What to Pack for Outback Australia: An Essential Guide

As we live and work in the outback, we really do know exactly what to pack for outback Australia at all times of the year.

To help you plan and pack, we’ve written down everything essential you’ll need to pack for your outback holiday – both summer and winter – using our combined 34 years of outback living, bushwork and camping expertise.

What-pack

We’ve written this guide because some of the outback packing lists we’ve seen don’t include warm clothes, nor do they include the very handy essentials we take everywhere – like our Jetboil or the panty liner tips below that are especially for women travellers.

Check us out – we really do live in Alice Springs – we are real people and we go camping and travelling all the time.

If there’s anything we can help you out with, please contact us here.

The Essentials

This is our minimalist list of what to pack for the Australian outback.

Yes, you can easily take more, but we are light travellers and we encourage you to do the same.

Also, I’m writing as someone who REALLY feels the cold, this list will include our tried and tested essentials to keep you warm when you’re camping in the winter outback.

REMEMBER: If you’re coming to the outback between May and September, you NEED TO PACK: long pants, track suit pants, a fleece, thermals, beanie and long-sleeved t-shirts.

We frequently get below zero (-1C through to -3C, and occasionally -5C or -6C) temperatures in winter – especially in central Australia.

Don’t believe me? Check the Bureau of Meteorology for July average temperatures in Alice Springs, Yulara (Ayers Rock – Uluru), Giles, Ernabella, or Oodnadatta. You will be shocked.

Pants:

  • a pair of jeans, which can double as smart casual wear if you’re going to a restaurant for dinner
  • zip-off hiking pants – really easy to care for and they double as shorts
  • Tracksuit pants – to keep you really warm and toasty around the campfire and as pyjamas for those below zero nights. DO NOT come to the outback in winter without them.
  • Shorts – yes, some people will feel warm enough to wear shorts during the day in winter, so bring them two pairs (one pair could be your zip-off hiking pants to save space)

Tops:

  • T-shirts – two or three for day times, plus one long sleeved t-shirt for evenings during winter. T-Shirts are great because you can roll them up to save space when you’re packing and you can wear them layered for extra warmth.
  • A fleece – you WILL need a fleece in winter at night here in the outback.
  • A long-sleeved thermal if you’re doing a lot of camping and you feel the cold like me
  • Five pairs of underpants (hand wash them)
  • Two bras for women (again, I’ll hand wash them every few days)
  • Pyjamas – I usually wear a long sleeved t-shirt or a thermal and track suit pants in winter, and a t-shirt and daggy shorts in summer.
  • A beanie – Yes, bring a beanie. Even better, visit Alice Springs in late June and go to the biggest Beanie Festival in the world
  • Gloves for cold, early mornings

what to pack for the outback

Yes, it really does get COLD in winter!

Footwear

  • Socks: I usually travel with one pair of thick hiking socks, one pair of bed socks and two-three pairs of running socks.
  • Walking shoes or boots (we prefer Vasque and Merrell hiking shoes)
  • Runners or cross-trainers – easy, comfortable footwear that’s also practical. If you buy trail runners, you can use them as hiking/walking shoes, too.
  • A pair of adventure sandals
  • Some people like thongs (flip flops), too but we prefer the adventure sandals as you can wear socks with them more easily (and look like a big dag!).

Other Clothing:

  • Swimmers or board shorts – even during winter in case you’re visiting Dalhousie Springs, or you’re certifiably crazy and want to swim in Ellery Creek Big Hole and end up with hypothermia!
  • A dark coloured sarong – this can always double as a towel, a head cover to shut out ridiculously bright lights in campgrounds or a full moon when camping, a sheet, a pillow or a shawl.
  • Fly net –You will NOT generally need one of these in winter. If you’re travelling during the warmer months October to April, then you will need one.

Toiletries & Medicines

Whilst most towns and roadhouses will stock toiletries if you run out, I’m assuming that you’re going on a camping/4WDing trip and you won’t be able to resupply.

  • Lip balm – you will not believe how dry your lips get on cold winter’s nights in the outback.
  • Baby wipes – take a BIG pack. These will be your ‘bush shower’ on those nights when you’re bush camping. They also help to keep you fresh after a toilet stop.
  • Moisturiser – you will get very dry skin in the winter in the outback.
  • Razor
  • Hair brush, hair elastics, mini hair spray – and for ladies, I’ve found that either very short or long hair styles are the BEST for camping trips.
  • Insect repellant – you may not need it during winter, but in summer or spring, you will
  • Sunscreen
  • Panty liners: Ladies, if there’s ONE tip I can give you from years and years of working in the bush, it’s use a panty liner every day and learn to shake after a pee, rather than using reams and reams of toilet paper. I don’t use toilet paper for a bush pee at all. Freshen up at the end of the day with baby wipes.
  • Tampons, sanitary pads etc: Make sure you take them if you’re camping and you’re likely to get your period. I usually have a stash of regular tampons & panty liners in my pack in case my period comes early or another women I’m travelling with gets in a spot of trouble.
  • Panadol and anti-histamines
  • A basic, light weight MEDICAL grade first aid kit.
  • A supply of any regular prescription medication you take AND your prescription if you’re likely to run out

Gadgets

  • Waterbottle – It should go without saying, but you’ll need one. Or two.
  • Headlamp – we do not go anywhere without our headlamps. We don’t care if we look like nerds – we can see what we’re doing when we’re cooking over the campfire, we can read, we even use them for setting up long exposure photography. This is the EXACT Petzl Tikka XP headlamp we use.  They last us forever.

Petzl-xp

  • Jetboil stove. Seriously, this the BEST $140 we have ever spent. This handy stove boils water for a cuppa in two and a half minutes – as quick as an electric kettle. What’s more, you can cook on it and save your self mega-bucks in places like Uluru. I don’t know how we ever did without it.
  • Camera, camera manual, charger, SD cards – make sure you get a 12v charger if you’re seriously into photography.
  • Additional photography gear: a spare camera battery and a good tripod.
  • Mobile phone/Iphone & Ipad plus chargers and USB cables – we use the little 12v cigarette lighter USB plugins to charge our I-gadgets up in the car.

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