In New Zealand, heading off into the wilderness with a backpack and boots on is called tramping. In the States and Canada its hiking, and in Britain its rambling. No matter what you call it, spending time tramping and camping in remote areas should never be taken lightly.
If you are planning a trip anywhere in the World, here’s a gear list the Moa Hunters recommend you take, regardless of the season and weather forecast.
Intentions and Weather
Before you set foot on the track, you must leave a record of your intentions: where you are going and for how long. In New Zealand the expectation is you would leave these with family and/or close friends. If you are visiting New Zealand, the Department of Conservation AdventureSmart website has an online intention recording system. If you use huts on your trip, sign in on the visitor book and note your intended route if plans have changed.
Check the weather forecast before you leave. Have alternative routes pre-planned should the weather close in while you are away.
Backpack and liner
Always check your backpack is in sound condition before you leave the house. In particular check the main shoulder straps, zips and waist belt.
A pack liner is a large tough plastic bag which fits inside the main compartment of your pack and protects everything inside it from the elements. Stuffing all your gear into the pack liner ensures it stays dry even in a worst weather, or more importantly, if you fall making a river crossing.
Obviously you need a decent pair of boots. The more rugged the terrain you are going to tackle, the more rugged your boots need to be. Above all, make sure they have good ankle support and fit snugly. Having spare shoelaces with you isn’t a bad idea.
If you are worried about blisters, apply sports strapping tape before you start walking. Stick it anywhere you think a blister could form. Prevention is better than cure!
While not essential, having a pair of lightweight shoes in your pack is handy. You get to put your feet into warm dry footwear at the end of the day. You also have a second option should a boot unexpectedly and catastrophically fail you.
Wearing gaiters will protect your lower legs from sharp grasses and branches. They also prevent shingle getting into your boots during river crossings or while on scree.
Wet Weather Gear
If you are heading out for any length of time, keeping your upper body warm and dry is vital. Your jacket must be waterproof and must protect your trunk from the elements. Wearing a cap under the hood when it is raining works well. The hood keeps your head dry and the peak of the cap keeps the rain off your face. If you are tramping in winter, you might consider waterproof over-trousers.
When packing clothes, plan for the worst case scenario.
Ensure you have a full change of clothes and plenty of layers. Polypropylene thermals are excellent for wearing while walking. Even when wet they keep you warm and retain their thermal properties quite well. Woolen thermals such as merino provide more warmth, and are great in the hut or tent when you are dry, but not so good if there is a risk of getting wet. Polar-fleece is an excellent top layer that dries quickly, and works well even when wet.
For more information on base layers and fabric choice, check out our Base Layers post.
Avoid large bulky items if you can. Taking plenty of lighter layers gives you more options for staying warm in all conditions.
Don’t forget your head and hands. Always pack a wool or polar-fleece beanie for your head and some warm mittens or gloves for your hands.
Don’t leave home without a personal locator beacon (PLB). In New Zealand they can be hired from the Department of Conservation for a modest cost. We repeat, don’t leave home with out one – it is a vital piece of kit! Weather conditions change unexpectedly and rapidly. Accidents can happen.
Carry a comprehensive first aid kit.
Emergency thermal blankets are lightweight and take up very little space in your backpack.
Even if you plan on sleeping in huts, carry a nylon tent fly. If you don’t make a hut, you will need some form of shelter overnight.
Don’t rely on guesswork or a well marked track. Always take a good topographic map of the area and an orienteering style compass. Make sure someone in your group knows how to use them.
They need to be able to locate your position on the map, take bearings to significant features on the map, and to features around you.
Carrying a GPS is useful, but don’t be 100% reliant on it.
Always take extra food. If the weather turns grim, you may be on (or off!) the track for several days longer than anticipated. When planning your food, factor in at least an extra days rations.
Take lightweight freeze-dry packs for main meals, and high energy foods (nuts, chocolate, salami etc) for lunches and snacks.
In no particular order, you will also need the following:
- sleeping bag
- sleeping bedroll (inflatable most comfortable, foam rubber most durable)
- gas or white spirit cooker
- matches or lighter
- long rope or cord
- plate, cup, cutlery, dish-washing gear
- torch and headlamp
- insect repellent
- water bottle, water purification tablets
- toilet roll
- sewing kit
- mobile phone (maybe!)
- whisky (definitely!)