Plan Your New Zealand Great Walk
The New Zealand Great Walks are pretty great, but as a full-on hiking trip lasting 3-6 days, there needs to be a bit of preparation involved. Make sure you can get to the walking track and back, use the right equipment, and pack the right things. That way your Great Walk can go smoothly, having peace of mind while enjoying the epic New Zealand scenery! So with all that in mind, we have put together this guide on how to prepare for a Great Walk in New Zealand.
There’s not a lot that can harm you in New Zealand, but the weather just might so that’s why it’s essential to be well prepared for any multi-day hike in New Zealand.
Another great resource is the Outdoor Safety Code with five simple steps to staying safe on your next adventure.
What You Need to Plan for a Great Walk
This guide will go through stages of preparation, so you can enjoy your Great Walk knowing you are super organised. Remember you need to:
- Book transport
- Book accommodation
- Pack the right equipment
- Pack the right food
- Pack the right clothes.
Book Transport for a Great Walk
You need to plan how you are getting to and from the Great Walk. The majority of the walks are linear, meaning the track ends in a different location to where it starts.
Either organise someone to pick you up from the end of your hike, or book one of the shuttle services, which can take you to the car park where you started the walk. All towns near the New Zealand Great Walks have transport services to and from the hiking trails.
To keep your extra luggage secure, use hostels’ luggage storage for a small fee (or sometimes free). Also, remember to book your next night at the hostel after your Great Walk!
The Abel Tasman, Milford Track and Whanganui Journey have parts of the walks on the water. This means you might need to book a kayak or water taxi in Abel Tasman, a boat cruise or kayak to travel up Milford Sound, or a canoe or kayak to take on the Whanganui Journey.
Book Great Walk Accommodation
Accommodation on the Great Walks comes in the form of backcountry huts and campsites, ran and maintained by the Department of Conservation (DoC). That’s why you book accommodation through the DoC website. Make sure to book your accommodation well in advance, especially if you plan to do your Great Walk during the peak season (October-April).
For more information on accommodation and their facilities, view: Guide to the 9 Great Walks of New Zealand.
What Equipment to Pack for a Great Walk
If You are Camping…
… you’ll need your tent, sleeping mat and sleeping bag.
Whether your tent is old or new, make sure it is prepared to survive a downpour. A new tent will be waterproof but sealing the seams will make sure water doesn’t find a way in.
If your tent has seen many backpacking trips, you can reproof tent material with wash-in waterproofing liquid, which you can usually buy from outdoors stores.
For tips on where to get cheap outdoor gear, check out Where to Buy Camping and Hiking Gear in New Zealand?
For Those Staying in a Hut…
… you will need your own sleeping bag. We also recommend taking some earplugs as those huts can get pretty noisy with the snoring.
Other Essentials to Pack
- A good quality 50-60 litre backpack check out: How to Choose a Good Backpack so you can choose a comfortable backpack with a waterproof liner
- Camping cooking utensils pot, pocket knife, fork and spoon
- Portable stove if you’re camping or the huts don’t have cooking facilities. A light-weight butane gas burner will suffice
- Lighter or matches in a waterproof container or bag
- Map and compass
- Rubbish bags – you must take all your rubbish from the national park.
- Camera – fully charged!
- You can bring your phone, but network coverage tends to be poor to nothing when in remote areas
- First aid kit including painkillers, hayfever tablets, bandage, strapping tape, plasters, sunscreen and insect repellent. This can include toiletries too. Remember wet wipes so you can have at least a bit of a wash.
What Food to Bring
Make a plan of what you intend to eat each day so you don’t end up making extra weight in your backpack with the food you aren’t going to eat or not taking enough food!
Make sure you drink plenty of water on your hike. Take a large water bottle to refill along the way. DoC huts have water and mountain streams tend to have clean water. If you doubt the water’s purity, make sure to boil it first.
Muesli and/or porridge with powdered milk mixed in boiling water. Add a bit of jam or dried fruit for taste.
- Flatbread sturdy bread, which doesn’t take too much space. Eat with some humous, cheese and chorizo
- Halloumi cheese – it is a firm cheese, perfect to stick in your backpack
- Chorizo ready-to-eat meat
- Tinned tuna stick with some pasta
- Dried pasta stock up on the carbs
- Sun-dried tomatoes add a bit of flavour.
- Muesli bars
- Jelly beans a quick energy booster
- Emergency tea and coffee (if you need such things).
What Clothes to Take on a Great Walk
- Hiking boots due to the varying conditions on the walks, make sure your boots are waterproofed and have been worn in
- Thermals – a couple of pairs of thermal tops are an essential base layer for warmth yet breathability
- Quick-dry shorts and pant-shorts will feel more comfortable for hiking through the day. You can bring thermal leggings to wear underneath shorts for warmth. Alternatively, bring lightweight breathable pants. Bring some warmer pants for the mornings, evenings and sleeping in
- Waterproof coat/jacket for the ever-changing weather
- Warm sweater
- Togs (swimwear) and travel towel if you are planning on taking a dip (Abel Tasman, for example)
- Hat, scarf and gloves if you are going into cold conditions
- Hat or sunhat if the sun beats down on your head
- Gaiters if you are hardcore
- Underwear and socks!