Hump Ridge Track, Fiordland, photo credit Tareen Ellis

What to pack for a New Zealand day hike?

28 Aug 2017

No one wants to carry a heavy load of gear on a day hike. But don’t skimp on or forget these essentials – this list will make you heaps more comfortable when exploring NZ’s Great Outdoors.

1. A small but well-fitting backpack

Size it carefully so it fits everything you need to carry, but is not too big! You don’t want to carry too much weight that it is uncomfortable.  Placing a waterproof liner inside the bag is essential as weather is changeable, and it is not always blue skies.

2. Comfortable hiking boots or shoes

Again, choose wisely. Traditional hiking boots have ankle support (ideal for uneven terrain) and are typically slightly more waterproof. You can also get hiking shoes that are not as a heavy. These would be fine if your planned New Zealand day hike doesn’t involve rough terrain and you are sticking to the Great Walk network of tracks, such as the Tongariro, Routeburn, Milford and Kepler. Whatever pair of hiking boots or shoes you choose make sure they are comfortable and worn in – you don’t want sore feet on holiday!

3. Wet weather clothes

From blue skies to a sudden downpour, it can all change in the matter of hours in the New Zealand outdoors. A quality, breathable, rain jacket – definitely not a flimsy poncho – is a must when you’re tramping. Investing in a pair of overtrousers for those who prefer staying dry is suggested as well (but not essential), as these will also help keep you warm if the weather is unfavourable.

4. Warm clothes

In New Zealand you can see four seasons in one day. So it is important to cater for all types of weather by carrying a windproof fleece jacket for warmth, even if you’re hiking in summer. Also pack in a warm hat and gloves, just in case.

Wear non-cotton based, quick dry clothing materials as under layers – merino is a good local material.

5. First-aid kit

If you’re planning an independent New Zealand day hike, carry basic first-aid essentials as most New Zealand trails are isolated. Kit essentials include antiseptic wipes, a variety of bandages and sticking plasters, blister treatments, anti-inflammatories and anti-allergy, tweezers and oral rehydration slats. Carry the kit in a backpack pocket, or near the top of your pack, for quick access.

If you’re on a guided day walk your guide will be carrying basic first aid essentials for the whole group and is trained in first aid.  But make sure you have any personal medicine that could be required and let them know about any medical conditions which could impact on your day.

A swingbridge on the Kepler Track. Photo thanks to P Dalley

6. Bug spray

Sandflies and mosquitoes can be plentiful in New Zealand. In the West Coast and Fiordland, sandflies are almost legendary. It’s unlikely that you won’t encounter these pesky creatures on a New Zealand day hike, particularly if you are around water. The best way to avoid letting them make a feast of you is by being covered (think long sleeves) and armed with a good insect repellent to cover exposed skin. If you are sensitive to bites, carry anti-allergy medication.

7. Map and compass

If you don’t have a guide to show you the way (although we highly recommend this option!), make sure to carry a map of the trail you’re hiking. These can typically be obtained through the Department of Conservation (DOC) offices or the i-Site (visitor centre). A map can be invaluable if you get lost, along with a compass (make sure you know how to use it). Mobile signals are non-existent around the Fiordland area so you cannot rely on them to guide you.

8. Head torch

Even on a day walk it's worth carrying a head torch in case of delays that keep you on the trail after sunset.

9. Sunscreen, sunhat/cap and sunglasses

Just 15 minutes in the New Zealand summer sun can cook you. Temperatures can be low but the ultra-violet rays are vicious due to the hole in the ozone layer. Wear a hat, sunglasses and a high SPF sunscreen.

10. Camera and spare memory cards

Whichever New Zealand day hike you choose, you can be sure that there will be endless photo opportunities. Make sure to carry your camera and gear, including a big memory card/s to capture these stunning vistas.

11. Dry bags

These can be a lifesaver if you’re caught out in the rain. They’re ideal to store your precious camera and phone or store the wet clothes in after the shower has passed.

12. Food

The best kind of food is high calorie light weight food to fuel your body like nuts, dried fruit etc. Always take chocolate as for a pick-me-up– a hiker’s secret! 

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