The right clothing ensures you enjoy bushwalking in both comfort and safety.
Your clothing is important since it is your first line of protection from the cold, the wind, the rain, the sun, insects, snakes and the scrub. Garments purchased from a specialist outdoor gear supplier will provide better comfort and protection in the bush than cheap cotton T-shirts and nylon raincoats.
A number of light, adjustable layers are preferable to a few layers of thick fabric. Wear a thin base layer next to the skin. This could be a wool or breathable synthetic garment. Wear a woollen jumper or fleece jacket as a mid layer. The jacket outer layer protects you from wind and rain using a breathable fabric. The outer layer can be constructed with a membrane such as Gore-Tex ® or from a fabric with a waterproof coating.
Adjust zippers and layers to minimize sweating during exercise and be sure to add layers before you feel cold at rest stops.
When choosing clothing consider
- Cotton is unsuitable for bushwalking as it is cold and clingy when wet and slow to dry, increasing the risk of hypothermia.
- Wool is cool in summer, warm in winter or when wet.
- Wool is slow to combust, making it safer to wear around a campfire.
- Modern high quality Australian and New Zealand merino wool does not irritate the skin and resists body odour.
- Specialist synthetic fibres used in bushwalking clothes are known as "technical" fabrics. They have a high warmth/weight ratio and are quick drying.
- Technical fabrics are breathable, allowing perspiration to wick through the fabric, away from the body, keeping you dry.
- Nylon sprayjackets and raincoats are unsuitable for bushwalking as they do not breathe.
When choosing your clothing for a specific trip make allowances for dealing with the expected terrain and the worst weather conditions that may be encountered in the walk area, including night time temperatures, should you need to spend an unexpected overnight stay in the bush. To WALKSAFE in alpine regions, means to be prepared for rapid change to blizzard conditions in all seasons. Do not underestimate the danger from the sun. Despite the deceptively cooler air temperatures generally encountered at altitude, ultraviolet levels are significantly higher, and reflection from snow can reach parts of the body not usually exposed to the sun's rays. Resist the temptation to reduce pack weight by leaving spare clothing behind.
- Although joggers are acceptable footwear on easy terrain, many bushwalkers prefer to wear fabric or leather boots, which offer ankle support and good traction in rough, slippery or muddy conditions. All footwear should have a solid rubber sole with a deep tread. It is best to buy walking boots or shoes from specialist outdoor gear suppliers who can advise you on the correct fit and appropriate footwear for your activity. Walking boots are usually purchased a size larger than your normal shoe size. Although most boots do not need breaking in, it is a good idea never to wear new boots on a long trip.
- Wear a pair of thick woollen socks to reduce the possibility of blisters forming. Some walkers prefer to wear a thin pair of inner socks and a second pair of woollen outer socks to reduce rubbing of the foot against the shoe.
- Gaiters protect your legs from cuts and scratches, irritating stones or grass seeds working their way into your socks, and mud or snow getting into your boots. They offer additional protection against snakes and leeches.
- ALWAYS carry a quality water and windproof jacket that has been manufactured for bushwalking and has an integral hood, DO NOT wear a padded jacket which will be heavy and may not be breathable. A nylon spray jacket is insufficient protection in heavy rain and does not breathe. Pack waterproof over-pants. NEVER wear jeans, which become cold and do not dry easily.
- Walking boots lined with a breathable, waterproof Gore-Tex ® membrane will help to keep feet dry.
- Carry a beanie or balaclava, gloves, woollen jumper or polar fleece, windproof shirt, thermal underwear, woollen socks. NEVER wear jeans. Always pack spare clothing that factors in the minimum overnight temperature, as you never know when your return may be delayed due to emergencies.
- Wear a sun hat and a light-weight long-sleeved shirt to protect against UV radiation and sunburn.
- Wear sunglasses and don't forget to pack the suntan lotion.