Get Into Gear Part 7 – Packing in a Section on Bags

by Tristan White

Unless you have arms like an octopus, the single most important piece of equipment to have for a rogaine is a good backpack, because without one, it is near impossible to carry the bounty of other essential gear to keep you dry, fed, warm or cool for many hours.

Just like almost every other piece of equipment used in a rogaine, there are no bags specifically manufactured for rogaining, and people have different views about what works best. I have my own two cents to add, but have enlisted the help of several rogaining long-timers. Thanks to Andrew Duerden, Gill Fowler and Pierre Francois for sharing their views and experiences.

Let’s start with me, Tristan White: I have used almost exclusively two backpacks for rogaines over the past seven or so years, both of which happened to be acquired at the (now defunct) Highland Fling MTB race. The CamelBak 2011 HAWG (Holds A lotta Water and Gear) was one of the prizes for a category win, and has probably joined me for more adventures than any other of my possessions. With two zip-up side pouches, and a bounty of pockets, it has worked for up to 24-hours of bashing around the bush without feeling too uncomfortable. Primarily made for cycling, it has also been my main bag for commuting as the pouch for the bladder perfectly fits in a small laptop.

Tristan’s CamelBak HAWG

The greatest tragedy of this item is that it’s no longer manufactured and whilst I have searched far and wide, I cannot find a replacement, leading to me rather desperately stitch together more broken seams than I can count, and also making me the subject of much ridicule as I brazenly carry the dirty and torn-up contraption around shops, airports and conference centres.

More recently, I jumped on the 50% discounted CamelBak Ultra 10 at the CamelBak display stand for the 2015 Highland Fling. It is predominately made for ultramarathons, and I’d describe it as somewhere between a vest and a backpack, something that works very well for a long rogaine where I do a combination of walking and running. It’s been great, as it’s light enough to not feel bulky when I’ve used it for a 3-hr event owing to its elasticity, but I’ve used it for almost every 24-hr event since I got it. The catch is that it usually doesn’t fit my raincoat and I generally cable tie it to the outside of the pack. Whilst Gill advises against this below, it’s worked very well for me and saved me the additional expense of a new pack.

It too has got its fair share of tears which have required some stitchwork, but is mostly still going strong from a couple dozen rogaines, trail runs and epic mountain bike rides over the years. I highly recommend something similar to relatively serious rogainers.

Tristan’s Camelback Ultra 10

Andrew Duerden: I use the Salomon 12L ultra race vest for all rogaines and have done so for the past 5-6 years. In addition to a few ultramarathons, I have used the pack for 50+ events and numerous training runs and there is nothing wrong with it except for a small tear on the rear. I find it very comfortable in all conditions, very light, and not constrictive when running, climbing or bashing through bush. I got it at Pace in North Sydney for about $250.

Andrew’s Salomon

Gill Fowler: I’ve used several backpacks for rogaining. The type and size of backpack depends on the event. The size is just big enough to hold the gear I need and robust enough to withstand scrub bashing (very important!). Also it is better to have a pack that has slightly more capacity, rather than try to stuff it all in, as you want to be able to easily access your gear, and an overstuffed pack is not as comfortable. It also needs to fit your body – so trying before use is good. I tend towards a women’s specific pack, as it fits my frame better – if the harness is too big it moves around too much when I run and the outcome is chafing.

Gill’s backpacks

Pierre Francois: Over my eight years in rogaining I have been able to try multiple packs in terms of brand (Quechua, Salomon, Lafuma, Ultimate Direction), capacity (5L to 35L), shape (from classic hiking to racing vest), and colour (I tried them all!) I’m currently racing with an Ultimate Direction Fastpack 35 (vest style).

Pierre’s Ultimate Direction Fastpack 35

I went to the “vest” because I wanted to have a pack which doesn’t bounce while I run and I found vests are greatly designed for that. The second criteria for my choice was the number of pockets, as I like to have everything accessible while I run, so I don’t have to stop to open the pack and grab what I need. I counted that one has six compartments on the front and four at the back/side (that is on top of the main compartment!) In terms of capacity, I use the 35L one which is a bit of overkill for rogaining, but since I also use it for adventure racing where races go for longer and the mandatory gear is more extensive than in rogaining, they fit the purpose. I have recently purchased a 16L version which I used for the recent Nightgaine and it worked very well.

It has 11 pockets and you need to be organised to like them. I bought them from an online retail shop –

Pierre’s 16 Litre Ultimate Direction

Tristan White: What are the pros and cons between a ultramarathon vest, a conventional daypack and light overnight hiking pack?

AD: I have never worn a normal pack so can’t compare.

GF: An ultramarathon vest style pack is my pick for a shorter rogaine, when you don’t need to carry much gear and you are not doing much off-track navigation – i.e. metrogaine, socialgaine and minigaine. These vests are often not as robust as other packs, so I don’t often use them for the 12 and 24-hr bush events, in which case I’m looking for a reasonably lightweight, robust and well-fitting pack, which is usually a more heavy duty running pack, adventure race style pack. But if you predominantly hike most of your rogaine events a day pack/hiking pack is fine – an overnight pack is likely too big.  

PF: In my view the rule is simple: a conventional backpack will work well for hiking but won’t be great if you want to run. However, a vest will work both styles. I also find the vests are lightweight and have numerous pockets which make it very easy to grab food or gear on the go.  The Ultimate Direction vests have big mesh pockets at the back which I use for almost everything.

TW: How do you fit your pack to best distribute the weight over your body, and what are common mistakes about misfitting a pack?

AD: All heavy gear (including the bladder) is placed in the rear centre compartment and in the centre of the large lower stretch pocket. This ensures there is no sideways movement. All other gear is then distributed evenly on the lower rear stretch pockets and in the front pouches. I also carry two 500ml bottles in the front two pockets. I vary the rear bladder size between 1.5L and 2L (and vary the amount in the bladder) depending on weather conditions and length of event. For shorter events (6-hr or less) I will only carry the front two 500ml bottles as these are easier to drink from when running and quicker to refill.

PF:  I start first by the bladder as I found it hard to put the bladder properly while other gear is already in the back. That said, when I do refill the bladder during a course I don’t unload everything in my pack to put the bladder first 🙂 Once I have the bladder in, I will stash first the safety kit as they are the least likely to be needed (fingers crossed, although we did use it in the Nightgaine after a stick had perforated my mate’s hand) and everything else up to the top. First in means less likely needed.

TW: What is the approximate weight of your pack at the start of a 24hr event

AD: Weight is about 6.5kg and consists of:

  • Race vest (300gm)
  • 2L bladder full (2kg)
  • 2 x 500ml soft flasks (1kg)
  • Food (1.5kg)
  • Head torch & batteries (350gm)
  • First aid kit (200gm)
  • Raincoat (300gm) and/or thermal top (200gm) – only if it is going to rain and be very cold (below 5) would I carry both
  • Trekking poles (400gm)
  • Phone (300gm)

GF: As light as I can make it! My best guess is less than 4kg.

PF: I am not too sure but certainly too heavy because I often start with a 3L bladder full where I could (should) have less water, presuming I could refill on the course. That’s probably an area of improvement for me.

TW: Have you made any modifications to your backpack to better fit what you carry?

AD: No modifications made to race vest.

GF: No.

PF: Not on the Ultimate Direction packs but I did repair the first few ones I had to keep them alive for years. Also on my previous one, which was a Lafuma, I did purchase small pockets, and another one which I used as a “bin” which I sewed on so I could then expand my compartment space. This is probably what triggered my wish to get a new pack with that many small pockets.

Pierre shows one of his “bins”

TW: How do you pack your backpack to make it as straightforward to get what you need?

AD: Food which I plan to eat during sunset/sunrise stops (for changing head torches and clothing,) along with other larger item reserve food, first aid kit, and head torch/battery are in the larger rear zip pouch and lower rear stretch pocket. Quick access food (gels/bars) is in front pouches and race belt. Trekking poles are in a special holder on rear of pack. Extra clothing in rainproof zip lock bag in reach stretch pocket.

GF: There’s lots of pockets these days on packs, but for rogaines of more than 6 hours I always have a water bladder on my back (not water flasks on the front) my gear is in back, on small dry bag with my warm clothes, another with my torch and spare battery for night. Food is in the small pockets with excess in the main bag.

PF: I try to think of what I will need while I race and will dispatch it in all the various pockets. Things like snacks will be all over my front pockets and other food or warm gear (such as arm warmers) will be in the side pocket or big mesh at the back. You need a good teammate to grab stuff for you from the mesh 🙂   

TW: Do you have any strategies for waterproofing warm clothes/other items you carry?

AD: Quality zip lock bags are adequate (single or doubled up) – if it will rain then I am usually wearing a rain jacket and if forecast is for heavy rain then phone goes in a waterproof pouch.

GF: Dry bags.

PF: For emergency clothes and kit, I use small waterproof bags that you can find everywhere. For food, I will stick to traditional zip-lock bags.

Final note from Gill: Keep an eye out at the next event, and check out what bags others are using – quiz people at the HH, they may even let you try their pack on (best done at the start, before it gets caked with sweat!)

Get Into Gear Part 6 – Shedding Light on Headtorches and Night Navigation

by Tristan White

I am grateful that I’ve had the chance to go on several night rogaines with seasoned competitors in earlier years. In addition to allowing me to do night rogaines comfortably on my own accord, it has given me the confidence to do night-time hiking, trail running, orienteering and cycling; something that many of my friends think I’m crazy doing, but is second nature to me. I really love rogaines that have a mix of day and night in them, as it feels like two separate events. And needless to say, it forces one to be very careful with navigation as being lost in the pitch black can be a very “dark” experience!

The main addition to the kit list for a night rogaine is, of course, a good headtorch, and with several night rogaines coming up, I thought it would be a bright idea to get a handful of seasoned rogainers to share their own experience on which one(s) they use, how they use it and why. Long-time rogainers Martin Dearnley, Graham Field, Mike Hotchkis, Marg Cook and John Havranek helped me out. Let’s start with Martin:

Martin Dearnley: I have used the same Ay Up LED head torch for over ten years.  Made in QLD, it has a 400 lumen setting for general use and an 800 lumen setting for spotting controls.  I still use the original batteries.  One is 6-hour and the other is 12-hour and both are taken in a 24-hour rogaine.

The Ay Up torch shines twin beams so that one can be set further ahead of the other.  The twin beams also seem to make it easier to see trip hazards while walking on rough ground.   The original cost of around $350 is much the same today.   The current Ay Up head torch advertised today looks very similar to mine from 2009.

While the Ay Up torch has been reliable, I take a small Petzel Tikkina head torch as a spare.

Marg Cook: Back when we started rogaining in 2008, we had normal AA-battery camping head-torches, which allowed you so see about 10 metres in front of you! Not very effective, but we didn’t know any better. At a rogaine around 2010 we were amazed how far some people could see. We discovered Ay-Up then, and have never looked back. They give a fantastic light.

The new batteries have three settings: low, medium and high power. The lower power settings are good for travelling along tracks or through reasonable bush. We use the high-power setting when navigation is challenging and when casting around for the control flag. It picks up the reflectors on the flag, and also the orange and white glows in their light. Always a welcome sight.

