Tips for Hiking in New Zealand


Hiking Safety Code for New Zealand Hikes:

  • Trip Planning.

Plan the route you are going to take. Apply local knowledge and work out the time it will take you to do the hike within reason.

  • Let Someone Know.

Let someone know what your plans are and how long it will take you to complete your hike, so the alarm can be raised if you don’t return in time.

  • Check the Weather.

The New Zealand weather is very unpredictable. You can literally  have 4 seasons in one day, especially in alpine areas, any time of the year. So check the weather forecast before you go.

  • Be aware of your limits.

Before you set out on a hike you should ask yourself if your experience, fitness level and physical limits are compatible with the description of the hike.

This is a list of track ratings that the NZ Department of Conservation has issued:

icon-Easy-access Easy Short Walk Access
These tracks are accessible to people of all abilities.
icon-Short-walk Short Walk
Easy walking for up to an hour on a well formed tack that is well formed with an even surface with possible steps or slopes. Suitable for people of most abilities and fitness. Stream and rivers crossings are bridged. Walking shoes required.
icon-Walking-track Walking Track
Easy to moderate walking from a few minutes to a day on a well formed track, some sections may be steep, rough or muddy. Clearly sign posted and all Stream and river crossings are bridged. Suitable for people with low to moderate fitness and abilities Walking shoes or light tramping/hiking boots required.
icon-Easy-tramping Great walks/Easy Tramping
Track is generally well formed, may be steep, rough or muddy, suitable for people with moderate fitness. Limited backcountry (remote areas) experience required. Track has signs, poles or markers. Major stream and rivers crossings are bridged. Light tramping/hiking boots required.
icon-Tramping Tramping
Challenging day or multi-day tramping/hiking on a track that is mostly unformed with steep, rough or muddy sections. Suitable for people with good fitness. Moderate to high level backcountry skills and experience, including navigation and survival skills required. Tracks have markers, poles or rock cairns. Expect unbridged stream and river crossings. Tramping/hiking boots required.
icon-route Route Tracks
Challenging day or multi-day tramping/hiking on a unformed and natural track, rough, muddy or very steep. Suitable for people with above average fitness with High level backcountry skills and experience, including navigation and survival skills required. Complete self sufficiency is required. Track has markers, poles or rock cairns. Expect unbridged stream and river crossings. Sturdy tramping/hiking boots required
    • Supplies


tramping gear

Make sure you take enough supplies with you like food, drinks, clothing and other equipment.

  • Food and drinks

If you go on a day trip or overnight trip you don’t have to worry so much about how much it is going to weigh. So you can take sandwiches, fresh fruit and meat ,or even canned food. For drinks, a bottle of water is always the best for quenching thirst and take a thermos with hot water to make a cup of coffee or tea if you don’t want to boil the water on the spot.

If you go on a multi day trip the best thing is to bring dehydrated foods. Porridge (rolled oats) is probably the best for breakfast. It fills you up and releases the energy slowly during the day. For lunch you could eat some pita bread or cabin bread or other cracker type bread, with some slices of salami or cheese.

Another way of keeping your energy levels up during the day is to eat a handful of ‘scroggin’ (a mixture of dried fruits, nuts and chocolate) every now and then.

For dinner cook up some noodles, rice or dehydrated potatoes. Add some herbs and dehydrated mushrooms for flavour. Or you can treat yourself every now and then with one of the instant freeze dried meals. All you have to do is add boiling water. Lots of different meals are available, from mushroom risotto to chili con carne. The downside, they are very pricey.

  • Cooking Gear

It is advised to bring your own cooker. Even if the hut that you are staying in has cooking facilities you don’t have to wait around before you can start cooking. If you are only hiking for a few days then a gas cooker is the most convenient, but the gas canisters don’t last very long. If you go on longer hikes you should take kerosine cooker or a meths cooker.

Pot,frying pan,plate, bowl, cup, fork, knife and spoon, Dish wash liquid and tea towel

  • Clothing

For multi day hikes all you need is 2 sets of clothes. One set that you wear while hiking during the day (Which will get wet either from rain or perspiration) and one ‘dry’ set to be cosy during the the  time that you are not hiking.

Wet set:

  • Woolen hat (for the cold days or icy conditions); woolen T-shirt + woolen shirt when it is a bit cooler; rain jacket (for rainy and/or windy conditions); pair of shorts + over trousers (for cold windy conditions); woolen socks + gaiters (to stop your lower legs from getting scratched  by sharp low undergrowth); light weight, sturdy hiking boots; pair of gloves (for cold windy conditions)

Dry set:

  • Undies (a few pairs); woolen shirt; woolen jersey; long pants; sand shoes


  • Sleeping Bag

There are basically 2 types of sleeping bags: down(feathers) and synthetic. The down sleeping bags are more compact and warmer than the synthetic sleeping bags, but they will be cold if they get wet. So you should have an outside liner with your down sleeping bag in wet situations. It is also good to have a sheet liner for both types of sleeping bags, easier to wash.

It is also handy to take a bed roll, just in case all the bunks are taken and you have to sleep,on the floor.

  • Pack

Hiking packs come in lots of different designs, shapes and sizes. The important things are that it is comfortable to carry and that it is big enough that it can hold all the supplies that you need duringyour hike.

You should line your pack with a big plastic bag to keep all your gear dry,especially your sleeping bag
A good way to do this is to use a ‘Survival Bag’ from the New Zealand Mountain Safety Council. This bag can also be used to keep yourself dry and warm in case you get lost somewhere.

Another good thing is to have external pockets that will give you easy access to things like water, snacks, maps, camera etc, during the hike.

  • Maps and Compass

It is recommended to take maps that cover the area in which you are going to hike. If you are planning to go off the track you should also take a compass.

Land Information New Zealand (LINZ) has produced a comprehensive series of maps (Topo50) on a scale of 1:50,000 that will give lots of information, showing track details, hut locations and contours at 20m (67ft) intervals. Or you can download detailed maps in Tiff format from this Mapchooser site for free.

All of the National Parks and Forest Parks have their own detailed maps.

Besides the paper maps you could also take a GPS device, which will show you exactly where you are at all times. The limitation is the short battery life (6 to 8 hours)

  • Locator Beacon

If there is an emergency during your hike it would be good to have a locator beacon with you. When you activate the beacon a signal is sent to the rescue authority in the country where the beacon is registered. It uses GPS to give them the exact location where you are so they can send in a rescue team or helicopter.

You can hire them them from different locations in the North and South Island, to find out click here