New Zealand 2009
Trip Planning and Gear List
Planning a trip of this length is no minor task, unless it is run by some type of tour company that does the planning or is to be an “unplanned trip,” which really means that the planning is done during the trip. Using a tour company tends to be more expensive and far less flexible. And planning during the trip takes some time away from the trip and works better when you have your own transportation, which can increase the costs of the trip also. We used a hybrid approach, where some of the trip was planned in advance, and some went mostly unplanned. The unplanned part mostly consisted of the two weeks we had the campervan, where we indeed did have our own transportation and had a bed to sleep in since we were driving it! Other periods in the trip were mostly planned, although activities were generally either booked a few days ahead or not booked at all, depending on the activity.
For January, the huts on the three popular “great walks” (Milford, Kepler, and Routeburn) were booked way in advance, back in July 2008. The Milford needed to be booked in July to get my first choice of dates (although if you don’t, you can hope for a cancellation later), and I booked the Kepler and Routeburn at the same time although they didn’t fill until much closer to the hiking dates in question. All of my accommodations between tracks were also booked ahead, especially the single rooms since most hostels don’t have very many of these (if any). Most of the transportation was booked ahead also, although I don’t think this was required, as empty seats were generally available. The sea kayaking trip on Milford Sound was booked on-trip four days ahead, and the Paterson Inlet cruise on Stewart Island was booked only the day before.
For February, hotels and hostels were booked before leaving home. The campervan was also booked, as those can get popular during the summertime. None of the holiday parks we stayed at in the campervan were booked more than a day or two ahead (some of them didn’t even take bookings), and even that wasn’t really necessary. Some activities were booked ahead depending on the popularity of the activity. The dolphin encounter and Doubtful Sound sea kayaking trip were booked farthest ahead, but both were booked while on the trip. The train was booked ahead also, slightly lower rates were available for doing so but it probably wasn’t necessary to book ahead. And lastly, obviously the flights were all booked ahead, especially the international flights.
Between the overnight tracks, I stayed in towns and had “chores” to do. This consisted mostly of “cleaning up” from the last hike and preparing for the next one. I did laundry between each track, the hostels all have laundry facilities for this. I also needed to get any required tickets or permits for the next track’s transportation and huts as well as buy groceries for the next track. Te Anau and Queenstown have large supermarkets that sell a variety of food suitable for tramping. The only issue was Glenorchy, which I stayed at between the Routeburn/Caples and Rees-Dart Tracks. Glenorchy is a small town with not much selection of tramping food. So I double-stocked in Queenstown before starting the Routeburn, and left a bag of food for the Rees-Dart with the Glenorchy Holiday Park where I was planning to stay between tracks. This worked out well.
I only took some of my gear that I brought to NZ on the tracks with me. The other stuff (battery chargers, cotton clothing, supplies of toiletries, etc.) was left behind in a hostel. Most hostels have facilities for this, either separate lockers or a storage room. Some charge for the privilege and some do not, at least if you’re staying there before and after the track. This worked out quite well for me.
I also needed to phone home in the towns to check in. I had a BBH (budget backpacker’s hostel) discount card that got me discounts in hostels as well as having a cheap phone card (I didn’t take a cell phone to NZ). But in order to use it, you needed to make a local call. Using pay phones, the local call to access the calling card generally cost more than the international call! There was one hostel, however, that had a phone that allowed free calls to the access number.
Internet access was widely available, all of the hostels had computers for this, and internet cafes in town were also an option. I didn’t carry my own laptop, not wanting to have another item to haul around with me. But I noticed that wireless internet often would have cost almost as much as access using a provided computer. Internet was useful for checking email as well as booking activities and paying bills. I also backed up my camera’s memory cards onto a USB stick several times, as some computers allowed use of the USB ports (many did not).
And of course, the towns were a great place to eat at a restaurant and get some non-trail food!
My objective on gear was to travel reasonably lightly so I could manage my own luggage in January. I used a large duffel bag to contain my backpack and other gear. This duffel was checked on all flights. I also had a small, rolling duffel that I carried on to the international flights but checked on the short domestic flight between Christchurch and Wellington. The small duffel had my boots, and the electronic and fragile items (binoculars, camera, etc.) that I didn’t want to check. I moved some of these items to a small pack I bought at Franz Josef for the domestic flight and carried that on. Lastly, I had a “fanny pack” which doubled as a day pack for tramping and as a carry-on for planes, busses, and trains that carried the things I wanted to keep with me. The large duffel weighed in at around 26 pounds, the small duffel at 16, and the day pack at 3, for a total of around 45 pounds. For tramping, my pack plus all of the gear without food or water (base weight) was around 26 pounds (the gear I carried on each track varied slightly). I tried to aim for around 2 pounds of food per day.
Paperwork – including itinerary, confirmations, tickets, travel insurance documents, phone number/email/website lists, and checklists.
Passport and copy
Maps and Guidebooks – I only had overall maps of NZ when I left home, I bought the topo maps and track brochures in NZ. I used the Lonely Planet New Zealand and Tramping in New Zealand books.
Notebooks – a large notebook for note taking and a smaller one for carrying on tramps, and a pen (these are the old-fashioned paper notebooks, not computers)
Cameras and accessories – I took both my Nikon Coolpix 5400 camera for most pictures and a Sealife underwater camera for swimming, kayaking, and rainy days. I carried both cameras on all of the tracks. Also had a mini tripod (ultrapod).
