We are on the way back home from our Bibbulmun Track adventure so thought I would do a post to answer all the questions I had before the walk. Probably more I have forgotten so please ask anything to help you have a better trip. It is a fabulous walk.
Context – I am 55 and my wife is 53. After my wife loved the Larapinta so much last year we decided to find a longer trip this year. We planned to go slowly with plenty of rest days available if wanted/needed. We started in Kalamunda and just walked from shelter to shelter building up our track fitness. My wife is a horse rider and not really a walker so we planned to give her time to get in the grove. We really enjoyed the camping and meeting fellow walkers. I managed 425km before discovering my swollen foot was a stress fracture in my toe. My wife made it 200km but had trouble with her Achilles. We will be back to complete the walk as soon as we can schedule it.
Which direction to walk?
We walked North to South which seems to make sense because the sections are shorter while you build your track legs plus you are walking away from having the sun in your eyes. We started late August and the wildflowers and orchids were flowering well. Then as we moved South the weather was warming up and the wildflowers kept performing. You also walk probably some of the least interesting scenery first but we still found it great, not having the rest of the track to yet compare it with and because the countryside and plants were new and different to what we are accustomed to in Tassie. I imagine seeing the ocean after a month or two of walking will be great too and something to aim for. You will be walking in the same direction as most hikers, so you will be camping for a few nights with the same people and building friendships which we enjoyed but seeing very few people during the day.
When to go?
We started on the 27th August. We had about half the nights camping alone and half with others up to a maximum of 8 people one night. The weather was perfect for walking and then cold overnight and especially so around Collie. From reports, there seemed to be more people starting as September progressed.
How long to take?
We allowed over 2 ½ months so we could have one or two days off anytime we fancied and could walk the Cape to Cape at the end if we still had time. The towns are fun and having a shower and a pub meal was one of the simple pleasures of life on the track. I had an 8.5kg base weight which I was happy with (carrying our joint items like stove, gas, dinner meals, first aid, repair gear, battery bank, PLB etc.) but then we were passed by a guy with a 7kg base weight aiming for 37 days and then a few days later we were passed by a guy with a 4kg base weight doing it in 22 days!
There doesn’t appear to be too many hiking food supplies entrepreneurs on the track. Seems to be gas available (mostly the 240g ones) and some of the visitor centres have freeze-dried meals. Hopefully, that will change as the track becomes more popular. We hired a car and did a food drop to Kelmscott, North Bannister and Dwellingup as we didn’t want to have to try and recover drops if our bodies broke down any further South than that. We planned to buy supplies on the track for the rest of the trip. We got a lift from some section hikers from the Brookton Highway to Kelmscott (but also had a trail angel lined up plus you could hitch as is a busy road) and we stayed at Avocados for 2 nights which was great with a great bar and restaurant (check opening days). I got an Uber into Kelmscott to get some fresh food and then an Uber back to Avocados and then asked him for a cash deal for the 30kms back to the track which he only wanted $20 for but I gave him $25 (so saved our trail angel another trip). It would have been easy to resupply in Kelmscott at Getaway Outdoors & Woolies. North Bannister has a service station with junk food and a tavern that does lunch and an early dinner. They will hold your food drop for $10 at the tavern and it is possible to post one to them but check on this as one of the mail addresses is not checked regularly. Dwellingup wasn’t impressive with its array of choices but that should improve with the new adventure visitors centre being planned. At Balingup I managed to get a lift to Bridgetown with a fellow walker who’s Mum came down to resupply him and then we dropped food to Donnelly River Village. DRV is super expensive to resupply but you would get enough and can eat there in the café. There is also a trail angel that will collect you at DRV and take you to Bridgetown which has a very impressive large IGA. That is as far as I can report but there are people who will help you further south. Trail angel Wendy at Northcliffe for example and Jacko & Annie run a business Casa Libelula from Denmark and will pick you up on one side of an inlet and take you to their place for accommodation/washing/shopping and then drop you back on the other side of the inlet. They do Denmark, Peaceful Bay, Parry Beach & William Bay. In summary posting a package to Nth Bannister would be a good plan and not being too fussy in the towns.
