Outback backpack. Outback backpack. Outback backpack. Is your tongue as tied as ours?
The Outback is kinda tricky to define, because it doesn’t refer to one place in particular. It encompasses all of the vast, uninhabited, remote parts of inland Australia. However, if we were to whittle it down we’d say the Outback is best represented by the dry, desert regions around Central Australia.
For the purposes of this post, the backpack in question is the small daypack you’ll carry with you at all times (in the car, on the bus, bushwalking etc). So it’s the daily essentials, handy things and useful stuff that you’ll want to keep nearby.
It’s ridiculous how useful a sarong or big scarf can be when you’re out in the elements (yes, even for guys). Wrap it around your head to tame long hair on a windy day or keep ears warm when the cold night air sets in. If you’re travelling long distances it can be bunched up and used like a pillow. If the sun starts beating down and you’re feeling the heat, whip off your shorts and tie it around your waist or use it as a quick-drying towel after a dip. It will also help protect your shoulders and neck from the sun without adding a heavy layer.
There’s nothing worse than fiddling around in the dark with one hand while you try to keep a torch steady with the other. A headlamp is handy for those early starts, when you wake up before the sun does and need to get dressed in the dark. If you’re not a morning person you’ll at least have your hands free to make that first, much-needed cup of coffee. Keeping it on your head around the campfire at night means if there’s interesting wildlife about you can switch it on and get a good look instead of fumbling around for your torch.
3. Spare sunnies
The Outback is no place to show off last season’s Prada aviators. Trust us on this one. You should invest in a good quality pair of sunglasses that block out UV rays and have polarised lenses to help cut through the glare. You want to be able to look across the clear, blue water without having to squint. You’ll need a cleaning cloth too, as they’ll get covered in dust. The worst thing that could happen is losing your sunnies, and it happens a LOT. So invest in a spare pair and keep them handy.
4. Insect repellant
You know that old nursery rhyme: “Shoo fly, don’t bother me. We don’t want your company”? Well, you’d be wasting your breath singing it in the Outback because you are outnumbered by flies approximately one trillion to one. They don’t take a hint. But they do hate the smell of insect repellant so you’ll want to stock up. If it’s going to take up too much room in your bag, why not find a “bug buddy” and take it in turns carrying a bottle each day.
5. Journal and pen
Sure, photos are a great way to capture memories. But sometimes you’ll want to give those moments a little more context. A journal is a great way to gather your thoughts at the end of a long day. You don’t need to be a writer or a poet to express yourself through words, and trust us when we say that the Outback could make a poet out of anyone! Some people like to keep a list of all the different wildlife they’ve seen, others might want to jot down last night’s damper recipe or maybe you simply want to play a game of Tic, Tac, Toe on the bus.
6. Deck of cards
Speaking of bus trips, the ones you’ll take through the Outback will be long. There’s no getting around it. But you didn’t come to Australia because of the short distances between sights. You came to see as much of this big, brown land as possible and that means plenty of travel. A deck of cards is a great way to pass the time, and you get to know more about your fellow travellers in the process.
7. Spare camera battery
Do we need to explain this one? Do not be THAT person. You know the one: sulking, getting mad, getting sad, begging others to “email me that photo when we get home!”. Pack a spare. Always pack a spare.
8. Baby wipes
Dust. Red dust. It gets in everything – eyes, ears, nose and even between your fingers and toes. Baby wipes are a cheap way to give yourself a “bush bath” any time the mood strikes. You will be surprised at how often you’ll just want to give your face a quick once-over to freshen up. This is another occasion where you can take it in turns carrying a packet to share between one or two people each day, so that they aren’t aways taking up room in your daypack.
If you’re the sort of person who “only ever tans” or who doesn’t like “the way sunscreen feels” then a trip to the Outback is not for you. The sun here is harsh. It’s intense. It’s hard to avoid. So you need to wear sunscreen and top it up every few hours, particularly if you’re sweating a lot or planning on a swim. It’s the weird places that need the most attention – back of the knees, tips of the ears and tops of the feet (if you’re wearing sandals). These are the kinds of places that sometimes get overlooked but are very prone to sunburn. Don’t wake up feeling stiff, sore and covered in blisters because it can potentially ruin the trip of a lifetime and is easily avoided.
10. Water bottle
It should go without saying, but we cannot stress enough how important it is to keep water on you at all times. Doesn’t matter if it’s cold, raining or you are so sick of the taste of water that you would chop off your arm for a can of Coke. You should top your water bottle up each time you get off the bus, and make sure the lid is secured properly. Aim to drink around five litres a day, because staying hydrated is key.
Featured image Matthew Kenwrick c/o Flickr