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Leader Gear Checks – should they be compulsory?

Should leaders have to check participants in a walk are carrying vital gear such as a first aid kit, torch and rain jacket? A discussion about why mandatory gear checks might be a good idea for walk leaders to undertake.

OPINION: Should leaders have to check participants in a walk are carrying vital gear such as a first aid kit, torch and rain jacket etc.? If that walker gets into trouble on a walk because they have neglected to bring the right equipment who is liable? Is it their fault or the leaders for not checking? They may impact on the rest of the group for example by getting hypothermia for not having a proper rain jacket or thermals.

I can speak from personal experience in regard to not bringing a rain jacket when I was a member of the Brisbane Bushwalkers on a Mt Barney walk.

I couldn’t find my raincoat before leaving. It was bright and sunny in Brisbane. On arriving at the base of Mt Barney the leader inquired where my rain jacket was as others were getting them out. South of Brisbane on the NSW border weather conditions were much different with rain threatening. The leader was unimpressed with my lack of professionalism as we were walking most of the day on an exposed ridge and hyperthermia was a real risk. I should not have made assumptions about the weather being sunny just because it was sunny in Brisbane in the morning then it will be sunny on the NSW border later in the day. I would like to say in my defence, however, I was living in Queensland during the drought and all I remember is never ending fine weather and blue skies and the main threat only ever seemed to be sunburn or perhaps heat exhaustion, certainly not hyperthermia. As it turned out another walker had a spare emergency rain jacket which provided me with enough protection.

Another example from personal experience was coming to the aid of a walker who had a heavy fall on an ABW trip a couple of years ago. I was the first to get my first aid kit out but I had no suitable bandages. Fortunately better organised members of the trip had full and well maintained first aid kits.

Nobody likes any formal checks of gear because, after all, it is a recreational trip and not an army manoeuvre. But as I am sure many walkers have discovered it is amazing just how much can go wrong even on a day trip and how painful the regret is that some simple preparation guidelines were not followed. It only takes one severe incident occurring for an unprepared party to prove that gear checks are essential.

Example of Checklist

  1. Thermal Items
  2. Fleecy jacket
  3. Raincoat
  4. First aid kit
  5. Hat & sunscreen
  6. Water (2-3 litres)
  7. Lunch & snacks
  8. Spare food
  9. Torch
  10. Whistle
  11. Pencil & paper
  12. Change of clothes
  13. Money, ID
  14. ABW membership card

Categories: Gear tips, Opinion piece

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