Hiking for Beginners: A Basic Guide to Get You Started

Hiking checklist for beginners

Many people get into hiking as a way to exercise or get outdoors. Regardless of your reasons for wanting to start hiking, as a beginner, getting started can be pretty daunting, especially when you consider that trails can be tough and that the weather can change at a moment’s notice.

Before you hit the trails, here are some important hiking essentials to consider:

1. Keep your objectives small, at first

When starting out, you may be tempted to go out and accomplish a big day in the hills. Especially if you’re keen for a good workout, you might want to tackle quite a few summits and a whole lot of mileage.

Unfortunately, such a mindset, at least at first, can be a recipe for disaster. In the beginning, start small. If you’re new to hiking, you might not know how quick your pace is or how much your body can handle each day. Elevation gain (and loss!) also significantly increases the amount of effort required during a hiking day.

Choose trails that are well-marked, somewhat popular, and relatively short (think a half-day outing) to get you started. Eventually, you’ll work your way up to full days, longer days, and overnight trips, but we all have to start somewhere.

2. Do your research

Trekking in Australia

​Especially if you’re going out on your own or with other inexperienced hikers, you’ll really want to do your research on your destination.

Check out trail conditions ahead of time and scour the internet or ask friends for information on the trail you’re hiking before you set out. There are many great internet forums for hiking trail information out there these days, but don’t take any single person’s word as gospel - what’s easy or difficult for them might be the opposite for you. Rather, we encourage you to make your own decisions based on the information you can gather.

3. Tell someone where you’re going

Bush walking gear

​This is perhaps the most important thing you can do when you’re going out for a trip in the backcountry. Although we hope that nothing bad will happen to us on our trip, conditions can change rapidly and turn a sunny day into a howling gale.

Telling someone responsible where you are and what time you plan to return can really help authorities if they need to come looking for you. It’s a great habit to get into and could save your life.

4. Pack the right gear

Although the gear you need to be prepared for a day out will vary greatly based on your itinerary, experience level, and the anticipated conditions, in general, you’ll want to pack food, water, warm clothing, waterproofs, a first aid kit, and navigation tools (e.g. map, compass, GPS).

There is no ‘one-size fits all’ answer to what gear you need, so you’ll need to do some thinking to determine what’s important for your location and the conditions you’ll encounter.

5. Leave No Trace

​When we travel into the backcountry, we will undoubtedly leave behind evidence of our activities, whether that be footprints, trash, or an overturned rock. Following Leave No Trace principles can help minimize our impact on the landscape so that we can continue enjoying these wild places.

Do some research to learn about Leave No Trace before you set out and check with local authorities to see if there’s anything specific you ought to keep in mind. Keeping our wild places beautiful is a job for us all.


Gaby Pilson

A professional mountain guide and experienced outdoor educator, Gaby enjoys travelling and exploring the world’s most remote locales.

As a writer and editor, Gaby has written for a variety of climbing and travel blogs, news sites, and climbing magazines.

She is currently finishing a master’s degree in outdoor education but in her free time, Gaby loves a strong cup of coffee and searching for the next great adventure.

How to Make Skate Wax

Candle Skatebaord wax

Need some wax for your next skate session? Sure, you can buy some from specialty skate stores. But you can also make it at home for a fraction of the price.

Not sure where to start? We’ve done the hard work for you - evaluating the various methods and providing you detailed instructions on the best.

Skate Wax Ingredients:

Skate wax Australia
  • A few cheap candles
  • Clean empty food can
  • Kitchen pot
  • Vegetable Oil
  • Butter
  • Soap - optional
  • Moulds - ice cube moulds work well but an old container is OK

There’s no hard and fast rules around the measurements. The vast majority of your mixture will comprise of candle wax however you’ll want to play around with measurements of the other ingredients until you land on a formula that works for you. Start off with a few shavings of butter and a tablespoon of oil and work from there. 


  1. Remove any metal or paper container that your candles are in.
  2. Remove the wicks
  3. Scrape/chop the candles down into small pieces/shavings
  4. Put the candle shavings in the can
  5. Fill the pot up ⅓ with water
  6. Put the water on the stove and heat until hot but not simmering
  7. Put the can with wax upright in the pot of hot water
  8. Stir the wax as it starts to melt
  9. Add the butter, vegetable oil, and soap
  10. Continue to stir
  11. Once mixture is melted and consistent turn the heat off
  12. Using oven mits to handle the hot can, pour the mixture into your moulds

Warning: The can and wax get very hot during this process. Use all safety precautions that you would usually use when cooking. Kids, get your parents to help.

