Bibbulmun Again

Time to do it again. The property where I’ve been staying off and on between traveling has been sold so it’s time to move on but I figure before I go I’ll have another crack at the Bibbulmun track, only this time I’m setting off planning to do it both ways, walking from Albany up to Perth and then walking back down to Albany, over 2000km all up and I’m estimating that it will take me about 4 months to complete.  The picture above shows everything I’ll have with me except for my food, not a lot, but it’s a telling image when you think that this is really all you need to live for quite an extended period of time.

And to put it into perspective by removing the pack, this is it.

All my stuff

Everything I need to live for 4 months including all my clothes, cooking gear, medical supplies, shelter, sleeping gear and electronics, all that’s required except food and water to survive a variety of conditions including some very cold and wet periods, well I say periods, chances are it will be mostly cold and wet the whole way.

Clothes

These are all my clothes apart from my basic hiking shorts and long sleeve shirt which I wear every day. There are a few pairs of socks, in fact I may leave a pair behind because 5 pairs is a bit  of luxury. Two buffs a beanie and some thin woolen gloves, a puffy down jacket, raincoat, 1 Tshirt, 2 long sleeve thermal tops 1 long sleeve thermal pants, a raincoat, long hiking pants, woolen underpants and a pair of lycra shorts. Most of these items are the same as what I took on my last hike though some things like my socks are new, and most of these can be layered as needed depending on the weather or terrain.

Also apart from one buff, the socks and the raincoat these are mainly for wearing in camp or in towns along the way, though I may wear the Tshirt under my long sleeve hiking shirt if it’s really cold in the day.

Shelter and sleeping

The blue bags and the long red bag are my tent, I’m leaving my tent pegs behind as last time I only used them once. The dark grey bag is my new sleeping quilt, such an improvement on the one I had last time which often left me cold in the evenings even when I wore all of my camp clothes. Light grey bag is my sleeping mat, while the tiny grey bag is my pillow and the purple bag was covered in my clothes picture above, it’s just my beanie, gloves, buff and one of the pairs of socks for sleeping.

The Thermarest corus quilt I had for the last hike was really lacking, I’m not sure how it had so many great reviews online.

Corus quilt

This is it after leaving it to loft all day and you can see the light shining right through, there’s just not enough down. I had a few nights on the trail where I was wearing all of my clothes in bed and was still cold so this time around I’ll have a -6 degree quilt from Enlightened Equipment in the US. I really would’ve like to buy a locally made quilt from one of the Australian makers but they all had lead times of 16 weeks or longer and I’d left things a bit late.

New quilt

Here’s my new Enlightened Equipment quilt hanging in the window on a similar day, hardly any light shining through, you can just make out a some light areas near the seams in the middle, the down in this just doesn’t compare to the old Corus quilt, I won’t be at all cold and it’s the same weight as my old one.

The new sleeping mat is a Sea to Summit Ether Lite large, it’s a couple of hundred grams heavier than my old mat but supposed to be a lot more comfortable and quiet. Last time I often didn’t sleep well waking with sore hips and shoulders. And the noise of my old Neo Air mat was just horrible, any movement at night sounded like rustling a chip bag, which not only kept me awake, but also half the hut if there were any other campers.

Kitchen

The kitchen is the same as my last hike, an MSR 850ml titanium pot, one cut down plastic spoon which fits into the pot even with the gas canister in the pot, a Soto windmaster stove which did me well last time, a small glow in the dark Swiss army pocket knife that has everything you need, knife, scissors, nail file, tweezers and tooth pick, a cut down dish sponge and 2 x 1 litre water bottles for all my drinking needs.

Everything else

And then all the extras. Top left are my soap leaves, these do for washing hands/body as well as laundry when in town, love these things as they are so tiny. A few sets of earplugs to help with the snorers and super early risers, or those with noisy sleeping mats like my old one.  Electronics are underneath that, charging cables, headphones, a tiny media player for books and music, oh and almost forgot, there will also be a small 240V charger for in towns, a 21000 mAH battery that keeps everything charged up for a maximum of 7-10 day and my Olight rechargeable headlamp/torch. There’s a fly net, unused last time, but I’m going at a slightly different time of year this time around and at 27g it’s worth taking. Some deodorant, a luxury but mainly for others benefit. 🙂  A length of cord for clothes line or potential repairs, glasses, lighter, toothpaste and brush and my little red bottle cap which is my shower. A cap filled with holes that fits onto my water bottles, I can heat up some water and have a 1L shower if I’m in a hut by myself which I did numerous times before. A Personal locator beacon in case of emergencies, a tiny towel for obvious reasons, a small water bottle often used for carrying medicinal spirits, a brolly which is a great addition for winter hiking as it saves getting out the rain coat, and lastly my foam fold up Thermarest Zseat which saves your tired butt when sitting on hard surfaces and saves your knees when getting in and out of bed etc.

