Why it’s important to clean your gear
As people who love wild places, bushwalkers are generally pretty aware of what it takes to keep campsites clean and to practice good minimal impact bushwalking. Things like human waste, rubbish and campfires are visible and therefore front of mind when it comes to taking care of the bush. However, there’s a whole other raft of things that we can’t see, but that are just as important.
Tiny little things can have a big impact. Apart from diseases that attack our native plants and animals, there are weeds and other pests that can do big damage. In many ways, they can be a bit like, ‘out of sight – out of mind’, but thanks to the work of the Invasive Species Council and their, ‘Keep Your Gear Clean In the Wild’, campaign, they’re shining a light on these dark little creatures and providing a whole host of great tips about what we can do to stop them.
Many bushwalkers tread lightly along managed tracks and great walks around Australia and are familiar with shoe cleaning stations provided by National Parks and Land Managers at trailheads and entrances to sensitive areas. Looking something like a piece of children’s play equipment, these spray n’ scrub stations provide an easy way for walkers to ensure they don’t walk any of the offenders into precious natural places. The great news is that you don’t need to wait for facilities like this to be installed wherever you walk. You can easily create a simple DIY solution by using a spray bottle with methylated spirits (70-100%), bleach (dilute to 25%) or F10 disinfectant solution.
Another key way to avoid bringing in or moving weeds around, is to wear sock protectors or gaiters and avoid wearing clothes that have a seemingly magnetic attraction to seeds, as well as keeping to tracked areas. Spend some time in camp at night to methodically pull off seeds like cobbler’s pegs (Bidens pilosa), aka Farmer’s Friends, etc. and then carry them out in a clip-lock bag.
Ensure you have washed or sprayed your tent pegs, walking poles, bottom of gaiters, and bottoms of packs using 30% water and 70% methylated spirits. Ensure your vehicle is clean, including floor mats and there is no old mud sticking to the vehicle.
Given the amount of money that bushwalkers spend on outdoor gear (tents, shoes, etc) it makes good sense, financially and environmentally, to keep them clean. It not only extends their life, but also the lives of native plants and animals. Before you head out on your next adventure, wash or brush off the mud and any other hitchhikers from your gear, then let your gear completely dry.
There are some real gremlins out there; from Chytrid, that can kill off our native frogs, to the well known Phytophthora, that rots roots and destroys native plants. Fortunately the devastating ‘rock snot,’ aka Didymo, hasn’t made it to Australia yet, but has caused untold problems in rivers and waterways of New Zealand.
Do your bit by thoroughly checking and cleaning all your gear whenever you enter or leave a new location and visit invasives.org.au/act-now for more information.