Some of my favourite outdoor adventures to date have been in the middle of winter with snow everywhere and a lot less people around. Getting to the hut at the end of the day and cranking the fire up to thaw out your toes is pretty satisfying, but suffering through the experience of tramping in the winter months is easy to avoid with a few simple additions to your kit and allowances to your plans. So before you settle in to binge watch that next series on Netflix, take another look at the topo maps and see if you can't tick off a few more huts before spring.
1. Location, location, location
Do your homework and make sure you pick a hut with a good fire and plenty of places to get firewood from before you go. If you want to be super hard core then you can bring your own kindling in to get the party started as dry wood can sometimes be hard to come by depending on how good the previous tenants have been with putting stuff in the wood shed. If you're heading somewhere without a fire then make sure your sleeping set up is warm enough for sub-zero nights - a 3 season sleeping bag with a silk liner is good place to start. For those of you opting for a night in a tent, choose an insulated air core mat with a higher R-value to keep you warm on the ground.
Remember the days are going to be shorter so keep in mind that being able to walk for 10 hours straight is only as good as having 10 hours of daylight to walk in (or a really good head torch). Picking a track that gives you plenty of time to reach the hut and collect that all important firewood is key to you having a good time. We've taken axes with us on occasion and made an afternoon of restocking supplies for the hut. Chopping up a few trees is also a really good way to stay warm and entertains that lumberjack fantasy I know you secretly have.
Part of your initial planning should include avoiding any significant river crossings if you're still learning to look after yourself in the wild - not getting wet should be your major priority. Whenever you go tramping it's always helpful to read trip reports and look for areas where you might have issues if the weather changes suddenly. This is even more important in winter as the risk of hypothermia can often lead to poor decision making even by fit and experienced trampers. If the route is prone to slips and/or avalanches, make sure you have a plan B or exit strategy if conditions turn out differently from what you expect.
A few things change when the mercury hits zero and one of those is the white powdery stuff. This makes for magical instagram shots, snow angels and also an impressive disappearing act by the track. If your intended route is poled this will make things easier but be prepared to follow your map more closely than you would in summer when well-worn paths are clear as day. Add a little more time on to your intended trip length for wading through fresh snow or negotiating slippery rocks, you'll be surprised how much time you can eat up trying not to fall on your butt. If the track goes over a pass you'll need to carry an ice axe and crampons even if you're unsure if you might use them or not. Also, learn how to use your ice axe and crampons somewhere safe before you need to try them out on a not so safe slope. This could be a great excuse for a day trip somewhere to play in the snow for a few hours but still go home to a hot shower.
*Until you can self-arrest from upside down flying backwards down a slope (this is how we were made to practice) then your ice axe probably falls more into the "decorative" category.
3. Stuff to wear
Just because you need to stay warm doesn't mean you suddenly need to hire 50 porters and 12 donkeys to carry your gear for an overnighter. The secret is being able to layer everything you have into one epic weather proof suit of pure warmth. With the exception of a spare set of thermals to sleep in, I wear a thermal layer top and bottom, high pile fleece mid layer, insulated jacket, waterproof hardshell and softshell pants (I always carry waterproof pants for anything more than light rain). If I got soaking wet from say falling in a river (please don't test this theory) these will warm back up with my body heat as long as I'm moving and uninjured. If I need to stop moving due to injury then I'd change into the back up thermals, get in my sleeping bag and set off my beacon but I'd still be warm. In reality my insulated jacket (I carry a Macpac Pulsar Primaloft Gold Jacket) is usually too warm to walk in so I keep this in a dry bag in my pack for wearing when we stop for food or at night in the hut.
Until you've been able to test your gear in the wet and cold and see how it performs it's better to err on the side of caution and take an extra dry mid layer to keep in your pack for emergencies. A spare pair of dry socks is an absolute must, I keep one pair dry for at night and put the wet ones back on each morning if we're walking for a few days. Anything else you choose to add is up to you but make sure you don't go too crazy adding weight as moving at a good speed and taking fewer breaks may be better than a slow, cold trudge to the hut. Keeping your head, neck and hands warm is just as important as your core so find a combination of accessories that gives you good coverage and stays warm when wet. Merino is ideal for this and I always carry a merino neck gaiter or balaclava to keep me warm especially at night.
I'm all about taking everything I need and nothing else but I have two words that may be about to change your life.... Down Booties. Hut shoes are nice and stuff but these babies weigh next to nothing, are snow proof on the bottom and act like tiny sleeping bags for your feet. While the traction control is somewhat questionable on ice, you'll be so stoked not to have to put on wet, half frozen boots for that midnight trip to natures urinal. They also keep your feet toasty inside your sleeping bag if things get seriously cold!
