How to prepare for a guided walk in New Zealand
So, you’re thinking of booking a guided walking trip in New Zealand? Fantastic!
New Zealand’s stunning variety of scenery and wide array of beautiful native animals will ensure that it will be an unforgettable experience. Here are some handy preparation tips to ensure that you get the most out of your journey!
NOTE: These are general suggestions to assist in thorough preparation, be sure to check once booked for any specific items and/or preparation that is recommended for your walk.
Handy packing hints
One of the perks of a guided walk is you don’t need to worry about carrying your shelter, food, or any other camping necessities on your back – this makes for a much lighter hiking pack! You will receive a complete packing list from your chosen guiding company, but here are some tips for when you are choosing your gear:
HOT TIP #1 Avoid cotton, it soaks up moisture and takes longer to dry which will leave you cold and miserable on chilly days
HOT TIP #2 If you are hiking in Fiordland there is a good chance you will be hiking at least partly in the rain. Don’t skimp on your raincoat, you will be much happier if you are able to stay dry.
HOT TIP #3 If you get cold easily, a good option is to wear quick-dry shorts over polypropylene thermal leggings. This will still allow easy movement but will help to keep you warmer, as well as allowing a faster dry-time if you get wet.
How to get hiking fit
Most hikes will require at least a moderate level of fitness to properly enjoy them. A 6-8 week training programme leading up to your hike will help get you fit and ready. Begin with short walks on gentler terrain and move on to some longer walks that include a few hill climbs. Use these walks to try out any new equipment as well!
Breaking in your boots
One of the most common mistakes for first time hikers is not wearing in their hiking shoes before heading out. When buying new hiking shoes be sure to purchase them at least one month before your planned hike and wear them on your training walks. This will give your boots a chance to soften up, as well as highlighting any potential problem areas where you can feel blisters coming on. The best way to avoid blisters is to know where they might flare up and to use preventative measures (wool or blister pads are good options).
Walking poles, yes or no?
If you have suffered from any knee, hip or ankle problems, walking poles do an excellent job of helping to relieve some of the stress placed on your legs, as well as making climbing and descending steeper terrain more comfortable, and providing stability for any tricky trail obstacles like river crossings or slippery sections. If you are planning to hike gentle terrain they are not necessary if you would prefer not to carry poles.
Sun, rain, hail, shine – what to expect
Weather will vary greatly depending on where you have chosen to hike so be sure to prepare properly. If you are hiking on the West Coast there is a much greater chance of wetter weather, good raincoats and plenty of warm base layers are a necessity. Further north around the Abel Tasman and Queen Charlotte tracks, the weather is more stable throughout the year. Be sure to check the weather predictions for your trip dates and pack accordingly.
Keeping the sand flies at bay
These cheeky little devils will be the bane of your trip if you let them so don’t get caught out! Sand flies are found throughout New Zealand in varying numbers, they are more concentrated along the west coast so adequate preparation is a must for hikes such as the Hollyford, Routeburn and Milford. A good insect repellent paired with long sleeves and trousers is the best defence.
HOT TIP #5 Sand fly bites are small but can be very itchy. The bite will reduce much more quickly if you can refrain from scratching – it’s all about will power!
To drink or not to drink – is the water safe?
Throughout New Zealand, there are many places where water drunk straight from lakes and rivers is perfectly fine to drink. You will find this water clear, cool and deliciously refreshing, but be sure to check with your guide to be certain that the location you are wanting to drink from is safe. The guides are very knowledgeable and know which water sources are good and which are not.
Food glorious food!
Most guided walking companies provide an all-inclusive service with all meals provided. Any dietary requirements are easily catered for but make sure you discuss these with your operator before leaving on your walk as often it can be difficult to change meals at the last minute.