The current price for a “Run” system is around $235. We still have the original lights and have recently purchased our first replacement set of rechargeable batteries – which are quite expensive at $121 each. We considered changing to a different head-light system, but decided that what we were using was so good, it was worth the outlay.

The Run system has both the light and the battery on a head-harness, isn’t too heavy and is reasonably balanced. I often wear a beanie with the head-light over the top.

Graham Field: I have a Spikelight which I purchased in 2012 when I started doing night rogaines. It’s a V2 Spikelight and I think that they have now have got up to V5. It was expensive (>$300), but well worth it for several reasons:

•        It had a fantastic beam, both focussed and spread.

•        It was being built by a small, Australian start-up company in WA and looked like a well-engineered product. The founder is a rogainer, he knows the requirements for night events, and he was responsive and happy to talk to me about the product.

It’s still working as well as when I bought it – it’s had a new set of batteries (commonly available) and a new headband, provided free by the manufacturer after about four years!

It is programmable, but not overly complex – it has a single button that you click in various sequences to get different functions, like beam type, intensity, locking etc.  I deliberately keep it simple so that it’s easy to flick between narrow beam and five intensities of spread.

I also have a couple of Petzls, one of which I carry as a backup, but rarely use.

Graham’s Spikelight V2

John Havranek: My main running and rogaining torch over the past year is a Fenix HL60R 950 lumen rechargeable LED headlamp which was $120. It has five settings from dim to super bright and is rechargeable via USB.

I also have a Petal Tikka xp2 that I now take along as a spare – it runs on AAAs.

Mike Hotchkis: I’ve been using a Petzl NAO for the past five years, bought on the recommendation of rogaine partner Neil Hawthorne.  Not cheap then, and only got pricier.  Current price about $370, plus $150 for a spare battery. It has ‘reactive’ lighting – so you don’t get blinded when you look down at the map – which works well.

Tristan White: I too have had the NAO since 2013 and it’s still going strong. In the following picture you’ll see the batteries are numbered – that’s because I’ve dropped them both too many times to count when I’m trying to change them!

A big selling feature for the Petzl Nao for me is the ability to affix to my handlebars or helmet using reusable cable ties and a camera case, avoiding the need for another specialist cycling light

TristanW: How do you find navigating in the dark different to during the day and how do you use the different settings on your torch for different parts of the course?

MartinD: Navigation at night is quite different from during the day. Most mistakes have been made in the first two hours after sunset, usually because we have still been moving at daylight speeds and terrain features have become much less visible. Night navigation relies on compass bearings and step counting and these must be done carefully because it is much harder to get back on track after getting lost at night than during the day.

GrahamF: 95% of the time I use the spread on the 3/5 or 4/5 setting; the lower settings give better battery life. I generally use 3 for just following the map on good terrain, 4 for more difficult terrain and 5 if I really need to watch where I’m going. When within range of a control, I’ll flick on the spot for an intense, narrow beam that will pick things out for up to 300m – pretty much as far away as you can see. It does chew the battery in this mode though, so selective use is the key. It’s also not great for just walking with, which is a good way to remember to use the spread mode. I’ve learnt that the better your nav, the more battery life that you get!

Night navigation is a whole new game – and topic for discussion. For me, the biggest difference is the need to slow things down a bit and take more care with everything – route selections need to be more conservative, catching features are essential, less reliance on topography and more on map metrics – accurate bearings, distances etc. along with accurate pacing and vigilance checking bearings across team members. Add this to the fact that you’re probably a bit tired (physically and mentally) from already doing 6 hours or so in the light and the possibility of a mistake is heightened.

Depending on the terrain, moonlight and vegetation cover, it’s sometimes advantageous to turn the light off or right down and look into the distance to re-establish your perception of the surrounding landform. You can often better pick out an indistinct track at night by looking at the tree cover on the immediate horizon.

The consequences of a mistake at night are amplified considerably, although in my experience few mistakes are directly attributed to the night or a head-light.  Heavy mist one evening made us totally lose position and orientation (in this circumstance, a bright light was a distinct disadvantage). I find that most mistakes at night are the result of fatigue and losing (mental) focus.

JohnH: I tend to mainly use the second lowest or middle setting while on tracks or navigating which is enough and will run for the night on a single charge. Occasionally I’ll go the higher levels but find it’s not really required too often – maybe when around a control that we can’t seem to find. There is also a low red-light option that I sometimes use when reading a map to avoid too much glare and impacting my night vision (or around the hash house to avoid blinding others).

John at the Catherine Hill Bay MapRun

MikeH: My Nao has multiple intensity settings. I use it on 25–50 % settings most of the time and only turn it up to full power if we don’t strike the flag on first approach.

When I first got it, I missed not having focus control, which I’d had on previous torches.  I see the latest Nao has this feature.  But these days, torches are so bright you hardly need it.

My advice for night nav – be conservative. No shortcuts. Aim off wider than in daylight, just to be sure. Go a little extra distance, find good attack points. Compass is always in my hand.

Mike Hotchkis (at left) with teammate Glenn Horrocks – 2019 NSW Champs – note Mike has Nao on head and compass on wrist

TristanW: For a day/night rogaine, do you specifically choose to attempt/avoid finding any particular controls at night?

MartinD: At night, we prefer controls that are accessible from tracks and ridgelines so we are less likely to get lost if we make a mistake.

GrahamF: It’s really just common sense, but in general, I opt for the straightforward controls at night – good attack points, good catching features, close to tracks etc. I avoid difficult terrain and long (>500m) traverses, especially where there is a route change along the way. Maybe this is why I’m just an average rogainer…

MargC: Night time is different. You lose the visual cues that help you know where you are. Our usual mistake is to overestimate how far we have travelled, then get misplaced by not going far enough. We learned that lesson so well that in one rogaine we walked right off the map trying to compensate for our coming up short. We also move more slowly at night, with less confidence. We check the map more often. Our aim is to not be lost at 11pm. Unfortunately, we don’t always achieve this.

Rob & Marg Cook at Mt Werong, NSW Champs 2017

MikeH: For me, control selection is not a foremost consideration in route planning.  If the course is well set, and you navigate with care, you can find everything.

TristanW: How do you conserve your batteries and what spares do you take?

MartinD: I take a spare battery and I keep my light level low until I need to spot for a control.

MargC: Our batteries run for 12 hours on half power, so we expect to do the full rogaine on the one battery. We take a spare battery and also a spare head-torch between us. Another useful thing is to actually take the Ay-up with you. At one Rogaine, one of our Ay-Up’s was left safely sitting in the back of the car!

Our torches are also useful for bicycling, and actually show up the road ahead. We tend to fit them to the helmet. We also use them attached to the front of the kayak to light up the river banks during the Hawkesbury Canoe Classic. The idea of running close to the river bank is to use the back eddy when paddling against the tide. It has gained us many minutes during the race, and given us that rosy glow as we pass people who are paddling further out in the incoming current.

GrahamF: As mentioned previously, limiting the use of the spot and flicking to a lower spread mode works best for preserving battery life. The Spikelight uses 2x 18650 Lithium cells – under normal operation, these give me about 8-10 hours of operation. I carry two spare batteries generally, four for a big event where I’m anticipating needing the spot for a longer time.

I also carry a spare headlight that will allow me to continue for several hours with adequate light. Sometimes I take two! Without tempting fate, the Spikelight hasn’t let me down since I’ve had it.

JohnH: I take a second headlamp as spare – rather than a battery – in case my (or my partner’s) main one is lost or damaged in some way.

MikeH: Petzl Nao battery lasts about 7-8 hours the way I use it.  Need a spare to get through the night.  It would last longer if used for longer on lower settings, but I don’t need to, so I don’t.

Martin Dearnley (left) and Graham Field

TristanW: Aside from rogaining, how else do you use your headtorch?

MartinD: My Ay Up head torch is occasionally used for spotting wildlife at night.

GrahamF: It’s my main light for any night activity… night orienteering events, helping out with multi-day or early morning trail running events, doing anything around the house at night (like looking for possums in the roof) and as an emergency light when the power goes off.  Despite having several other cheaper headlights, I always pick up the Spikelight as it has such a powerful beam. Why use something with less light?

Unfortunately, you can’t buy them anymore, but if you have a look at the Spikelight’s website, the door has been left open for a come-back.  Maybe they were engineered too well and never broke, maybe cheaper imported lights made the business uneconomic – either way, I reckon it’s a great Aussie product designed specifically for our sport.

JohnH: Trail running and mountain biking.  The high beam is great for mountain biking but only lasts about an hour at best.

MikeH: Camping – but Petzl Nao is overkill for that, I use something cheap instead to conserve the battery.

Final comment: torches are now so bright that night nav is losing its challenge, and most rogainers are guilty of causing light pollution. Perhaps we need a torchlight intensity limit.  Many sports limit technology, should we do the same? I’d like to see a special category for rogainers prepared to go out only with hurricane lamps. Could suit the ultra-vets, at least they might know what I’m talking about! You have to carry a supply of paraffin.

Get Into Gear Part 5 – How Cool is Rogaining? (Warm Clothing & Dealing with the Cold)

by Tristan White

Perhaps it’s because I’m a reasonably warm-blooded creature myself, but I’m convinced that Sydney-siders are a bunch of cold-weather whingers. As soon as the temperature drops below 18°C, it’s inevitable that I’ll be hearing groans from others about how freezing it is outside as people walk exactly fifty metres between their air conditioned car and their air conditioned building in a warm jacket and scarf.

If they have done any rogaining event (or overnight hike or early morning bike ride!) in winter, most rogainers will have a different perspective on what real cold is. I will never forget last year’s Navshield, which was -5°C and it snowed, and vividly recall walking past odd-looking puddles on the track, realising that they were frozen. Also, deep-seated in my memory is a night rogaine in the hills south of Canberra where, although it was probably a few degrees above zero, the howling wind made it one of the coldest events I’ve ever done.

As we continue our series on rogaining gear, I again recruit mixed veteran guns Antoniya Bachvarova and Andrew Smith, who completed six 24-hour rogaines last year, about what they wear and their experience dealing with the cold weather that many of these events have inevitably been in.

Alex Allchin, Andrew Smith, Toni Bachvarova and Vivien de Remy de Courcelles at the conclusion of Navshield 2019

Tristan White: Give us a rundown of what you would wear in a rogaine where very cold weather is forecast.

Toni Bachvarova: For cold weather I’ve worn any combination of the following:

  • Head: Bandana, merino or polypro beanie or fleece hood
  • Top: 100% Merino top (mine are Kathmandu), thinner fleece (Kathmandu) or thicker fleece (again Kathmandu but they don’t sell it anymore), Kathmandu XT Exmoor jacket (a synthetic down-replacement insulation), lightweight rain jacket (Arcteryx Beta, Patagonia Torrentshell)
  • Legs: Polypro leggings – cut to just below the knees, orienteering pants, knee-length rain pants – custom design – easy to put on without taking your shoes off and protect upper legs while allowing freedom of movement.
  • Lower legs, feet: Shin gaiters – Moxie gear, ankle gaiters – Rab scree gaiter (very tough and durable), midweight merino socks (see last month’s “Rogaining Fashion Parade” article for more detail)

TW: Tell us about some of the coldest rogaines you’ve done, and how you managed (or didn’t manage) to get through.