We walked in solid boots and gaiters as that is what we do in Tassie. Lighter boots or trail runners would be better if you are used to them and short gaiters or sock savers are enough if you are vigilant looking for snakes. We hiked in light trousers, but shorts would have been OK. Zip-offs probably the best as a bit cold until the sun is up for shorts some mornings.
We only took one set of clothes – shirt, trousers, undies, socks, sun-hat, fingerless sun gloves (from fly fishing shop). Then at sundown would put on long johns under trousers, thermal singlet, light fleece and light down jacket (but good quality) and beanie. We also had light merino gloves as it was cold on fingers walking with poles in the mornings. We would sleep in those warm clothes and then take them off just as ready to start walking in the morning. We each had one spare pair of undies and socks and would wash them every other day and then wash all clothes at each town or if into camp early enough to have them dry. We carried a light raincoat (but good quality) and waterproof trousers. Didn’t really need the waterproof trousers (especially with full-length gaiters) very often (as light synthetic trousers dry so fast) but they were what we wore in town while our clothes were drying. We each had a pair of light camp shoes that we used in town which was handy. My camp shoes were 450g trail runners which I planned to try walking on the track with but I never did but think it was a good idea to have camp/town shoes that could also walk in.
We took two one-man tents as you can’t rely on the shelters and there may be a diversion due to a burn off to a temporary camp. I had a 570g Dyneema Tarptent Notch LI which is double skin tent that I put up a few times if it was going to be 0 degrees overnight and if the mozzies looked keen but rarely were the mozzies a pain an hour after dark. We both had face fly nets but after an hour could take them off (we wore our sunhat to keep them off our faces). My wife had a 1.15kg Tarptent Bowfin 1 which is freestanding and small enough to erect on the platforms in the shelters which she did if not many people at the camp. We both had 350g Thermarest Neoair Xlite mats and both had Western Mountaineering Ultralite Sleeping Bags that weigh 800g rated -7 degrees which were perfect. We also had a silk liner each which adds a few degrees and keeps the bag cleaner. A couple of nights we had them fully zipped up with all clothes on but not quite cold. The other good thing about two 1 man tents is that I only had to carry mine when my wife's Achilles got swollen.
Each 3 sided shelter has a toilet, usually a fire pit and a water tank. I carried 3*600ml empty Gatorade bottles (to carry each day) plus a 2-litre folding Platypus bottle (to filter from at camp). I would drink 1 litre before leaving camp and then turn up thirsty after 20+kms. We used electrolyte in our water if sweating - so most days. There are a few creeks you could filter from as well. Most people drank from the tanks without treating or filtering with no issue. There is a sign on all the tanks saying to boil. On some tanks, there were small holes in the top. Some had mosquito larva. We carried a Sawyer Squeeze (not the mini – it is too slow). They are excellent and work via gravity too so highly recommended and what most people use in the USA. We tied up the net bag with a bit of string and then just filtered as needed into water bottles or Jetboil. Order on eBay $A80 for full kit posted from Queensland. https://www.ebay.com.au/itm/Sawyer-Sque ... :rk:2:pf:0
Mice will eat your food, but they weren’t too bad. Lots of people had mice incidents. We strung our food up between two tiny Lucozade bottles threaded on a bit of cord and didn’t have any issues (see photo via the link at the bottom). Most people hung their food and fishing line would be good as I imagine it would be hard for mice to climb down it. We didn't see any possum evidence but better to hang where possums can't reach either. There were some crows at a couple of the huts waiting until our backs were turned but they are still timider than other encounters we have had on other tracks. The people we met were all super and friendly.
