Tramping in New Zealand for Dummies

Tramping in New Zealand Part 1

Tons of details for you hiking fans.

In previous posts, I have briefly covered some of the differences between hiking in the States vs. tramping in New Zealand, but I decided that a proper overview is in order.

Hut System

New Zealand has this fabulous network of backcountry huts that are all over the country. By staying in one of these, you do not have to carry a tent or a mat with you. Huts vary in terms of amenities and upkeep. For example, huts on the Great Walks are staffed by rangers, have water for cooking, flush toilets, gas cookers, huge lounges, and decent bunkrooms. There are more like lodges without showers. Contrast that with some of the more remote backcountry huts that may only have bunks provided.

Prince William Hut                                     Bungaree Hut
Raikura Track                                               Northwest Circuit

Bunk room                                                      Lounge
Routeburn Track

Official descriptions from the DOC

  • Walking Track
    • Gentle walking up to a day
    • The day hikes I did in Queenstown fall into this category.
  • Tramping Tracks
    • Great Walks/Easy tramping tracks
      • Moderate day hikes or multi-day tramping. Tracks are well formed, well-marked, and suitable for people with moderate fitness and limited backcountry skills.
      • These tramps are similar to what you would find in a U.S. National Park.
      • The Milford track, the Routeburn track, and the Rakiura track fall here.
      •  Many of these walks are very popular during the tramping season (November-April), and must be booked ahead of time. The really popular ones, like the Milford, book out months in advance.
    • Tramping track
      • Challenging multi-day hiking. More difficult than the Great Walks.
      • Trails can be very steep, rough, and muddy. The tracks have markers or poles. Suitable for people with moderate fitness and backcountry experience is required including navigation and survival skills.
      • The Northwest Circuit on Steward Island falls into this category.
  • Route
    • Very challenging multi-day tramping. Suitable for people with above average fitness. High level of backcountry skills and self-sufficiency required.
    • Tracks are unformed, muddy, steep, and may require the use of chains. These tramps have unabridged stream crossings.
    • The Cascade Saddle and the Dusky track fit here.

 My very biased definitions of the tramps.

  •  Walking Track
    • These are your typical dayhikes that most people with a reasonable fitness level can complete. These can last from an hour to a few hours. They make for good training hikes before tackling the multi-day tramps.
  •  Great Walks
    • Suitable for people of average fitness? I sense a bit of a disconnect in definitions here. The Milford track was no walk in the park. My group was very lucky in that it didn’t rain that much. Things would have really sucked had it rained like it normally does in Fiorland.
    • Well formed trails? Again, the Milford track defies this in that many sections were rocky and slippery. My feet were pretty sore for most of this trip.
    • Sandflies make things more difficult as you are trying to swat and walk at the same time.

Rocky trails
The Milford Track

Rocky areas
The Routeburn Track

  • Tramping Track
    • Moderate Fitness? Try super-duper fitness. The NW Circuit would be suitable for people who like obstacle courses like the Navy Seals. This tramp would make an excellent training ground, especially when it rains the mud can be waist deep. Not to mention the sandflies make things much more interesting.
    • Some of these trails would not be allowed in U.S. National Parks. Too much of a liability risk.

Sunsest, NW Circuit
The best part of this hike.

  • Route
    • I’m not even going to go there. For those of you that do, be prepared for a true wilderness experience.

 To be continued.

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