- 21/02/2007 at 12:06 pm #96468
So here's my take on how to prepare for walking The Kokoda Track. It's not gospel – but what worked for me and my mates. You must decide what works for you. Happy to share and happy for feedback on this to improve things.
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 expected 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.
2. Never do on the track what's not been tested by you (for months) in training.
Can't stress this highly enough. That is, if you haven't tried it during months of advanced training, don't circum to last minute – bright ideas (from yourself or others) on the track. Unless proven Ok for you many times in training, for example:
- 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
3. One exception to the above is on-time medication.
Yes, you probably won't be taking malaria tablets during your months of training, but they must be taken at the right time per medical advice – before, during and after the track. We've seen complacency resulting in a nasty bout of malaria in one Aussie school boy.
4. You can expect the soles of your feet to become numb from the constant foot slogging.
This could last 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.
2. Take well worn-in hiking boots – a must!
Hiking boots will typically have a metal spine through the sole. This protects the foot from rock injuries.
3. Gaiters / over-boots.
These help 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 out 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.
5. 6x good hiking socks:
- 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.
6. heavy duty plastic poncho
- light & handy.
- Can throw on over pack and self at moments notice – don't need to stop
- Also allows excellent ventilation
7. First-aid kit. Suggested inclusions:
- 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+. It 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
8. Trim toe nails or lose them!
- 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.
9. Electrolytes: Gatorade or alike
- With the humidity and work rate, you could drink around 8-12ltrs 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.
10. Bushmans+ = Sun-block + Anti-mozzie
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
12. Digital camera with flash + rain-proof pouch
- 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.
13. LED Head-lamp
- 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.
14. Sleeping Bag
- 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
16. Sleeping mat
- 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.
18. Odds & Sods
28/02/2007 at 1:56 am #97161FrerayMember
- 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.
Great advice, My doctor (an experienced hiker) suggested Panadeine Forte. These are great at pain relief and also have the added benefit of stopping the squirts05/03/2007 at 6:19 am #97169phantomMember
Hi, Just a note about boots and loosing toenails etc. When you are doing up the laces in your boots tie the lower half off and then the top section to lock your heel into the back of your boots. This stops your foot sliding forward alot on the downhill sections. Believe me I know there are lots of them.
This is an old climbers trick that will save you alot of grief. The most important thing is to have good socks and dry or air your feet out in the evenings. If you don't you WILL have problems.07/07/2007 at 12:31 pm #97966justinpetersMember
I appreciate the time you have taken to write these tips. I think they will be very helpful. What is the most intense part of the track (from your experience)?25/10/2007 at 5:26 am #99018SuzoMember
I just got back from Kokoda, so I'll add acouple of thoughts while they're fresh:
1. Dan's right – train, train and train. While it can be run in a day, those guys are incredibly fit. Most of us aren't. Do as many steep hills and stairs as often as you can. You'll be going up or down all day every day. The only flat parts of Kokoda are the Swamp and across the top of the range through the moss. Maybe a1km out of 96.
2. Consider hiring a porter. It'll make the trip a whole lot more enjoyable. Hiring a tent up there cuts down on the weight ex Oz as well.
3. Hydro pack / Camel pack for sure. We went through minimum 4L per day water and 1L Staminade. We didn't treat the water, despite a water filter and puritabs. The guides were confident of the creeks we got water from and we had no problem.
4. 3 socks was plenty – but they were top quality hiking socks. I saved the 3rd pair for the last day. What a treat. Make sure you take a cheap pair of sandals – not thongs, thongs would be a bastard walking through the creeks. PLenty of tinea powder of a night and we had no problems with our feet.
5. Forget the poncho / raincoat. I was happy with a pack cover to keep my gear dry and just got drenched when it POURED rain of an afternoon. I was already drenched from sweat so couldn't get any worse.
6. 2 sets of clothes is plenty. Wash out the day set of a night to cut down on the stink. Evet camp we stayed at had plenty of running water – either a creek or hose pipe. Some had showers. Your day set will start of wet but even if they started dry they'll be drenched with sweat within minutes. Why worry.
7. Take the cheapest, coolest sleeping bag you can get. Somwthing for $20-$30 will do the job. I used mine once and gave it to my porter.
Other than that, enjoy the track. It's hard at times but certainly can be done by anyone reasonably fit. Just remember, the fitter you are, the more you'll enjoy it.25/10/2007 at 12:07 pm #99019jafaMember
Not sure I would bother with the staminade – it gets a little sickening after a while. Something like tang would have been better.
