Meet The Merinoers - Elena/Hiking Hacks

We met Elena, aka Hiking Hacks, on TikTok of all places. We loved her bite-sized hiking content, which packed in loads of great wisdom and advice. We sent her a tee to try out and review and she's been wearing it ever since. She's hiked the Overland Track in it, the 1000km long Bibbulmun Track in WA, and she's recently knocked out lots of kilometres in it in the mountains of Northern Italy.

Elena, who's originally from Italy, has a wealth of hiking experience from across Australia and the world. So, we were excited to put some questions to her as part of our Meet the Merinoers series.

Ottie Merino (OM): What got you into hiking, and when?

Hiking Hacks (HH): I'm originally from Torino, and the Alps were my backyard growing up. So, since I was a kid, I have always had some hiking-related holidays. However, I never did any overnight hikes until I moved to Australia 10 years ago.

I still remember my first overnight hike vividly 10 years ago. A $15 Kmart tent and a borrowed backpack (way too heavy). Since that day though, I have never stopped overnight hiking as sleeping under the stars put me at peace with myself.

And if you ask me why I like hiking so much, it is for many different reasons, but mainly because I want to go elsewhere, and I want to reach that simply not by taking a plane. The elsewhere must be conquered; otherwise, what's the point of leaving? Too easy to put km between you and your fears by sitting in an armchair inside a pressurised cabin.

Since I've started multi-day hikes, I discovered that life isn't chasing expensive cars, fancy clothes, and jobs we hate. Life is more. Life is discovery, passion, and adventure. Life is moments of heaven, hell, and extremes, like hiking a mountain.

OM: Those are some very humbling words. And, I think that's how a lot of us who are passionate about hiking feel. It's amazing the sense of joy and meaning you can get from being so distance from 'things'.
So, you're from Italy. How popular is hiking in Italy, and how does its popularity compare to Australia?

HH: Hiking in Italy is very popular; we have such beautiful mountain chains, and people worldwide are travelling just to hike in Italy.

However, it is almost impossible to find the remoteness I've seen in Australia.

I also found that in Italy, when you hike, you always run into fully equipped huts, where often you can sleep in a proper bed, eat a warm meal and, if lucky enough, have a warm shower too.

While in Australia, most of the time, you need to be fully-equipped and prepared for a multi-day hike as it is way more remote.

OM: Recently hiking in Spain, we noticed the same thing. You'll be out in these 'remote' mountains and then you find yourself walking into a restaurant perched on a mountain top. It's certainly nice having some civility on hand, but there's something about having access to genuine wilderness, right?
On that, what's your most memorable hiking experience to date?

HH: There have been several, but I'll choose this one because it is something I have never experienced more than once. A few years ago, I was in Far North Queensland (FNQ) bushbashing around an area full of waterfalls. After 5 hours of bushbashing, I reached a fantastic untouched and unnamed waterfall surrounded by lush rainforest. At that moment, I felt like a real explorer and adventurer, as I think only a few people have been there before me.

OM: A very special moment that will stay with you forever, I'm sure.
In 2022, you did the Overland and Bibbulmun Trackstwo of the great hikes of Australia. What did you love most about these hikes?

HH: The Overland was just stunning; I loved the change of scenery through the hike, and some views reminded me of what real mountains looked like. The whole of Tasmania didn't disappoint a bit, and the Overland is def a good starting point on a multi-day hike.

I recommend the Three Capes if you have never done a multi-day hike.

On the other side, the Bibbulmun Track was very different, and it challenged me in many ways, and that's probably is why I loved it so much. It was my first long walk, and I had so much fun planning, cooking and studying the track. It was one of the most significant challenges I have ever faced. Physically and mentally. And being surrounded by breathtaking coastal views and majestic forests just made it a hike I will never forget.

OM: And you wore your Ottie Merino tee for 27 days in a row. That's game! How did it hold up?

HH: Yes, hiking the Bibbilmun Track solo in a short period means you need to reduce to the minimum all your backpack weight, which means….1 t-shirt for the whole 27 days of the Bibbilmun track.

The Ottie didn't disappoint! I'm a big fan of merino wool while hiking as it has sooo many perks; it's breathable, dries quick, and keeps the insulation on point. During the whole 27 days, I only washed the Ottie t-shirt twice, while I hung it up every night to freshen it up.

OM: What are the top 5 hikes on your bucket list? And why?

HH: GR20 (Corsica)—in June next year, I will cross the Mediterranean Sea from Antibes to Corsica on a sailing boat and then start the GR20, apparently the most challenging hike In Europe.

Larapinta (NT)—I have never hiked in the desert, so I am soo looking forward to checking a completely different scenery.

South Coast Track (TAS)—I believe it to be one of the most remote hikes in Australia.

Federation Peak (TAS)—It is one of Australia's toughest hiking challenges, and apparently, the views are worth every step.

OM: You've been hiking for a few years and have some experience; what's your top tip for someone starting in the sport?

HH: Be adventure smart and remember the 5P mindset:
Piss Poor
Hiking is a fantastic way to enjoy nature but can also be very dangerous if not taken seriously, so tell your loved ones your intended route and try to stick to it. If your phone doesn't have reception, always carry a personal locator beacon (PLB) and always bring enough water, some snacks, and an emergency blanket.

Once you have your backpack ready, just take the first step, and if you are anything like me probably, you'll never stop…
OM: Thanks so much for chatting with us and for being one of our 'merinoers'. Love the 5P mindset —sounds very Aussie! And that's a principle that really came through in our recent chat with an expert about snake bites
Happy hiking!