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Tramping in a New Zealand Winter

Last year, from June – December 2016, my sister had the opportunity to study abroad in New Zealand. Summer for us was winter for her in a new, unexplored place. She went on many tramping trips and shared her New Zealand experiences with us! Let’s see what she has to say.

  1. What is tramping?

Tramping is similar to hiking, however tramps are typically multi-day and often include huts at regular intervals for trail walkers to use overnight. The New Zealand hut system is extensive with over 950 huts of all shapes and sizes managed by the Department of Conservation, which all kiwis refer to as D.O.C

Sam Summers Hut on the Mt. Crichton Loop Track. The smallest and oldest hut, which slept only four people.

Routeburn Falls Hut on the Routeburn Track. Located in Fiordland National Park

2. Where in New Zealand did you go tramping?

New Zealand is comprised of a Northern and Southern Island. During my time in New Zealand I studied in Dunedin, which is located on the South Island. Queenstown, Wanaka, Milford Sound and Te Anau are a few of the beautiful places I was fortunate enough to tramp.

  1. Which spot was your favorite?

My favorite tramping trip in New Zealand was the Copland track. The track was 18 kilometers, which took about 6 hours of walking and snacking to reach the hut. The hut itself had an actual toilet. Literally FLUSHING! It is pretty impressive that they got plumbing into the middle of wild New Zealand bush. Believe it or not, the toilet situation was not the best part of the track. There were natural hot springs! It was fantastic to soak in a hot pool after six hours of walking! But there was a catch to the hot springs, they were filled with a lethal amoeba that would kill you within 10 days. Not to fear! No one got hurt by the springs.

  1. Did you go on overnight trips and day trips? Did you have a preference?

I went on a mix of overnight and day hikes. The longest hike I went on was the Kepler track. Located near Te Anau, the Kepler track was 60km, and I completed the trail in three days and two nights. My favorite day hike was the Pineapple track located in Dunedin where I was studying. I love both overnight and day tramps. However, I don’t think that I could last much longer than three nights in a hut.

View from the Kepler Track.

  1. What hiking essentials did you bring in your pack?

When packing, the idea was to bring as little as possible. When walking for kilometers, you can easily regret packing a third set of socks. I would typically pack a single set of walking clothes. Yes, I would walk in the same smelling clothing for two days. In addition to walking clothes, I would bring a pair of dry clothes to wear while hanging out in the hut. This outfit consisted of fleeces, flannels, wool leggings, and a dry pair of socks! I also packed food, toiletries, a sleeping bag, sleeping mat, wool beanie, and a pair of hut shoes. I learned how to live minimally, and I loved it!

  1. What did you wear since it was during New Zealand’s winter?

WOOL, WOOL, WOOL! The answer to the cold in New Zealand is wool. They have twelve sheep to every 1 person, so it is safe to say that there is no shortage. Besides the surplus, wool is an amazing material. It is sustainable, keeps you warm even when it gets wet, and is flame resistant. Depending on the predicted temperature, I wore one or two layers of athletic/wool pants. On the top, I would wear a long sleeve wool shirt, an athletic shirt, a fleece top, and a raincoat. My rain coat was probably the most important piece of my entire outfit. Rain in New Zealand is unpredictable and unforgiving. Wool socks and hiking books were enough to keep my feet warm.

  1. What was your favorite part about tramping in New Zealand?

Although many people would assume the best part is the view, for me it was something else. Don’t get me wrong, everything was beautiful, breath taking, and captivating. However, I enjoyed the silence and the isolation. In Southern California, there are always signs of human impact. When at home, I feel like I can’t escape the people, the buildings, and the noise. The New Zealand outback shows no sign of human interference. Everything you can see is untouched, pure nature. Everything you can hear is soft, and gentle. The sounds of the rustling bush and running rivers will forever ring true in my heart.

View of a natural waterfall on one of the tramping tracks.

  1. What hikes have you done in California?

I have not hiked nearly as much in California. In fact, I have never done an overnight hike. I have hiked Saddleback Mountain in Orange County a few times. I’ve also explored trails along the Orange County coast, but my experience in California is much less than New Zealand. I hope to keep branching out and exploring California. This weekend I will be exploring the Santa Cruz Mountains!

  1. How does hiking in the two different regions compare?

Besides the amazing views in New Zealand, there is an entirely different culture around the outdoors and hiking. A huge reason I hiked so much in New Zealand was because virtually everyone I met was into hiking and exploring the outdoors! At my university in California, not nearly as many people are in love with the outdoors. Surrounded by a passion to explore outside made hiking in New Zealand a unique and unforgettable experience.

  1. Overall thoughts? Would you recommend to a fellow hiker?

I would recommend that everyone who can go to New Zealand should! It is beautiful for more reasons than just the amazing hikes. But getting outside, hiking, and being active don’t require you to wait until you’re in a beautiful, foreign place. There is beauty and nature all around us so get out there and explore!

Milford Sound mountains.