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 rule for ‘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.

Packing List Bag Spread Heysen Trail

My bag spread for National Parks South Australia.

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 require 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 on 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.

Download the 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.

  3 x T-shirts
Regular cotton tees worked fine. Breathable nylon would have been better.
  Fleece Jumper
An extra layer of warmth for mornings, nights and sleep.
  Rain Jacket
Patagonia Torrentshell Jacket. It can rain at any time, particularly in southern regions.
  3 x Pairs of Socks
Cushioned woollen socks.
  7 x Underwear
I packed enough underwear to last me between towns.
  Thermal Gloves
A necessity for packing belongings on frosty mornings.
  Footy Shorts
Used for sleeping and wearing when other items were being washed.
  Long Pants
Nothing special, worked fine.
  Hiking Shorts
No frills.
  Compression Tights
Adidas Alphaskin. Aided tight, aching muscles and minimised scratches from low-lying bushes.
  Waterproof Pants
Macpac Pack-It Pants. Slipped over regular pants. Only worn twice, but glad I had them.
  Beanie
A necessity for cold mornings.
  Cap
Placed bandana underneath to keep the sun off my neck.
  Hiking Boots
Keen Targhee II Mid Waterproof Light Trail Shoes. Sturdy hiking boots are essential.
  Thongs
Flip-flops for the non-Aussies.
  Sunglasses
Slip, slop, slap, seek and slide.
  Bandana/Buff
A versatile item for keeping sweat out of my eyes.
  Compression Sack
Acteon Compression packing cube. Held loose socks and jocks.

Toiletries

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.

  Biodegradable Soap
Ecostore Soap Bar. Minimise your impact.
  Toothbrush/Floss
Keep those toothy pegs clean.
  Biodegradable Toothpaste
Cococlean Toothpaste. Minimise your impact.
  Hand Disinfectant
Used before every meal.
  Dietary Supplements
Magnesium tablets aid joint movement.
  Wet Wipes
My nightly ‘shower’ in between towns.
  Roll On Deodorant
Small light plastic bottle.
  Toiletry Bag
Small sturdy synthetic pouch.
  Scissors
Various uses. Mostly to trim the moustache out of my mouth.
  Tweezers
No shortage of trail splinters.
  Quick Dry Towel
The quicker the better. You don’t want to carry a damp towel.

Hiking

Clearly, 95 litres worth of backpack is overkill for most; hikers can typically squeeze their belongings into a 50-70L bag. I highly recommend packing poles, a 3L water bladder and an emergency beacon of a trail of this remoteness.

  75 + 20L Backpack
Black Wolf Cuba 75 Travel Pack. Overkill for most. Built-in rain cover useful.
  Hiking Poles
Outrak Trekking Poles. A necessity for the distance and my bag weight
  Head Lamp
Petzl Tikkina Headlamp. Essential for early morning/night walking.
  3L Water Bladder
Camelback 3L. Extra size for longer distances.
  Water Purification Tablets
Katadyn Micropur Forte Tablets. All trail water requires treatment.
  Electrolyte Tablets
Hydralyte Tablets. Convenient, portable, rehydrating and delicious.
  8 x Trail Maps
Heysen Trail Section Maps. Supplemented my phone GPS.
  Emergency Beacon
PLB Beacon. Safety first.
  Pocket Knife
Gerber Pocket Knife. Mostly used to slice mettwurst.

Camping

Aside from my pricey camera gear, the collective camping equipment was easily the most expensive category. I figured, if you’re going to spend 2 months battling the wilderness, you’d better make life as comfortable as possible.

  Tent
MSR Elixira 2 Person Hiking Tent. A little extra space for dry gear and peace of mind.
  Sleeping Bag
Black Wolf Hiker 500. Blew out the budget, worth it for the extra warmth.
  Sleeping Mat
Sea to Summit Comfort Light Insulated Mat. Insulation saved on carrying a drop sheet.
  Inflatable Pillow
Klymit Pillow X. A bit of ‘luxury’ for little space.
Heysen Trail Food Plan

So, what about grub? Check out the Heysen Trail Food Plan.

Cooking

My compact cooking setup included a pot, bowl/lid/mug, knife/fork/spoon and everything I needed to connect and cook with camp fuel combined in a handy pouch. I finished with several half-full canisters, but, better safe than sorry.

  Cooking Set
360 Degrees Furno Stove and Pot Set. Super compact, super convenient, super cheap.
  8 x Fuel Canisters
MSR 8oz IsoPro Fuel Canisters. One in every supply box. Slight overkill.
  Three-in-one Spork
Sea to Summit Delta Spork. Knife, fork and spoon in one.
  Travel Mug
Contigo Autoseal Aria. Cooked my porridge every morning.
  Scourer
Included in the cooking set. But used for general utensil washing.
  Matches/Lighter
I carried both in case either stop working for whatever reason.

First Aid

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.

  Antiseptic Cream
Stingoes. Ensure cuts and stings are treated correctly.
  Bandages
In case of deep wounds.
  Band-Aids/Blister Kit
Cuts and blisters are inevitable.
  Painkillers
Eased pains, helped me sleep.
  Insect Repellent
Mosquitoes are a year-round fixture.
  Petroleum Jelly
Vaseline. Minimised chafing.
  SPF 50 Sunscreen
Don’t leave home without it.
  Lip Balm
Chapstick Sun Defense. Extreme conditions crack and burn lips.
  Heat Rub
Deep Heat. Relieved muscular pains.

Miscellaneous

Paperwork, pads, pens, plastic bags and payment for palatable Chicken Parmys lined my pack’s side pockets.

  Documents
Paperwork for my National Parks Pass etc.
  Notebook/Pens
Small booklet for notetaking and journalling.
  Plastic Bags
Used for rubbish and dirty laundry. Replaced at each town.
  Wallet
Need to pay for those Chicken Parmies.
  Tennis Ball
A fantastic accessory for massaging tight muscles.
  Toilet Paper
Also used to clean/dry pots.
  Trowel
  Whistle
In case of an emergency.

Technology

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.

  Mobile Phone and Charger
Apple iPhone 7. Lightweight and solid. Camera, compass and GPS all-in-one.
  Mobile Battery Case
Moment iPhone 7 Battery Case. Kickstarter purchase.
  Solar Panel
Flextech PocketPower Solar Panel. Kickstarter purchase.
  Powerbanks
4000mAh Powerbank. Came with the solar panel.

Filming Equipment

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.

  DSLR Camera, Batteries, Lenses and Charger
  Drone, Batteries, Controller and Charger
DJI Mavic Pro 2. Compact with quality.
  GoPro
GoPro HERO5 Black. Waste of space. iPhone quality was just as good and easier to edit.
  SD Cards
32GB and 64GB sizes.