Tramping in NZ: Food to eat

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Mt BrewsterIn an earlier post we looked at some of the gear you’ll need to take to head for the hills in New Zealand – in this post we’re going to look at some of the food that you might like to take along to eat.

Tramping (ie hiking) cookery has always been a fine art, chiefly because you’re trying to trade taste off against weight. In other words, it’s tempting to just take 2 minute noodles for every meal, although they probably won’t taste very nice; it’s also tempting to take an espresso machine and a generator, although they’re probably going to be unfeasbily heavy.

Personally, I’ve spent time in both camps: having once esteemed lightness-at-the-expense-of-taste, I now adhere to taste-at-the-expense-of-lightness – depending on the length of the trip, of course. But you can still eat nourishingly either way, so in this short article I’ll give you a brief idea of what you can expect from both schools of thought.


Light. For a light and energetic breakfast, it’s impossible to go past a One Square Meal or two – they’re healthy, nutritious, filling and rectangular. They come in Cranberry and Apricot, but I prefer the Cranberry ones. No dishes to do, and you can be out the door in minutes!

Tasty. If you like a cooked breakfast, you might want to take some lean bacon, a couple of eggs, a tomato and some mushrooms. You could also consider taking some refried beans to heat up, or if there’s any potato/kumara mash left over from the night before (see below), then you can fry them up as potato cakes.


Light. To be honest, it’s pretty hard to go past a couple of One Square Meals for a light energetic lunch as well. For a little more variety, you might like to throw in a few crackers and some honey, but don’t bring too much – one box of Vita-Weat could last a person four to five days, and a little 250g tub of honey could easily last a week.

Tasty. For me, the light lunch described above is pretty tasty anyway, but you might also like to take some fresh fruit and maybe a little salami. Or, make some sandwiches the day before with whatever’s healthy that comes readily to hand.


Light. If you want to eat a lightweight dinner, then you’ll need to involve either pasta, rice or couscous. Couscous gets my pick, since it’s perhaps the easiest to cook food known to man, healthy and nourishing. What you put on it is a matter of taste – but realistically, if you want to keep the weight down then you’re probably looking at a bag/can of tuna in a flavoured sauce. I’m sorry. But at least you can have some dark chocolate for dessert.

Tasty. All food tastes better in the wilderness after a day of walking, so why not go the extra mile and cook something that would taste good anywhere? Once you try it, you’ll never go back.

So take a nice steak and a sausage or two from a good butcher, some seasoning, capsicum, mushroom, onion and garlic. Boil up some potatoes and kumara and later add some cheese or spring onion for some potato/kumara mash – and if there’s any left over you can have it for breakfast the next morning. Take a bottle of wine and some more nice cheese.

For dessert, let your imagination roam free – last time I went we took a pavlova base, some lemon curd and a bottle of cream. Poached pears perhaps? And don’t forget the dark chocolate!


And finally, you’ll also want to take some extra muesli bars and scroggin for snacks along the way. Also always take some extra food in case of an emergency – a few packs of 2 minute noodles and some extra muesli bars will weigh almost nothing, but could just save your life.

And don’t forget to take lots of water – 2 litres or more per person.

So enjoy! In a future article we’ll look at some of the logistical steps you’ll need to take for organising your energetic relaxing weekend away.

Image: Sam Alexander

Tramping in NZ: Gear to bring

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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.

And just if you needed convincing, not only are the mental and physical health benefits of exercise are well known, but the therapeutic benefits of just being in nature are also well established.

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.

Sleeping bag

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.

Cooking gear

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.

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