4. Appetizers and Refreshments
Food is fundamentally important to sustaining us everyday. To the tramper who is three days walk from civilisation and feeling like things are turning a little bit Revenant-like, food is everything. Unlike on a summer hike where it's less socially acceptable, gas here is definitely your friend. Take twice as much and embrace hot drinks, hot soup, hot noodles and hot water in your alloy bottle inside a sock (the sock stops you burning your hands and makes for a nice hotty in your sleeping bag at night). Interestingly it's also a good way to dry wet socks...
You will want to eat more when it's cold so on top of the usual Freeze Dried staples it's important to pack an extra "treat bag" full of all the worst/best things for you. I'm particularly fond of Picnic Bars, condensed milk and that instant cheesecake mix that you just add margarine to. Eat often and make sure you take the time for a hot drink if it's particularly cold going midday. An insulated flask is a nice addition to your kit as you can fill it with coffee in the morning and still have a hot drink a few hours later, even if there isn't anywhere to pull out your stove. Water may be harder to come by if you're travelling up and over a pass so make sure you melt plenty of snow for drinking water when you have the ability to or fill up in the last stream you pass before heading to higher ground.
5. Bonus Points
Pack the following and be a GC (good camper).
- Newspaper to start that fire I keep mentioning - bonus points if you leave some for the next group
- Matches and candles (see above)
- A book - you're going to have more time in the evening to kill before bed so bring a sudoku, cross stitch or that Ukulele you keep meaning to learn how to play
- Bothy Bag - this is an emergency shelter that will help warm you up if you fall in that river. While it's no good to actually sleep in (we tried - too much condensation) it's great for getting out of the rain to eat lunch, sort some gear out or have a little cuddle.
- Emergency Locator Beacon, these are getting pretty easy to hire now so there's no excuse for not carrying one per group
- Thick, insulated and water resistant gloves, because everyone likes warm hands
- Sun Glasses, don't worry you'll only ever forget them once
- Epicly warm sleeping bag - 3 season at least (comfort rating -5 degrees to -10 degrees) and pair with a silk liner. Yes it's expensive but it'll last you a decade usually so price it out by year and casually compare it to say what your spouse may spend on their hair/car/coffee addiction in the same time.
- Front spoon - when tramping with a partner opt to take the preferred front spoon position for maximum warmth and strategically place yourself between them and the fire. Better still, take your favourite K9 companion, they're like giant hot water bottles if you can get past being licked sporadically throughout the night.
- An actual hot water bottle - ask your local pharmacy if they have any half size hot water bottles, worth the extra weight 100 times over extra clothes to sleep in.
Whether you like to tramp, hike, stroll, strut or frolic through the wilderness there's probably a dozen boots that will fit your needs. Unfortunately, all that choice can make finding the perfect companion for your feet a little daunting and time consuming especially if it's your first foray into the wonderful (cult like) world of outdoor gear enthusiasts. By all means do your homework and read reviews on your favourite products as part of the decision making process but nothing beats sliding on the real deal and dancing/lunging/pirouetting around a store to get that authentic real-world hiking feel. Before you hit the shops check out this overview of what to look for and the main features that make up the difference between a $200 and $600 dent in your pocket.
Top tips for trying on boots
- Ask for recommendations from staff - they'll know which boots are narrower fitting than others and they're likely to have tried them on themselves so you'll get some good insider knowledge straight away
- Bring the socks you intend to wear with the shoes or boots and if you use orthotics make sure you've got them to try on with you at the time
- Get you foot measured and try a couple of different sizes in each brand to get a feel for your size across the different boot manufacturers (I range from a 39-40 depending on brand).
- When possible, walk up and down some stairs when trying boots as you're more likely to discover spots that have the potential to run or become uncomfortable
- Boots shouldn't need too much breaking in, don't buy something that's uncomfortable in store and expect it to soften up everywhere after a couple of trips. They should be 95% comfortable out of the box with the stiffness of the sole and around the ankle perhaps relaxing a little over time.