TB: Navshield last year was the lowest temperature I’ve experienced in a rogaine. The temperature never got above 5°C on Saturday, then dropped to -4°C overnight, until it started snowing in the early morning on Sunday when it warmed up to around -2°C. Basically, after the sun set on Saturday I wore all clothes I had with me, four layers on top and three on the bottom. The best piece of equipment for this event were the cut-off rain pants. We came up with them after the NZ Rogaining Championships in Dunedin the year before.

The event in Dunedin was the coldest rogaine I’ve done! Even if the temperatures didn’t get below 4°C, the persistent rain throughout meant that we were wet from the very beginning and never managed to warm up. On top of that, the ground was super slippery which made faster movement impossible. The fact that some of the controls were located in the middle of freezing knee-deep marshes didn’t help either. That was an event where we couldn’t afford stopping. Any accident out on the course could have been life threatening since there was no way to keep warm. It was also the only event I was happy to finish with an hour to spare despite losing the category victory because of that.

Another year in Navshield the temperature dropped to -7°C overnight. After a couple of creek crossings in the middle of the night, my feet went numb and we had to stop and change into dry socks and warm them up before we could continue.

Andrew Smith: The coldest for me was the NZ Champs in 2018 near Dunedin. The weather in the hills was bitterly cold, windy and wet. We were wading thigh deep through freshwater marshes searching for controls. It’s the first time I’ve been really worried about hypothermia. We had everything on but couldn’t get warm. All we could do was keep moving. We improved our cold weather rogaining kit after that experience.

TW: What issues have you had or seen from rogainers who have suffered because they are too cold?

TB: I get cold quite easily and that’s why I am usually conscious of managing the risk of hypothermia. First signs of hypothermia are shivering, my extremities get numb beyond pain, I can get clumsy, can’t think as fast as usual.

The risks with hypothermia are with the inability to think clearly and make decisions, also you lose focus and are more prone to tripping or falling over.

AS: I haven’t experienced or seen any particularly serious incidents from the cold. The worst is finishing early because the cold has knocked all motivation out of you (which is pretty serious for your average hard core rogainer).

TW: Can you give me a run-down of what warm gear that you carry with you in a typical rogaine dipping to the low single digits. What else will get added the temperature dips even lower?

TB: In dry weather with temperatures in the lower single digits and not much wind, an extra merino top or a fleece is usually enough. If the wind picks up, a rain jacket or other wind shell can help.

AS: I take an extra polypro top, polypro gloves (the best thing that we’ve added to our cold weather kit after Dunedin) and a pair of cut off nylon over pants. Cutting them off below the knee means they’re lighter and you can pull them on and off without taking your shoes off. I find them an excellent complement to your rain shell for reducing heat loss in cold windy and/or wet conditions. On the move, it’s usually wind and/or rain cooling me down so it’s usually the shell that goes on first. If that’s not enough then it’s the polypro base layer next which means stripping off but it needs to be done.

TW: Do you generally carry more warm gear than you actually expect to use?

TB: Usually I’d like to know I’ve got an extra layer in case it gets colder than expected. In reality in the coldest or wettest events I’d end up wearing all clothes I carry.

AS: Usually I carry one more layer (like a polypro top) than is needed. However there’s been a few where everything has been on and it’s still uncontrollable shaking after a water stop.

TW: Aside from putting on warm clothing, can you suggest any other ways to regulate your body temperature in cold conditions?

TB: Changing into dry clothes helps warm up a lot, if you can afford it. Moving faster helps too 🙂

AS: Keep moving. When we’re falling asleep on our feet we sometimes stop for a short nap somewhere sheltered knowing that 20 minutes later we’ll be too cold and have to get moving again. It’s an excellent alarm clock.

TW: Most people tend to be okay with the cold, provided that they can keep moving and stay dry. However, there is an inherent risk to rogaining that an incident will occur that prevents you from moving. What should one carry to be prepared for such an event, and how do they use it?

TB: Emergency blanket is an essential piece of equipment that can help keeping warm if you can’t move. In coldest conditions I have managed to squeeze an hour of sleep in an emergency blanket.

If the conditions are extreme, be wise to use the biggest advantages of Rogaining – the fact that you are part of a team. Other body’s warmth can make a huge difference in freezing conditions.

AS: A good space blanket. It makes a huge difference to your heat loss. We take an emergency bivvy bag that is basically a space blanket sewn into a bag for 2. The bag combined with my partner’s warmth, while still being uncomfortable, will get us through the night. We used it for the first time in last year’s NavShield (one of the coldest but they’re all the coldest really) and we were able to sleep for 1.5 hours surprisingly comfortably with only occasional shivering.

TW: An issue with a lot of warm clothing is it is very bulky and hard to fit in a pack. What are items that are small and light, but have a big impact on warming someone up?

TB: Pair of dry socks (providing they can stay dry). If it’s dry and cold wind shell – they can be pretty light, bandana for the head. Second layer of lightweight top instead of a heavier fleece too.

AS: Polypro! It’s a wonder material!

TW: I have found that often my body temperature fluctuates at night when I’m going up and down steep hills, meaning that I’ll take a jacket (or something else) off, and when I put it back on again it’s sweaty. Do you have any suggestions for preventing having to put back on a damp, sweaty jacket?

TB: I get quite annoyed having to put layers on and take them off many times, too! I generally find my XT Surna fleece perfect for chilly conditions. Even when it gets sweaty it keeps me warm, so I don’t have to take it off. I don’t tend to sweat too much when it’s cold though…

AS: I just get used to being wet. Wicking materials like polypro make it more comfortable. But I just end up being more wet at the top of the hill and a little less wet at the bottom of the next. On colder rogaines I quite often end up leaving my shell on and just opening and closing the zips as the temperature changes.

TW: As discussed in the heat article, your partner may not be as adaptive to the cold as you. What are the warning signs that your teammate is struggling and what should you do if they get chilled?

TB: They start slowing down even if it’s cold. Shivering and slurred speech are signs too. Check if they have enough warm clothes and offer some of your gear if they need it. Don’t hesitate to stop and seek a sheltered place where they can warm up – avoiding hypothermia early can save trouble later.

AS: I know from first aid courses to look out for stumbling, jumbled speech, etc. but I’ve never witnessed or experienced it. If it did happen it would be a judgement call between keeping warm by keeping moving or to stop and put every scrap of clothing on, get in the bivvy bag and use my body heat to try and keep my partner warm. It’s serious stuff and we have cut it a bit fine on some occasions.

Thank you, once again, Toni & Smiffy for sharing your experiences.

And I’d greatly appreciate comments from our readership about their choice of clothing, both good and bad experiences.

Navigation in Low-Relief Terrain

by Michael Watts

Sections of Gundabooka National Park are flat so I thought it timely, prior to this year’s NSW Championships, to prepare some thoughts about navigation in such country.

The map we’re using is a custom prepared map at 1:25,000 scale with 5m contour intervals. (The base map is 1:100,000, 20m contours.) It is not unusual in sections of the map for this course for there to be a kilometre between contour lines.  Bear in mind too, that the ground does not necessarily uniformly slope between contours and it is very difficult to tell whether you are generally ascending or descending. In 100 metres, going over even 0.3m rise and dip makes it difficult to tell whether one is 100mm lower or higher than where one started.

Terrain features are very indistinct in places and are quite difficult to identify. Watercourses are typically marked as thin blue lines on a map, but on the ground may well be swathes more than 100 metres in width. Unless the watercourse is an erosion trench, following one up or downstream can be futile. Even finding quite large point features such as tanks (dams) is often not a matter of taking a quick bearing and walking straight to it.

So, how do you navigate in such terrain?

The first step is to precisely know your starting point and to give yourself a time budget in which to find the control. If (when?) the time budget runs out, then one needs to navigate the team to a highly identifiable feature and then either:

  • start again – not forgetting to reset your time budget, or
  • quit this one and try another control, hopefully a better identifiable one

In any case, it’s vital that you relocate to a known starting point.

Essential skills are being able to take and travel along accurate bearings, and to keep a good account of the distance you’re travelling along that bearing.

Visibility in mulga scrub is often not good (20-50m). But there are taller trees that are often visible above the scrub and these can be sighted to maintain a pretty good course. At night you can hopefully use stars or moon. The mulga scrub also means walking in a straight line is often impossible, so accounting for the distance one has travelled must consider the inevitable detours.

The most practical method we have in rogaining to measure distance is our steps. It’s important to know your own pace – to count the number of steps you take to travel a certain distance. You ought to know how many steps you take to travel 100m or 1km in open terrain. You’ll have to modify your count to allow for thicker bush and up/downhill interference.

For me, I count double paces – each left foot striking the ground. On open relatively flat ground 100m takes me 65 double paces. In light scrub I allow 70 paces per 100m and in denser scrub 75. There can also be corrections to be made for “map flat” distances when travelling up and down slopes but this is not going to be an issue on this map.

It is important to keep track of step counts or distances. I use two methods – one is to fold down a finger on my left hand for each 100m; 500m intervals I track in my head. The other method I use, when I know I’m going to have to do this a lot, is to carry a length of string with a knot in it every cm or so. For every 100m, move fingers to hold the next knot. Methods that I’ve heard another method is to pick up a stick or leaf for each 100m or 100 steps, or a green twig and make a partial break in it every 100m or 100 steps.

Measuring time can be a useful tool, especially if you have good visibility, but it’s not as accurate as pace counting.

While direction and distance are the primary navigation tools, map reading is also important. Wiggles in adjacent contours can help one determine the size of any undulations present and whether you should be walking up or down. Water always runs down, so keep track of mini erosion arcs (small horseshoe shapes from water erosion) which will always point to the local downhill. Integrating these visually across an area can give a good general indication of the direction of “downhill”. Leaf litter dams are another way of telling down and leaf litter flow-lines can also indicate the edges of very broad, shallow watercourses.

It is crucial to understand what one’s likely cumulative errors are. Over a kilometre I can normally maintain my course within 5° of the set bearing – or about 80m either side of my intended track. For 2km I can be 200m either side of my intended track. For distance, I can normally maintain about 5% accuracy, or ± 50m per km.

For example, let’s say I’m at a control going for another one that’s 1km away. I know my start point within a few metres. When I set the bearing to the next control, I know it is 1km, so I set the bearing and intend to walk to be approximately 100m either left or right of the control. This is called “aiming off” and the idea is that when I’ve walked my kilometre, I am (almost) certain which side of me is the direction to the control, but it may still be ahead of me or behind me by around 50m.

At this stage, I turn the appropriate direction and at exactly 90° to my original bearing, walk that line for 300m (the 200m max I might be out, plus 100m to be damn sure). With any luck I spot the control on this traverse. If not, then I walk 100m back on my original bearing, turn 90° towards my original track and then walk around 20m (depending on visibility). Another 90° turn (so now parallel to my original bearing) and walk 200m on that bearing. Turn, walk the offset, turn again, and again walk parallel to the original bearing, this time back towards the start.

