about New Zealand : Hiking FAQ

Hiking FAQ

What is tramping?
It's what we call hiking here in New Zealand. It basically involves walking around 5 hours a day on tracks, usually staying at public huts.

What is DoC?
DoC (pronounced as DOCtor) is a acronym for the Department of Conservation. DoC manages all the National and Forest parks.

Do I have to pay to go hiking?
All you need to pay for is hut tickets.

Do I have to book?
The Department of Conservations Great Walks are the only tracks (huts) that need to be booked (excluding private walks).

What's the deal with private walks?
I don't know, never done one and never will. Why bother paying to walk on someones land when there are 100's of public tracks in New Zealand. Quite often they involve walking on farm land and regenerating native bush.

Do I need a tent?
On the more busy tracks bringing along a tent may be a good idea. But generally I never bring one with me as the hut system is brilliant and hiking as light as possible will make the experience much more enjoyable.

Are the National Parks open all year round?
Yes they are. But make sure you are well equipped if tramping in winter. You may need to be able to use a ice axe and crampons if going over passes.

Are there any hikes I can do in winter?
Sure, there are a number of valley tramps on both islands that get little or no snow. You could just walk to the first or second hut on tramps like the Heaphy, Routeburn or Milford. The Abel Tasman Coastal Track can be done all year round as can the Rakiura track on Stewart Island. Tramps I have done in winter - Greenstone, Caples (Aspiring National Park), Edwards Valley (Arthur's Pass), Lake Daniels and St James (Lewis Pass), Kirwans Track (Victoria Forest Park) and parts of the Wangapeka (Kahurangi National Park).

Are there any deadly animals in the bush?
New Zealand has no bears, snakes, crocodiles or anything else that considers us food. In fact before man arrived in New Zealand the only native land mammals we had were a few species of bats. We do have one poisonous spider, the katipo can be found under logs at the beach. I have never heard of anyone dying from a bite and very few people have actually seen one.

Wow sounds a breeze, nothing to worry about then? It's a sad but true fact that people die tramping in New Zealand with the most common cause being drowning. The rivers and streams can rise very rapidly in NZ and in a couple of hours a pristine mountain stream can turn into raging torrent. Never cross a swollen river. Never. Put missing your bus, plane or whatever down to part of the adventure.

Another cause of death is getting lost (usually exposure), people frequently get lost in the bush. If you find yourself lost don't panic, running around like a headless chicken will only get you further in trouble. Just stay put, compose yourself and set up shelter.

Always remember to leave your intentions with a friend or family member and to sign your name in the intentions book at each DoC hut you visit, this may save your life!

"Searchers say the body found in the Fox River in Paparoa National Park, on the South Island's West Coast, is believed to be the Japanese tourist who was missing in the area."

"Searchers have found the body of a German tourist swept away while trying to cross a flooded creek in Fiordland yesterday. The 23-year-old German woman and her male Canadian tramping companion had tried to cross Mistake Creek at about 1pm" NZ Herald

"A female Israeli tramper was found lying seriously injured today after falling 20m over a waterfall while walking the Milford Track."

"The body of a missing English tramper has been found in Mt Aspiring National Park."

"Two trampers who died in Tararua Forest Park were just 900 metres away from their intended destination when they collapsed. Police believe the pair were not prepared for the bad weather they encountered."

Do I need a map and compass?
On the very busy tracks you will get by without either. But if you are doing a less used tramp you should bring along at least a topo map. Check at the local DoC office for track conditions.

All the great walks are so busy... any recommendations on a less used tramp?
On the majority of tracks you may only see a couple of people a day, if that. The busy tracks like the Great Walks are only a tiny fraction of the number of tracks in New Zealand. If you are well-equipped and experienced in navigational skills you could make your own way but don't forget to hire a mountain radio.

What about long hikes?
The longest hike I have done and the largest single track in New Zealand is the Stewart Island North West Circuit. You could however combine different tracks. Have a look at Te Araroa - The Long Pathway which combines multiple tracks and is 3000km long.

What gear do I need?
Footwear: A good pair of sturdy boots is a must as New Zealand tracks are generally on the rough side.
Waterproofs: A good waterproof jacket is important, preferably a breathable seam-sealed type. Waterproof pants are a bonus, if you don't have any just wear shorts if it is raining.
Sleeping Bag: You need to bring your own sleeping bag. Down bags are the best as they pack lighter but take forever to dry if they get wet.
Pack: As long as it is comfortable. Make sure you also pick yourself up a pack-liner, these large plastic bags can be purchased from most outdoor stores and DOC offices. As well as keeping your gear dry they can also be used to build a makeshift shelter if you happen to get lost.
Warm Clothes: It can snow at anytime of the year up in the mountains. Make sure you have a good pile type jacket, woollen hat and gloves, polypropylenes/long johns and woollen socks.
Cooking Gear: Although some huts have gas cookers you will need to bring your own portable cooker.
Food: Stick to lightweight but high energy foods. Oats, dried fruit and nuts, pasta, chocolate etc. I usually bring along a packet of "pasta and sauce" for each night and add a little more pasta, cheese and bacon to it.
First Aid Kit: Bring along some of the basics between you. Insect repellent, bandages, plasters, aspirins, burn cream.

Is the water ok to drink?
Unfortunately giardia is getting increasingly more common in New Zealand especially on the more busy tracks. DOC have warning signs where giardia may be present.

Take only photographs, leave only footprints