Category Archives: Gear

12 Hour Rogaine + BSAR Training

Earlier this year I joined Bush Search And Rescue. I thought it would give me some good opportunities to go bush bashing, with the convenience of a bus driving me there and back, so no need to be concerned about logistics, or even having to plan where to go!

Last weekend was the first training I did with them. It involved a 12 hour rogaine (which VRA was running anyway) and then various training the next day.

I got to the police pickup point at 6:30am Saturday, where we loaded the bus with our stuff and hopped on for a 4 hour bus ride to Eldorado. It was a bit early for me to have my coffee and breakfast, so after a couple of hours I had some chocolate coated coffee beans and an oat bar.

The rogaine was from 12 noon to 12 midnight, and their briefing was at 11:45. We were running ahead of schedule, which would mean we would have plenty of time to pitch our tents and plan our rogaining route… but with about 10km to go, we got to a bridge. The driver didn’t know what load it could handle, and aside from that, knew there were overhanging trees on the road ahead that would scratch the bus. We got off, unloaded everything, and waited for some cars to give us a lift. This meant we had about 30 minutes to pitch our tents and get ready for the rogaine.

Unloaded and waiting for a lift

My rogaine partner and I were not ready, but we made it to the briefing on time, before planning our route. Since we weren’t being competitive it didn’t really matter that we set off 15 minutes late.

The rogaine was set on half paddocks and half Chiltern Mt Pilot National Park. It was mostly undulating, but there were some hilly areas that we stayed clear of!

Since I have not done any endurance training this year, I ran out of steam in a couple of hours! I was already looking at the map for a short cut back to the hash house for a rest, before heading off again at night. My partner was keen to continue though. He was twice my age, but his natural walking pace was twice mine, and I often had to run a bit to catch up. Although I was navigating too, he was always ahead as he was faster. I think I was first to spot checkpoints only twice!

There were 2 checkpoints we couldn’t find during the day. Although we were never completely lost, at one point, we really couldn’t pick exactly where we were on the map so decided to head in some vague direction back to a road. On the way I spotted a windmill in the distance, and since one of the checkpoints was labelled as “a windmill” we went there. This was good, so we knew where we were again!

I spotted the windmill, but my rogaining partner walks so fast he beat me to it

Walking through a sheep paddock, I heard a loud rustle, and saw this massive lizard run up a tree! I reckon he was about 2 metres long.

Click to enlarge & see lizard better

We picked up one more checkpoint before going back to the hash house for some food. This last one at daylight was in thick scrub by a creek, with a fair amount of water. I remember thinking This would be really hard at night time! …and mentally started to change our night time plans.

Back at the hash house, I missed out on chocolate pancakes, but was left with healthy vegie lentil stew instead.

We waited until around 8pm to set off again and get some night time navigation experience.

I have only wandered around trails at night, so going cross country and having to navigate at night was a first for me.

We changed our original plans to make it much easier! We decided to stick to a road, and then navigate to easy checkpoints not far off.

The moon was nearly full, so we could see very well with our torches off, and whenever possible, kept them off so we could improve our night vision.

We got 2 checkpoints at night and missed 1. I think that’s ok. We finished early at around 10:40pm, since we had an early start on Sunday.

It was very cold over night, and there was frost on the ground in the morning! We had to be packed and breakfasted, ready to start training at 8am.

Need… chocolate coated coffee beans….

After some brief training on using the BSAR GPSs, we had some training on using police radio and cb radio. It was interesting to note we could use various police channels if the channel we were supposed to use was not in range, which would mean listening to various crooks being caught and whatever other things were going on.

Then we were put in groups, and did some line searching practice. We had to find an unconscious person (well, she was just lying on the ground having a lovely rest), administer first aid, and carry them out on a stretcher. We had to pack a fair amount of gear, like in a real search, including sleeping bag, sleeping mattress, extra warm clothes, food, first aid kit, GPSs, radios etc.

We all had different jobs and mine was on police radio. I had to communicate anything of interest back to base. I only got told off a couple of times! I said “over and out” once, like in the movies, and you are supposed to say either one or the other. I think I also said “roger that,” like in the movies, instead of “romeo”. Oh well, they said I was pretty good on the radio, and thought I had done it before. I figure if it’s a life or death situation, they are not going to care if I say roger that, over and out, or if I make up my own phonetic alphabet, because they will still understand what I’m on about.

We found the person, who conveniently had a sked stretcher next to them. So a tarp was held overhead to prevent sunburn, while she was being shuffled onto the stretcher. Meanwhile, I was communicating to base that we found the person, gave GPS coordinates, and requested help from another team. A policeman came to talk to us about how they’d usually stretcher people out in various situations etc. After a fair amount of chit chat, we decided to hurry up and get a move on, as we had to get back so we’d have time to eat lunch.

After a debriefing, we got on a smaller uncomfortable bus, that could handle the road and the bridge, back home. It was a good weekend, and even if you’re not interested in joining BSAR, I’d recommend doing some of their training just for fun.

Out of interest, this is some of the gear I used:

Testing new Nathan Intensity pack at Toolangi Forest

I had yesterday morning free so went out to Toolangi Forest for a short trail run. This was also a good opportunity to test out my new Nathan Intensity pack, which is the women’s version of the HPL20.

Nathan Intensity Women's Hydration Pack

This pack is soooo comfortable I can’t believe it beats my Camelbak! The bladder is easy to fill up and so easy to seal without air to stop the water sloshing. The shoulder straps are so soft and comfortable and do not need to be adjusted tight. As with my other Nathan pack, this one doesn’t bounce at all! It’s just incredible. It feels so light and I think I’ve found my perfect pack. There’s a pocket on each shoulder strap so you can store your phone/food/supplies and access them easily. There is also a decent amount of storage space in the pack itself and I think it would be possible to do long ultras in this and still carry all the mandatory gear. If I can get my running fitness up, then I will try to get away with just this small pack for the long stuff.