For me, finding a point by this method works well up to about 1.5km and I can manage it up to around 2 to 2.5km. Past that, my errors are too large to stay reasonably oriented in what has become a rather large search area and grid. Your distance may vary.

Remember that every time one changes bearing and walks distances, errors are accumulating. This is mostly why, at the end of the grid search, one needs to re-establish a known accurate position, rather than try to re-search the initial grid area. There are techniques to make these kinds of searches more accurate – for example, placing a recognisable marker at the first location one walks to. Then, one can place additional markers at the start and end of each grid traverse. One can then sight the grid markers at each the conclusion of each grid traverse, and hopefully also come across the initial position marker. The disadvantages are that this is time consuming and then having to clean up one’s markers afterwards.

I recommend going out to a relatively flat area and practise walking a bearing and keeping track of distance travelled to work out your own error margins which will be different to mine. The time spent looking for a control is highly dependent on the size of the initial “uncertain box” and the larger “it really should be in here” box.

Taking a GPS while doing this testing can be handy. Way mark your start point, then walk your bearing and distance using compass and step count. After, say 300-500m, use the GPS to find distance and direction from your current location back to your start point. This will tell you your direction and distance errors. Done a few times, this will give you an indication of your error range. Repeat for a couple of different locations, directions, slopes and scrub thicknesses. Don’t be surprised to find you have a “set” left or right, or uphill or downhill. Write down these numbers!

For Gundabooka, most of the map is relatively high relief – at least three contours per km, which is enough to give one a definite sense of up and down (and with some bigger hills up to 250m to keep the climbers like Mike Hotchkis content.) There are several low-relief controls to provide some skill testing and entertainment value, not a large percentage of the total number of controls but hopefully they’ll encourage you to have a go.

All these techniques obviously become more difficult and more important at night but the skills are applicable every time you need to find a flag in the bush.

A University Degree in Rogaining?

by Tristan White

A 24-hour rogaine looks a lot like a semester of university. The pace at the beginning is fast, but it doesn’t take long for motivation to drop off and slogging away becomes a test of willpower. And just like the final hours of an assignment, or final minutes of an exam, the adrenaline kicks in and a rogainer will fight tooth and nail to collect whatever points they can before the deadline, which is inevitably reached in a panic with minutes to spare, if at all. Both cases also include having to push through all-nighters and having to deal with the highs and lows of team dynamics with frank exchanges between individuals who may have very different philosophies on how to solve the problem.

Despite these parallels, I was amazed at how few university students in NSW were into rogaining during my own days at uni between 2012 and 2016. In multiple years I contacted various outdoors-related clubs trying to get some poor sucker into the Invervarsity Champs with me, to no avail (they told me it was “too serious” for their members).

Let us fast forward to 2020, and I introduce Salomé Hussein, who in recent months has hit up the University of Technology Sydney Outdoor Adventure Club and gotten many of them into rogaining in a big way. She takes this chance to share some of her experiences in the club and share her insights on the sport.

Tristan White: Where have you previously lived and what do you do with your life when not rogaining?

Salomé Hussein: I was born in Eugene, Oregon (USA), then moved to Tijeras, New Mexico and Palm Beach, Florida, before settling in Eagle River, Alaska for 8 years. At age 21, I moved to Auckland to get my PhD in physics, designing spray systems for agricultural robotics. I moved to Sydney in late 2018 for a job modelling natural catastrophes with Risk Frontiers as a data scientist. I use languages like Python and R to process climate data. (We don’t model pandemics, yet, at least!)

I also play flute in North Shore Wind Symphony, rock-climb and dabble in most other long-distance sports including cycling and swimming. That tends to not leave me with much free time, but enough to go to an adoptive family’s art studio and pretend I can draw, and I hack apart hobbyist electronics when the urge hits me.

TW: Tell us your story about getting into rogaining and the UTS Outdoor Adventure Club, given you’re not even a UTS student.

SH: I joined UTS OAC for rock-climbing partners I could trust as I hadn’t been having great luck. A former UTS OAC president was the Australian School of Mountaineering instructor that first taught me how to climb outdoors, and he suggested I join his old club. The then webmaster posted about a rogaine – the 2019 Springwood Metrogaine. I had just agreed to take on the webmaster role and saw the event as a chance to have a good chat to him without even properly understanding what the sport was about!

“The Spring Balance” Metrogaine Trip Leaders (from left) Marta Khomyn, Angelo Rossi, and soon-to-be trip leader Salomé

When we were first handed the map, I was immediately overwhelmed and confused. Although the notes had a suggested novice route, just trying to locate the control circles on the map felt like information overload. I  felt like a sheep and wandered to the first few controls with the starting swarm. Once we’d gotten a few controls, I started to really enjoy myself, particularly the rapid decision-making we had to make towards the end as to whether we’d go for extra controls or make it back without penalty. I even enjoyed that we had to spontaneously break into a trail run despite still ending up with a late deduction.

I loved that the attendees ranged from young families, to ultra-marathoners to old retired couples, to awkward young women like me. The activity has a little something for everyone; it can be just a fun family outing or the pinnacle of an entire season’s training after many years of practice. I also enjoy that the courses themselves take me places I wouldn’t have normally gone.

TW: What is the UTS OAC and what does it do?

SH: The club is entirely volunteer based, and has about 400-450 members of which a small proportion are extremely engaged and ultimately become trip leaders and/or committee members. The leadership is older than an average uni club, so there’s far more emphasis on safety. Trip leaders go through a documented vetting process and get one-on-one mentoring by more experienced trip leaders. We have a database of which students have taken certain skills courses, so that leaders only accept people with a knowledge base they’re comfortable being responsible for.

Every Monday, a group of members climbs at The Ledge, the climbing gym at the USyd fitness centre, which functions as our club house, as it does for the other university outdoor/climbing clubs as well. Being without family and moving to a new country, I’ve benefitted tremendously from dropping in and finding a group of caring, welcoming people that have been keen to teach me and trust me. I’ve quickly felt right at home in Australia with my family of explorers.

Rogaining has always in the periphery of the club. However, Nicole Mealing still champions the activity with us and in recent times we have seen an increased interest and participation from our members.

TW: What is your role in UTS OAC?

SH: I have a couple of roles. I’m their webmaster, and I’m also one of their trip leaders, which fundamentally means I’m willing to post and organise trips for other members, and I take some responsibility for their safety, education, and enjoyment. I’m one of the main faces posting navigation related trips at the moment, but my team-mates have stepped up to the plate and are relieving me on that front. I also teach basic rope-skills, like abseiling and introduction to outdoor climbing.

James Carr, Adam Black, Salomé and Susan So at Navshield 2019

Many of the people you get on those introductory outings are either international students or students who don’t actually self-identify as “outdoorsy.” Indeed, that moniker is a product of environment, upbringing, and socio-economic status. Something I personally factor into my leadership is to stay conscious of an opportunity to show people what they’re capable of and change how they see themselves. I’ve been in dark places mentally, and certain people made a world of difference to me and my mindset. I try to do the same for others.

TW: How did the OAC get into rogaines in the first instance, and what rogaines have they gotten teams together for in the past few years?

SH: The OAC’s first rogaine is probably lost to history, but I suspect the founders would’ve been drawn to it. One I’ve met recently is a fellow geeky athlete; the classic rogaining type.

Since I’ve joined in 2019, we’ve done the Springwood Metrogaine, Navshield, Nyctophobia Buster, NSW Champs, Oz Champs in Tasmania, and this year’s Narrabeen Minigaine. Some members did the Sydney Summer Series, though I only managed three before injury took me out. On this year’s Queen’s Birthday weekend, we tested out the MapRunF Nyctophobia course.

Climbfit’s Claire Ayling (dressed as a cupcake for her 30th birthday) and Salomé at the 2019 Nyctophobia Buster

TW: What sort of experiences have OAC members had at rogaines during your time and what have you learned?

SH: My major high has been the crew I got together for Navshield. I talked a few ClimbFit buddies into it. I was the only one in the team who’d done a past rogaine. I reassured them it was a newbie friendly sport and they really didn’t need much experience. Then club president, Susan, also joined up, partly for moral support. I named us the Godwits because they migrate from Alaska to New Zealand, like I did – longest known non-stop journey by any bird.

These folks were and are still the best team-mates I could ask for in terms of learning, attitude, and cooperation. They took everything that event threw at us in stride, including the frigid conditions. I surprised teammate Adam with a birthday cake by the fire, and we had fun cooking absurd meals in the firepit itself. The next morning was -5°C and the first time I’d seen snow since leaving Alaska and I almost wept.

The next highlight I recall was turning off our headlamps and strolling by moonlight back to the HH at the Oz champs in Tasmania.

Eirik Hidle, Guillaume Laudou, Susan So, Carlos Vega Vallejo, Salomé Hussein, and Adam Black: 2019 Aus Champs at St Helens, Tasmania

But it’s not been all that straightforward. I recruited a whopping four teams to the NSW Champs in Yengo. While one novice team won in their category, another leader and I took a different team of younger novices. One member coaxed the others into choosing the harder of suggested routes. The other three were chatty and inattentive, and blazed by obvious turnoff points. They ended up being the sort who needed guidance on how to behave in the outdoors. They didn’t have enough water, know what sort of shoes are appropriate, and would drop fruit peels on the ground. Nonetheless, they still had a good time, which was a key goal for the trip.

A UTSOAC team were disqualified at the Oz champs for separating. That was a clash of personalities I just didn’t anticipate. Two members were fitter and more determined but didn’t heed the needs of the other two and ultimately abandoned their slower teammates! The slower pair flagged down a patrol for a lift back to camp!

TW: You’ve taking some OAC students out on course from previous rogaines for training exercises. Tell us about that.

SH: I wanted people to get a feel for things before they were out on course at Tasmania. We’re normally dealing with international students, so an interstate trip like that is a big deal financially. I knew they’d have a better experience if they knew each other better and had more of an idea what to expect, so we went out on the 2018 Berowra Socialgaine course, the Lane Cove/Marsfield (River Rumble?) course, and the permanent orienteering courses at Centennial and Olympic Parks.

Jarvis Mumford-Day, Jessica Sanders, Lou Ayling, and James Millern the “Berowra Bewilderness” course for a “Mockgaine” navigation workshop

I intend to do those again, especially at the start of semesters. I think people who aren’t accustomed to being in a “competition” for the fun of it get put off a bit by the notion of entering a race or game, and still others aren’t necessarily keen to put down money for something they assume they’re bad at. It feels safer and less committing or embarrassing to just turn up to one of my trips with a few other people and talk over a map for a few hours.

My approach with them varies wildly depending on the expertise of who comes. I’m good at adjusting on the fly though. Some people are experienced outdoorsmen and independent personalities. I explain basics, offer pointers, then let them plan a route themselves. If anything, I only intervene at that point if somebody has gone quiet to make sure that person is staying engaged. I’m also still learning, so once we’re out and searching for control locations I try to behave more like they’re my team-mates, which usually encourages more independence from them.