Medical and repair kit

And lastly my medical and repair kit, which is a real assortment of things. Bandages, fixomull, antiseptic cream, antiseptic wipes, anti-fungal cream, assorted bandaids and sticking plasters, chapstic, superglue, pain tablets, water treatment pills, diarrhea tablets, patches for the air mattress, needle, thread and dental floss for heavy duty repairs, a thimble and assorted tapes. There are a few spots where I have assorted tapes for repairs of body and equipment, usually wrapped around other items like you can see here on the chapstic and the antiseptic cream. I also have electrical tape and gaffa tape wrapped around my hiking poles just in case.

All packed

And lastly, there’s my pack an Aarn featherlite freedom, I do love these packs and can’t see myself ever reverting to a standard backpack. Many a time on the last hike I’d notice as soon as others would stop for a rest they would drop their pack off in exhaustion and then groan when they had to put it back on to keep walking. Personally I would leave my Aarn on all day even when I stopped for a chat or a rest, it really was no major effort having it on. The secret is in the front packs and the careful design of weight distribution, well there are many secrets to it I imagine, I can stand with it on and swivel from side to side and the whole harness over my shoulders swivels from side to side as well. Anyway, all loaded up and my base weight is 10.1kg with no gas, water or food. With two litres of water a gas canister and 3 days food and it’s up around 15kg, with 6-7 days food It’s up around 18kg which is it’s maximum load carrying recommendation. I hope it lasts ok for this hike as it already did the 1000km last time plus all my training, this time I’ve done most training with a different day pack loaded with weight so I’m not wearing the Aarn pack when not needed. This is where I’ve noticed the real difference of the Aarn body pack, vs a back pack, sore neck, sore shoulders and a range of different muscles are needed when carrying all the weight on your back rather than the balanced front and back weight districbution of the Aarn.

Today I’ve just finished reading back through the 12 blog posts I wrote when I walked the last time around and now I’m seriously second guessing my decision to do it again, especially considering that it’s cold, wet and stormy outside as I type this and I’ve been reading about the trials I went through, the constant dampness, the torrential downpours, the painful feet and legs I suffered along the way. Here I sit in relative warmth and dryness with feet that feel good, looking out at the squalls, thinking, hmmm, I could be out there hiking in this with weight on my back, cold and wet, dirty, smelly, sore and tired. Or I could remain inside warm and comfy. And the crazy thing is I’m still relatively keen.

Footwear

Footwear? Well, last time around I had Lone Peak altra trail runners which were ok for a while but my feet were sore after wearing them in many sections and I tended to settle on my Teva sandals for perhaps 2/3rds of the track. This time around I have been trying out different shoes for a while to be sure I get something comfy for the hike, Merrill ankle high boots, Asics sneakers, Saucony trail runners, none of them feel really comfortable after trialing them for a while. Most of the training I’ve done has been in Teva sandals, I bought a pair that were supposed to be the same model as my last ones, Hurricanes, but they have changed them and I found them to be uncomfortable over distance, so I bought a pair of their terra fi sandals, their model recommended for long distance hiking and they seem to be the goods. I do like the idea of a back up/camp shoe as well though I’m not sure what I’ll wear for that, I even toyed with the idea of Skinners.

Skinners

These are the ultimate in minimalist footwear, basically a pair of socks with a 3mm thick sole, heal and toe made of a rubbery grippy material. They only weigh about 70g and roll up into almost nothing and would make a great camp shoe, I even hiked in them for a couple of kilometres with a pack on and they were ok but you really have to concentrate on the ground where you are walking as 3mm of sole isn’t much protection especially on rocks and gum nuts and there are plenty of them on the hike. So maybe ok as a camp shoe but won’t hack it as a backup pair of hiking footwear. I’ll keep trialing the footwear I have, I may end up with 2 pairs of sandals, one for main hiking and another for camp and backup hiking. Just seems strange to tackle 2000 kms of hiking with only sandals. For now I’ll try and stick with the Saucony trail runners to begin with, at least for the Albany to Denmark section while having the sandals as a back up and camp shoe, if they aren’t doing so well I can drop them at Denmark after the first 5 days.