Buy the Guthook app for your phone. http://guthookguides.com.au/
It is $15 for the Bibbulmun and $25 for all of the NZ & AUS walks they do (has Cape to Cape, Larapinta, Overland Track, Milford Track etc). I bought the $25 set which from memory I clicked on a +1 next to the Bibbulmun track and bought the deal (can’t check how now I own it). After 2 days we decided to buy the app again for my wife’s phone as it is so good and we could both relax knowing we couldn’t get lost and walk at our own pace. Download the app on Wi-Fi and then open the Bibbulmun Track and make sure you have downloaded the maps for offline use. Open the map and click on a hut and then there is a button to download photos – so do that on Wi-Fi too. We also had the printed maps and guidebooks which were useful for planning but we didn’t carry them after the first couple of sections as the app was so good and has elevation profile too. The trick is to have power for your phone. We carried a 230g 10,000-mA battery bank which would charge our Samsung phones from about 25% twice each at least. It would be good to have one that charged faster (if they exist) because say at Nth Bannister it only got it back to 50% in the time we had. Didn’t take a GPS but did have a PLB and a small compass for emergencies. Download the app called emergency+ so you can publish your location if needed. Also, PlantSnap for identifying plants, compass, first aid app etc. The track is very well marked but it is still possible to get lost especially if you have your head down in the rain etc. We found by having our phones in flight mode and in battery saving mode we could listen to podcasts and look at the maps occasionally and didn’t look like running out of power with a recharge every few days from the battery bank. We didn’t bother with headphones for podcasts just walked separately from each other when podcasting. Some I liked were Hiker Trash, Australian Hiker (there are 5+ specific to the Bib), Real Trail Talk (also has Bib ones) and download them to your podcast app on Wi-Fi (we use podcast addict). Test it at home in flight mode. Prefer a waterproof phone as my last one died in my kayak in a plastic bag with two drips of water that got in a tiny hole.
What to pack apart from normal?
Earplugs are essential the skin coloured foam ones that come in a 6 pack are best. 10mls of Tea Tree Oil is great for feet and as an antiseptic plus to dab on ticks or leeches to kill them. Hand Gel. Blistex for lips. Resolve Plus for heat-rash (didn't use it this trip but wouldn't go walking without it). You will be doing a lot of packing up so get things organized in certain places in certain coloured bags. Trekking poles essential for an end to end I reckon. With a 3-gram tube of super glue and some thickish black cotton (ask for thickest at Spotlight) you can repair almost anything. Wrap cotton around broken tent pole and then apply glue to cotton. If hip belt buckle breaks, then again use cotton and glue to repair. Light cord for mouse line, clothesline (with safety pins for pegs) or for repairs. 30cm piece of double-sided Velcro for repairs. A short piece of light wire for repairs. Duct tape wrapped around your trekking poles for repairs. Courtesy sewing kit from a hotel. Small tweezers were good for removing ticks if tea tree oil didn’t get them moving. Had to dab with tea tree oil then photograph to see if they had legs they were so small. Wilderness Wash leaves were good for shampoo, washing people and clothes. Hydralyte Sports minerals were great to add to our water for rehydration and it does make a difference. We packed 3 sachets between us per day. They cost $25 for 12 at Chemist Warehouse. We each had a Kindle and read every day and I loved reading thru-hiking books on the AT, PCT, CDT while we were on our adventure.
What did we eat?
We carried a Jetboil MICRO-Mo that weighs 340g and has an 800ml pot that can boil 500mls of water. It can also cook food and can simmer. It isn’t available in Australia and is the lightest self-contained Jetboil system. I bought it on eBay from the UK. A small 100g gas lasts at least a week boiling 12 litres. I do have a titanium Jetboil (discontinued) that can only boil but I figured we would be forced to cook pasta meals etc when we couldn’t buy freeze dried. We also took snow peas and a bunch of broccolini for the first few nights each time we were able to source them. The broccolini goes fine just chopped up and heated as bringing the water to the boil for a freeze-dried meal and then just tip it in the freeze-dried packet stir and wait 20 minutes. We each had a plastic cup for coffee/tea/soup and a long-handled titanium spork.