Novice team and leader team ( Salomé and Marta) at “Step Up” NSW Champs, Yengo NP

TW: Tell us about the workshops that you’re running for the students, and how have they been received so far? What other topics are to come?

SH: Normally, our skills courses have defined curriculum and progression, including rockclimbing, abseiling and hiking.

Over the lockdown period, I prepared a series of four navigation skills workshops. The first two pieces were foundational, reading maps, and compass work. In terms of delivery of material, I enjoyed getting creative and using images and maps from all over the world. I ended up showing maps onto my computer monitor, then using a tablet on the same Zoom call, to video me using the compass on the monitor. The attendees said that worked fine!

Claire Ayling and Salomé at Paddlegaine, 2019

The last two workshops discussed the differences between the different types of competitive navigation, and the final one was a more nuanced look into rogaining – or more generally, longer duration adventure events.

TW: I enjoyed helping you with that too. Do you have any tips for uni students who are struggling to get a similar program off the ground at their campus?

SH: Having started clubs on my own, for different things, I found it’s both more rewarding and practical to build your initial group of members first, before you worry about the bureaucratic nonsense. If you have 3-5 keen, reliable people, a couple more drifters, and you build up your collective experience and psyche, it’s impossible for the relevant bodies at your school to shrug you off. Institutions tend to provide more barriers, in terms of formalities (i.e. paperwork/restrictions), rather than support you, at least initially. Later on, as you start to need official means to manage it, then their support and protection becomes useful.

TW: Thanks Sam for your story, advice and exuberance.

Get Into Gear Part 4 – The Rogaining Fashion Parade (Base Clothing)

by Tristan White

A rogaine is just about the antithesis to a conventional fashion show. Indeed, if one was looking for an event where they could find the least fashionable looking human beings, a 24-hour rogaine would undoubtedly be a forerunner.

But the truth is that rogaining has a fashion of its own. Most rogainers are not intentionally daggy people; rather they are simply notoriously practical about the purposes of their clothing to protect them as they bash around the bush for many hours, something that is mutually exclusive with today’s trendsetting.

As we continue our series about rogaining gear this month’s focus is shirts, pants and other base clothing. Let me clarify that, by following the advice hereafter, it will not help you win a Ms/Mr Universe pageant; however I do hope that it will help protect you from finishing a rogaine without excessive chafing, rashes, scratches and other discomfort.

An alternative fashion parade – the finish line of last year’s Yengo NSW Rogaining Champs shows all sorts of ways rogainers dress

Two longtime mixed veteran rogaining partnerships join me to share their insights on rogaine base clothing with the questions below.

Toni Bachvarova and Andrew Smith have made it to almost every NSW rogaine since 2013, as well as many interstate and international 24-hour events, for which they have a particular passion. They are also enthusiastic volunteers, having set the popular Pagoda Palooza Autumngaine last year and the Gone W’rong NSW Champs in 2017, as well as setting a new standard of mapping using the LIDAR dataset.

Smiffy and Toni hang a flag at the 2017 NSW rogaining championships

Tristan White: What do you do for work, when did you do your first rogaine and what makes you keep coming back?

Toni Bachvarova: I am a freelance graphic designer. My first rogaine was the Navshield in 2012 at Colo Heights. It was only the 1-day event, indisputably one of the scrubbiest courses, but it met and exceeded my expectations so I was keen for more of it straight away. My first NSWRA rogaine was Lake Macquarie in the same year. For me rogaining is the perfect combination of bushwalking, strategy and endurance.

Andrew Smith: I’m a software engineer. First rogaine was the 1998 Leura PP. Firstly, I love being in the bush, and navigating through it has always been fun. Rogaining allows me to do it for longer.

TW: Firstly, give us a run-down of what base clothing you would generally wear (note: jackets, gloves and headbands will be covered in a separate article).

TB: The tops I usually choose for rogaining are of stretchy material, rather than a sturdy shirt – Merino for cooler months, thinner Merino blend for warmer weather, thin Merino t-shirts or Polartec-delta tops in hotter weather. I don’t struggle with the heat as much as with cold weather, so I don’t mind warmer tops as opposed to cooler shirts that might be clingy when wet. For hot weather I haven’t found a better material than polartec-delta it has soft, non-sticky feeling and dries fast! The downside is all these materials tear quite easily while bushbashing. But the comfort they provide is worth the sacrifice.

AS: Being very talented in the sweating department, choice of shirt material makes a big difference to my body temperature control and performance.

  • Hot weather – Staying hydrated is a real challenge and wearing clothing that keeps me as cool as possible is very important. In hot/humid weather I wear a top from Kathmandu that they don’t make anymore. It’s an Elastane/Nylon blend that is very cool when it gets wet and is quite tear resistant in the bush (until it gets a bit older).
  • Mild weather – Sweat control is still the main issue. I find anything made from Polartec™ Delta™ is the best for temperature control/comfort. The downside is the material tears very easily in the bush and they don’t last long. They’re also a little more abrasive and need band aids covering the nipples and some tape covering the lower back to prevent chaffing.
  • Cold weather – Hydration is no longer an issue but staying warm with clothes drenched in sweat is. I find Polypropylene is still the best in these situations. Odour control is not the best, but it is by far the most comfortable material I’ve found in these conditions. It wicks well, feels dry on the skin and is warm.
Smiffy & Toni hurry at the start of the 2018 Abercrombie NSW Champs in mild weather

TW: What are the pros and cons to wearing long sleeve shirts in favour of short sleeves?

TB: Main benefits of long sleeves are scratch and sun protection. For 12 or 24-hour rogaines (which are usually in cooler weather), I’d normally wear long sleeve. Don’t mind my arms getting scratched but after 7-8 hours of bushbashing, the skin gets sensitive and I find myself unconsciously trying to go around the obstacles instead of through them, which costs time. For shorter rogaines, especially the ones mostly on tracks, short sleeves are fine.

AS: I prefer long sleeve tops. I find they keep me cooler when I’ve drenched them in sweat, they reduce wear on the skin when bush bashing and I don’t need to put sun screen on my arms.

TW: Does colour make any difference?

TB: Bright colours are definitely not recommended if you’re aiming not to be seen by other teams when nearby a checkpoint!

AS: Being a bit competitive I prefer colours that don’t stand out. No point in giving away your position unless you’re lost. If I wasn’t as competitive I’d probably wear something orange and white because I find that extremely distracting when I see other people in those colours. It would be a bit of fun I think.

TW: What are orienteering pants and what is special about them?

TB: Orienteering pants are made of tough polyester which is pretty resistant to tear. They are lightweight, well ventilated and dry quickly. They are also designed to provide freedom of movement in the knees.

The only downside is often they don’t have any pockets to warm your hands or keep a tissue, etc. Brands of choice in Australia are Trimtex and Bryzos.

AS: Orienteering pants are specifically designed for bush orienteering and therefore rogaining. They are cool, give good protection against the bush and don’t resist leg movement even when drenched in sweat.

Trimtex Orienteering Pants

TW: What are the pros and cons to shorts vs. pants?

TB: Since I discovered orienteering pants I’ve never looked back! Knee length or short pants have always been my choice – don’t like the restrictiveness of long pants.

AS: I don’t think there’s any pros for shorts unless you want to show off yours legs at work on Monday. Anything that prevents you from plunging into some thick bush is a negative. And legs with the top layer of skin worn off will do that. Your legs need to be at least mostly covered, if not all covered.

TW: Can any material of pants be used (or added) to prevent being spiked by thick scrub above the tops of the gaiters?

TB: I normally don’t. Thermal trousers tend to collect spikes rather than protect from them. Any tougher material could come with the downside of being too hot or too stiff to allow for free movement.

AS: Nope. Canvas would prevent a lot of spikes but would be way too hot. Just get used to the spikes.

TW: Most rogaines recommend that gaiters are worn when there’s a significant amount of off-track navigation. Are there any occasions that they would be unnecessary/ discretionary?

TB: For me gaiters provide three benefits – protect from scratches, protect from snakes and prevent debris or seeds from getting into the shoes. Most of the times in bush rogaines I’d wear gaiters even if I don’t expect much scrub or snakes as they avoid wasting time getting stuff out of my shoes. For tracked rogaines ankle gaiters are fine.

AS: Nope. It doesn’t matter what the setter says – you’ll always run into way thicker bush than specified somewhere on the course. It’s one of the laws of rogaining.

TW: There are several types of gaiters, ranging from ones to go around the ankle, to ones covering the whole shin with a loop under the shoe. How should a rogainer go about choosing a pair?

TB: I’d use gaiters I’ve worn before and am confident are comfortable. As with the rest of the gear, it is always a good idea to use gear you are comfortable and confident in. I used to wear classic canvas gaiters and they are comfortable and tough, however I could never strap them tight enough at the top to prevent sticks and leaves getting in. Recently I’ve been using orienteering shin gaiters in combination with ankle gaiters. It also depends on the terrain and vegetation. The orienteering gaiters aren’t very resistant to tough bush when you go hard.

AS: Choose a pair that marries nicely with your shoes and extends to just below your knees. Most full length gaiters will do this.

TW: What is special about orienteering gaiters and how are they suited to rogaining?

TB: The orienteering gaiters are comfortable and low maintenance. They are great for rogaining if you don’t mind the fact they might not last as long as the classic canvas/ Gore-Tex gaiters.

AS: Orienteering gaiters hug your lower legs unlike your standard bushwalking gaiters and are armoured on the front with thin elastic material on the back. They’re a pain to put on and take off and need to be used with an ankle gaiter, but I find them much cooler and stay in place better that bushwalking gaiters. (Although I always seem to snag holes in the elastic material at the back on the first run.) I use Moxi gaiters, the manufacturers of which, after a couple of attempts, have found a bottom strap that lasts way longer than the gaiter itself. An outstanding achievement.

Moxi Shin Gaiters

TW: Aside from warmth, what would be the basis that one would want to wear gloves in a rogaine?

TB: I have done a Navshield where full body armour (including glasses) was essential. I don’t normally wear gloves for scratch protection but they could be handy if you think scratches might slow you down.

AS: Warmth is the only reason I’d wear gloves. And it has to get pretty damn cold for that to happen. I’m lucky that my hands don’t get cold easily.

Moxi ankle gaiters

TW: Chafing can be a major issue for rogainers, particularly in the humid and wet. What can be worn or otherwise done to prevent the ravages of chafing?

TB: I am lucky not to be prone to chafing. Sometimes I use Goodsport for blister prevention and anti-chafing.

AS: Chafing has been a big issue for me. I wear running knicks under my orienteering pants to prevent leg chafing. Band aids on my nipples. Tape my lower back to prevent pack chaffing. And most important of all, use an anti-chaffing cream to prevent butt cheek chaffing. I use Good Sport. Tried a few others including GurneyGoo but Good Sport has been the best. Kiwis make some good products. I know some rogainers (e.g. David Williams) have their own recipe.

