Australians’ outdoorsy reputation may not be earned when it comes to survival skills, according to a new survey.
Just one in three Australians know how to deal with getting lost, while two in three Australians entirely reconsider going on trail walks due to safety concerns, according to research commissioned by popular hiking app AllTrails.
Only 38% of respondents felt confident with basic first aid when hiking. Only 6% felt confident in dealing with a bite from a snake or spider and 43% of those surveyed did not feel confident in knowing what to do if they encountered a dangerous animal.
“It is a bit surprising to see people do not know how to deal with [these obstacles],” Pitt Grewe, head of public land partnerships at AllTrails, said. “Australians have that reputation of loving outdoor activities and adventure.”
The online survey was nationally representative and conducted by consumer research agency Antenna.
There are two broad categories of hikers, Tim Savage from Australian Hiker said.
“Those that are really experienced and know what they’re doing and are really familiar with Australian bush, and then there are the vast majority of hikers who only go occasionally.”
Since 2017, Victoria SES and Parks Victoria have performed 30 separate search and rescue operations at Werribee Gorge state park, nearby Lerderderg state park and the Brisbane Ranges national park alone, according to Parks Victoria.
When it comes to embarking on a hike “the margin of error is a bit narrow, so you want to make sure you’ve got everything in place”, Savage said. Hiking safely “is a matter of, do they have the skills to do the hike they have chosen?”
Anyone embarking on a hike should be clear-eyed about their comfort level and ability, and pick a trail accordingly, Grewe said.
“It is about confidence to deal with the environment,” Rod Quintrell, chair of Walking South Australia said. “And how do we build confidence? With a little bit of planning.
“People should respect the outdoors but shouldn’t necessarily be scared.
“They should also endeavour to know themselves and their fitness and their ability.”
“People will fail to plan, they will go in the wrong footwear, the wrong clothing, with no water, at the wrong time a year, unaware that the track to the waterfall for example is really steep down … They overestimate their ability and underestimate the trail.”
Assess the weather, as well as a trail’s terrain, distance and steepness to ensure its difficulty will not surpass your capabilities.
Wildlife such as ticks, fleas, leeches, spiders and snakes are region specific, “so do your research”, Quintrell said. He suggested looking at local national park lists of hazards.
Savage said a vast majority of snake bites come from people who try to handle them, so “leave them alone and they will generally leave you alone”. When it comes to spiders, “do not put your hands where you can’t see them”.
“Always carry more water than you think you need,” Grewe said. “Always carry a basic first aid kit, maybe a few extra snacks … basics that can help you stay out a little bit longer if you find yourself in trouble, or get lost.
“If you haven’t researched and packed your bag accordingly, your plans for a fun day hiking could turn out otherwise.”
Hiking trails in more remote locations may also have poor mobile service, so Grewe recommends pre-downloading a map. Savage suggests carrying a personal locator beacon or satellite communicator.
Quintrell recommends telling someone where you are walking, when you are leaving, where your car will be parked and how long you will be gone.