It was such a beautiful day yesterday. It was sunny but there were patches of thick fog in the valleys. I ran up to the top of Mt St Leonard and you can see the fog below in the picture. It looks like I’m in some high altitude above cloud level! Lesson learned though: Be cautious when climbing metal stairs that are iced over if you don’t want to slip over.

Unfortunately my achilles has been giving me grief again. I think it’s because this week and last week I ran some intervals at the track. I go there because I like to push myself to go as fast as I can, but I really can’t run on flat ground. My achilles can handle up hills and down hills but nothing in between. It was so painful still after the initial climb and run back down the hill that I considered getting in the car and driving straight home but I knew there would be more hills I could do.

I hobbled along the Quarry Walking Track to the Wirrawilla Rainforest Walk, then went south back down the Tanglefoot track. The Tanglefoot was so overgrown. The few runnable sections were barely runnable as you still had to clear branches and try to avoid tripping over huge strips of bark. There were so many black cockatoos about. I have never seen so many before! I reckon they were all stripping the bark from the trees. I also saw a couple of lyrebirds for the second time in my life! They are so elusive. I tried to get a picture but they were too quick for me.

After about 8km my achilles seemed to warm up, but I think maybe I just found a way to hobble that was comfortable. All up I did 12.6km. It was pretty short but it took a long time due to the hills and overgrown trees on the Tanglefoot track.

I’ll have to get out there again soon as I saw a small single trail from Mt St Leonard and I think that would take me down to Healesville or the Maroondah Dam. Parks Vic doesn’t have a map of that though, and the DSE maps stop there.

Nathan Synergy pack

Recently I ordered a Nathan Synergy pack for longer ultras. The main feature is the bladder which has two reserves so you can fill one up with water, and the other up with your sports drink of choice. This was not the reason I got the pack though. My Kathmandu pack that I used for longer runs is very uncomfortable and causes the worst chafing ever so I really wanted something that was big enough to carry all the mandatory gear and be comfortable too. Everyone raves about how comfy the Nathan packs are, and I like the pockets, so that was my main reason.
Nathan Synergy 3-Liter Adventure Pack

This morning I took it for a test run out in the rain. I filled the bladders up and after spending about 5 hours trying to get the air out, in the process squeezing most of the water out, I gave up and decided to use my Camelbak bladder. I don’t know why the air just wouldn’t get out of the Nathan bladder. This was really annoying, although I have heard many reports that the Nathan bladders suck and a lot of people use a Camelbak bladder in a Nathan pack. So unfortunately this time I did not get to try the double bladder, which would be really handy in long ultras so I don’t need to pack my special drink at aid stops.

I loaded the pack up with just over 4kg as I think that is what it weighs when I carry the usual mandatory gear, food and water.

Once loaded, I couldn’t believe how comfortable it was! There is NO bounce! At all!! Even the sternum strap was comfortable, and usually I don’t use it on any of my packs. It wasn’t needed this time either but it was in a comfy position so it didn’t bother me.

As usual, I found I had to do the shoulder straps up as tight as possible, but unlike my other packs, I could take the pack on and off without dislocating my shoulders. The pockets on the shoulder straps were just perfect. I can fit my phone (which doubles as a camera) and there is also room to carry snacks. There are some other side pockets on the main body of the pack which are easily reached without taking the pack off. These will be perfect for carrying my ultra food.

The pack didn’t feel heavy at all. I don’t know how it works, but it doesn’t weigh down on your shoulders and I didn’t feel my form suffer from it. Usually even 2kg is too heavy for me but over 4kg felt like nothing.

I am so happy to finally get a large pack that is comfortable and doesn’t chafe. I hope I can get the hang of getting the air out of the Nathan bladders so I give the whole ‘Synergy’ thing a try with two drinks. Although I am a bit scared of the bladders bursting like many others have reported.

I am really looking forward to using this pack for my next ultra, but the weather has been terrible and the road to Wilsons Prom was washed out this week, with people needing to be rescued by boat. I imagine the tracks will be a wreck but hopefully the run wont get cancelled.

Five Fingers Trek Sports

Yesterday evening I took my new Trek Sports out for a walk. There was a fair amount of rocky gravel and some single trail too. Conditions were perfect so there was no mud or anything slippery to really test their limits.

The aggressive tread on the Trek Sports (with upper made of coconut fibre, not kangaroo skin like the KSO Treks) gave excellent grip and it was very easy to get around on the gravel and trail. The coconut fibre is super comfortable and it felt like I was wearing lovely soft slippers. I like how the strap does up, without putting pressure on my achilles. There is a 4mm EVA midsole plus the 4mm Vibram outsole. Because of all this stuff in between you and the ground, there is almost no ground-feel. Although it really doesn’t feel like a whole 8mm, for those who like the ‘barefoot’ feel of the thinner Five Fingers, the Trek Sports probably have too much sole material. Most of the tread is built up around the forefoot and toes so it strangely felt like a negative heal drop. I haven’t given them a good go running yet so can’t comment how that might affect things.

I will give these a good go running sometime soon. I can see these being great trail shoes in perfect conditions, but we’ll see how they handle rain and mud. Without a doubt these will be my new bush walking shoes! You don’t need super tough feet to handle tough terrain in these and I have always said I am too lazy to bother building up my feet toughness. I can’t wait to hit the trails more in these.