Written by The Walking Traveller
Going on your first overnight hike can be so much fun, if not a little daunting.
Worries like what gear do I take, how much food will i need, am I going to be able to sleep and am I going to like it, all creep into your mind in the lead up to your first overnighter.
Once you're out there, the first day is bliss but as the night sets in and you start to settle into a dreamy sleep you hear the rustle of sleeping mats squishing and squirming as other hikers toss and turn in their tents. Your senses are fully awake now and you hear gentle footsteps making their way across the ground. Possibly a bump along the side of your tent as you strain to hear what it might be. Then the munching of the grass as it’s torn by the roots. Worst still if you are in an area where Koala’s like to serenade each other during the night, you may think you have entered into a horror movie.
At last, the morning has come. Coffee is made and the question is asked “How’d you sleep?”. “ Like a baby says someone” or “Did you hear that scream in the middle of the night?” “ No, I couldn't hear anything over the snoring”. Not to mention that fluffy partying cuddly koala sitting in the tree above eyes closed in a deep slumber.
Welcome to your first overnighter !
Now after many overnight camps I very rarely hear anything and I’m happy if I wake up in the middle of the night. It’s such a wonderful chance to get up, grab a coat and go outside your tent and look at the wonders of the night sky. The Milky Way, shooting stars, satellites and the craters on the moon. The dark mysterious tree branches reaching to the sky or the rolling hazy mountains in the distance. It is one of the most beautiful sights and feelings to experience.
And nothing beats rolling back the flap of your tent, boiling your pot, making a cuppa and watching the early rays of the sun turn night into day. As the glorious colours stretch across the sky all is forgiven for hearing and feeling what goes bump in the night.
If you are in limbo about having your first overnighter, what I say is “just do it”. Take a friend or friends. You certainly feel braver and you will have someone who will answer in the middle of the night.
There’s two ways you can start off with your overnighter. Either camp or a hike into a campsite.
Car camping can be fun as you can take a little more with you. A chair, your own pillow, snacks and maybe even a drink for happy hour.
With a hike in camp, choose your campsite, many can be found from your Parks website . Some campsites you will have to pay for and others are free. I have camped in both. The small fee that you will pay most times is for the upkeep of the campsite, keeping any drop toilets clean (BYO toilet paper).
Some campsites have fire pits (adhere to the fire restrictions), the smell of breakfast on the barbie with the little smoke haze drifting through the trees is quite a scene. The Park Rangers do a great job so help them out by leaving the campsite better than you found it follow Leave No Trace principles.
Your tent is the most important thing you will take, it will be your home for the night. Make sure you have the size required for yourself, your backpack and food to be secured and dry for the night. Lots on the market so do your research to what suits you. Equally important are a good sleeping bag, pillow and sleeping mat.
My food for an overnighter will be breakfast, usually porridge, snacks could be fruit, maybe muesli bar and nuts. Lunch for me sometimes is hot, maybe a soup or the good old rice cakes and salmon. Dinner is either a dehydrated meal I have done myself or a bought meal by one of the many dehydrated ones available here. I have been at campsites where 3&4 courses have been cooked up. Major food envy when this happens. Carry your food in one of our food bags. Remember to always to bring a large ziploc bag to take your rubbish home with you. Leave no trace as they say.
I love getting into camp around the four o’clock mark, first off, pitch the tent. After a while you can spot a good site, but the main thing is to find somewhere flat. You don’t want to end up scrunched at the bottom of your tent or roll over so much you are framed up against the outer tent for the night. My first rule is to find a spot, clear the ground of stones, branches etc. Watch out for ants nests, then lay out your ground sheet. Once that is done feel for any bumps, check for a level surface and pitch the tent. Make sure you pitch away from water as this will cause condensation in your tent.
All that’s left to do will be if you're lucky and there’s a tank, filter your water, pre-soak dinner, relax and enjoy the conversations around the campsite.
Easy isn’t it, your first overnight done and you are now craving for more.
Leave a comment below on what your first overnight hiking experience was like.
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