Dinner – 1 freeze-dried meal 2 serve. The black Outdoor Gourmet are nicest and the Back Country ones are good. We added 1/3 of a packet of Back County Instant Rice (blue packet) to all 2 serve meals. It makes the meal go a bit further and also some are very flavoursome, and it helps dilute a bit. Wait 20 minutes rather than 10 minutes for better flavour and texture. We ate out of the bag with our long-handled titanium sporks so no washing up and not to need to cut the freeze-dried packet and then we were able to use the sealable bag for a rubbish bag or can also split a 2 serve meal and prepare in last night’s bag if not hungry etc.
Lunch - Vita Wheat and Cheese – regular sliced cheese seemed to keep OK. Kept even better wrapped in grease-proof paper (like Glad Bake) and then kept in a brown paper bag inside pack away for where the sun may warm it up.
Snacks – for me 75g nuts/sunflower/pumpkin seeds, 3 bars, 1 miso soup (Ajishima freeze-dried miso with fungi - weighs 9 grams from Coles - and is also excellent to mix with a regular cup-a-soup or on its own), 1 cup-a-soup, 2 tea bags.
Few last things?
We like having a small foam seat to sit on in camp or on a burnt out or wet tree/rock for lunch. We just cut a piece off the original foam sleeping mats that I bought 45 years ago. It is good to have a nice pillow and we like the sea to summit ones. I take my shirt off and do up the buttons and stick my sleeping mat in my shirt (buttons down) and then stuff the pillow inside so it doesn’t move around all night. It also makes the mat quieter. A 750ml pee bottle is handy to save you getting out of your tent in the rain (plastic fruit salad jar). A light pack cover was handy early on as it rained on and off a lot. Keeping your gear dry is critical. You can’t really trust the radar in Perth as the rain seems to make once on land.
One for the Bibbulmun Track Foundation:-
Maybe you could publish 3 lists (gold/silver/bronze) of accredited suppliers and advertise the businesses who guarantee to stock certain items. The use by date in most cases is 3+ years so it is no risk. Bronze, for example, could stock 100g gas, 240g gas, 5 varieties of FD meals, muesli bars, Nuts, Seeds, Cup a Soup, pasta meals for example. Then the higher levels would stock a bigger range, batteries, single toilet paper, Tiny Wilderness Wash & flakes, tiny toothpaste, electrolyte, ibuprofen etc. You could survey your members and decide what goes on each list. Most speciality items and gas are sourced from Sea-To-Summit so pretty easy to manage and the track town people just need some education and direction. It seems crazy to post/drop food to towns where the locals could be doing business with no risk and looking forward to welcoming more hikers. North Bannister, in particular, would do very well but they just need some direction. Even in the tavern, they stock wine, but it is 10 choices of Passion Pop. They just don’t know what people want. There is more money for them selling us a $15 bottle of wine for $29 than a $3 bottle for $10.
There are bound to be other things we have forgotten to mention. Just ask here to see if we can help you plan this amazing adventure. The part of the track that we completed was pretty easy compared to say Tassie or Larapinta for example. There are no real hills just a few 200m bumps to climb. The thing is that it is a long walk and we saw lots of things that people were carrying that they posted home or dumped. Even the couple of luxuries I took like my Kindle that I used every day I was thinking of posting home and putting up with reading on my phone as weight is everything. The secret is to go light (weigh everything and consider it carefully) and try not to have any time pressure or commitments. We are obviously not experts as we still have over half the track to complete. There are good facebook groups that you can join and ask questions too plus call the foundation who run classes and will assign you an adviser if you are a member.
Some photos here:-https://www.facebook.com/andrew.richman ... 1913222176
Here is our planning spreadsheet which has distances and Telstra Phone signal strength etc – copy it and make it your own – but may not be 100% accurate:-https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/ ... edit#gid=0
Here is a link to a spreadsheet I started with what track towns sell – feel free to edit it:-https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/ ... 1858826788
Last edited by Andrew
on Fri 19 Oct, 2018 7:37 am, edited 12 times in total.