Book – I took a single reading book on the trip. As of two months after getting home, I still haven’t finished it.
Music Players – I took two small Sandisk mp3 players and a pair of earbuds. One of the players was loaded with music, the other with audio books. I listened to the music in the evening in the huts. I didn’t listen to the audio books much. I also had a pair of noise-canceling headphones for use on the airplanes (didn’t carry these on tracks).
Batteries – I had spare batteries and rechargeable NiMH batteries for the music players, headlamp, and cameras. A charger for AA/AAA batteries and a charger for my Nikon’s special Li-ion batteries also traveled with me. (Not on the tracks though, of course. The huts don’t have electricity, other than some that have solar to power a few lights in the kitchen.) Both chargers could handle the 220 volts that New Zealand has. I also had a converter plug.
USB Stick and Cables – 8GB USB stick for use when I was able to get online, and USB cables for the cameras. I used the USB stick to back up pictures from the cameras.
Ear Plugs – very light but very important! I wore these frequently in the huts and hostels while sleeping.
Clothes Line – a stretchy clothes line that could be hung up in the hostels. I used it to dry my hiking clothes that I don’t like to put in the dryer. Some hostels had outdoor clothes lines, which were good if it wasn’t raining!
Toiletries – the standard things. Sunblock and insect repellant are also important. I found that I used lip balm (Carmex) much less than at home, probably due to the humidity.
Drugs – I brought a sleep aid in case of issues in the huts or on the red-eye flights. Also had some meclizine for motion sickness, took one before the boat trip to and from Stewart Island, and before the Dolphin Encounter in Kaikoura. Also had some ibuprofen which I used a couple of times.
Mainly for Tramping:
Backpack – Osprey Aether 60
Pack Cover – I used this when it was raining. I also bought a large yellow plastic pack liner, sold in the National Park visitor centers, which gives extra protection for those rainy days.
Day Pack – this was a simple “fanny pack,” Jansport brand. I had water bottle holders with belt loops for when I needed to carry water.
Sleeping Bag – Feathered Friends Swallow down bag, rated at 20 degrees F. This was plenty of warmth; I used it as a blanket unzipped every night. I wish I would have had a sheet for the mattresses in the huts. The mattresses have vinyl covering and you tend to stick to them when it gets a little warm.
Sleeping Pad – I carried a ¾ length ridgerest pad just in case the bunks were full and I had to sleep on the floor. I never once used it, although I carried it on the tracks that didn’t take bookings.
Pillow – a small, packable, Thermarest pillow for the huts.
Stuff Sacks – I used one stuff sack for my food, and carried food to eat during the day in a zip lock bag. Other stuff sacks were used to organize some of the small gear.
Towels – a large towel for use in the hostels (most do not provide towels) and a small backpacking towel for the tracks.
Trekking Pole – I carry one pole while backpacking
Essentials – first aid kit, compass, Swiss army knife, whistle, aqua mira for water purification (I used it only a couple of times—the huts have good water for the most part although one had signs posted that the water should be treated). Eyeglasses and sunglasses.
Water Bottles – I like my Nalgene bottles, many others were re-using bottles from other drinks.
Cook Pot and Spoon – I cook simple things while backpacking, only have a 0.9 liter titanium cook pot and a lexan spoon.
Stove – MSR Pocket Rocket stove, carried only on some of the tramps (as some have stoves in the huts for you to use). Bought a fuel cannister in Te Anau on arrival.
Pants – one pair of nylon pants for travel and somewhat “dressy” occasions, two pair of convertible long/short nylon pants. Swim suit, used for kayaking and dolphin swimming.
Shirts – polyester t-shirts for hiking, long sleeved nylon shirt (never wore this one except when doing laundry once), cotton t-shirts and one polo shirt for in towns and travel.
Socks and Underwear – synthetic for hiking, cotton for in towns and travel.
Fleece Jacket and Pants – the jacket was my only “warm” jacket, worn once in a while. I seldomly wore the fleece pants.
Rain Jacket and Pants – used for rain and wind protection, very important in New Zealand! Mine were Goretex.
Hats – wide brimmed sun/rain hat (Tilley), and a knit hat for warmth. I also frequently use a headband under the Tilley hat to absorb sweat and keep it from dripping on my glasses.
Gloves – fleece gloves, worn a few times on high passes.
Bug Netting – a screen that goes over your head—used at the end of the Rees-Dart track to keep sandflies off.
Sandals – one of the pairs with a toe-in, these and my hiking boots were the only footwear I took. These can be used as more like shoes (worn with socks) for in towns and travel, and can be used without socks as sandals. Very versatile! I even used them to cross rivers on the Rees-Dart Track.
Hiking Boots – I used full leather Asolo hiking boots. These are waterproof and durable.
Gaiters – I wore gaiters much of the time while tramping, helps keep the water, mud, and small stones out of boots.
Goretex Socks – I experienced these in Alaska. When your boots get wet inside due to river crossing or heavy rain, these can keep your feet dry. Wear them on top of your other socks, keeps the wetness from the boots getting your socks wet. I only used them a couple of times in NZ.
Bought in NZ– stove fuel cannister, matches, hiking maps, pack liner, and of course food!