​Why Use Skate Wax?

Home made skate wax on a ledge

Many skate tricks require parts of your board, wheels and trucks to slide on surfaces such as rails and ledges. However, the friction between your board and these surfaces can often be problematic.

The purpose of wax is to reduce friction by creating a smoother surface for your board to slide on.

​How to Use Skate Wax?

Skate park candle wax

​Generally speaking, the more slippery the surface prior to waxing, the more slippery it will be after. Naturally smooth surfaces like polished concrete and painted or metal ledges will slide very well with wax applied. It is also possible to make rougher surfaces such as bare wood or concrete skateable by applying wax.

The trick is to only wax the parts of a surface that you need to reduce friction on. This means you use less wax, and reduces the chance of you placing wax where others may not want it.

Once you know what trick you will be trying on a ledge or rail, determine where your board, trucks and wheels will come into contact with the surface. Apply wax to this area only.

Make sure you clean the area as best as possible before applying your wax. After application you may want to slide your board along it a few times to help work the wax into the holes and cracks. Remember the aim is to make a smooth, consistent surface.

Make sure you let other skaters know when you are applying wax to features in a skate park. It can make the feature very slippery, which can be dangerous if others aren’t aware, especially if they have been using it previously and have gotten used to the stickiness. One way to avoid this is to wax your board and trucks as opposed to the feature itself.

Happy skating!

Water Purification Tablets: The Basics You Should Know

Purification of drinking water from a stream

Whether you’re heading out into the hills for a long backpacking trip or you’re travelling overseas to a place where the water is a little iffy, chances are good that you’ll want to have some method for making water potable.

Water is critical to human life as we know it, but in many parts of the world, it can also harbour all sorts of pathogens that can be dangerous to our health.

Thus, we need to find a way to treat our water to reduce the likelihood of contracting a nasty illness.

Especially for outdoorsy people and world travellers who adventure in places without modern sanitation systems and water treatment plants, there’s a high likelihood of contracting a waterborne illness.

Luckily, there are a number of different water filters and treatments that can make water potable regardless of where we are in the world.

​The Dangers of Untreated Water

Iodine vs Chlorine Water Purification Tablets

Even if your water is crystal clear, it may not be okay to drink. Even the most beautiful flowing water can harbour waterborne diseases, especially if you’re in a remote place in a developing country. The most common waterborne diseases, bacteria, viruses, and cysts include:

As you can see from this list, you definitely want to steer clear of untreated water. 

Although some of these diseases and illnesses will knock you out for just a week or less, others can easily turn deadly if left untreated. Unfortunately, millions of people around the world succumb to these diseases each year because they lack reliable access to clean water.

While your likelihood for contracting one of these illnesses is highest in the developing countries of South and Latin America, Africa, the Middle East, and Asia, outbreaks of some of these diseases have been known to occur in Australia, North America, and Europe, too. Thus, when backpacking or travelling, it’s better to take some extra precautions and treat your water.

​Types of Water Purification Tablets

Hiking and camping safe drinking water

​Water purification tablets are one of the many ways in which we can treat our water to kill off many of the common waterborne diseases, bacteria, viruses, and cysts. Essentially, water purification tablets are small pill-sized lumps of water treatment chemicals that can be used to kill off the microorganisms that cause waterborne diseases.

To use water purification tablets, one need only drop a tablet into the manufacturer's specified quantity of water (usually 1 litre) and wait for the specified length of time. At this point, one can presume that the chemicals in the water treatment have killed off these microorganisms and that the water is suitable for drinking. We always recommend following the manufacturer's specific instructions, but this is the basic idea for all water purification tablets.

Although they're pretty simple, as technology goes, there are quite a few different water purification tablets available on the market today, each with their own advantages and disadvantages. Here are a few different ones you should know about:

1. Iodine Tablets

Common brands: Potable Aqua, Polar Pure (liquid/crystal form)

Iodine is a chemical (a halogen, specifically) that is actually required in small amounts within the body for proper thyroid function. As a water purification method, it is very effective in killing giardia, which is the main cause for concern in backcountry water sources in North America but cannot kill cryptosporidium.