48 days of food

Food is a little more simplified compared to last time. Previously I did a lot of dehydrating of my own vegetables, mince, fruit etc, being quite inventive with my meals.  This time it’s predominantly my favourite meals from the last hike, around 60-70% of my dinners will be 2 minute noodles with jerky and vegetables. Veggies are freeze dried mixed vegetables consisting of peas, corn and carrots with additions of dried mushrooms, dried seaweed, dried garden peas, dry roasted edamame soy beans, dried onion, simple off the shelf stuff. But there’s still some variety in what I’ll be eating along the way.

Here are some random daily ration packs

A days food

Porridge for breakfast, salted mixed nuts, dried fruit, some bars and crackers during the day, then for dinner there’s a big 100g pack of jerky, with mushrooms, peas and onions, mash potato and  a cup a soup for extra flavour if need.

A days food

Muesli for breakfast, crackers, peanuts, dried fruit and bars during the day then tuna vegetables and noodles for dinner. Milk for the muesli will be powdered, in each resupply box I have powdered milk, tea, coffee, and a few other bits and pieces like wet wipes, toilet paper and perhaps a little bottle of medicinal scotch as well as packets of deb potato. Most days you may notice there’s a cup-a-soup packet, usually at the end of a cold wet day when I get to camp I boil enough water for a cup of tea and then make a cup a soup with mash potato. Flavoured mash, one of my daily treats.

 

A days food

Porridge for breakfast, dried fruit salted nuts, bars, crackers and cheese during the day, then Jerky, noodles and veggies for dinner.

A days food

Bars for breakfast, nuts dried fruit, crackers and tuna during the day, then for dinner it’s pasta with vegetables and salami, cook them up and at the last minute stir in two tomato cup-a-soup packets. I had this the other night as a test and it was surprisingly nice.

A days food

Porridge for breakfast, then nuts and bars during the day and I can either have tuna or salami with naan bread. Then for dinner it’s either tuna or salami with veggies and noodles.

Some days food supplies may look bigger than others but they all weigh out around 800g for the day it’s just that some items are heavier than others, like dried fruit and nuts which are fairly heavy, while crackers are very light. After making a days food supply I weigh each one and if it’s a little light I’ll slip in an extra muesli bar or pack of crackers or perhaps some chocolate.

A shared days food day 1

A shared days food day 2

I also have some split days where I share items over 2 days, these ones above have scrambled eggs shared for 2 breakfasts, you can’t eat porridge every day. Lunch snacks are shared as well, naan bread, 250g block of cheese, salamis, nuts, fruit and bars, then jerky, potato and veggies one night, jerky, noddles and veggies the next night.

I don’t have too many days when things are split because it’s harder to keep track, but with some bulkier items it makes sense, I don’t want to eat 250g of cheese on one day, nor 5 servings of scrambled eggs on another day. Well, they say 5 servings.  On the track over the long stretches you often find that there are things left over from previous days that you didn’t eat, maybe some nuts, some dried fruit or muesli bars, or perhaps a bag of veggies, or maybe you didn’t feel like tuna one night so you just had veggie noodles. This means that by the end of say a 5-7 day section you begin mixing up who knows what, all the left overs. On my previous hike I sometimes had main meals for breakfast, or I’d find an extra pack of 2 minute noodles someone had left in the box at camp and you might eat that with the tuna sachet you didn’t feel like eating 2 days ago.

Last time around I had similar daily ration packs and I generally found them enough, though I now wish I’d gone into more detail in my old blog posts about what I did and didn’t like. I remember not liking dried fruit so much and I’d often find I had a couple of dried fruit packs left the day before hitting a town, yet I seem to have packed a lot of dried fruits again this time. Personally I prefer salty/savoury stuff to sweet, so I’ve got crackers and salted nuts almost every day. I’m not so concerned about excess salt because you are sweating quite a lot every day.

One of my favourite additions to my veggie mixes is seaweed, you may wonder about the taste but the one that I found has been great just a slight ocean smell when reconstituted that you don’t notice in a meal, it’s exceptionally light weight, reconstitutes easily into nice bite size pieces, adds a nice texture in the meal and according to most literature I read it contains a wide variety of minerals. Oh and sushi seaweed sheets don’t work very well they just disintegrate, which may be ok for you but I like the texture of pieces. Check out the way this seaweed reconstitutes.

From this dry

To this 5 minutes later

Another food I’m reminded of is fried onions, now there’s fried onions and then there’s fried onions, I’ve tried 4 or 5 different brands but there’s only one I really like.

