‘Bush’ is one of our strange words—it means rural, undeveloped countryside—but for us it’s anything that isn’t the city or the beach!
Hiking in the countryside, or ‘bush walking’, like most physical activities comes with some risks. But that’s not a reason not to do it! It’s a reason to understand the risks and address them responsibly.
Here are some things you should do to make sure you have a safe, enjoyable time in the Queensland bush.
Never hike alone
Rule number one is to never go bush walking alone. If you do get lost or hurt, you want to have someone there with you to help. Always go with a responsible adult or group of at least 3 experienced people over the age of 16, and always get permission to go first.
Before the hike
Prepare before the hike by planning and packing.
Check the weather
Before you go, check to see what the weather is going to be like. If it is too hot, or bushfires or storms are expected, go another time. Don’t go bushwalking in extreme temperatures and there is nothing worse than getting caught in a thunderstorm when out hiking.
Plan your route
Know your fitness, knowledge, experience and skills and choose walks that suit your abilities. If walking in a group, choose tracks that suit the skill and ability of your slowest walker.
Walking tracks are graded, using track classifications (below). In some parks, tracks may be described as easy, moderate or difficult instead of the Grade 1–5 rating.
Grade 1: No walking experience needed. Flat, even surface with no steps or steep sections. Suitable for wheelchair users who have someone to help them. Walks no greater than 5km.
Grade 2: No walking experience needed. The track is a hardened or compacted surface and may have a gentle hill section or sections and occasional steps. Walks no greater than 10km.
Grade 3: Suitable for most ages and fitness levels. Some walking experience needed. Tracks may have short steep hill sections, a rough surface and many steps. Walks up to 20km.
Grade 4: Walking experience needed. Tracks may be long, rough and very steep. Directional signs may be limited.
Grade 5: Very experienced walkers with specialised skills, including navigation and emergency first aid. Tracks are likely to be very rough, very steep and unmarked. Walks may be more than 20km.
Dress for the adventure
Rough ground will need sturdy shoes. You want adequate foot support and a good amount of grip to reduce your risk of injury. Lightweight sports shoes are not recommended for bushwalking.
Wear your clothes in layers to make it easy to add or subtract a layer to suit temperature changes on the trail.
Long-sleeved, lightweight shirts and trousers are ideal for bushwalking as they help protect against scratches and stings.
Make sure you have the following:
Help protect our parks by ensuring you don’t carry plant seeds, soil or pests in footwear, clothing or other gear.
Pack the right things
In addition to the clothes listed above, also pack:
Water—When hiking in the Queensland bush, you can really work up a sweat! Stay hydrated by taking plenty of clean drinking water. Always carry more water than you think you’ll need. We all react to heat and humidity differently, but generally, the hotter and more humid it is, the thirstier you will be. Work out how much water the group will need for the hike you’re planning and check that each person has sufficient water. If some members of your group are fitter and stronger than others, ask them to carry an extra water bottle or two as back up.
Sunscreen—Put on a large amount of factor 50+ sunscreen at least 20 minutes before heading out. A hat will offer sun protection too and keep you shaded and cool. Sunglasses can also be good to use on a hike.
Insect repellent—Use an insect repellent to protect yourself from insect bites and stings.
First aid kit
- A walking tracker/way-finder app may also be useful
- Some people like to take a hiking pole
Tell someone where you’re going and when you’ll be back
Make sure a responsible and reliable adult who will not be participating in the hike knows where you are going and for how long. The best way of doing this is to tell them:
- where you’re going and the route you plan to take
- who you’re with and the car you’ll be in to get to the start of your walk
- when you plan to start and finish
- the cut-off time for your return home, after which they need to contact emergency services
- the number or details of who they need to contact (it may be National Parks, police or your local emergency services, depending on where you are).
The process is simple—if you don’t call or message them to confirm you’re safe by the agreed time, they notify the emergency services.
Your message may look like this:
'As agreed, I am going to the Toohey Forest reserve in Nathan with Ben and Alice. We are in Ben’s car and will be parking it at the Toohey Picnic Grounds on Toohey Road. We are walking down the Planchoniana/Nathan and Toohey Ridge Track route staring at 11am, we expect to be out by 1pm—please call the SES (State Emergency Service) or police for help if you don’t hear from me by 3pm.'
Have a way to communicate distress
Got a mobile phone? Take it, and ensure it has a full battery! Download the
Triple Zero emergency app before leaving home as it will help identify your location.
Some places in the bush might not have phone reception, or your phone or battery might stop working. There are many other options to use to call for help. These include satellite phones, ultra-high frequency radios or a personal locator beacon. Some national parks loan out personal locator beacons, so check in with them first.
On the hike
Don’t touch the animals: Many animals in Australia have venom or teeth. They are wild and are not used to being approached by people and may act defensively if you approach them. Therefore it is best to stay away from all animals. Just enjoy looking at them from a safe distance. Read more about
Queensland wildlife on the Parks and Forests website.
Follow and obey the signs: When you are on a hike, always do the following:
- Follow track markers, stay on marked tracks, and follow directional signs carefully.
- Pay attention to all closure, access and safety information.
- Do not take shortcuts or form new tracks (sometimes shortcuts can lead to dead ends or getting lost).
- Obey all signs as financial penalties may apply.
- Tell someone if you go away from your group—even if it’s just for a second or to go to the toilet.
Don’t drop rubbish: The bush is important to us Queenslanders, and there are a few easy ways you can help keep it that way. We love ‘being green’ which means caring for the environment. You can help too by always carrying all your rubbish with you until you find a rubbish bin to put it in. Dropping rubbish can injure or kill the wildlife or even start a fire!
Never start fires: Lighting fires is illegal as they can easily get out of control. Never do it. Lighting a fire can endanger your life, the lives of others and the lives of animals too.
Look after nature: Don’t touch or damage plants or trees.
Fill up water bottles when you can: Some parks and trails may have drinking water available. Fill up your drink bottles at every available clean water drinking source.
If you get lost
Here are a few things you can do if you get lost.
- Phone the responsible adult (the one that is not participating in the hike) to tell them you need help.
- Phone our free student support hotline
1800 QSTUDY (1800 778 839).
112 for immediate assistance from the emergency services (such as the Police).
- If your mobile phone doesn’t work and you have one available, use your satellite phone, ultra-high frequency radio or personal locator beacon.
- If these don’t work, stay where you are and make a noise to call for help. The way to call for help in the Australian bush is called a ‘coo-ee ’. It’s a sound that carries long distances and cuts through other noise.
All of this may sound daunting, but it quickly becomes easy once you have done it a couple of times.
By taking all these bush safety precautions, you can know you’ve prepared for anything that could happen when you’re in the bush. That means you spend less time worrying about what could go wrong and more time enjoying the experience and adventure, which is why you’re there in the first place.