+1 for hiring the porter. I carried my own (with some help in places) and reckon I wasted the last few days struggling when I should have been enjoying the surrounds.30/10/2007 at 6:59 am #99028XmanMember
Great tips. 6 of us just got back and we had a ball. Couple of things I would add. DON'T go cheap on your shoes. One of our members went a cheaper alternative and paid the price when they 'blew out' on day 5. He had to revert to his runners for the last few days and destroyed them as well luckily on the last day. Spend the money around $200.00 will get you a really good set of hiking boots. Colombia or Hi Tec with Gore Tex do the job admirably.
The other thing which may sound stupid, is I wish I had a handful of plastic clothes pegs. Most of the places we camped had a clothes line of sorts and in the afternoon when you still have some sun and breeze clothes dry much quicker when hung out properly. OK so in the first 2 hours the next day you are wet again but it is nice to get into dry clothes to have breakfast ( we got sock drying by the fire at night down to an art form). Oh and don't forget string it can come in very handy. Good quality stuff.
Cheers06/11/2007 at 3:49 am #99058jkg07Member
Just going to add some general tips about cameras in less-than-ideal-conditions since I've seen people asking in other threads:
Digital Compact Cameras
These are probably my recommended choice for taking photos on trek. Most reasonably priced compacts are rather cheap nowadays ($200-400 AUD) for something decent. A 1GB card is plenty for the casual photographer, though if you plan to take a lot each day then I'd recommend 2-4GB. Check memory card comparison sites for your specific camera resolution though.
As for protection, definitely bring a plastic bag (or several). Air tight would be best — in case it gets really wet on trek — there's nothing worse than getting to the end of the trek and losing all the photos you've taken.
That's all there really is. Keep your camera dry, and preferably padded with a bit of your other gear rather than on the edge of your bag to protect it against any shocks along the way.
Digital SLR Cameras
Personally I wouldn't risk the gear, but for those who want much better photos considering the conditions then SLRs/DSLRs are the way to go.
In relation to protection, all the suggestions that I've made for the compact cameras can also be applied to DSLRs. On top of that though, I'd highly recommend choosing ONE lens and keeping it on your camera the entire time.
Why? I'm sure at this point you'd be familiar to the hazards of changing lenses (how it opens up the sensor to dust) in normal conditions. In less than ideal conditions, it's even more important to minimise the lens changes if possible.
The usual protective gear for SLRs would be particularly useful here as well, such as lens hoods and protective filters to keep your lens free of dust, scratches and other hazards.
As you can see, bringing along a DSLR's requires a bit more care than a compact digital camera. Either way though, with a little prep you should be able to safely bring home photos with you after your trek of Kokoda. =)
Please let me know if there's any areas I may have missed.29/01/2008 at 10:43 am #99222khorrMember
nice advice peops. very helpful thanks.12/02/2008 at 10:38 am #99262mikmac1959Member
Very good tips. Very important to be as prepared as possible. I hired a share porter when i trekked in july 2007 – purchased my boots and pack along time before i went and packed it with the gear i would be carrying on the track. i trained when ever i got the chance lots of hills .
this allowed me to get used to the weight and become familiar with the best way to pack everything in my back pack. i hired my sleeping bag, mat and tent from the treking company.
i carried my sleeping bag and mat', rations and medical kit, about 4 litres of water and porter carried my tent and spare clothes.
1 thing in the medical kit, i am not sure if it was mentioned was rehydration salts. i had to use one at Nuduli on the morning of day 5, (not taking in enough fluids) – not used to sweating so much!!
my system for always having purified and energized water. i carried 2 X 1 litre bottles in the side pouches of my back pack ( easy to fill and accessable) filled these each time we stopped put an aqua tab and staminade in each . next time we stopped transfer this 2 litres to my bladder pack in the top of my pack . then i just repeated the system every time we filled with water. i never ran out , but will admit the staminade can get a bit sickly , i tried a very weak mix just to take away the taste of the aquatabs. I haven't tasted staminade since i came home.