The 1-2 hour weekend off-roader
Do you mostly go out for shorter stints on well-formed tracks with just a small back pack and your iPhone ready for that perfect instagram shot? You're probably looking for a light, low cut shoe with a good amount of cushioning and perhaps a waterproof membrane to splash confidently through very shallow puddles. You don't need the ankle support of a boot because you're mostly on relatively even paths and you want a good amount of flexibility in the sole as you're carrying light loads and moving reasonably quickly. The good news is you also don't need to spend too much on a light hiking shoe - something in the $120 - $180 range should do everything you need it to. Look for models in the trail shoe family if you want something that crosses over into off-road running as well.
- Good grip on the sole, this is the biggest difference between your gym trainers and an actual trail shoe and you'll notice it quite clearly as soon as you hit wet sections of track
- Cushioning under the heel, they should feel comfortable right out of the box and shouldn't need very much breaking in at all
- Waterproof membrane, even walking through wet grass can soak through non-waterproof footwear and no one likes wet socks
- Flexible sole - you should be able to bend this shoe easily making it less work on your feet taking each step and allowing you to be a bit more agile than in stiffer soled boots
- Fit should be fairly true to your everyday footwear. You should be able to wiggle your toes freely but feel snug (not tight) across the top of your foot and around your heel. Make sure you walk (normally) around in them for five minutes after lacing them up to see if they're rubbing anywhere or your heel is lifting noticeably at the back.
The all day track wanderer
You're mostly completing day trips of more than 4 hours on tracks with some uneven surfaces, mud and other fun obstacles. You're only carrying a day pack but you're on your feet for a while and sometimes go wandering off trail. This is where we transition into boot territory as you want that extra ankle support for less well formed tracks and sometimes steep inclines. A cushioning sole unit is important but due to the light pack weight you don't need anything too heavy duty.
- A rugged sole with some extra protection around the toe
- A waterproof membrane to keep your feet dry
- The boot shouldn't be too high at the ankle, just enough to stop you rolling your ankle laterally but still have some flexibility as you bend forward
- Lightweight and flexible through the sole unit - if you're not carrying heavy loads then go for the comfort of a more flexible boot. Synthetic boots are usually lighter than their leather counterparts.
- Fit should be the same or around half a size bigger than what you normally wear in casual shoes
The Great Walker
You love multi day hiking but you only go a couple of times a year so you want comfortable, sturdy boots that will last you for years. While you can walk for days, it's usually on pretty well formed tracks with minimal off-route wandering but a solid 65L pack on your back. The key for you is a great sole unit to support those heavy loads but a lightweight upper as your boots don't get bashed around too much. You want great ankle support, some extra toe protection but not a full rand, and they should definitely be waterproof.
- Go for a slightly higher cut ankle than the day-walkers for those stream crossings and boulder hopping where you need the extra support.
- A waterproof, breathable membrane like eVent will help keep water out while still letting your feet breathe
- You want a sole with lots of super grippy lugs for wet tracks and a partial shank for carrying those heavy loads. Your boot should still have some flex in it but it shouldn't feel bendy like the boots and shoes mentioned above.
- Fit should be half to a full size bigger than your everyday shoes as your feet will swell after a day of walking and your toes are likely to hit the end on a steep down hill in your regular size. If you stand up straight in the boots before they're all laced up, give your toe a few solid taps on the ground before placing it back flat on the floor. You should be able to fit three fingers down the back of the boot if the fit is big enough - if your whole hand can slip in then try half a size down.
The choose your own path, bush-bashing free spirit
You're not sure where you need your boots for exactly because you tend to take the path less marked by DOC. A normal weekend might involve some scree running, wading through matagouri or trudging up a river bed for 6 hours. You just need to know that wherever you end up, your boots will do the job. You're probably carrying at least 15kg and sometimes up to 25kg for that five day traverse to nowhere you keep talking about. Durability is a big deal as your boots get worn as often as any other pair of footwear in your wardrobe and you don't want to have to replace them too often. Having something that you can throw a crampon on is a bonus and you want serious traction control from your soles.
- A full rand - it'll protect your boots from getting shredded on scree slopes and your feet from sharp rocks
- Waterproof and breathable - for those few occasions when you're not wading thigh deep through rivers all day
- Crampon compatible midsole (this is usually a separate insert to the sole which creates a heel lug with which to attach a semi-automatic crampon)
- Stiff sole with little flexibility or if you never intend to use crampons go for something with a fraction more movement when you bend your foot
- Fit should be a size above what you normally wear in your everyday shoes and try them on with both a liner sock and a thicker hiking sock
- Lacing should lock your heel back and down into the sole
The Mountain Purist
If you're this person then you probably don't need to be reading a "how to" blog about boot buying but just for comparisons sake I'll finish off with actual mountaineering boots. Without getting into an argument about whether plastic boots are better than leather I've stuck to the more traditional leather boots which are totally suited to NZ climbing especially if you're just starting out. The most readily available which you can purchase in store are La Sportiva with their Nepal Evo at $949.90, Scarpa's Ortles GTX at $749.99 and Garmont's MTN Guide Pro GTX for $899.99. These boots are fully crampon compatible, insulated and completely rigid. They do not make good general hiking boots because there is no flexibility for walking on trails and they're much heavier than traditional backpacking boots. They're designed for snow, ice and rock and are necessary if you want to progress from the odd alpine pass to actual mountaineering.
