Planning an Overnight Hike

Planning an overnight hike can be very stessing, especially if you’ve never done the like before, There are a variety of new things to think about when compared with Day hiking or bushwalking. But, going on an overnight hike can be an outstandingly different experience to a normal base camp. It is liberating for several reasons; in particular, it allows you to camp in places that drive-ins / base campers can’t; its generally more immersive as you dont have cars and other distrations or some of the more decadent trappings that some people bring along with base camping. Planning an overnight hike requires considreing a few new things, including what food to take, how much water and where you will put your head down to sleep.

For beginners, I recommend hiking a shorter distance on the first hike or two. Walking with a full pack is an entirely different experience to day hikes, you’re carrying a wide variety of new objects,  including a tent (Well, you are in victoria anyway) and these objects tend to make walks feel longer and slower as well as take more energy. It should probably go without saying, but mis-judging your limits can be very frustrating or even dangerous.

To Plan a hike, I tend to get a note-pad and paper, my Map of the park I plan to walk in and decide on how challenging a walk I want to do.First, have a look at the walks in the area and consider:

  • Is this a walking track, a road or a shared track with motorbikes, horses and 4WD?
  • If its a shared track, could that pose an issue? do I want to be more off the beaten track?
  • Where will I park my Car?
  • If I park my car there, how will I get back to it at the end?
    • Do I walk a circuit?
    • Do I walk to a Site, and then back the next day?
    • Do I get a hiking buddy to bring a second car for a car shuffle?
  • How far is the walk? Do I want to do a Longer walk the first day or the second?
  • Is there access to water during any part of the walk? Or at the campsite?

Once I have figured out the walk, I like to decide on food; I tend to decide on food first, then figure out my water usage. The reason being; some foods can be quite water intensive whereas others can be quite efficient. For this example, I am going to assume that I am doing a walk where I have no access to water.

Planning Meals

I then decide what meals I need to take; for the normal Overnight hike, I do the following: (Meals are interchangeable of course!)

Day 1:


Mountain bread Wraps with Tuna (Sachet) If I think its going to be a heavier duty walk, I might put Cous Cous in there as well


Pasta Dish; be creative! Bit of Salami, some tomatoes, italian herbs maybe some olives. Angel hair pasta is good, because its very quick to cook.


Big Sister pudding with UHT cream (this is a luxury! It requires 20mins worth of boiling water in a pot)

Day 2:


Quick Sachet porridge OR  Can of Baked beans & Mountain bread


Cous Cous / Rice with Chicken (Canned) or tuna (sachet)


Planning Water

Once I have meals and the walk it-self concreted, I decide on water. Typically with the kind of meals outlined above, I take; 2L in my Camelbak and another 2.5L in two Aluminium bottles inside my pack for cooking and topping up my camelbak. Please consider, I always walk with one other person who is carrying the same water and food, this means less water used to cook some meals. As we head towoard summer, I will increase this by an additional Litre or if its really hot, i might even take 2L more.  In addition to this, I always leave a water bottle in the car, which i can drink before the walk and after I arrive back at the car at the end. This way, I am only maintaing fluids using the carried water for roughly 30 hours.

Planning Fuel

Pretty easy one here, I was given a guide of approximately 100ML per person per day of Shellite if you are using a pressure fed stove like an MSR whiperlite, this seems to be pretty right on the money, though I only have a coffee in the morning,on an overnight hike, I typically use less than 200Ml between two of us over the two days. (However my partner also carries a trangia which we use for simmering)

Trangia or other Metholated Spirits stoves seem to be a little less efficient, typically 120 – 130ML per day would be what I hear off the grapvine. I think that I could merit some testing, in order to give you more accurate information. I will test very accurately my usage of both stoves over my next few trips and give you some results.

The key here is; if you are unsure about how much you will use; its not going to hurt to carry extra, 150MLs is roughly 150grams and pretty negligible in the grand scheme of things.

Write the plan down

This is way more important than simply to commit a plan to memory, its about being able to give the plan to somebody who will care when you don’t turn up or call on Sunday afternoon. Also, it means that you dont have to plan as often, if you like the walk or for some reason have to cancel the hike, you can always look over the plan again next time and make small changes without having to re-do everything from scratch.

6 Responses to Planning an Overnight Hike

  1. Hi, really love your site! Very helpful.
    I’m only just getting into hiking and very Interested in over night hiking. (maybe 1 or 2 nights) just wondering if there is a hike that you would recommend to a bigginer like me? (possibly on me own)

    • Hi Luke,

      When I give advice, I tend to be very conservative, because without knowing any of your background I wouldn’t want to point you in the wrong direction. I’d suggest that your first overnighter be a single night, and you go with a friend, its a pretty big first step and you’d best do it with some backup. That being said maybe you could drive in somewhere on a friday night and start the actual hiking on the Saturday.

      There are plenty of great hikes around, It really depends on whats local and if you know anybody that is familiar with the area; what part of Australia are you from and I could probably suggest a site close-by that you could check out.

  2. Hey ben,
    Thanks for your response, I’m from Victoria. Might be hard finding a friend to come along, unfortunately none of my friends are really interested. Any advise or tips would be great.

    • If you do have to go alone, go somewhere that is a high-traffic area, and make sure you pick up an Epirb (Emergency Position Indicating radio beacon) which you can use if necessary. You can usually hire EPIRB from SES/Police in rural areas.

      If you’re out east, A good well travelled but beautiful place is the Cathedral ranges; a great spot if you’re a westie is Lerderderg gorge. I have articles on both locations here on the site.

  3. Hi, I know that these posts are a few years old, but I am wanting to go on an overnight/weekend hike with a few people. I was hoping to go somewhere within the Canberra and NSW region.

    Can anybody recommend a good trail to tackle???

    • Hi Tim,

      I just dropped you an email; hope that it helped.

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