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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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? 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.
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.
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.