This post is the first in a five- part post that follows the Mountain Safety Council’s Outdoor Code.
1. Plan your trip
2. Tell someone your plans
3. Be aware of the weather
4. Know your limits
5. Take sufficient supplies
I’m starting with a what’s in my pack break down because some of the gear will apply to other posts I’ll make about topics 1-4.
Doing a long distance hike like the Te Araroa requires planning and research but also testing in the field when it comes to gear and equipment.
Luckily I have several summers of hiking in the Canadian Rockies but also have done a considerable amount of NZ tramping in all seasons to know a bit about what will work for me.
Gear is a very personal thing, and factors like budget, comfort , experience,weather and gear availability will affect your decisions.
I fit into the lightweight catagory but definately not ultra-lightweight, but I am happy with my set up which is a combination of gear I have already and am happy with alongside some new purchases.
As this is my first long distance /thru-hike I need to figure out what works for me on the trail when hiking day after day after day.
Gear is used as a system. You are going to hear me refer to systems now and then. Instead of each piece of gear being used as a standalone piece, it is important to know how it is used as part of a bigger system and multiple uses.
For example, a tent, sleeping bag and sleeping pad work together as a system. If you take one of them away, it decreases the warmth factor immensely. But , if I need more warmth, I can put on more clothes to get warmer.
Let’s start with what I’ll be carrying all my gear in – my backpack.
My backpack is an Osprey Talon 44l , mine is the small size and so it’s actually a sneaky 42l. Although this sounds tiny, it’s more than enough for all the gear I have plus food and water which will vary on the trail. When looking at getting a new backpack, I wanted to get one lighter than my current osprey, but that still had hip pockets and an bottom access.
I love this bag, and have used it for heaps of 3-4 day treks in Canada already. It has a fairly minimal harness system that I really like, and is simple with a main compartment and a top lid that can be removed or extended depending on how much gear. I also really like the front stretchy mesh pocket for rainwear/ snacks.
Alongside my bag is a heavy duty rubbish bag which I will use as my pack liner. I find it more efficient to rely on a decent liner than a pack cover for keeping my things dry .
On that note I will carry my pack cover – more so for visibility when walking on roads with traffic. This one is actually from another osprey pack that I own, so no need to get a new one.
Osprey Talon 44l Small 990g
Osprey pack cover 90g
Rubbish bag liner 70g
Next up my sleeping system including my sleeping bag and dry sack, tent and poles/pegs, and sleeping mat.
I have been using all of these for a while now and really enjoy my set up. My sleeping bag has seen over a hundred nights in the backcountry of Canada, and is my haven at the end of a long day. It was a big purchase for me, but with a bit of care it barely looks used.
It is a Western Mountaineering bag rated down to -7. Although I know that this will be too warm in part of the North Island, I sleep with it unzipped like a blanket. Also, it is the bag I already had and it is an amazing lightweight and squishable piece of gear.
Next up, sleeping mat [the yellow thing] is a thermarest neoair xlite medium size. It is synthetically insulated and after many comfortable nights this year it was definately making the list. Really warm, and as a side sleeper I find it comfortable as the mat is pretty high off the ground.
My tent is the MSR hubba NX1. I’m not taking a groundsheet at this stage but may pick up a tarp or something to go underneath it if it’s becoming an issue.
The MSR was an easy one for me. I had the 2man version and spent many many nights in it and when I saw the hubba on special I went for it.
For my kiwi friends reading this, gear in Canada was sometimes over 2 times cheaper than it is in NZ. I was lucky that I could pick up some great deals too.
This tent is lightweight but still sturdy enough in wind/rain and I’ve even woken up to snow in the Rockies on it. Its roomy for a one main tent and has a huge vestibule so that I can air out gear and prepare food in poor weather if necessary [Not in bear country anymore!]
MSR tent [without orig stuff sack] 1.2kg
Thermarest neoair reg 340g
Sleeping bag plus dry bag 900g
Did someone say food?
My cook set up is an area with some room for improvement weight wise but to be honest everything here was in great working condition, light enough, and tried and tested.
My stove is a canister stove a knock off of the MSR pocket rocket style. I have had it litrally about 10 years and it works a charm . Not pictured but I also carry a lighter.
Cookpot is 3 years old and has been with me since the birth of my hiking days in Australia , it’s a Macpac solo pot.
After breaking one too many plastic sporks I am now titanium for life and my sea to summit spoon has feed me many a great meal.
Who doesn’t love a good brew? A cup is a must so I have a cool carabiner one.
