Maps, track factsheets and bushwalking information
All bushwalkers need to know how to use a map and compass. Excellent TASMAP maps and a series of national park maps cover all Tasmania’s popular walking destinations. Maps are available at specialist map shops, national park visitor centres, Service Tasmania shops and online from TASMAP at www.tasmap.tas.gov.au
Current information is generally posted at national park visitor centres and in the logbook station at the start of many tracks. This information does not replace your own research – learn about the walk you’re planning before you leave and carry your own map and compass.
The Parks and Wildlife Service produces a range of useful and informative materials, including fact sheets track notes and a DVD titled 'Bushwalking the Basics'. There’s also a variety of practical resources and links on the Parks and Wildlife Service website.
EPIRBS and PLBS
If you are walking in remote areas you may decide to carry an EPIRB (emergency position-indicating radio beacon) or a PLB (personal locator beacon). In an emergency, the EPIRB or PLB can be activated to send a radio signal that pinpoints your location.
Search and rescue personnel often have to put their own lives at risk when they respond to an EPIRB or PLB signal – it is essential to understand that an EPIRB or PLB must only be activated in a serious emergency situation.
Carrying an EPIRB or PLB is a ‘last-resort’ piece of safety equipment. It is no substitute for bushwalking experience, proper equipment, good planning and plain common sense. Make sure you use a 406 MHz EPIRB or PLB – the 121.5 MHz system was phased out on 1st February 2009.
How to avoid getting lost
Don’t push too hard – stop to make camp well before dark or before bad weather and keep your group together, especially towards the end of the day.
If someone becomes ill or if difficult weather sets in, make camp and wait for conditions to improve or for help to arrive. If you are just starting out, seriously consider abandoning the trip. Know your group and its limitations and modify plans as necessary.
If you think you are lost, stop. Sit down and try to think calmly. Use your map and compass or GPS. Climb a tree or go to a high spot to look for landmarks (know where your pack is when you do this). Do not continue travelling until you know where you are.
If you are lost, stay in one place. Put out signals of three blasts on a whistle, three lines stamped in the snow, three yells. Any pattern of three is a standard distress signal.
Explain these basic rules to children in your party.
Never attempt to cross a river that is in flood – instead, be prepared to camp and wait until the river or creek level has fallen and is safe to cross.
When crossing rivers avoid narrow points or bends where the water tends to run fast; rapids and waterfalls; and crossing sites with partially-submerged logs downstream.
If you need to cross a river, use these techniques:
• Waterproof your pack
• Strip off or wear shorts so clothes do not get wet
• Wear your boots to protect feet and provide sure footing
• Undo your waist strap as you cross
• Use an aid (a trekking pole or sturdy stick, linked arms with a partner or a rope slung between the banks)
Don’t Get Caught in a Bushfire – Some Fire Safety Preparations
Bushfires occur every summer in Tasmania, including some ignited by dry lightning strikes in the remote wilderness areas of the state. For people visiting these areas it is important that safety, in the event of a bushfire starting, is considered and planned for before leaving home.
Bushfires start small. The spread and heat of bushfires is determined by wind, slope and available fuel such as leaves, twigs and vegetation. Fire will generally travel faster up a slope than it will down a slope. Fire will travel with the wind, rather than against it. Fire will travel faster in fine fuels and where vegetation is thicker and drier, than it will in vegetation that is damp, sparse or composed of larger material.
Before leaving home
Check the weather forecast. If hot, dry and windy conditions are forecast, plan your trip carefully. You may need to change or adapt your itinerary. Review your walk, considering any shelters such as lakes, the ocean, running streams or wet gullies where refuge can be taken should you get into difficulty.
Let someone know when and where you plan to walk and camp before leaving. Use the logbooks to record your trip intentions, and follow instructions from PWS staff and signs – particularly track closed signs. Just because you can’t see the fire doesn’t mean there isn’t one threatening the area.
Heat generated from a fire is called radiant heat. If you put your hand near an open flame you can feel the radiant heat. In very hot bushfires this heat affects people well before the actual flames reach them. Death is often caused by heat stroke, when the body's cooling system fails, leading to heat exhaustion and heart failure. Appropriate clothing can shield your skin from from radiant heat. Wear clothes that cover and protect all exposed skin – preferably natural fibres. A lot of bushwalking gear has a high plastic content that will melt to your skin.
If walking and caught in a bushfire
Do not run unless to a clearly indicated way of escape. Do not try to out run the fire uphill as fires travel faster uphill. Look for areas that are flat and contain very little vegetation.
Seek shelter from the fire. Shelter can include:
• a running steam, a wet gully, a lake or tarn, or the ocean
• eroded gullies free of vegetation
• deep wheel ruts or cuttings on the road
• rocky outcrops or open areas with little or no vegetation, including gravel pits
• an area that has been recently burnt
1 Clear any leaves or vegetation matter that can burn near your shelter.
2 Stay in your chosen shelter until the fire has passed.
3 Cover any exposed skin with clothing, soft earth, anything to shield you from the heat.
4 Keep low and breathe air close to the ground where it is cooler and contains less smoke.
5 If there is no immediate shelter around and the fire is advancing, you have very little chance of survival in the open. Try to move away from the hottest part of the fire.
Only as a last resort, run through the flames onto burnt ground.
If you have to run through the flames:
• Chose a place where the flames and heat are lower and where there is, or will be, little burning material on the ground behind the fire front.
• Wait for a lull and when you can see over and through the flames take a deep breath and briskly walk through covering your face as much as possible. Stay in the burnt area.
• Flames greater than your height are too hazardous to run through.
While this information provides some safety points, it is better to avoid bushfire situations where possible.
Safety points to remember:
• Check on the weather before going bush.
• Plan your trip to include refuge areas.
• Protect yourself from radiant heat.
• If caught on foot, seek shelter.
• Do not try to out run the fire.
• Keep as low as possible to avoid breathing heated air and smoke.
• Drink water regularly to avoid dehydration.