Iodine is a relatively cheap water purification method and can be found all over the world, which is why it is fairly popular among backcountry enthusiasts. However, it does create a very distinct flavour in your water, which some people really don't like. Plus, people with standard thyroid function can only take iodine for up to 6 weeks at a time and it's not recommended for people with thyroid complications, people with iodine sensitivity, and for anyone who is pregnant.

  • Affordable
  • Found all over the world
  • Effective against Giardia                        
  • Weird taste
  • Maximum 6 weeks of use at a time
  • Ineffective against Cryptosporidium     

2. Chlorine-Based Tablets

Common Brands: Aquatabs (Sodium Dichloroisocyanurate)

Chlorine is the most commonly used chemical for purifying water. They are quick in the time it takes them to purify water, but, water treated in this method will inevitably become contaminated again if stored for a prolonged period of time.

Chlorine tablets, like iodine, are effective in killing giardia, but cannot eradicate cryptosporidium. Plus, it leaves behind a distinct chlorine flavour, which can only be eliminated by letting the water sit unprotected so the chlorine can evaporate. 

  • Easily found around the world
  • Can be used by people with iodine sensitivity
  • Effective against Giardia
  • Stored water treated this way will become contaminated again
  • Bad taste
  • Ineffective against Cryptosporidium

3. Chlorine Dioxide Tablets

Common Brands: Potable Aqua, Katadyn Micropur, Aquamira (liquid solution)

Although it sounds similar to a chlorine-based tablet, chlorine dioxide-based tablets are wholly different. Chlorine dioxide tablets specifically operate using oxidation, which infiltrates a microorganism's cell walls and destroys the microorganism. Plus, unlike iodine and chlorine, chlorine dioxide is generally effective against viruses, bacteria, cysts and even the troublesome cryptosporidium.

Chlorine dioxide is a great tablet to use because it leaves behind significantly less aftertaste than some of the alternative options. That being said, it usually takes a bit longer to purify with chlorine dioxide than with other methods and it tends to be a bit more expensive.

Chlorine dioxide is also available in a liquid solution form, under the brand name, Aquamira, which is specifically designed for use in backcountry and international travelling situations.

  • Effective against most microorganisms
  • Can be used by people with iodine sensitivity
  • Minimal aftertaste
    Can be stored for a long time
  • Longer treatment time
  • More expensive                                        

​Alternative Water Filters and Treatments

Steripen Australia

While water purification tablets are a great method for treating water, they’re not for everyone. They tend to be more expensive in the long run than other options and, since you can only carry a finite amount of purification tablets at one time, it’s possible to run out on a long trip. Thus, it’s always a good idea to consider other water treatment options before you settle on your method of choice.

Besides water purification tablets, the most popular methods of treating water are filters, UV, and boiling. Let’s look at them here:

1. Water Filters

Water filters are exactly what they sound like - they’re devices  that physically separate dangerous pathogens from our water. There are a few different kinds of water filters out there, but the most common are pump and gravity-powered. A popular option is the Katadyn Vario Ceramic Filter.

Pump filters require the user to physically pump the water through a ceramic filter. These can filter water fairly quickly, especially if you’re a solo traveller. Gravity filters, on the other hand, use the power of gravity to push large amounts of water through the filter to remove the pathogens.

Filters are great because they can filter out bacteria, dirt, and other debris, but unfortunately, the vast majority of filters on the market do not have pores small enough to block out viruses.

They’re also bulkier and heavier than many other water treatment options, so they’re not great for people travelling light and fast.

But, if you can’t use chemical treatments and want something that also cleans out the debris from your water, filters are a great choice.

Another popular option is the LifeStraw, as seen in the video below:

2. UV Radiation

UV radiation is useful in treating water because it affects harmful pathogens on a cellular level, which prevents them from reproducing and making us sick. It leaves behind no added taste and is effective on pretty much any pathogen you might find in your water.

This type of water treatment generally takes the form of a small battery-powered “wand” of UV light that you swirl around inside a bottle of dirty water. After stirring the wand in the water for a handful of seconds, the water is properly treated and can be considered okay to drink.

