Hiking in Victoria: Tactics and tech for the best hike ever

Rhiannon James

A walk in the wild is the perfect way to explore regional Victoria - we’ve got some tips and tech to help you do it safely.

This image shows a person walking in the woods wearing a backpack.
Published
06 Dec 2021
Last updated
12 Dec 2021
Reading time
10 min
Author
Rhiannon James

Have your hiking boots been too clean for too long? Is regional Victoria calling to you?

There's nothing like that feeling of heading out into the wild on a hike. Stepping away from all those day-to-day demands, and into a place where you can connect with nature - and with yourself.

But being out in the wild and potentially un-contactable takes some preparation. We’ve got some tips and tech to help you do it safely.

What the experts say

We spoke to Kylie Trott, Executive Director (Operations) at Parks Victoria about the most common ways people tend to run into difficulty when walking or hiking in Victoria.

“The natural environment can be unpredictable and when people get into difficulty in the outdoors it is often because they lack experience, have underestimated the conditions, the weather, or what they need to take with them,” Kylie said.

This is a top-down view of someone's legs as they stand on a rocky surface while wearing hiking boots.
"Dress appropriately for the environment you’re in."

How do I prepare for a hike?

Parks Victoria offered the following top tips that could make a big difference to your next outdoors adventure:

  • Check the weather report and fire safety rating of your destination before you leave.
  • Know your fitness limits before choosing a long or hard route.
  • Time your hike appropriately so you’re not caught in the dark.   
  • Pack the essentials, especially on warm and dry days in parks where provisions are not available. For example: carry at least 2 litres of water with you for a day hike, bring extra food and a first aid kit, a waterproof jacket for unexpected weather changes, as well as a rubbish bag and toiletries where facilities are limited.
  • Dress appropriately for the environment you’re in – for example: wear sturdy walking shoes, a hat, sunglasses and sunscreen.

Choosing your route

Ensure the route you’ll take will be suitable for your own and your fellow hikers’ ability. It’s a great idea to download GPX maps (discussed below), read reviews, research online through up-to-date and trustworthy websites, and talk to others who have done the trail recently to determine if it suits your fitness level and physical ability. There are plenty of great hiking communities online to connect with.

Check for updates on park closures or weather warnings in the area; the Parks Victoria website includes details of storm or fire-affected areas in Victoria.

A path through the woods is blocked by a fallen tree in the Great Otway National Park.
Check for updates on park closures or weather warnings in the area. Image: Great Otway National Park.

Phone a friend

Be sure to tell a friend where you’re planning to hike, when, and how long you’re expecting it to take you. Tell them you’ll check in with them when you’re back - that way they’ll know to raise the alarm if they don’t hear from you.

A smartphone is on top of a leather-bound notebook on a white desk.

Tech and tools to take with you

Light - While the torch on your phone is handy in a pinch, it’s a good idea to pack a torch or headlight if there’s any chance you could be out after dark.

Water - For longer hikes where you can’t carry enough water with you, consider investing in a portable water filter. As long as your trail brings you to a source of water (perhaps a tank, river or lake), you’ll be able to filter and drink it.

Power - Parks Victoria advises starting your hike with a fully charged smartphone. If you’re looking for tech to support a safe hike, it’s sensible to have an additional power supply for your phone in case your battery runs out. The last thing you want is to lose your way and not be able to call for help because you used all your phone battery snapping photos for Instagram. 

Navigation - Knowing the lay of the land is vital. Parks Victoria suggest using GPS location services, taking a photo of your map or bringing a waterproof map into parks with limited reception.

This is an over-the-shoulder view of a person looking at a map on their phone.
Find out how to make use of your phone’s GPS capabilities to help navigate on your next hike.

GPS and GPX – a brief overview

Every smartphone with GPS capability can pinpoint your location, and your phone doesn’t need network service signal to do that. So as long as you’ve got a line of sight to the sky, your phone should be able to show you where you are. Here’s how to make use of your phone’s GPS capabilities:

On your phone, download an app that lets you view GPX files.

Next, choose the trail or walk you want to go on, and find the GPX file for it. You can often download these on hiking websites.

Open the GPX file for your walk in the GPX viewer app, and your smartphone’s inbuilt GPS capabilities will connect to multiple satellites to show you where you are on the map, making it less likely you’ll stray off course.

If you regularly go hiking alone, or to places with no signal, you may want to buy a GPS communicator (also known as a satellite messenger) device. It lets you send text messages through satellite, so you could contact someone in an emergency, even without internet, wifi, or phone signal.

This image shows the tall trees of the Mountain Ash Forest in Victoria.
A phone with GPS capability can pinpoint your location when you’ve got a line of sight to the sky.

While you’re hiking

There are things you can do to minimise your risk of running into problems while you’re out hiking. Parks Victoria has some further advice:

  • If you’re camping or picnicking along your hike, don’t rest under trees and limbs that may fall at any time.
  • Respect the environment by following signs and park closures, keeping your distance from animals and leaving no trace of your trip.

In an emergency

“In the event of an emergency, call 000 or 112 to access police and emergency services, and make note of any emergency markers within our parks, which are special green signs with a unique code that can pinpoint your exact location to emergency responders,” Kylie Trott advised.

So before you set off on your next adventure, plan ahead, visit the Parks Victoria website to learn about your chosen location, and create a safety checklist that will meet your needs.

This is an aerial shot of the Grampians showing a steep rocky cliffside and grassy rolling hills beyond it.

Enjoy your walk in the wild!