Onions

Most might be ok as a garnish on your meal to add crunch and flavour, but when you want your onions to absorb water and reconstitute back into something like normal cooked onion the ones on the left are the only ones I’ve found that do it well. Most I’ve bought are like the ones on the right, they have chunks in them that never reconstitute and stay as hard lumps in your meal. The ones on the left reconstitute beautifully in your meal with good flavour and a texture that’s just like nicely cooked onion.

Here are a couple of different vegetable bags, these are in “snack” size snap lock bags to give you an idea of quantity.

2 standard veggie bags

On the left there’s a mix of dried mushrooms, fried onions, roasted edamame soy beans and dried peas while the right bag contains a freeze dried mix of peas corn and carrots with some normal dried peas and seaweed. Each veggie bag weighs under 50g so an average meal of vegetables, noodles and jerky comes in just under 200g, comparable in weight to a commercial hiking 2 serve meal and a lot cheaper, and most people like to eat a 2 serve commercial meal as the single serves are pretty small. Your average double serve back country meal is about $15 while my meals almost always come in around $5 or less. I bought most of my jerky on sale for $3.50 a pack, noodles were about 50c a pack in bulk and the vegetable mixes probably cost around $1 each. So that’s $5 for a meal that packs a punch with lots of veggies, carbs and protein and it’s damn tasty.

Standard dinner, Jerky, mixed vegetables and noodles

Another meal I’ll be eating along the way is a tomato pasta with salami, this also has a small handful of dehydrated peas because I feel like I need something green in every meal, some fried onion and fried garlic these are both from the Asian section of the supermarket, long lasting and light weight, 1 cup of pasta and twin salami sticks. I bought the salami on sale for $1.50 a pack, packets of tomato cup a soup are about 50c a serve and I use 2. A cup of pasta is perhaps only 20c and the vegetables would be well under $1 so this meal comes in well under $5 and is really tasty.

Pasta with salami

I’d love to throw a few olives in with this and  it’s easy to carry some parmesan, even if it’s just the powdered stuff, also sun dried tomatoes would add a nice kick.

Another meal I like is Beef stroganoff, I bought some freeze dried beef mince produced by Back Country, a large packet costs $15 and I’ll get about 5 meals from the pack, this is precooked so you only need it to reconstitute. I use one cup of pasta, the mice meat, a stack of dehydrated mushrooms as well as fried onions, then in a separate bag I have powdered milk in lieu of sour cream and half a packet of beef stroganoff seasoning mix, standard off the shelf supermarket stuff, I think it was Maggi brand. Soak the pasta, mushrooms, mince and onions for a few minutes before bringing to the boil, then add the milk and seasoning mix give it a good stir and leave to sit in the pot cosy for 5 minutes. Really tasty, and once again around $5 and 200g for a meal.

Beef Stroganoff

Ok it’s only got mince in it rather than big chunks of meat but the mushrooms reconstitute into nice big meaty pieces, and yes, that’s peas again, peas in just about everything, they are cheap, easy to get and a green vegetable that’s easy to add.

“Ok, I haven’t taken a pic of this, might do one before I leave on the hike”

Cheesy tuna pasta, one cup of pasta, one sachet of tuna, a mix of freeze dried peas, corn and carrots and some fried onion thrown in then half a pack of a cheesy meal flavour sachet. There are many to choose from in the supermarket “cheesy cauliflower” or “three cheese potato bake” are a couple I’ve used. Along with half a pack of this flavour base I also add a tablespoon of powdered milk and some parmesan cheese, the powdered version.  Same method of cooking, soak the pasta and veggies for a while, bring to the boil, add tuna stir well, just before pasta is done add the powdered milk cheese flavour mix and give it a good stir, then on with the lid and leave for 5 minutes again..

You may have noticed that any of these meals with a creamy or milky sauce component to them have the milk side added at the last minute as the pot is about to come off the stove. The titanium pot I have, along with all titanium pots are terrible for sticking, they transfer heat well and milky things stick and burn very quickly. When I cook oats in the morning I add a spoonful of powdered milk at the end when it’s cooked, with all other meals you learn to adapt your cooking methods in a similar way.

“No veggo curry pic either as yet”

Veggo curry. You can’t eat meat every day and it’s easy to make a vegetarian curry on the trail. I use freeze dried precooked rice that I bought from a camping store so that I don’t have to waste gas cooking rice for ages. A nice mix of all the veggies peas, corn, carrots, edamame beans, mushrooms, fried onion and half a dozen dried curry leaves to add that extra flavour, along with a teaspoon of curry powder and a handful of cashew nuts and a cup of the rice. Then in a separate bag I have coconut milk powder. soak all the first ingredients for a while or just start them on a low flame, bring it to the boil, add the coconut milk powder at the end, stir it up and wait for a bit. Creamy coconut vegetable curry with cashews.  Once again, under $5.