These devices are often sold under the brand name “Steripen” and are great for people who want to be sure that their water is free from harmful pathogens.

But, like anything battery-powered, they can fail, so it’s important to always have a reserve method for treating water.

​3. Boiling

Boiling water is the original method of treating it as it requires only a stove and fuel, which most backpackers already carry with them. Bringing water to a rolling boil is a great way to kill off pretty much anything that’s living in the water without affecting the taste or adding any chemicals.

The main downside to boiling water is that it takes time (though an efficient stove helps here) and fuel, which may be in short supply. But, boiling can rid your water of harmful pathogens, so it’s a great back-up water treatment option, even if it’s not your go-to choice.


Gaby Pilson

A professional mountain guide and experienced outdoor educator, Gaby enjoys travelling and exploring the world’s most remote locales.

As a writer and editor, Gaby has written for a variety of climbing and travel blogs, news sites, and climbing magazines.

She is currently finishing a master’s degree in outdoor education but in her free time, Gaby loves a strong cup of coffee and searching for the next great adventure.

A Beginner’s Guide to the Leave No Trace Principles

Hiking gear reviews

When we head outside, it's important to keep in mind that our actions have a significant impact on the environment and landscape we love. Despite our best intentions, we often affect the environment in a negative way, just by traveling through it or spending time in the backcountry.

Although it’s impossible to fully eliminate our impact on the landscape, there are some principles that we can follow to guide us toward best environmental practices. These seven principles, known as Leave No Trace, can seem complex and difficult at first, so we’ll break them down and discuss them here:

1. Plan ahead and be prepared

This one might seem like a no-brainer to seasoned outdoor enthusiasts, but it’s really a reminder to carefully consider your plans before you head out. This includes having a thorough understanding of where you’re going and any special considerations that you might need to take into account for that area, which might include fire risks, severe weather, and rough terrain.

Leaving detailed information of your trip with someone you trust is also important, in the event of an emergency. Ultimately, a rescue, even if necessary and warranted, can have a substantial impact on the landscape. Planning ahead and being prepared can help prevent you from having to unnecessarily impact the environment.

2. Travel and camp on durable surfaces

​Some landscapes, such as alpine zones and deserts, are particularly sensitive to human impact and can take centuries to recover from a single human footprint. Regardless of how we travel - be it by foot, bike, horseback, or kayak - we must try to stick to durable surfaces, like worn paths, rock, or snow, whenever possible to reduce this impact.

When we camp, we should also choose durable surfaces, like already impacted sites, whenever possible to reduce our impact on pristine environments.

3. Dispose of waste properly

​Leave No Trace promotes a ‘pack it in, pack it out’ ethic, whereby we carry out all waste we produce. This includes everything from our leftover dinner (yes, even food!) to the plastic packaging on our energy bars. We can save ourselves the trouble in the backcountry when planning our trip by reducing excess packaging on our food before we head out the door.

When it comes to human waste, it needs to be disposed of properly. Although guidelines vary from location to location (and you should always follow local laws and regulations), the general rule of thumb is that solid human waste must be buried in a ‘cathole’ (i.e. hole in the ground) at least 15 cm (6 inches) deep that is also 60 m (200 ft) from any water source.

4. Leave what you find

Bush walking gear

​Although it might be tempting to collect rocks, flowers, antlers, or human artifacts while you camp, doing so can be detrimental for the environment. Especially when it comes to antlers - which provide essential calcium to woodland creatures - and flowers - which often are a food source for animals - leaving them behind is best for the ecosystem's overall health. Plus, if one person picks all the wildflowers, they won't be there for everyone else to enjoy.

Human artifacts (i.e. anything over 25 years old), too, should be left where they are. If you think something is of great importance, contact your local authorities and they can direct you from there.

The one exception to this rule is human garbage - if you see it, pick it up and pack it out!

5. Minimize campfire impacts

For many people, campfires are the thing they look forward to most on a camping trip. Unfortunately, campfires have a huge impact on the environment if not done properly and can cause devastating wildfires if not managed well.

Cooking has less of an impact on the environment if you use a stove, but if local regulations allow campfires, take the proper precautions to minimise your impact. Collect only small pieces of dead and downed wood, keep the fire small, and be sure to put it out completely with water before you go to bed. Dismantle any fire rings you might create and bury the ashes in a cathole.

