An Outback tour isn’t your typical ‘chuck a load of clothes in a rucksack and you’ll be fine’ kind of packing situation. The Australian Outback is vast, remote and full of contrasts. You’ll often be driving for hours without seeing another soul in sight, so it’s important to be prepared and make sure you’ve packed all the essentials ahead of time so you can have an amazing trip.
1. Lightweight layers
In terms of what to wear on an Outback tour, lightweight layers are key. We’re talking shorts, t-shirts, vests, lightweight pants, leggings and thin, long-sleeved shirts. Long layers also double up as skin protection from the sun and pesky insect bites.
2. Warm layers
Some people are surprised to learn how chilly the outback can get on winter nights. It’s not uncommon for temperatures to dip below 0°C on clear nights or for frost to fall in the early mornings. Bring some thermal base layers and warm layers such as a sweater, jumper or fleece, a warm coat, a woolly hat and a pair of gloves.
3. Hiking boots or runners
An Outback tour is packed with amazing walking trails like those in Uluru and Kata Tjuta National Park, Kakadu and Karijini National Park, the vast billabongs – there’s a lot of ground to cover. Make sure you bring a pair of walking boots that support your feet and ankles, have good grip on the sole to prevent slipping and are comfy to wear all day. If you don’t have hiking boots, a decent pair of runners should be fine for easy to moderate walks.
The Outback’s national parks are brimming with oasis-like watering holes, tumbling waterfalls and jade green gorges that you’ll want to jump in as soon as you lay your eyes on them. A pair of waterproof sandals (ideally closed-toe ones) will protect your tootsies from any jagged rocks you need to clamber over.
5. Hiking socks
Don’t even think about rummaging through your drawers and throwing the first pair of socks you grab into your bag. Hiking boots + proper hiking socks = happier hiking feet. After walking for hours every day, you’ll thank yourself for bringing a pair of quality, breathable hiking socks as they’re designed to keep your feet dry and prevent blisters.
6. A broad-brimmed hat
A sun hat is crucial no matter what time of year you visit. Ideally, you want a wide-brimmed hat that covers your head and neck to protect your skin from the sun and prevent the risk of sunstroke.
7. Head net
If you’re visiting in the summer when it’s ridiculously hot and humid, you’ll need a head net to protect your head from the huge number of flies and bugs. Summer is the worst time in the Outback for bugs thanks to the hot and muggy weather. You might still get a few bugs buzzing around you in late spring and early autumn, but they’re less annoying.
8. Quick-dry towel
Regular towels take up too much room in a rucksack and they also take a while to dry. With a lightweight, quick-dry towel, you can pat yourself down and dry off after going for a swim or getting out of the camp showers.
Don’t forget to pack your board shorts, bikini or swimsuit. There's nothing better than jumping into a bright blue gorge or feeling the cool spray of a waterfall on your skin after a big walk.
Sun is plentiful in the Outback, and you'll need a pair of sunnies to enjoy the views. Bring polarised sunglasses if you can, as they offer better protection against UV damage compared to regular lenses.
Sunscreen may seem obvious, but it’s important to pack enough to see you through your trip. The last thing you want is to burn, so you’ll need to slather it on regularly throughout the day. Aim to bring waterproof (or water-resistant) sunscreen with high SPF to protect your skin as you sweat or go for a quick swim.
12. Insect repellent
If you’re prone to mosquito or bug bites, make sure you pack a bottle of insect repellent to ward off insects, especially when you’re spending time by waterholes or gorges.
13. Day bag
A small daypack is a must to carry essential items like your water bottle, camera, insect repellent and sunscreen with you on hikes. You don’t want anything too big or heavy as it’ll weigh you down – a small, lightweight bag will do the job.
14. Extra bag
You need to get comfortable with getting a little sweaty and dusty! The red dirt in the Outback has a tendency to stain clothes, so an extra bag comes in handy to separate your dirty clothes from your clean ones.
15. Reusable water bottle
Exploring the Outback is bound to work up a thirst and it’s super important to stay hydrated. Don’t forget to bring a large reusable water bottle (a one-litre bottle is ideal) to sip and refill throughout the day. The general recommendation is to drink one litre of water for every hour you spend walking.
The Outback is honestly like nowhere else on earth. Although you probably want to switch off from the everyday stresses of life and immerse yourself in nature, it's a good idea to keep your camera close! The natural wonders, the wildlife, the landscapes, the views – there are so many amazing sights you'll want to snap so you can relive your memories long after your trip ends.
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