Tips on Hiking in New Zealand
Plan Your Trip
Seek local knowledge. Plan the route you will take and the amount of time you can reasonably expect it to take.
Tell someone your plans and leave a time/date to raise the alarm if you haven’t returned.
Know Your Limits
Challenge yourself within your physical limits and experience.
Always have layers of clothing with you
“Four seasons in a day.” This is a phrase you will hear a lot in New Zealand and for good reason! The weather changes so rapidly and unexpectedly that you’d be a fool not to carry extra layers around with you. For hikes, pack some wind/waterproofs, some thermal base layers, and a T-shirt, for instance. For more advice, check out How to Prepare for a Great Walk in New Zealand. Otherwise, being outdoors for just a couple of hours will likely warrant carrying a hoody or a jacket with you.
For your Overnight Hike
- Backpack (40–60 litre size for multi-day hiking)
- Waterproof/plastic pack liner
- Sleeping bag (3–4 season)
- First aid kit (including insect repellent, sunscreen, blisterkit, personal medication e.g. antihistamine for allergy to wasp stings)
- Survival kit (survival blanket, whistle, paper, pencil, high energy snack food)
- Safety equipment relevant to the track and time of year (e.g. map, compass)
- Drink bottle (1-2 litre capacity)
- Eating and cooking utensils (knife, fork, spoon, plate, cup, pot/pan/billy, cleaning kit, tea towel)
- Matches or lighter in waterproof container
- Torch/flashlight and spare batteries
- Rubbish bag
- Tickets and ID
- Portable stove and fuel
- Toilet paper
If you’re camping
- Sleeping mat
- Ear plugs for communual bunkrooms
- For multi-day walking you’ll need at least one set of clothes to walk in and another dry set to change into at night
- Tramping/hiking boots or firm footwear (should be comfortable and well broken in)
- Socks (wool or polypropylene)
- Shorts (quick dry material)
- Shirt (wool or polypropylene)
- Under layers, top and bottom (wool or polypropylene)
- Mid-layers (wool or polar fleece)
- Raincoat (waterproof, windproof with hood)
- Overtrousers (wind and water proof)
- Warm hat and gloves
- Sunhat and sunglasses
- Extra socks, underwear, shirt/lightweight jersey
Be Aware of the Weather!!
New Zealand’s weather can be highly unpredictable.
Check the forecast and expect weather changes. The New Zealand Met Service offers detailed weather forecasts and warnings around the country.
Also check for avalanche alerts as they can occur in any season. The New Zealand Avalanche Advisory is provided for anyone planning on travelling in the New Zealand backcountry Alpine areas.
Take Advice from Locals in the Know
Local guides and Department of Conservation staff can offer crucial information on current weather and track conditions. Visitors who choose to ignore the advice of local experts often require assistance from Search and Rescue officials.
Check out Safe Tips for hiking in New Zealand for more information
Make sure you have enough food, clothing, equipment and emergency rations for the worst-case scenario. Take an appropriate means of communication.
Bring food that is lightweight, fast cooking and high in energy value. For example:
- Breakfast: cereal/porridge/oats, firm bread, honeyor other spreads
- Lunch: cracker biscuits, cheese, salami, jam/jelly, fruit
- Dinner: instant soup, pasta or rice, dried vegetables or fruit, cheese or dehydrated (freeze-dried) meals.
You’ll also need water, snacks, biscuits, muesli bars, tea or coffee, powdered fruit drinks and emergency food in case of any delays on the track.
Don’t expect to be able to buy food along the way unless you know food is available.
In New Zealand water is less of an issue than it is in Australia. All huts on the Great Walks have water. In winter the water is turned off at the huts in case of freezing temperatures.
If you become lost
If you become lost, the best thing to do is to stay in one place; that way you will increase your chances of being rescued sooner. It is easy to get lost in New Zealand as thick fog can roll in quickly even on a day that starts out looking very sunny and clear. New Zealand is known as the land of the long white cloud after all.
To make you easier to find
Leave your detailed trip intentions with a trusted contact. Be sure to let them know when you return.
Leave notes in hut books, even if you do not stay in the hut.
If you are travelling away from common tracks, consider mountain radios and personal locator beacons.
Take appropriate clothing, equipment and maps.
Use your communications device to tell local authorities you’re lost.
Then set up a camp and keep yourself warm. You can move your body to keep warm, but stay in one place.
To go on a Great Walk in New Zealand you need to:
- Book transport to and from your chosen hike. Take a look at the DOC websites to find the best advice. To keep your extra luggage secure, use hostels’ luggage storage for a small fee. Also, remember to book your next night in the hostel after your Great Walk!
- Book accommodation at the huts during the hike. Look out for the booking opening time as the popular hikes like Milford Sound can book out very quickly. Book through the Department Of Conservation (DoC) Website
- Pack the right equipment. (what gear should I take)
- Pack the right food. (what food should I take)
- Pack the right clothes. Remember New Zealand has 4 seasons in one day and lots of layers is a good idea as well as wet weather gear, swimming togs and a towel!