A lesson in packing lightly.
In many ways, my Heysen Trail Packing List is an example of ‘what not to do’. While I didn’t quite bite off more than I could chew, I certainly stretched my masticating ability. I set out to capture the adventure on cumbersome filming equipment, publish daily vlogs on social media and organise community events on the go. As you might imagine, this indulgence inflated my bag and dragged each day out that little bit longer. At my rucksack’s heaviest (after resupplying food and water) the scales tipped a preposterous 23 kilograms.
So, how much should a pack weigh?
The general ‘long-distance hiking rule’ is that a loaded backpack should not weigh more than 20% of your overall body weight. To give you an idea of my self-afflicted burden, I began the trail weighing in at 72 kilograms, meaning, at the most extreme, I lugged around 32% of my overall body weight. Ridiculous, I know. Added to this, by the time I finished the trail, my frame had whittled down to 67 kilograms. Madness! Ditching the bulky tech would have reduced my pack weight to somewhere near my recommended limit.
Prepare to be self-sufficient.
If you’re planning to hike the trail unassisted, you must learn to be self-reliant. Preparation is paramount. Everything from your shelter, food, hydration, safety, medication and weather protection requires careful consideration before beginning your adventure. There are many largely inaccessible areas along the trail with periods between communities often lasting 100 kilometres or more! So, be sure to triple-check that all essential items are on your Heysen Trail Packing List.
My Heysen Trail Packing List.
Below is my real-life Heysen Trail Packing List. As mentioned, there were several non-essential items stashed away in my bag that people with a firmer grasp of their sanity would not pack. But, you’re only young and silly once, right? There were also several ‘handy’ items that weren’t included (like a clothesline and a portable shower) as I typically endured the stank until I arrived in town. Need help creating a packing list? Download my free Heysen Trail Checklist.
Clothing and Accessories
As I didn’t ‘wash-on-the-go’, my bag contained enough underwear to last me between laundry days. The weather along the Heysen Trail can alternate between excessive sun and violent storms; pack clothes for every climate.
Fortunately, I don’t require any ongoing medication, however, I realise this is not the case for many. Items such as prescriptions, antibiotics and feminine products must be forward planned into resupply boxes.
Clearly, 95 litres worth of backpack is overkill for most; hikers can typically squeeze their belongings into a 50-70L bag. I highly recommend hiking poles, a 3L water bladder and an emergency beacon of a trail of this remoteness.
Aside from my pricey camera gear, the collective camping equipment was easily the most expensive category. I figure, if you’re going to spend 2 months battling the wilderness, you’d better make life as comfortable as possible.
My compact cooking setup included a pot, a bowl/lid/mug, a knife/fork/spoon and everything I needed to cook with combined in one handy pouch. Regrettably, I finished with several half-full canisters, but, better safe than sorry.
While I didn’t use all of my first aid items, I’m glad I had them on standby. Bugs bites, blisters, burns, cuts, scrapes and irritable inner-leg chafes are all part and parcel of the trail adventure.
Paperwork, pads, pens, plastic bags and payment for palatable Chicken Parmys lined my pack’s side pockets.
My journey included above-average contact with the outside world, which required convoluted tech and extra batteries. Unfortunately, my solar panels promptly died, so I borrowed additional powerbanks to see me to the end.
I can feel the eye rolls from here. While I don’t think I’ll go to this extreme again, I’m glad I endured the excess weight this once. Thanks to the often brutal extra kilograms, I captured unbelievable views and unforgettable memories.