My Gerber knife can cut cheese, make firewood, and is just a handy dandy tool all around. And I got it for free, bonus!
I use a platypus 2l hydration bladder and a generic drinkbottle or two. Not pictured here I also have a Sawyer mini water filter that screws to the top of a water bottle , and I carry purification tabs too.
Macpac pot set & bag 260g
Clothing was really hard for me because I have hiked in such a range of different environments and being in NZ it is normal to get really soaking wet in the rain and from doing loads of water crossings.
I will be wearing some black running shorts and a black merino teeshirt. My boots are salomens and were a good cross for me between heavier sturdy boots and trail runners which a lot of long distance hikers wear.
I’ll take my gaiters and wear them for the first part of my hike, and then decide whether I keep them or get smaller ones that just cover my ankles.
I’ll also be hiking with trekking poles which I was not sold on until I gave them a go in Canada, and now I love them. My bag has a handy bungee attachment that I can whip them away when I don’t need them for a while.
My packed clothes are as below
A merino long sleeve top and thermal bottoms for sleeping/colder weather. [210g + 100g]
Merino socks, gloves, beanie. [150g]
Rain gear – I have the Marmot precip jacket and pants , [260g + 160g]
Lightweight micro fleece for walking /warm when wet [240g]
Lightweight macpac uberdown jacket [260g]
Although this is quite a lot of clothes I feel like I am prepared for all NZ weather conditions. Its important to note that NZ has a pretty unique weather scene and conditions can and will change extremely quickly.
I have in the past used a much sturdier gortex rain jacket from Macpac but for now I’m going to try the Marmot as it’s a little more lightweight , breathable with pitzips and waterproof enough in this warmer, humid weather. I have the other jacket that can get sent to me if required.
A few comments on the clothes – rain pants were something I wasn’t sure about as in the rain I will be wearing my shorts,and gaiters and probably my thermals because of crossing rivers etc. But they would be really useful in crazy wind or colder temps and an extra layer for around camp so they will start in my pack but may head out.
But what about your zipoff pants? Those who know me , know that I have a pair of zipoff pants that I live in, and although they are awesome, it’s too hot and humid in NZ for them and due to constantly being wet from river crossings and weather I’ve decided to go with the running shorts for now. My zipoffs also cause me a bit of chafe. Enough said.
Down jacket and a fleece? Yes. This has been my system for years and I’ll keep both for now, I find that because they are both super lightweight rather than one heavier fleece or one warmer/ puffier down jacket then I always have something to keep me warm and dry if I get soaked while walking. For NZ synthetic jackets are usually a winner because of the moisture and humidity but I just went with my usual set up plus I love the colour of my down jacket 🙂
Electronics is an area where I am going super minimal. I will take my phone , a samsung s7 and a power bank [anker powercore 10400] plus the associated cord and a power plug. I will also have headphones.
A personal locator beacon [aka EPIRB] or a safety device was a must for me. I have the McMurdo FF220 which was kindly given to me.
Plug & cord 50g
I have a first aid/survival/meds bag, which includes ibuprofen, allergy meds, blister care, deep heat, some plasters and a sling/bandage.
Other useful items like dental floss and a needle, and repair patches and tape for gear upkeep, waterproof matches and a headlamp.
Pictured is my Sawyer mini water filter.
I have a small bag of toiletries, toothbrush/paste, earplugs, small hairbrush [I have loads of hair], razor, period stuff, and bodyglide which is great for chafe. I also carry sunblock, wear a hat and have sunnies because the NZ sun is serious business!
I carry sections of paper maps and a compass, have a notepad and pencil, and a permanent marker.
All of this stuff weighs about 600g. Bear in mind things like maps and toiletries are going to be used and replaced.
I’m very happy with my set up for my first long distance hike. Although I can see where some changes can be made to lighten my load , right now my gear weight comes in at just shy of 7kg without food water or gas for my stove. Not bad.
I also have lots of options to swap gear out , in Auckland and at xmas, and can get things mailed to me or pick them up at a local shop if needed, or mail stuff home.
I’m lucky that I already have a fair few trips under my belt so I know what works for me so far. Gear is a really personal thing and although I would love to cut some weight in the future by trying some more ultralight gear it wasn’t a huge option within my current budget – gotta leave something for the next hike!
I was also fortunate to have a lot of gear already built up over the last few years so I didn’t have to to go from scratch. There are so many brands, opinions and gear lists out there that it can be hard to know where to start.
Making use of what you’ve got, making smart decisions when buying and also doing what works for you are all really important.
What do you take on your hikes?