mikmac12/02/2008 at 10:50 am #99263mikmac1959Member
oh yea – wanted to mention that i was very lucky with a mostly dry walk so was able, to take lots of video with a standard video camera. i carried it in a leather pouch attached to my chest. ( thinking if i fall i would most probably protect this area of my body). the only trouble i had with moisture was after the " boots of crossings' where unfortunately the camera would shut down, usually untill lunch when i could open it up and sit it in the sun. infact i have created a dvd ( goes about 1hr 10min) to show the walk, i filled in the missing sections with still photos and added text and a commentary to explain what location we were at. lucky to get so much good footage with a $700 handy cam
cheers mikmac15/02/2008 at 2:12 am #99275kimikoMember
Hi everyone, I decided to follow one of the suggestions on the forum and purchase a copy of Lindsay Kelly's Kokoda Tips DVD. I am getting a bit concerned however as I paid money for my order over two weeks ago but all email I have since sent to him has been returned unsent as the email addresses listed are no longer in use. Has anyone ordered this DVD by any chance or know if the website is even still operational?? I am a bit annoyed because it looks like I've paid my money over but am going to get nothing in return.15/02/2008 at 12:34 pm #99277TillyMember
I ordered my copy of the Lindsay Kelly "Kokoda Tips DVD" on the internet on the 27/10/07 and received it within 10 working days. email: email@example.com. Great DVD and have taken heed of everything he has to say. I'm going in early october and have started training already for the trip.
Tilly21/03/2008 at 2:54 am #96467
Hello All – Thanks for your positive feedback on my contribution. Delighted and humbled to hear that it's helped many prepare. These initial notes were published after my first trek of the track – mainly to assist my eldest brother who was to join me on my send trek in Apr07.
Having completed the second trek in Apr07 (again with Gail's wonderful crew) and have reviewed these notes with more info, more info about what to take, my observations of what people wore, handy Pigin words to know and how to pronounce place-names. I've also added notes about how you can go prepared to help these beautiful people (things they most need) and what you can do afterwards to provide on-going help. Eg. leaving your medical contents behind with Gail's head porters at the end of the track – routing these supplies directly back into the Kokoda community – to a First Aider I've trained by the name of Conwel Barai – young resident of Kokoda who is exceptionally smart and who has been very willing to assist others with any kit I send him.
GAIL – if you're agreeable, I'd be delighted to send the last version of my Preparation notes that contains all this info. As always, I'd welcome your feedback and review before posting it to your forum.
I have also constructed a "modest" DVD of our 2nd trek which was intended as a momento for the trekkers in our group. Something to remind us of the reasons for being there, the hardship of the people, the difficulty of the terrain (and toilets!), the magnificant greenery and beauty of the ranges and not least, the wonderful "Boys". I've found that other trekkers I've run into have found it excellent – despite not even being in our crew. If anyone is keen for a copy, I'd be happy to supply one free of charge. Of course, if the response to this is a flood of requests (I'm dreaming I know!), then I would have to reserve the right to charge costs – but nothing more. This is not about money but a tiny contribution in recognition of those awesome diggers who fought so hard – so that we may live the way we do.
Once again – I am deeply grateful to Gail and her Boys in KTL for this "life opportunity" and could not recommend them highly enough to any propsective trekker. Whilst on the track, you will frequently see envious eyes glancing at the KTL camp, where trekkers are well fed, well entertained by the KTL Minstrals and well managed by experienced guides. You are in very safe hands.
PS: Spoke with my Poro (Conwel) by phone again this morning. He is in fine form. I do have an urgent request for emergency dentistry work to be done on Conwel's aging father – Sylvester. He's in pain and has no money for a dentist. I'll put a seperate post regarding this, but if anyone can assist – please get in touch with me. firstname.lastname@example.org
Dan Towler (aka The Average Joe aka Spandex Man)21/03/2008 at 3:12 am #99380
By the way – if anyone is interested, I captured the Kokoda Track on GPS in Apr07 and have converted that into Google Earth format – so you can now traverse the track on Goodle Earth – even do a fly over of the waypoints. I can email these routes if anyone wants them. The Google Earth resolution of the track is not flash so it's not as amazing you might first think it should be. Regardless, it's done.
I also converted the old-format waypoints from the Kokoda Books – points which denote key spots/battles etc along the track. So these are also overlaid along the route – as is where we camped, Rustie's block in Kokoda, the trek start-point near the Kokoda hospital etc etc.
Be aware though, the GPS had trouble detecting satelites at times because of the heavy cloud cover and forest canopies – so sometimes the GPS did a quick divert to some little place in the UK and back again! 🙂 But in any case, the vast majority of the track is captured and these diversions have been removed to clean up the route.
Also a word of caution – don't think you can use these waypoints to do the track by yourself (without KTL). As mentioned above, the GPS frequently "gets lost" and therefore, so would you!
Bye for now
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