Something a bit different today – it’s autumn in New Zealand now, and that means that it’s a perfect time to think about heading for the hills. Ok, so it’s always a perfect time. But if you feel like you could use a quick break away from the office, there’s simply no better way to recharge the batteries than an overnight tramp (that’s what we Kiwis call a hike!) in the New Zealand backcountry.
So in this article I’ll start a short series about everything you’ll need to know to enjoy the great outdoors in New Zealand. Though really, wherever you live this is all good stuff to know.
In today’s article we’re going to focus on gear. We all know that there’s a trade-off between taking the kitchen sink, because they’re really good for doing dishes, and having to carry the kitchen sink for half a day in your backpack. So what do you really need to take for a short break away in the hills?
Let’s start with the obvious – you’re going to need a good backpack. My backpack is 80L, but unless you’re going to be carrying enough food to last you a week, you could easily get by with 70L. Stick to a brand you’ve heard of – it’s pretty hard to go past Macpac. Pack harnesses come in different sizes, so make sure you try the pack on in the store and ask the shop assistant to show you how to adjust the straps.
The next most important item is a good sleeping bag. The rule of thumb is that down sleeping bags are generally warmer and smaller, but synthetic materials will stay warmer if you get wet. But unless you’re planning on doing a lot of tenting in the rain, you’ll probably find down bags to be the way to go.
Depending on the terrain, a good pair of boots can be a lifesaver. And believe it or not, a good place to go for your first pair of boots is The Warehouse, or another similar budget price store. Obviously the quality is not going to be the same as if you bought some $400 boots from an outdoors store, but unless the trip you’re planning is a mountain ascent, they’re probably going to be good enough and save you a lot of money.
A lot of people carry way more cooking gear than they need to. You’re only going to need the following:
- The cheapest gas stove you can find, like this one
- A gas canister that fits the stove you’ve just acquired
- A billy and a small (and light!) frying pan
- Plates (if there’s too many in your group to just to eat out of the frying pan/billy) and cutlery
- A billy clamp
- Some steel wool for cleaning up
When you’re packing, bear in mind that most of this will fit inside your billy.
Again, most people take way too many clothes – you can still allow for emergencies and keep your pack weight down; the best place for clothing is Kathmandu or an Army store. You will need:
- A waterproof raincoat
- Two pairs of socks – one for walking in and one to keep dry for evenings
- A pair of long johns
- A tshirt and some shorts for walking in. Don’t wear cotton while you’re walking, as your sweat will make the shirt feel freezing cold – better to go for wool, preferably merino, or something synthetic
- A thermal top for walking in and one for the hut/tent
- Another tshirt and a pair of shorts/light trousers for the hut
- A very warm fleece jersey. And if you’re going to an area that’s not going to have many other trampers, it’s always a good idea to carry another jersey as a spare, just in case.
- A woolly hat, and gloves if it’s cold out
- Underwear – one set per day, which you should put on clean when you arrive at the hut/tent site each evening
And that’s it! You may be surprised how small this pile is, but it’s really all you need for a trip of pretty much any duration. You might also like to consider a pair of waterproof leggings, which could also double as your light trousers for the hut.
It’s important to do whatever it takes to keep your hut clothing dry though. Put it in separate plastic bags if you need to.
And everything else…
You should also take:
- A map and a compass (and know how to use them)
- A torch with spare batteries
- A lighter and some matches
- Toothbrush, toothpaste and toilet paper etc
- A first aid kit
- 2 litres’ worth of drink bottles
- A pack liner – they help keep everything dry, and you can climb inside it for shelter in case of an emergency
Ok, well that’s all for today. Future articles will cover what food to take and what to do with it, and the logistics of organising transport and accommodation. And if you need any extra inspiration, check out this great short film by Andrés Borghi from Argentina! As the blurb on YouTube says:
Working Day was the winner of the Your Big Break competition a global search for the next great filmmaker. Their task was to capture the spirit of New Zealand in a 3 minute short film. Judged by Peter Jackson and produced by multi Academy Award winner Barrie Osborne.