Mardi and John Barnes (pictured below at Berowra Bewilderness Socialgaine) have been doing rogaines together for over a decade and a half. In addition to often placing very highly in the mixed veterans division, they have a love for the outdoors that includes kayaking, tandem biking and canyoning.

John shares their thoughts on shirts and pants here.


The choice of shirt is very important, with much consideration going into various aspects of this decision. Firstly, what is available in the wardrobe and this, for us, includes a vast selection of cotton t-shirts that have been acquired from volunteer events or as generous presents (many of which are from the Hawkesbury Canoe Classic). Secondly, the condition of the garment. Too ‘new’ a shirt, should be classified as only for ‘special occasions’ [special in a different way to a rogaine]. However, a shirt with too many holes should be avoided so as not to inhibit progression through the thick scrub, with the fear of the holes catching on branches, then combining to create a garment that should be moved to the rags box before the end of the event. Thirdly, the colour. It is important to be visible to your partner so he/she can follow you through the thickest of scrub.  It has also been proven that the colour ‘red’ looks great in photos. Fourthly, it is important to carry an additional warm long sleeve top when the sun has disappeared and the wind has picked up. The availability of free, warm tops from other events is more limited, which makes our decision easier. During the event, it’s important to maintain flexibility in route selection; if you are too cool, walk faster or shuffle along or look for a checkpoint that is located up a hill…  simple!!!

J&M in one of their other worlds on their famous tandem bike


Long pants/short pants are a personal preference, however, the expectation of the event must be shared with all team members prior to the start regarding going through thick scrub, and walking or running. It is important that all the team have read the pre-event notes of the course prior to packing, noting particularly the thickness of scrub. It is important to note a happy wife creates a happy life.  Allowing time for her to zip on/off the pants allows time to assess the map and evaluate the options of adding or skipping checkpoints. It is very important to communicate these plans as it usually ensures that the zipping on/off happens in a timely manner. Mardi hates missing checkpoints and would minimise the zip on/off process if it lead to missing checkpoints. Communication is important!!! My wife says that zip on/off pants allows for temperature variations of day/night and the variations in scrub bashing which does provide an alternative to gaiters.


Gloves in a rogaine….. really?

Hmmm, maybe this is a PPE for rogaining Covid-19 times. We’re missing the rogaines over the latest of months…… and keen to resume!

Thank you John, Mardi, Toni and Smiffy! I’m keen for rogaines to resume too and hope to see you at one of them soon!

And I’d greatly appreciate comments from our readership about their choice of clothing, both good and bad experiences.

Get Into Gear Part 3 – Giving Dodgy Footwear the Boot

by Tristan White

If we were to take a survey of physical ailments that rogainers experience on the course, I would be very surprised if foot problems did not top the list. It would be wonderful if I could give an objective solution to foot problems, but unfortunately our feet are not cooperative enough to be standard sizes to allow this!

It is for this reason that this topic will be “solely” dedicated to what you put on your feet. I asked some rogaining regulars about the shoes they wear. In the absence of rogaining-specific footwear, the general consensus is that the optimum choice for a long rogaine is a heavy-duty trail running shoe, the three most popular of which are:

La Sportiva Ultra Raptor
La Sportiva Bushido
Salomon XT Wings

I have gone further to again get some specific questions answered by three long-time rogainers. Queensland’s Richard Robinson (self-described as the greatest rogaining tragic on earth) shares his thoughts on shoes, socks and looking after your feet. And from NSW, Volunteer Coordinator  Graham Field and Secretary John Clancy also share some insights.

John Clancy (at right) with 2019 NSW Champs teammate Chris Stevenson
Graham Field (at left) with teammate Martin Dearnley after the 2019 NSW Champs

Graham tells some backstory about realising the significance of having the right footwear: There have been several turning points in my rogaining experience, since my first event in 2011 – finally being able to do an event without getting blisters was one of the big ones. It made all the difference in being able to enjoy and perform at a higher level and actually be competitive. Not that this has resulted in many placings, but I could finally concentrate on the enjoyable and physically challenging aspects of the sport, rather than challenging my pain threshold for several hours.

Compared to many, I’m very lucky in that my feet are particularly ordinary – no weird toes or toenails, bones and structure approximately normal. I did however get really bad blisters and, after many years of pain and suffering through events with pre-emptive taping and fancy blister pads, I came to the conclusion that finding the right shoes for your particular feet is the most important factor.

Graham’s Hoka shoes and socks

Graham continues: For the past 5 years or so I’ve been wearing Hoka One One Tor Summit shoes (pictured above). I’m onto my third pair and use them for anything that involves walking in the bush where there might be rough uneven terrain involved. These are the only shoes that I’ve ever had that won’t give me blisters when doing any sort of distance. They also have great cushioning and reasonable support. They have leather uppers and a Vibram sole which offers great grip and durability. Unfortunately they are hard to find now, but my next choice would be to see what Hoka’s current offering in a solid walking shoe would be.

A long off-track rogaine takes its toll on your shoes as it does on your body. I (Tristan) rarely wear a new pair of shoes in a bush rogaine for that reason but getting the balance right between wrecking a new pair of shoes and starting the event with shoes that are already wrecked is an art.

Tristan White: When trying on pairs of shoes, what should one be looking for?

Richard Robinson: Regular rogainers tend to have a particular brand and/or model they know works for them. However two things I recommend for new and unfamiliar shoes:

  1. With the shoes undone you should be able to slip one finger down the shoe behind the heel without your toes pushing into the front of the toe box
  2. With the shoes done up you should be able “hang” over the edge of a step just gripping the heel section of the shoe and point down at 45 degrees and with all your weight without your toes pushing into the front of the toe box.

Graham Field: When fitting in the shop, make sure that you have your preferred rogaining socks on. It’s very hard to determine which shoe is going to work for you in a shop setting, so I find that the main things are making sure that there is good ankle fit (i.e. your heel doesn’t move about when you walk) and there is plenty of room at the front – your toes must not touch the end of the shoe and your little toes do not touch the sides. Always err on the large side so long as you can get a firm heel and ankle fit. Chances are that you will go through several different brands before you find the one that best fits your feet.

John Clancy: Comfort and durability. For me it’s Merrills, very comfortable for my wide feet.

TW:  How long should you spend trying to break-in a pair of shoes before wearing them in an event?

RR: If one 3+ hour session doesn’t do it then they are probably not ever going to be much good.

GF: Break in depends on how methodical and risk averse you are as well as how much spare time you have! If you’ve got the right shoes or a new pair of a trusted shoe, there will be very little break-in required, so a shorter event (like a 6hr) is a good compromise. You may as well be out there rogaining!

JC: 710 days.

TW: How could a person’s choice of shoe change from one event to another depending on the terrain (and weather) of the event?

RR: It doesn’t for me but some people will change. I only buy running shoes that I think are suitable for rogaining.

GF: It depends on how serious a rogainer you are (see Chris’s quiz). The only choice I’d make would depend in how much running I’m likely to do, so for a Minigaine or Urban 6hr I’d probably go with a running shoe. As for wet weather, just get used to having wet feet – there’s no such thing as waterproof shoes.

JC: In wet weather or in heavy rocky/shale country I prefer boots.

TW: What are the advantages of wearing hiking boots with ankle supports in favour of trail runners?

RR: There can be advantages to boots in heavy rock country like the Flinders Ranges. Personally I stay with trail shoes with a solid Vibram sole plate.

GF: I prefer not to have ankle support – all the shoes/boots that I’ve had with ankle support have resulted in bad blisters, but this may not have been because of the ankle support, so it’s probably an unjustified concern. Apart from being more expensive and heavier, unless you have particularly weak ankles, I wouldn’t bother.

JC: Better ankle support.

TW: What are the benefits of shoes with mesh, and why take caution if wearing mesh shoes in a rogaine?

RR: Mesh allows in grass seeds. If using mesh then make sure you have a Gore-tex lining.

GF: I haven’t tried it, but an additional layer sounds like a good idea if you’re exploring blister prevention – I’d probably use two layers of thin socks though because of the sponge effect.

JC: I don’t use them. I expect they provide better ventilation in hot weather but the down side is no moisture protection in puddles or streams. (Caution: beware of wet socks when near water and potential blisters.)

A range of my (Tristan) rogaining sock collection. For the shorter, hotter events I take lower ankle socks

TW: Is there anything else you put on your feet either before or during a rogaine to help minimise blisters forming or otherwise enhance comfort?

RR: One quickly knows where one’s feet are vulnerable to hot spots. I tape all these before I put my socks on. I will also use a lubricant between the tape and my skin on key areas to create another “slip” surface. I wear Injinji toesock coolmax liners with Sockwa Bamboo No Show outer socks, which has made a massive difference. I have materially reduced toe blisters since changing to Injinjis

GF: Once upon a time, if I knew that it was going to be wet, I’d put Vaseline on my feet – I suspect that it had little effect. A better solution would be carry a pair of dry socks, or get back to the HH in a long event for a pair of dry shoes.

JC: Cotton socks in shoes and two sock layers with boots to prevent blisters. One thin (liner) pair and one thick pair. The benefits: comfort and no blisters. It might be an old bushwalker’s wise tale but it does work! Also – always have two pairs of socks when purchasing new boots.  That way you make sure the boots will be the correct size for your feet.

TW: Do you have any recommendations for what should be done if hot spots begin to form, and what should be carried to address this?

RR: Lubricate and tape them absolutely immediately. I always carry strapping tape and a lubricant of some description.

GF: I used to carry blister pads, but these won’t last on hot sweaty feet, so you need several of them to get you through an event. Additional taping helps. Ideally, know where you’re most likely to get blisters and put them on when your feet are dry and fresh. A last resort is pain-killers, but these can cause worse problems if used excessively. If it gets that bad, pull out of the event.

JC: Apply bandage (blister patch)  before the skin or “hot spot” breaks!

TW: Thanks for your thoughts Richard, Graham and John! 

Do you have a particular item of rogaining gear that you feel passionate about? Or further thoughts about footwear? Please don’t hesitate to get in contact with me or add a comment to this Forum article.

My (Tristan) homemade shoe rack, consisting of mostly past, present or future rogaining shoes. Am I channeling Imelda Marcos… this doesn’t even hold my full collection!

Training Regimes & Gear of Elite Rogainers – An Interview with WRC Runner-Up Tane Cambridge

By Tristan White 

Rogaining is the sport of paradoxes. An integral part of the sport is an appreciation for the natural environment and for the simple things, yet it is full of tech-heads and it utilises sophisticated technology actually developed by some of these tech-heads such as the Navlight scoring system and nswtopo mapping software. It can be a highly competitive activity, yet people will engage in friendly dialogue with teams, out on course and at the end of the event, that they are also desperately trying to beat (and in many cases give them lifts to the event!)

But perhaps the biggest paradox of all is that on the one hand, it is the sport that people can do if they are too young, old or otherwise unable to do more mainstream sports such as rugby, tennis or running. But on the other hand, championship rogaines can be viewed as one of the craziest, physically & mentally demanding activities on the planet. This of course is a key ingredient to making the sport unique.

