Checklists for bushwalking and ski touring leaders

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Any bushwalk or ski tour requires a leader, or leaders, who have the skills, experience and judgement necessary for the trip to be safe and enjoyable for all of the group.   As noted in the Leadership overiew, informal groups that walk without a designated leader still require the necessary skills and experience within the group and for the normal actions of a trip leader to be undertaken across the group.

This section provides summary checklists to aid the trip leader. 

NOTE: These checklists are not a substitute for the necessary skills and experience to safely lead and undertake a trip. 

The checklists cover:

  • Trip planning
  • On the track
  • In camp
  • Emergencies
  • After the trip

Good planning and leadership are essential for successful trips with sufficient challenges and enjoyable experiences for all.  

Some actions for a leader are common to all trips, while other actions will depend on the type of trip and the group, as the nature of a bushwalking trip can vary greatly.  Examples of that variation include:

  • Day walks to three-week extended trip in remote locations
  • Arid country to alpine environments
  • A small group of experienced walkers to a large group of novices.
  • Easy walking on well marked tracks to rough and scrubby off track routes
  • Storms and blizzards or extreme heat

The checklist actions are in three categories: 

  1. Must be done – common for all trips
  2. Should be done – depending on the nature of the trip
  3. Might be done – for some trips

Trip planning checklist

NOTE: See Trip planning for more detail.  

Must be done

  • Learn about the area from maps, photos, publications, other walkers or locals
  • Research campsites, water, tracks, shelter, walking times and possible hazards and difficulties
  • Consider weather conditions at different times of the year.
  • Decide dates for the trip
  • Plan the route and alternatives in the event of changed circumstances
  • Determine equipment and food requirements.
  • Decide meeting place and time 
  • Inform prospective group members of trip details; dates, route, level of difficulty, transport, maps, equipment etc.
  • Ensure group members are capable undertaking the trip
  • Ensure the group size is appropriate for the trip.
  • Obtain permits if required
  • Appoint a trip contact and provide them with details of the trip
  • Decide on an emergency communications device
  • Check weather forecasts, river heights, road closures, fire warnings etc.

Should be done

  • Confirm transport for group members if required
  • Organise pre-trip meetings to discuss the trip details (for extended or remote trips)
  • Arrange food groups and shared tents if appropriate
  • Confirm and distribute group equipment
  • Check that novice group members have the correct equipment and adequate food
  • Identify group members with current first aid qualification

Might be done

  • Reconnaissance walk – do all or part of the trip ahead of the scheduled trip.
  • Publicise the trip – provide detailed information to interested people (e.g. friends, walking club members)
  • Appoint deputy leaders and first aider
  • Arrange training trips with group members (prior to extended or remote trips)
  • Assist novice walkers with equipment selection and food planning

On the track checklist

NOTE: See The trip for more details

Must be done

  • Confirm all group members are present before moving off
  • Introduce group members
  • Brief the group on the day’s activities, safety procedures etc.
  • Regularly check group members are present especially at stops or during difficult conditions
  • Monitor the wellbeing of group members. Other experienced group members can assist with this. 
  • Observe the weather. If bad weather is imminent take action to minimise its effects.
  • Monitor progress and the route being followed against the trip plan and objectives.
  • Observe regulations and permit requirements, e.g. for camp fires 
  • Respect private property.  Avoid stock, use gates and leave as found.
  • Respect the rights of others to enjoy the bush

Should be done

  • Appoint a whip to stay at the rear of the group
  • Manage the pace of the group; slow at first, then settle on the speed of the slowest member
  • Rest at regular intervals. 10 minutes every hour is typical.
  • Keep the group together, especially in challenging conditions. Have slower members well up in the line, not at the rear
  • Set limits on fast walkers; how far ahead they may go, conditions permitting.
  • Encourage weaker or inexperienced members
  • If a difficulty arises, stop, consider and discuss the situation with other experienced members.
  • Monitor novices and provide advice, e.g. clothing for bleak conditions, water consumption in hot weather
  • Advise on water availability and ensure regular consumption during the day.

Might be done

  • Appoint a person to lead and navigate (normally for a stated time or distance)
  • Point out features of interest along the way and promote discussion 
  • Show the group’s map position, progress and planned route regularly. 

In camp checklist

Must be done

  • Set toilet areas and requirements for hygiene
  • Ensure all rubbish is carried out and the campsite is left clean.
  • Ensure any fire is managed safely and totally extinguished before leaving camp
  • Replace firewood in huts and clean up before leaving
  • Ensure no destruction of live vegetation or severe disturbance to ground surface

Should be done

  • Check tent sites are available for all group members
  • Ensure location of freshwater is known by group members
  • Specify campfire locations (if any)
  • Announce plans (include starting time) for the next day
  • Encourage ‘early-to-bed’ and ‘early-to-rise’
  • Be good neighbours, if others are camped nearby
  • Camping in snow: fill any large holes and demolish snow walls on leaving.
  • Ensure all group members are well and get sufficient food and fluid to sustain energy— especially in adverse conditions.

Emergencies checklist

NOTE: See Emergencies for more information.  

If a trip is well planned and the group well prepared and matched to the trip, with safety routines understood and in place, the leaders and the group are in the best position to deal with an emergency.

The following examples are emergencies that could arise. Leaders should consider whether any of these present a major problem on the trip and determine options for handling them.

Health

  • Exhaustion, exposure, heat, frostbite, snow blindness
  • Illness – virus infections, gastro, influenza
  • Bite or poisoning
  • Accidents and injuries – all, cut, muscle damage

Weather

  • Fog, rain, snow
  • Wind
  • Heat, bushfire
  • Lack of water.

Terrain

  • Cliffs, rivers, swamps, scrub, tides, waterfalls, mine shafts, ‘slipperies’ (frost, ice, rock, logs).

Lost

  • The whole group
  • Some of the group
  • Someone else.

Equipment

  • Lost equipment
  • Broken equipment: skis, poles, boots, tents, stoves etc

After the trip checklist

NOTE: See After the trip for more details.

Must be done

Should be done

  • Ensure transport home for each group member.
  • Ensure all cars start and exit the area.
  • Ensure equipment is cleaned, dried and stored away in correct condition – advise any novices
  • Collect any group or club equipment
  • Arrange return of borrowed gear or hired equipment
  • Complete financial arrangements for the trip
  • Advise Land Manager of any issues on the trip, e.g. missing signpost, overgrown tracks, obstacles.

Might be done

  • Organise a trip reunion
  • Coordinate the sharing of photos
  • Write a report or article for newsletter (may be required by the club or organisation).

With experience bushwalking leaders will develop their own checklists, based on lessons learnt, that a more specific to the types of trips undertaken by the leader, or the group..

These checklists are not comprehensive, nor are they an alternative to ensuring that trip leaders have the necessary skills and experience to undertake and lead the trip.