombproof Aussie canvas classics, like Michael O’s Mont “Backcountry” and Brenton’s One Planet “Strezlecki”. I would confidently predict that both these packs will comfortably outlive their owners. Then there is the ever-growing list of those favouring the innovative, lightweight Osprey packs. Michael G, Peter M, Marcus and Ian are on this list. Many of us remain slightly mystified by JD’s hunting pack. I suspect there is a code amongst the fraternity which prevents him divulging too much information about his pack to those of us who don’t wear camo clothing or carry a high-powered rifle! Paul’s Black Wolf “McKinley” features plenty of pockets from which his long arms can draw a seemingly endless supply of drink bottles and snacks.

Brenton’s One Planet “Strezlecki”

The thing which the majority of these packs have in common is large volume, a critical factor in a multi-day hike. It frustrates me that, when it comes to big packs, manufacturers appear to have an “expedition” mentality. It is difficult to find a pack of eighty litres capacity or more which doesn’t feature a whole lot of unnecessary straps, webbing, buckles or zippers. Some of us just want to carry more food, not ropes and ice axes! There is a tendency for backpacks to become more complicated than they need to be. I have been a long-time fan of Wilderness Equipment’s “Breakout” pack because of its simplicity. It’s a tough, no frills, single compartment, Aussie canvas pack which is built to last. Unfortunately, at seventy-five litres, I feel it’s just a bit small for our needs.

So what type of pack do I use?

I purchased my Lowe Alpine Systems “Patagonia” in 1984. I think I paid just under three hundred dollars for it, an insane amount of money for a pack at the time, especially for a student. Although it has required some repairs in recent years, these have been relatively inexpensive and the pack continues to perform well. I often look at outdoor equipment websites and think about replacing it, but so far I have resisted. At ninety litres, the pack is a beast, yet it remains an efficient and comfortable way of carrying my load. It is relatively lightweight compared to modern packs. I really like its profile and the way it fits my frame. I tolerate the lack of breathability in the inferior, outdated harness system. Technically, my pack isn’t “hydration system compatible”, since such things did not exist in the eighties, but I improvise to make it so. On the whole, the benefits of using this pack continue to outweigh the negatives. Of course, even if I did buy a new pack, it wouldn’t be perfect. Besides, I have to admit to an old-school determination to continue using a trusty old relic.

My Lowe Alpine Systems “Patagonia”

If I was going to replace my pack, there would be several leading candidates. The Mont “Pioneer” (similar to Michael O’s but without the bottom zipper compartment), the One Planet “McMillan” (similar to Brenton’s in the same way) and the Macpac “Torre 80” are among them.

I am looking forward to seeing what decisions the newer members of our hiking group will make in regard to their backpacks, as well as other equipment. No doubt these items will continue to spark interesting conversation.

Craig

9/9/18

Favourite Backpacks2018-09-09T11:52:10+00:00