Kokoda Preparation Tips: Author: Dan Towler Version: 2.0
1. Train hard - physically + mentally. If you can’t keep up, the head guide will evacuate you by chopper/plane at your own expense – and this does happen to those who under-prepare. Apart from the physical challenge, there’s very little danger on the track. The locals take great care to protect Aussies and their trekking industry. So, training tips would include:
- Steps, steps & steps. Try the fire-stairs in a 10-story+ high-rise. Do this for three hours and you get a taste of what it will be like six to eight hours per day on the track. Yes – really!
- Published bushwalks in Australia tend to be well graded and gradual accents/descents (nothing like the Kokoda Track) - so they’re not great preparation. Find a rough, very steep dirt mountain track that’s not meant for public traffic and would make a mountain-goat think twice about climbing. That’s the one to train on – walking up to six hours on that track.
- Overload your pack-weight (by 50% of expect track weight) in training. This will offset the strength-sapping impact of PNG’s humidity. You’ll be glad you did.
- Lots of cardio work
- Lots of strength-building of core muscles (to protect the lower back)
- Strength-building thighs for climbing & upper body for carrying a pack
- Consider knees and ankles. These will get hammered all day every day. Glucosamine works wonders for some. Take daily for months prior to see a result.
- Don’t wrap your feet or toes in sports tape
- Don’t buy new boots just before going on the track
- Don’t wear new clothes
4. You can expect the soles of your feet to become numb from the constant foot slogging. This typically lasts for months after the trek is over.
Preparing Your Gear:
1.Your pack must be absolutely 18Kg or preferably less including water:
- An optional personal porter will carry your pack (up to 18Kg). You’ll need a day-pack for water etc for yourself.
- Food porters will carry your food. These guys (and food) are included in the price.
3. Gaiters / over-boots – helps stop rocks and some water entering your boots. But expect your feet to get wet – no matter what you do.
4. At least one Quality hydro-pack
- Some take el-cheap-o hydro-packs. They’re in trouble when they leak!
- Two hydro-packs suggested – both 2 or 3ltrs – see reason below.
- Fill just one and use. When nearing empty, fill the second and insert puritabs. Must wait 30mins before drinking. Once purified, switch to full water pack. This way, you’re rarely without of water - waiting 30mins for the puritabs to work.
- Extra hydro-pack also useful for long stretches between water refills. More of an issue in the dry months.
- Super-fleece hiking socks from BCF or camping stores are excellent.
- Never wear cotton socks – like gym socks. They’ll trap water/moisture and your feet will rot.
- Some wear two pairs of socks at once. Trial in training what’s best for you.
- light & handy.
- Can throw on over pack and self at moments notice – don’t need to stop
- Also allows excellent ventilation
- 1 or 2 packs of Scholl’s blister covers. These things are awesome – like a second skin.
- Puritabs – to clean water. Never take a chance. Getting the quirts id bad news.
- gastro-stop tablets – just in case you do cop it.
- nurofen-plus (stops pain and reduces inflammation)
- quality Sports tape. Good for repairs to body and equipment, and strapping!
- Small tub of Vasoline – to smear on soles, heels & between toes before putting socks on each morning. Also repels water from skin and is an anti-fungal – reducing foot rot. Try it in training to see if it works for you.
- Iodine to put on cuts and abrasions
- Medi-swabs for cleaning wounds
- Dressings, bandaids, bandages to suite
- Antibiotics – just in case
- Malaria tablets.
- Splinter remover
- Spare pair of boot laces
- Insect repellent – “Bushman’s+” includes sunscreen. Don’t use on the face – it burns like hell. Being 80% DEET, I call it Chernobyl-juice!
- Sunscreen for face and neck.
- Vaccination records
- Seriously – the constant downhill impacting is very tough on the toes. Failing to trim toe-nails will cause pain during the trek and eventual loss of the nails.
- With the humidity and work rate, you could drink around 12ltrs per day without trouble. But water alone is not enough because of the body-salt loss.
- Gatorade or alike provides a noticeable boost – even if only used when feeling flat.
- Maybe even some extra salt in the first aid kit could be useful. Your body will crave it like mad.
11. Hiking stick
- A mud cap on the point is a must – else the point spears deeply into soft mud under load when climbing. This is frustrating when you’re really needing your arms to provide extra lift.
- A hiking stick with a spring shock-absorber is recommended by some to lessen downhill impacts
- A camera that also takes videos is a bonus. So many things are better captured with movement and sound
- I use a simple Sony Digital camera (that also does videos) with a 2Gb card
- This camera used only one set of AA batteries the whole trek – but I’d take a spare set too. Disposable Lithium batteries are what I use.
- Almost every morning starts pre-dawn and maybe some notes into your diary each night, so having an LED head lamp keeps your hands free to pack-up/write and is very economical on batteries. One set in the shute is plenty.
- Apparently it can get quite cold in the upper regions of the Owen Stanley ranges, so a warm (and light) sleeping bag is recommended.
- Having said this, most slept on top of the bag because it was quite warm.
- Use a wedge-shaped tent – not a dome tent.
- Must have fly-screens to keep mozzies out
- Blackwolf Mantis 2p tent is what I use and is a good example
- Make sure it’s 1kg or less. Some of these mats can be huge and heavy.
- Kathmandu has Half-price Sales several times a year and their own-brand self-inflating mattress is very light and comfortable.
- Take a pillow slip to stuff clothes into – to use as a pillow
- Taking too many clothes is a common mistake causing unnecessary pack weight.
- A Day set of clothes for hiking. You should expect to use the same set of (what will become) filthy, stinking, cold & wet day clothes for hiking. You can wash these each night in a creek as you bathe, but they never dry in time for the pre-dawn kick-off the next day. So you’ll be climbing into cold wet clothes each morning – a good wake-up call! Remember – if you do err in judgement and put on your clean-dry clothes, they too we be dripping wet within 15min of the day’s hiking – so don’t. Keep your fresh & dry clothes for relaxing and sleeping in each night.
- The night set. The clean, dry set to climb into after a creek bath, dinner and into bed to enter an exhaustion-induced coma for a few hours.
- Consider using Lycra pants under your shorts instead of jocks etc. They reduce chaffing and support the thigh muscles – reducing muscle fatigue.
- Some take track-pants to sleep in.
- Some take sandals to do creek crossing in – to avoid getting their boots wet. These are also useful to wear around camp of evening when your boots are wet.
- Some take rain coats in addition to a poncho. Personal choice.
- Some take knee-high gaiters (instead of over-boots), but the heat typically ensures these come off pretty quickly.
- Toilet paper in a resealable plastic zip-lock bag. Wet loo paper isn’t fun!
- Container to eat from – like a bowl.
- Tools to eat with. A spoon is enough really.
Author Dan Towler seen here with Russell Eroro