Table of Contents

Please read these guidelines and familiarise yourself with Coffs Hikers polices and forms (see Information page).

We recommend the online Bushwalking Manual which is an extensive guide to bushwalking leadership, including planning, leadership, weather, clothing and equipment, food and water, safety, incidents and emergencies. We cannot write a better leadership guide than this!

We strive to strike the balance between managing safety and risk, while making the administration aspects of leadership as easy as possible for leaders. Further practical tips cover how to use our website for leaders

Download and adapt the checklist as needed.

Planning a walk

Choose an easier activity in an area you know well for your first walk. Do a reconnaissance for walks in unfamiliar areas (with the exception of longer trips away where a reccie is not possible). Seek permission for private property. Before you put the walk on the program, determine the grade, and write a clear walk description to help people decide if the walk is suitable for them. Pick a meeting place and estimate car-pooling contributions. 

A couple of days before your walk, review your list of attendees, check the weather and any road, park or forest closures. Walks are cancelled in the event of a bushfire or extreme weather. Walks may also not proceed if there are less than 4 people. Notify participants if the walk is cancelled, otherwise send a reminder email to attendees a day or two before the activity with any additional details. 

Print and download maps to your devices for offline use.  Pack a first aid kit and if your activity is remote, consider taking a PLB or device such as a Garmin InReach if you have one. 

Bookings usually close the day before an activity. A pre-filled Activity sign-on sheet will be automatically emailed to you between 7 and 8pm the night before, please print to take with you. On the day of the walk, notify your emergency contact of your trip intentions and expected return time. 

Leading a walk

At the meeting place, introduce yourself and other walkers, and make sure the Activity Sign on Form has been signed by everyone (including the leaders!), and you have Acknowledgement of Risk and Waiver forms for children.  Ask if anyone has any injuries or concerns you need to know about. You may decline to take any participant that you think is not suitably prepared, does not have the capabilities to safely complete the walk with the group, or for any other reason.

Brief the group on the route, any planned stops for tea and lunch, expected finish time. Note any hazards or risks. Do a head count. Appoint a back marker – choose someone familiar with the route if possible.  Remind people to wait at track junctions, and to maintain visual contact when walking off track.  We encourage an acknowledgement of country – this can be at the start of the walk, or at a special place during the walk.  A walker may wish to do the acknowledgement of country.

During the walk, take breaks for water, to eat, and to regroup, adjusting your pace for slower walkers. Monitor the group progress and the weather, alert participants to hazards, and check in on new walkers or anyone who might be struggling. You might allow faster walkers to go ahead with instructions about where to wait and regroup. 

There is a lot for a leader to manage on the walk – don’t be shy to ask a co-leader to handle some aspects of leading a walk to allow you to focus on other aspects (such as navigation). 

After the walk

After the walk, remind everyone to pay their share of transport costs to drivers, and make sure that no-one is left behind! Notify your emergency contact that you have returned safely.

Scan or take a photo of the completed Activity Sign on sheets and send it to for safekeeping (please use the walk title as your email subject for easy reference). In the event of any incidents, complete and submit the online Incident Form which will go to the committee for discussion and safekeeping.

Building your leading skills - mentoring, first aid, navigation

Leaders wear many hats – you don’t have to try do it all yourself!  Reduce the load by asking for a co-leader, or ask for mentoring feedback. 

We encourage all our leaders to hold a current first aid certificate, but it is not required. Although we ask all walkers to be self-sufficient and carry their own first aid kit, you should review and restock your first aid kit regularly.

Make a plan to attend one of our navigation (map and compass) activities. And then get outside and practice!  Bush and Beach Orienteering courses are a fun way to improve your skills. Lotsafreshair’s book on How to Navigate is sound and easy to understand. The free Map Reading Guide provided by the Government Geoscience website is also excellent.  

We recommend the GaiaGPS smartphone app, which works on both iOS and Android. Buy the premium version that includes NSW government topographic maps (and most other Australian states, and New Zealand) as these are better than open source maps for regional areas and off-track areas.