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Hiking in New Zealand

New Zealand is a hikers (or trampers as they are known) paradise. The diversity and natural beauty is hard to match, from golden beaches and dramatic oceans to glaciers and forests there is something for everyone here. New Zealand holds an extensive 14 national parks, each with unique flora, fauna and scenery that allow you to explore New Zealand's natural, cultural and historic heritage.

Tramping is arguably the best way to see and enjoy New Zealand’s natural wonders with 1000s of kilometers of tracks to choose from. Before undertaking any hike or walk it’s always advised that you take time to ensure you understand the conditions and let others know of your intended route.

The Department of Conservation (most usually referred to as DOC ) do an excellent job of looking after and maintaining most aspects of major walks and are an excellent starting point for any questions relating to tramping.

There are hundreds of great walks to be found in New Zealand but here are just a few, many of which are considered to be some of the best hikes in the world:

South Island

Routeburn Track – A 3 day walk of around 40km taking in the alpine scenery of Fiordland National Park and Mt Aspiring

Milford Track – A 4 day walk of just over 50km. This is one of the best known and celebrated walks with great diversity and views including glaciers, waterfalls and an alpine crossing.

Kepler Track – This is usually a 4 or 5 day tramp though shorter sections can be walked. It reaches a mountain summit with great lake, alpine and river scenery.

Other walks include Rakiura on Stuart island (3 day tramp), Heaphy track in Kahurangi National Park (4-5 days), Abel Tasman coastal track along beaches and bays (2-3 days) and many more you will discover

North Island

Tongariro Crossing – Considered by many to be the finest one day walk in the World, it takes in stunning scenery over a distance of around 17km.

Other walks include Lake Waikaremoana through Te Urewera National Park (3-4 days), The Tongariro northern circuit (4 day tramp) and many more you will discover.

When to Go

The best weather is from January to March with warm temperatures and less rain. The periods around Christmas are always particularly busy with school holidays and to be avoided if possible. Most tracks are comfortably walked from October to May though the winter months do get cold and its certainly not an advisable time to attempt any of the Alpine tracks.

What to Pack

It’s important to ensure you are equipped with all the appropriate food and equipment on any of the major hikes in New Zealand. Weather is subject to great fluctuation and it’s always advisable to be prepared. The following are some general recommendations:

Clothing appropriate to the season. It’s always got to ensure you have enough warm clothes for your trip. It’s useful to bear in mind that more layers means more warmth so it’s not necessarily about big, bulky items. Suggestions would include a pile/fleece jacket, waterproof jacket, lightweight fleece top/woollen jersey, couple of t-shirts, polypropylene top, waterproof seamed-sealed pants, shorts (can actually be better when raining), underwear, polypropylene bottoms, woollen socks, hat, gloves and a lightweight towel. Finally, a good pair of hiking boots can be a life-saver, you may be crossing rivers and will often be traversing slippery surfaces so good boots are a great investment.

Food

A lot of this is down to personal taste but try not to get too carried away. After a long hike most things taste good and it’s more about convenience than fine dining. Here are some popular hiking fuels: 

Muesli, chocolate, bread, vegemite (the classic kiwi spread), packet pasta or noodles (though bear in mind they never quite feed as many as they say on the packet), pasta sauce, bacon or tuna, muesli bars, packet soup, glucose powder or similar energy drink mixer you can add to water. Also try and pack your food in sealed bags where possible to prolong its life on the trip.

Equipment

The gear you take depends greatly on the length of hike and terrain but here are some general items that would be of use:

Sleeping bag (check the warmth rating to make sure you have something appropriate to the condition and season your hiking in, there’s nothing worse than being cold all night!), cooking gear and fuel, plastic crockery, torch (ideally a headlight), pen knife, map, mossie repellent, camera, backpack liner, small first aid kit and occasionally mobile phone (but be prepared for lack of reception).

Useful Information

Make sure you take the equipment you need, appropriate footwear and clothing is extremely important with some of the heavy downpours you can encounter, particularly on the south island’s West coast. You can obtain maps from DOC but also check out LINZ www.linz.govt.nz for geographical maps. Above all, when possible, consult and register your intentions with a DOC office before undertaking any of the longer walks and take note of their advice.

For organised hiking tours in New Zealand, take a look at Flying Kiwi and Hiking New Zealand - hiking, biking and camping tours are what they do best!

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