I consider myself a relatively competitive rogainer. Although there are many others who are more experienced, physically fitter and better at navigation, I rarely enter an event without trying to give 100% physically and particularly mentally. I can say from personal experience that careful training and preparation has inexorably improved my performance at the event. Anecdotal feedback from rogainers everywhere on the competitiveness spectrum indicates that they would like to read about what sort of preparation it takes to achieve the results I have.  

But my second place at the NSW Champs and twice 4th place in Australasian Champs is nowhere near the stunning (very narrow) 2nd by Kiwi guns Tane Cambridge and Tim Farrant in last year’s WRC in Spain. Tane has kindly agreed to share insights about his training regime, to provide some ideas for the more mortal person. He also answers a few questions about equipment in conjunction with the “Get Into Gear” series.

Tane Cambridge (L) and Tim Farrant following the 2019 World Rogaining Championships in La Molina, Spain

Tristan White: What have you studied/trained in and what do you do as a profession?

Tane Cambridge: I studied Mechanical Engineering at the University of Canterbury in Christchurch and am now a Mechanical Engineer at Enphase Energy, so I am involved in the testing and the design of Micro-inverters and the associated accessories. 

TW: When/how did you get into rogaining in the first place and approximately (or exactly) how many have you done?

TC: I got into Rogaining through Orienteering. The two sports are pretty closely related and especially here in Christchurch and there is quite a lot of crossover so it’s hard to say when I actually started doing Rogaines! I think I have done about six 24-hour rogaines, no idea how many shorter ones (12,6,3 etc) but would like be over 50?

TW: What other sports have you done?

TC: I’ve been lucky enough to try out a lot of sports. As a kid growing up in Wanaka with parents into the outdoors, I was skiing (downhill and XC) from an early age, sailing (dinghies and trailer-sailers), mountain biking, running, triathlon and climbing (mountain and rock). At school I played team sports such as rugby, cricket and soccer as well as cross-country and orienteering. Now I am still heavily involved in orienteering, running (road, cross-country, trail, mountain), kayaking, cycling, mountain biking, multisport, and adventure racing!

TW: How many countries have you rogained in?

TC: Australia, NZ, Spain & France – the WRC last year in Catalunya had controls in both countries!

TW: What is the most memorable rogaine you’ve ever done?

TC: WRC 2019 – getting 2nd place was an exceptional achievement! We had as close as you could get to a perfect race and it was a fantastic area!

Tane and Tim celebrate their 2nd place – by a mere 5 points – in the WRC19 in Spain

TW: Would you be able to list what you would typically wear and carry in a 24-hour rogaine (excluding shoes), and how much does it weigh at the start?

TC: In a typical NZ rogaine I would take the following:


  • Asics White Cap
  • Polarised Sunglasses
  • Long sleeve polypropylene top
  • Arm Sleeves – to keep sun off arms
  • Trimtex Orienteering top, with collar
  • Trimtex 3/4 orienteering pants
  • La Sportiva Bushido II trail running shoes
  • O-speed Gaiters or long orienteering socks
  • Underwear


  • Jacket –  Outdoor Research Helium (light) or Interstellar (heavy)
  • Polar Fleece top  (in cold or wet weather)
  • The North Face waterproof over trousers
  • Warm gloves
  • Buff


  • Osprey Duro 15L pack
  • Gemini headlamp
  • Icebreaker socks
  • Thumb compass
  • Water bladder and bottle
  • Sunscreen
  • Anti-chafe
  • Survival bag/blanket
  • Food*

Typically it would weigh 6-7kg at the commencement of the event

[*- stay hungry for a dedicated article on nutrition later this year. ]

TW: How do you modify your clothes and gear based on differing weather & terrain?

TC: If it’s forecast to be wet I will take a heavier weight rain jacket and polypro leggings. If it’s scrubby, I use matagouri/gorse/speargrass Orienteering Gaiters. If it’s farmland with no undergrowth I might wear shorts. In Alice Springs I used Gore-Tex shoes and Tramping Gaiters for the spinifex.

TW: What would a typical month of training consist of for you, particularly in the lead up to a major rogaine?

TC: The weeks usually consist of:

  • Mon: Easy run
  • Tue: Hill repeats
  • Wed: Long run
  • Thu: Interval training
  • Fri: Easy/rest
  • Sat: Fast run
  • Sun: Long run

In the last two weeks before a competitive rogaine there would be less long/hard stuff in there, but follow the same rough pattern.

TW: How much training is done with your teammate and how important do you think it is to prepare for big events together?

TC: We are lucky we live in the same city (Christchurch) so we would probably train together once or twice a week. It’s important to be on the same page together and understand each other’s strengths and weaknesses as a team but then the individual side of training or preparation for a big event is important to tailor things to our own levels of fitness and state of recovery. Often it can be difficult to find ideal times to train together – I prefer to train in the evenings after work, while Tim prefers in the mornings before work. So a balance is always good.

TW: What impact do you think your other assortment of sports has on your rogaining performance?

TC: Any long distance type event helps you build the resilience needed for staying up all night and keeping on going when your feet hurt. Orienteering is good for the navigation side of things. Physically speaking, running is good for training the legs, heart and lungs, whereas mountain biking and kayaking are great for building core and balance strength. Aside from that “cross training” is a good break from the day in, day out slog of training, breaking things up and reducing physical strain on one’s body.

Mountain Biking

TW: Are there any activities that you either avoid or moderate to prevent injury or illness?

TC: Avoiding over-training is super important – you need to have rest days, or low activity days. I like to have a balance of hard and easy training sessions (the very reason why I don’t use Strava!) In the lead-up to any big event I avoid any “extreme” mountain biking – I managed to sprain (possibly fracture) my thumb the week before the World Adventure Racing Champs in 2017 crashing my mountain bike while out training beforehand. I learned my lesson there!

TW: How much overlap is there between rogaining and orienteering training and what differences are there in preparing for them?

TC: The overlap is huge. In Christchurch, there are a lot of opportunities to do both orienteering and rogaining, so I will do both when it suits me. I am still more involved in orienteering than rogaining. The training is pretty much the same, maybe some longer runs are required for the rogaining but the longer training can be beneficial for orienteering too.

The major difference is in the planning that occurs in a rogaine – it is something I have had to work on a lot to get better at choosing which controls to get rather than being told which ones to go to and just doing it as fast as possible. Calculating point and climb rates per kilometre comes into rogaine preparation a lot more than orienteering as you are typically making educated guesses on the spot in the latter. Physical endurance is important to both, but more so in rogaining and speed is more important in orienteering. Efficiency is the key to both!

TW: You know as well as anyone that physical fitness alone is not going to prepare you to be highly competitive in a rogaine. How much of your training includes navigation practice, and aside from other rogaines/orienteering events are there other ways that you practice your navigation?

TC: I would try to incorporate at least 1 or 2 navigation specific training sessions, such as a rogaine or orienteering event, per week. Other ways to practice would be to research the race area, look at maps of the typical terrain old maps of the same area and “armchair” practice. This involves looking at other rogaine maps to plan my own route and analysing other people’s routes in the results. Thanks to fellow Kiwi Peter Squires the Navlight system has made this easily possible!

TW: Do you have any special dietary habits?

TC: I tend to avoid spicy foods, chicken, fish and mushrooms before a race, and to minimise the risk of food poisoning or an upset stomach!

TW: Being able to motivate yourself to keep going throughout the night is tough. Outside of other night events, are there any methods you have to better prepare yourself for the slog of keeping going for 24 hours?

TC: Making sure you are well prepared and well rested beforehand, so that it’s not such a big deal to stay up all night. When I’m getting sleepy, talking about route choice and focusing on the navigation usually is enough to get through the low patches.

TW: Do you have any recovery techniques for after 12/24hr rogaines (stretches, food types, etc), and how long does it take before you feel “normal” again?

TC: First thing is usually food and drink, then sleep! Usually it takes at least 2 weeks to feel normal again.

Thanks for sharing some of your “secrets” Tane! All the best in your future endeavours!

Get Into Gear Part 2 – A Hot Topic: Hydration & Dealing with the Heat

If you think this is hot
By Tristan White

I have a theory that for every person, there is about a 20 degree Celsius range in which most people can comfortably participate in vigorous outdoor activities. I have known many a cold-blooded species who will happily go running and cycling in near 40°C temperatures, but wear a jacket if it drops below 25°C. And then there are other extremes, myself included, who are relatively comfortable as the temperature drops to near freezing provided they keep moving, but  start to complain about overheating once the temperature rises much above 20°C.

One of the beauties of rogaining is the disparity of weather conditions across the year that test the limits of people anywhere on this spectrum. I will discuss gear for the cold later this year, as I expect it is probably as far from most people’s minds as a 100-pointer is from the Hash House. However, with the extreme heat we’ve experienced lately, strategies for dealing with hot weather – particularly regarding hydration – seem very relevant.

As an organiser for the Springwood MG when a rogainer’s body shut down in 35°C in the middle of the bush, and having personally become delirious in the similarly hot Scheyville Minigaine 2018, I am keen to consider gear and strategies to reduce the likelihood of such incidents.

When seeking other people’s experiences on heat and hydration, my mind immediately went to our friends up north in Queensland, who on average experience temperatures 5 degrees warmer than NSW.

Paul Guard – former QRA president, current ARA secretary, and longtime competitive rogainer, kindly offered to give a few insights about facing high levels of mercury, or alternatively, about handling conditions when the mercury is high.

Paul (2nd from left) with teammate Bevan following their win in 2017 Qld Champs

Richard Robinson, who featured in last month’s gear article, also shared some of his experiences.

Tristan White: What issues have you experienced or seen from rogainers who have suffered by going too hard and not drinking enough in the heat?

Paul Guard: The worst I experienced was at the Warrumbungles WRC in 2006 where both my teammate Tony and I ran out of water and suffered heat exhaustion. In Tony’s case it was quite severe and he ended up in the first aid tent. We both became quite disoriented on our way back to the HH.

Richard Robinson: I have two vivid experiences. The first was WRC1998 in Canada. It was 40°C and quite humid. One of the hottest days ever recorded at the location. From early on I could see my partner, Peter Merrotsy, sweating profusely and with a lot of salt build up on his shirt. Some 6 hours in he was getting very slow and saying he felt unwell. He started to stagger a bit and then fell briefly unconscious and started vomiting. I thought “this is not ideal!” I got him up and we crawled to the next CP by which time it was dark and he was no better. We made our way very slowly to the nearest WP, about 3km away and I wrapped him in the space blankets that we had because it was starting to get quite cool (and the mosquitoes were so thick you could barely see through them!) and then left him as I jogged the 8km back to the HH and they sent a vehicle out to collect him.

The second incident was the 1999 Croc’n’Rock 24hr Rogaine in the NT, having pulled out early in the afternoon due to an injured teammate. On Sunday morning I was dropped at the furthest point of the almost trackless map just after daylight to start picking up CP markers as anyone who was out there with 5hrs to go would not finish in time. There was plenty of water on course but it was a hot day. I started feeling unwell and then started cramping so badly that at one stage I couldn’t bend down to pick up water and took 10 minutes to get up a 0.6m high rock face. I took the decision to head for the road. As I neared the HH I started vomiting though the strange thing was that everything I had eaten or drunk in the previous 3 hours was still in my stomach. My digestive system had shut down and I was not absorbing anything. I had formed a view over those four or so hours that I was so badly affected that if I lay down and went to sleep I would never wake up and see my children again. It may well not have been true but it was obviously very scary.

