Means using commonsense with >>
Aim to develop your own bushcraft skills and increase your self-reliance by learning from others. Hone your observation skills whilst walking and do some background reading at home. Safety considerations aside, most people find the greater their knowledge and understanding of the bush and bushcraft, the more rewarding and enjoyable are their experiences in the bush.
Map reading is an indispensable skill of bushcraft. Navigation is essentially observation, recognition and mental noting of geographical features and relating these to a map in order to identify a location or route. Visual recognition of features represented on a map, such as hills and creek junctions, is complemented with estimates of distances covered and the use of a compass for orientation
The ability to navigate with a compass is essential in untracked or featureless terrain, or when dense forestation or low cloud reduces visibility. For this reason, it is recommended that a bushwalking group without a member experienced in navigation should choose walks on well marked tracks and use the opportunity to practice the skills of observation, estimation, map reading and use of a compass. When on a trip with an experienced navigator, remain observant and take the opportunity to improve your skills rather than simply playing "follow the leader".
It is particularly important to take extra care with navigation when departing from a known position. If you start in a wrong direction, all subsequent decisions are compromised and the confusion can escalate rapidly. Taking the wrong spur when many radiate from a hilltop, or the wrong branch at a complex track junction can result from a slight initial error in direction but may subsequently lead to major disorientation.
Some little used routes are indistinct on the ground and rely on track markers such as metal plates or plastic ties usually fixed to trees. Particularly when markers are sparse, they have a habit of disappearing altogether when walkers fall into deep conversation or rush ahead enthusiastically on a downhill stretch. All the more reason for everyone in the party to be aware and participating in the navigation. Look back on your route occasionally so that you can more easily retrace your steps to your last marker if you find you have inadvertently strayed from the track.
Global positioning systems (GPS) can provide navigational assistance but should not be considered a substitute for skill with a compass since they are neither fail safe nor operational in all terrain, particularly in mountainous areas where they are most likely to be used when walking. Nor do they remove the bushwalking need to be able to interpret a map and translate it to features in the surrounding terrain for route selection. They are likely to be of most assistance when visibility is compromised by weather or featureless terrain.
Keeping the Party Together
It is important to regroup at track junctions and maintain sight contact on untracked or poorly marked routes. With larger groups it is advisable that responsibility for keeping the party together is taken by both a leader and an appointed whip. The latter is a person who brings up the rear and keeps track of all the party to ensure that no-one is left behind, a particularly important role when the leader is heavily occupied with navigation or the party has mixed physical abilities. It is generally safer to encourage slower members to walk toward the front of a group, and special care is needed with children who inevitably like to run ahead.
It is widely accepted that the best way to get fit for bushwalking is to walk. Begin with short bushwalks and as your fitness improves so too can your aspirations of completing more demanding walks. You can easily increase your fitness by treating your day to day activities as training. When you walk, choose to walk briskly, take the stairs rather than the lift, leave the car in the garage for the trip to the local shops and refuse the second helping of desert.
Keep in mind that enjoyable bushwalking is more difficult to achieve if there is a wide range of fitness and expectation among members of a group.
Check the latest forecasts in the walk area before departure and keep a close watch on the weather, particularly in alpine areas where changes can be both sudden and severe*. The development of high cloud, often thin and fibrous, frequently forewarns of a deterioration in the weather that is later seen by an ominous thickening and lowering of the cloud base. When camping, consider the direction of the winds when choosing location and orientation of tents. Be aware that trees can fall or lose limbs without warning. Some species are worse than others; river red gums are known to be particularly bad.
* Bureau of Meteorology: www.bom.gov.au
A responsible bushwalker is aware of the potential impact of walking and camping on the environment. To minimize damage to the bush, keep to established routes and tracks where possible. Do not cut corners on switchbacks or create new tracks. However, in open untracked country, the group should spread out to disperse any damage to the terrain or vegetation. Avoid walking over easily damaged areas such as alpine bogs.
Obtain permission before crossing farmland and leave gates as found. Cross fences preferably at gates or strain posts, or pass between the wires when possible.
Be considerate and respect the rights of members of your party and other groups to enjoy the peace and solitude of the bush at all times. It is not appropriate to subject others to the noise from radios and other electronic devices in the bush.
Domestic animals also have no place in the wilderness and are banned in National Parks.