The freeze dried rice in the above meal is probably the most expensive thing at $6 a packet for around 4 or 5 servings but I’m chasing quick cooking where ever possible. When buying pasta I found there are a couple of brands with recommended cooking times of only 6 minutes while most are 8 to 10 minutes.

Steak veggies n mash

Another meal I make is pepper steak and veggies, succulent pepper steak served with sauted onion, mushrooms, peas and creamy mashed potato. Ok perhaps I’m embellishing things a little, but no more than the commercial hiking meals. “Roast lamb and vegetables, freeze dried lamb and mint gravy with vegetables and creamy mashed potato.” I mean lets face it it’s all just reconstituted stuff, you aren’t getting anything like a real roast lamb meal, all the bits are cut into little pieces and mixed in together, you add boiling water and it reconstitutes, how good can the roast meal be when it’s been soaked in boiling water to bring it back to life.

My version uses jerky and this time twice as much as in most meals, I go for a 100g pack or two smaller 50g packs, veggie bag is just peas, onion and mushrooms. Drop the lot into the pot with water and soak for a few minutes, bring it up to the boil then add deb mash potato and stir it up, enough deb to make it thick.

These make your own meals don’t use much more gas than the instant commercial freeze dried versions either because I tend to soak most meals in water for a while, then bring it to the boil before turning it off and dropping it into my pot cosy for 5 or 10 minutes to finish cooking. And it lets you be a bit inventive with your meals. Ok it means you need to do more preparation before your hike but you don’t need a dehydrator, it’s cheap, light. And making a pot cosy is an easy thing to do and highly recommended, there are plenty of videos on youtube about how to make one using a cheap car windscreen reflector, mine lasted the last trip well and hopefully it will last for this hike, if not, I have plenty of tape to repair it along the way.

Now onto the boxes and buckets and food drops.

All da food

It may not look like much perhaps because the boxes are reasonably deep but this is everything I need for 77 days.  Ok scratch that, I’ve rearranged things a bit, take out 3 days, 74 days worth now, I’ve added another bucket and split 2 boxes. And scratch that again, I’ve decided to add another hidden bucket into the north section. This is where the logistics of everything become confusing..

The run down of all my food logistics, here we go!

Start with 4 days food in Albany walk to Denmark, buy 1 day food, walk to William bay (where I’m living at the moment), pick up 5 days food walk to Walpole buy three days food, walk to hidden bucket #1, take out 4 days food then hide bucket again. Walk to Northcliffe buy 3 days food and walk to Pemberton, pick up box with 5 days food, walk to Donnely river, buy 3 days food walk to Balingup pick up 4 days food, walk to Collie pick up 7 days food walk to Dwellingup, pick up 4 days food walk to Gringer hut find bucket #2 pick up 4 days food walk to Brookton hwy pickup 3 days from bucket #3 walk to Kalamunda, pick up 3 days food walk back bucket #3 pick up 4 days food walk to to gringer get bucket #4 pick up 4 days food. Walk to Dwellingup pick up 7 days food walk to collie, buy 4 days food walk to balingup, buy 3 days food walk to Donnely river, buy 5 days food walk to Pemberton, buy 3 days food walk to Northcliffe, pick up 4 days food walk to hidden bucket #1 take out last 3 days of food walk to Walpole, Pick up 6 days food walk to Denmark, pick up 4 days food walk to Albany….   Phew, done!!! Easy.

Then throw into this mix that along with the daily food bags you need to allow for gas canisters, toilet paper, wet wipes, powdered milk, coffee, tea, and any other extras like extra mash potato, medicinal beverages, multi vitamins, etc. making allowances for those sections where you are buying food resupplies in town, personally I don’t want to be buying small amounts of coffee and powdered milk, 1 roll of toilet paper etc so larger resupplies of these things are needed in the last drop box before these sections..  I ran out of tea bags a couple of times on my last hike and a cup of hot water in the evening isn’t very exciting.

Still waiting to set an actual departure date, I’m expecting it will probably be early to mid April, waiting for the weather to cool off a bit and for the march flies to leave, I’m reading reports about people quitting the track because the march flies in some areas are so thick. March flies are a horrible biting fly which can be in plague proportions but very seasonal.

 

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