When I got back to the HH I was immediately given 1 litre of IV fluid as the event was run by a bunch of doctors and they happened to have it there. It made no difference, so they took me into Run Jungle where I was given a further 2 litres of IV fluid and I was good as gold!

TW: In addition to slowing down your pace, what can rogainers do to ensure that they do not suffer from the effects heat exhaustion?

RR: Cooling your core temperature is key. Drinking should assist but, as noted above, past a certain point that no longer works. Basically in the worst situations stop in the shade and if you can wet yourself or lie in a stream even better. Withdrawing from the event is a better outcome than DSQ due to death!

TW: What signs should you notice if out on a rogaine that you need to slow down due to dehydration or heat stress?

RR: In yourself, slowing down, feeling sick, cramping. In your partner, the same plus irrational or slurred speech and lots of stupid errors.

PG: Remember that even if you have a high threshold to extreme weather, it doesn’t mean your teammate will. When a teammate goes quiet, it’s usually a sign that something is going wrong. Keep talking to your team so these matters can be addressed before they get worse.

TW: Do you have any suggestions for how people can know how much they need to drink based on the temperature?

PG: I usually start with 3L in hot weather depending on water point availability. 2L can suffice in cooler weather. Overnight your body does usually consume a lot less, but good to carry plenty still.

RR: I work on the theory that having a litre of water you don’t use is way better than having an hour or three with none. I can generally get through a 6-hour afternoon on 3 litres and a 12 hour night on the same unless it is very hot so I adjust the volume carried dependent upon when I will be getting water through the event. I am a fairly high water user, my long time rogaine partner, Viv Prince, drinks about half what I do. We have had event stages where I have started with 3 litres and she with 1½ and I have run out and drunk some of hers.

TW: In addition to water, can you recommend any electrolytes or supplements that reduce the effects of overheating/dehydration?

RR: I use Endura at about 2½ times recommended strength. I start with 600ml and then mix up a second 600ml about halfway through. I try to drink some each hour such that it is all gone in 12 hours. My wife Tamsin prefers Tailwind. We also both take Exceed S! Caps and look to take two of these every 2-3 hours. I used to cramp a lot in rogaines but have been essentially cramp free since using the combination of Endura and S! Caps.

TW: How would your route plans change if extreme heat is forecast?

PG: Water point visitation planning is a key part of route planning, particularly when water points are limited or spaced out. If the weather is hot, it just increases the importance of good planning. Case in point: WRC 2016 (Ross River, NT) where many teams had to change plans due to insufficient consideration of water point locations.

RR: I cannot recall an occasion I changed my pace estimation due to heat but I have carried additional water and/or planned to get to the first water after 4 hours (instead of 6) in very hot conditions.

TW: My Sea to Summit 40x80cm Microfibre Towel. In hot events I soak in water and tie around my head

TW: Water bladders are a fantastic invention, however the one problem they come with is the need to physically take it out of your pack to determine how much water is left (and hence how much you’ve drunk). Do you have any suggestions on how to monitor your rate of water consumption with a bladder.

RR: Over time you get a feel for it but it is at times useful to stop and check if you are at a point where you might have an option to either add an emergency water stop or bypass a planned one.

TW: What sort of sunscreen do you carry and how often do you reapply? Does the frequency change depending on the temperature?

RR: Any good quality SPF30+ sunscreen. I am currently using a SPF50+ we bought at Tesco in Pilsen last year which seems to work all day. I put a good amount on before the start and apply another lot a bit after dawn. I do have an olive skin and Tamsin has some African genes so neither of us are massively sun sensitive, so I would imagine those with fair skin would need to reapply more regularly.

TW: Here’s my zinc sunscreen of choice for rogaines, carried in a small perfume container, which lasts longer and is more resilient to sweat than standard 30+ sunscreen. I have fair skin so aim to reapply around 3:30pm and again in the morning – ideally I should reapply even more regularly.

TW: What other clothing do you wear for sun protection?

RR: I wear a hat that stops the top of my head burning as I don’t have a lot of hair (good perimeter but low density) but allows good air flow for cooling. I would cook in a broard-brimmed hat or legionnaires type cap. I do wear sunglasses, well they are prescription glasses with transition lenses, but I wear them to see not for sun protection. I use Adidas glasses as does Tamsin. Note that those with blue eyes are more prone to UV damage.

Richard and Tamsin finishing the 2017 Rogue Adventure Race, with matching hats and sunglasses.

TW: As I have blue eyes, sunglasses are indispensable on a rogaine. My choice of eye-wear, BBB Sports Glasses (primarily made for cycling), can generally be purchased with 3 sets of lenses including dark, clear and light, and at night I change to clear ones to protect my eyes from swinging branches.

TW: What can organisers do as they set courses and plan the on-the-day running of the events that consider the impacts of high temperatures and ensure participants are aware of the risks associated with the heat? Aside from imminent bushfire danger, do you think there are reasonable grounds to call off or otherwise modify a rogaine due to heat?

RR: Ensuring that the water points are accurately marked on the map and never run out of water is the key. I see no reason to change the course due to increased temperature but you should be making participants very well aware of the conditions, the need to take account of them and the need to be prepared to withdraw if they become badly heat affected. I believe that the competitors need to take personal responsibility as each person handles adverse weather difficulty.

A well set course requires competitors to make conscious choices about when and where they collect water. If a team can set their preferred route and they just “trip across” water on a regular basis without having to plan for it then that is a poorly set course. (I know some others do not agree with this view!)

So in summary:

  • Be aware of the weather forecast on the event day, and know your heat threshold – what temperature your performance starts becoming impeded. Withdrawing or not being competitive may be the best bet if a team member is sensitive to the heat.
  • Be willing to revise your route – not just in terms of distance, but also regularity of water refills, reducing climbing and where possible seeking shade and passing near water bodies.
  • Take sufficient sunscreen, and reapply it regularly, particularly if you have fair skin. I would consider putting thick sunscreen on dirty, sweaty skin about the least enjoyable component of a rogaine, but far less unpleasant than the effects of sunburn later on! If your skin/eyes are sensitive to the heat then take additional precautions.
  • Just keep drinking! When you’re exerting yourself, it’s very easy to get dehydrated but very hard to come back from. Make sure you are well hydrated before the event start.

Thank you, Paul & Richard, for sharing your wealth of experiences! Keep cool in the Sunshine State!

A Tale of The Deceptive Lands

The Story Behind the Australasian Rogaining Championships 2020, May 9-10 

“30 Years Ago; The Story begins…” writes SA Rogaining Association’s Chief Conspirator Jenny Casanova, “…on a dark, rainy, windswept night in 1989, the young girl trudged up the road in the glow of torchlight after 14 hours in the wilderness, lagging behind her companion who turned back to her, map in hand, and they conferred about whether to head towards the hash house and a warm bed in a dry* tent, or else to venture further into the Deceptive Lands…”

(*) it turned out that the tent had leaked, anyway!

I have asked Jenny, the not-so-young-anymore girl, to expand upon what to expect at the Deceptive Lands 2020 Australasian Rogaining Championships:

Tristan White: Introduce us to the organising team.

Jenny Casanova: After the magnificent and extremely well-organised 2012 ARC at Angorichina in the Northern Flinders Ranges I started thinking about who I could get to help me showcase my favourite rogaining terrain to the rest of Australia. So I asked my favourite past-and-present South Aussie team mates: Zara Soden (L) Mark Corbett, and Steve Cooper, to be part of the setting team. The extended Corbett clan has also been giving us assistance and advice.

The setting team: Zara, Steve, Jenny, Mark

We are also very lucky to have Craig Colwell as the event coordinator; he focuses on all the logistics and we primarily need only concern ourselves with preparing a 24-hour which we wish we ourselves could compete in.

TW: Where are the Deceptive Lands?

JC: Only half as far from Adelaide as the Northern Flinders! (Approximately 240km, just over 3 hours’ drive depending on how often you stop at a bakery.)

TW: Why did you choose this area for the Australasian Championships?

JC: I’ve always loved the mallee country east of the Barrier Highway, and we’ve been coming here for 30 years now, orienteering in little pockets of it, and have built up a good relationship with a number of the farmers in the region. With my parents and Zara, I set the 2013 God’s Country; Beyond Hell’s Gates 12-hour in this vicinity and we enjoyed every minute of doing so.

There is nothing quite like the view to the north and east from a high hill, with wedge-tailed eagles soaring overhead. When I am out there, I never want to go back to the city!

TW: Tell us what the terrain is like?

JC: Rolling hills, deeply-incised dry creek networks more numerous than can possibly all be shown on the map, some enormous channels which have actually been flowing when the tail end of a summer cyclone comes through, very little undergrowth in the mallee scrub, some fast open flood plains, and absolutely no spinifex…

TW: Why is the rogaine titled “Deceptive Lands”?

JC: We toyed initially with something on the Goyder Council theme; Goyder having been the surveyor who in the 1860s undertook a detailed study of South Australia’s vegetation, and identified that crops would not be viable north of a virtual boundary which he drew on maps. In this region, Goyder’s Line is almost visibly painted on the ground in a drought year.

The name “Deceptive Lands” came about because it’s the title of a book written in the 1960s about the history of the Terowie region, referencing the fact that in a good rainfall year this can seem like excellent cropping & grazing country, but appearances can be deceptive…as they can also be when following up a watercourse amongst the mallee, looking for a side gully at two in the morning.

TW: How has recent extreme weather in SA affected this area?

JC: In the midst of the mallee, nothing appears to change, although local farmers had been carting water and feed for their stock for over a year now, so it’s an absolute blessing that there have been recent summer rains. There are some permanent springs & soaks in the area, as the original Ngadjuri people would have been well aware. These must have been a lifeline for them in dry years.

TW: How can we get to the 2020 ARC?

JC: By standing on the side of main North Road and thumbing a lift as fellow rogainers go past!

Although the HH is not so very far from an airstrip, you would need to bring your own light aircraft, and the trains eventually stopped running to Terowie over 40 years after General MacArthur stood on the platform and famously declared “I came out of Bataan and I shall return”.

Seriously though, buses will be organised for competitors who require transport to/from the airport, and info on booking the bus can be found on the ARC website plus there are plenty of car hire options.

TW: Why should we come to the Deceptive Lands?

JC: Because it will be such a fun event, with great catering at the centrally-located hash house, unlimited space for free camping Fri-Sun nights, and 80 controls to choose from, plus there’s an 8-hour option for those who don’t feel inclined to do an entire 24 hours. And you can check out the antiques in Burra, or the wineries of the Clare Valley, on your way to & from the Deceptive Lands. And don’t forget to purchase a commemorative Deceptive Lands shirt.

Thanks Jenny! Hope to see you in May!