6. Respect wildlife

Although we all hope to encounter plenty of wildlife in the woods, we must do so in a way that is unobtrusive to them. Take the time to learn about local wildlife and their behavior. Do not approach or feed wildlife and be sure to store your food properly to prevent critters from getting in. Report any animal attacks or habituated wildlife to authorities.

​7. Be considerate of other visitors

​It might be tempting to play music out loud from your phone as you hike or to be extra loud around the campfire at night, but others around you might want a calm wilderness experience. Cleaning up after yourself and leaving a tidy campsite is also a must.

Whether you’re a first-time camper or a seasoned mountaineer, we must all work to minimise our impact on the landscape. Taking the Leave No Trace principles into account on all your trips can make a huge difference.


Gaby Pilson

A professional mountain guide and experienced outdoor educator, Gaby enjoys travelling and exploring the world’s most remote locales.

As a writer and editor, Gaby has written for a variety of climbing and travel blogs, news sites, and climbing magazines.

She is currently finishing a master’s degree in outdoor education but in her free time, Gaby loves a strong cup of coffee and searching for the next great adventure.

How to Pack a Hiking Pack

If there’s one thing that can quickly ruin a hiking trip, it’s a poorly packed pack. An improperly packed backpack can put awkward tension on your shoulders or unnecessary and painful strain on your lower back, none of which is conducive to a great adventure out in the hills.

On the other hand, a well-packed pack could reduce the amount of weight on your shoulders and make hiking a breeze. Packing a pack properly can be quite difficult, though, so here are some tips to get you started:

1. Get the right size pack

The pack you need for a 5-day trip will be quite different from what you need for an overnight, so it's important to get the pack that works for the specific needs of your trip.

Although this is all dependant on the amount of gear you bring, as a general rule of thumb, most people can get by with a 60-70L pack for 1-2 night trips, a 70-90L pack for 3-5 night trips, and a 95L+ pack for anything over 5 nights.

2. Weather-proof your gear

​While many modern backpacks have some semblance of weather-resistance built into their fabric, when the rain starts pouring down, you’ll wish you had more than just a thin piece of nylon between the water and your down sleeping bag.

A thick garbage bag/bin liner (we recommend compactor bags used for lawn refuse) or a purpose-built pack liner can help protect your gear in foul weather or during a big river crossing. If it’s something you absolutely can’t get wet, consider putting it in a second dry bag.

3. Think about accessibility

​If you take a look at your gear, you’ll realise that some of the things you have are only necessary when you’re in camp, like your sleeping bag, sleeping pad, camp shoes, and long underwear, while other items, such as your snacks, rain jacket, water purification, map and compass will likely get used while you hike.

Generally, we recommend packing the soft, squishy, camp gear that you won't need into the bottom of the pack. The stuff you might need during the day should go at the very top of the pack or in the brain/lid of the pack if you have one.

4. Consider weight distribution

​The last thing you want when hiking is for your pack to be lopsided or top-heavy. The heaviest items in your pack are generally your food, cook kit, and stove, so you’ll want to be particular about where you pack them.

The best place to carry these heavier items is right in the middle of the pack, alongside the spine. This reduces the feeling of being ‘pulled backward’ by the pack and makes it overall less awkward to carry.

5. Food above fuel

Spilled fuel can be a complete disaster on a hiking trip, especially if it gets into your food. To prevent this from happening, make sure to pack your fuel below your food so that if it does spill, it's less likely to contaminate your food.

Or, better yet, place your fuel on the outside of the bin liner/pack liner that you’re using to waterproof your gear or even in an outside pocket of the pack.

6. Pack your water wisely

​Water is one of the things we can’t live without, and especially in hot and dry environments, you’ll want to make sure you’re well hydrated. Unfortunately, water is also one of the heaviest things we carry on hiking trips, so we have to pack it with care.

If you use a water hydration system, you may want to put your bladder into the dedicated pouch in your pack, but be aware that it can be difficult to refill with a full pack on. People who use water bottles generally pack them into the water bottle pockets on the side of their pack.

7. Everything on the inside of the pack

​While it might seem cool to have your spork, camp shoes, tent, and mug strapped to the outside of your pack or dangling from a carabiner, doing so throws off the weight balance of your pack and makes it highly likely that you will lose or damage your gear while hiking. Too many people have ripped their expensive tent on a tree branch while hiking - don’t let that be you.

