Whether you are new to hiking or have been doing it for years, deciding on what walk you are going to do will depend on a number of factors. Surprisingly the answer you get when you work through these factors may differ each time you have to make this choice. While some of these factors cross over with general hiking planning there are also a number that are purely subjective.
The last 15 months has been a real challenge for many people in the Australian hiking community and due to the impact of bushfires, flooding and COVID, I have regularly found myself having to change my plans, often on short notice, rather than stick to my predetermined schedule. While safety comes into play, enjoyment of the hike is a very subjective consideration and this is where everyone’s answer is going to differ.
In this article we look at seven main factors to consider when choosing a hike to get the best outcome for all concerned.
There are literally thousands of hikes in Australia to choose from and as the saying goes ‘You don’t know what you don’t know’. When I sit down and choose a hike these days I will start by doing an internet search to see what information I can find usually starting with the state or territory national parks service. Often this provides the basic information about a hike to help determine if it’s what I am after. Helpful information includes:
Will you be hiking solo or are you hiking in a group of two or more? If you are new to hiking you may choose to join a club and while there are benefits to doing this, you will need to fit in with the group.
Tim solo hiking the 145km Canberra Centenary Trail
Your individual skill and fitness level will provide the limits for your hiking and its good to consider pushing, but not breaking, these boundaries.
Getting fit for hiking
There are logistical and safety aspects of a hike.
These factors may not change your mind but then again they just might.
Based on your research and experience assemble all your gear in advance of the trip and ensure it is in good working order. Consider replacing gear that is in poor condition and can’t be repaired. If you don’t have the necessary gear borrow or buy it.
I typically plan my hiking schedule 12 months or more in advance to allow for logistical considerations. What this means is that I will regularly change my plans because the weather is lousy and the hike just isn’t worth doing. I will usually look at alternate options if possible before making a decision to cancel a hike altogether.
It’s better to be safe than sorry when it comes to safety.
The satellite image just before I started my hike in 2018 on the Bibbulmun Track
This is where it gets really subjective. There are many reasons for choosing to do a hike. It may be that you are a guide or it may be a field trip that is part of your work.
For most of us it is just because we enjoy hiking. If we don’t have to be there or we don’t want to be there, then why choose to do a specific hike? If you can’t answer that question then its time to look at the hike you have chosen.
While people can and do enjoy solo hiking the vast majority of people I see on trail are hiking in groups of two or more. It may be that while you are perfectly capable of doing a hike by yourself you just enjoy it in the company of others.
Its important to be clear on your motivation:
Hiking in a group can be fun but so can hiking solo
While there are many considerations in choosing a hike, the key ones are safety and enjoyment. Don’t do a hike if it’s unsafe on a given day which means you aren’t going to enjoy it. The hike will always be there in the future.
Your concept of safety and enjoyment will change over time and may not be the same as your hiking partners which may mean that you need to go solo or find some new hiking companions for a particular hike.