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The 3 Most Common Bushwalking Disasters

03 October 2022


Keep calm &… try not to panic.


If you’ve never suffered a bushwalking mishap, you’re lucky. (Or, you’ve suppressed the memory because it was so bloody horrendous.)


These are the most common disasters that occur on the trail, and tips for avoiding them:



Do the Twist

The most common and the most irritating trail fail is the twisted ankle. It can happen in the blink of an eye, and can spell the end of your bushwalk if it’s bad enough.


Rolled ankles tend to happen when you’re going downhill, or when it’s late in the day and you’re tired and not concentrating properly. To avoid ankle sprains, take a rest; pushing onwards when you’re less aware of your footing can spell disaster. Plus, investing in the right hiking shoes that provide top-notch traction can help to avoid slipping or sliding.


If you do suffer a bad twist, it needs to be elevated and kept as cold as possible. Since you probably won’t have an ice-pack on hand in the bush, you can use cold water; hold the bottle or some dampened clothing against your ankle. Apply a firm bandage or some fabric (a t-shirt, perhaps?) around the sprain.


Hopefully you’ll eventually be able to hobble home. If not, you’ll have to phone for help, or send other people in your pack to go ahead and seek assistance (but make sure someone else stays with you).



Creepy Crawlies

Hiking in any type of wilderness means you might come across a snake or similarly creepy creature. To avoid bites, make as much noise with your feet as possible when you’re moving through areas with overgrown vegetation, so the creatures are aware of your presence and have time to slither away.


If you do get bitten by something nasty, lie down and apply a pressure bandage to the wound (but not a tourniquet). Do not wash the wound or attempt to cut or suck the poison out.


Phone for help or send someone to get help, and try to remain as calm as possible until help arrives.



Lost and (hopefully) Found

Getting lost in the wilderness is nothing to sneeze at. Too many stories arise of people becoming lost in bushland without any overnight gear, and it can have tragic consequences.


To avoid the worst happening, always pack extra gear than you think you’ll need. If you’re only planning on a day-hike, pack as if you’re going for two days. Some overnight clothes and extra food and water will come in very handy if you accidentally take a wrong turn!


Also, make sure someone else (who’s not in the wilderness with you) knows where you’re going and knows when you’re expected home. That way, if you don’t resurface at the expected time, someone will know that you’re missing and can push the panic button.


In case the worst happens, always take a torch and a mirror so you can catch the attention of rescuers. Plus, bring some matches so you can build a signal fire using plenty of damp leaves (they create lots of smoke). Be patient and try not to panic; if someone knows that you’re missing, then help will be on the way. Stand out in the open during daylight hours so rescuers will be able to see you from the air, and try to find shelter at nighttime.


Do you have any bushwalking “uh oh” stories? Share them with us on Facebook, Instagram or in the comments below.


By Hannah Begg



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