Try to pack absolutely everything into your pack, leaving the outside straps and pockets only for water bottles and big, bulky foam sleeping pads. If half of your gear is strapped onto the outside of your pack, consider getting a bigger pack.


Gaby Pilson

A professional mountain guide and experienced outdoor educator, Gaby enjoys travelling and exploring the world’s most remote locales.

As a writer and editor, Gaby has written for a variety of climbing and travel blogs, news sites, and climbing magazines.

She is currently finishing a master’s degree in outdoor education but in her free time, Gaby loves a strong cup of coffee and searching for the next great adventure.

Why You Should Take Your Kids Rock Climbing

Girl indoor climbing

A recent study found that two-thirds of children do not do enough physical activity to sufficiently aid their growth and development.

Rock climbing offers a huge range of benefits to children, ranging from lessons around overcoming challenges and dealing with failure, through to promoting healthy life choices.

Further, climbing can be a great way to spend some quality family time together while keeping children active and entertained.

If you don’t already take your kids climbing, here are five reasons why you should:

1. Climbing promotes healthy life choices

Similar to ‘traditional' team sports like soccer, football, and netball, rock climbing is a great activity to keep kids moving and exercising. These days, promoting healthy life choices among our children is an important way to steer them away from the threat of obesity and all the dangers it poses.

By taking our kids climbing, we encourage them to stay active. As they become more and more excited about the sport, they will usually be encouraged to eat well, do yoga, and stay fit so that they can make progress in their climbing.

2. Climbing teaches problem-solving and decision making skills

Anyone who climbs knows that the sport demands a certain level of problem-solving and decision-making skills to get through a tough section on a route. While many fit, athletic, people can rely on strength alone for easy to moderate climbs, once a route gets to a certain difficulty level, problem-solving, technique, and decision-making skills are key to success.

These skills aren’t unique to climbing, however. Once a child learns to solve an issue on the wall, they’ll be better prepared to handle life’s challenges.

“Physical activity is not only important for a child’s physical development and fitness, it is important for their brain development and mental health, and helps them to develop socially and emotionally.” - UWA lead researcher Associate Professor Hayley Christian

3. Climbing encourages children to overcome fear

​Us climbers have all seen it many times: a new climber, halfway up their first route, terrified of climbing upward but also too scared to come back to the ground. It’s a pretty common sight, and most of us have probably been there before too.

Even if we’re not afraid of heights, at some point in our climbing careers, we’ve all had to overcome fear. For kids, climbing can be a great way to understand fear and how to overcome it in a controlled, fun, safe environment, with the support of their friends and family.

4. Climbing teaches us how to fail

​All climbers know that one thing is certain: what goes up must come down. Whether you’ve been climbing for a day or for a lifetime, chances are that you’ve fallen more than once.

Even if the fall was as innocent as a small slip off a foothold at the gym, falling - and getting back up again - teaches us humility - and how to persevere through it.

Climbing teaches us that failing does not make us a failure, but that with the right amount of effort, dedication, grit, and a small dose of humility, we can overcome challenges and strive to be our best. Kids, too, learn this quite quickly while climbing, especially if they’re used to succeeding at most things they try.

5. Climbing brings us outside

​Even if you and your kids start climbing in the gym, at some point, you’ll probably want to head out onto the real rock and test your skills. Outdoor rock climbing is a fantastic life-long activity that teaches adults and children alike the joys and benefits of spending time outside.

Outdoor climbing trips are also fantastic for families and are a great way to show kids the world in an active, healthy atmosphere. A weekend getaway to a nearby climbing spot or a vacation to an international climbing destination can be a fantastic way to encourage your kids to keep growing and developing - plus, they’re good fun for everyone!

There’s no limit to where climbing can take you and your family!


Gaby Pilson

A professional mountain guide and experienced outdoor educator, Gaby enjoys travelling and exploring the world’s most remote locales.

As a writer and editor, Gaby has written for a variety of climbing and travel blogs, news sites, and climbing magazines.

She is currently finishing a master’s degree in outdoor education but in her free time, Gaby loves a strong cup of coffee and searching for the next great adventure.