*If you're a well-seasoned Adventure Racer with several multi-day events under your belt then this post is potentially too simplistic for you sorry (although you may see some items you like the look of...). If however, you're just getting into the sport or transitioning from shorter events into longer races then read on.
So you've got your training program mapped out, your support crew has been suitably bribed into keeping you fed and watered on the day and you've finished researching the benefits of strategically administering "anti-chafe" in all the right places. All that's left is to worry about what to wear. After several years and several bad decisions on what to carry and when, I've compiled a list of what I think works best in a variety of conditions given that compulsory gear is by definition compulsory (no matter how badly you want to shave off a few grams by leaving that whistle in the car).
- This is probably the item I would stress about the most and buy the earliest when preparing for an event. You want to have time to play around with it out training in different conditions and decide if that strap cutting off circulation to your upper arm is going to really annoy you come race day. The size you go for is dependent on how long the race is, what compulsory gear you have to carry and the likely weather conditions (great weather often means you're carrying more gear in your pack than on your person). You want just enough room for everything to fit comfortably but without any left over space for it to all bounce around in when you're hurtling at top speed down the side of a hill. For a 12 hour event 14-18 litres should be plenty (keep in mind 3 litres will be taken up with water).
- An easy to access compartment for a hydration bladder. This will make refilling at transitions easy on that support team.
- Waist and chest straps to reduce movement when running
- Compression straps to reduce overall volume when needed
- Waist strap pocket for easy to grab snacks
The Macpac Eskdale 16 has been my go to pack for Spring Challenge - I really like that I can remove the water bladder without having to open up the rest of the pack. It also features an expandable stash pocket that makes stuffing your jacket away quick and easy. Other good examples are the Deuter 18 SL Attack and the Raptor 14.
You don't really appreciate a good set of waterproofs until you've been running around in the pouring west coast rain for the better part of 15 hours. For the most part you'll find your jacket just comes along for the ride. Light rain, especially on a warm day usually doesn't warrant stopping to put a shell layer on so it inevitably stays stuffed at the bottom of your pack. For this reason you want a jacket that packs down small, is lightweight but will still keep you dry if it begins to bucket down. A hood that has a stiffened peak will hold itself out of your eyes when you're trying to navigate and a high collar will help keep the rain from running down under your chin. If you can spare the money, go for a fabric that is highly breathable as well as at least 10 000HH as you will sweat less and stay dryer underneath while running around. Unlike your base layers, you will want a bit more room with a rain jacket so that your arms are not restricted and you can pull it on and off easily over other layers. This doesn't always mean you have to go up a size though so take your time to try on different combinations underneath before you buy. As a good rule you should be able to fit a thermal top and a mid weight fleece comfortably with the jacket just covering the top part of your legs. If you're looking for an entry level (cheaper) option, focus on finding a jacket that fits well, is seam sealed and has a hood that won't fall over your face - borrowing is always a god option when you're starting out.
- Hood with stiffened peak
- Breathable and waterproof (at least 10,000 hh) with all seams taped
- Packs down small
Good examples are the Macpac Hightail Anorak, the Berghaus Light Speed Hydroshell, Marmot Precip Jacket and the Outdoor Research Helium II (I'm a big fan of the colour options in this one).
Waterproof pants are a pain because you hardly ever need them but when you do it's raining, hailing and blowing a gale and all you want to do is murder your teammates for signing you up for a 12 hour rogaine in the middle of winter. The moral of the story is find a pair that pack down small enough that you won't notice them when you don't need them but will stop your legs from going numb when you find yourself in the middle of a storm halfway to nowhere.
- Seam sealed and waterproof fabric (5000hh is a good starting point)
- Adjustable/elastic waistband
- Big enough to pull on over your pants/tights easily but not baggy (you may have to mountain bike in them). Make sure you try them on with your intended race kit in the store as this will give you an indication if the leg zips and waist adjustment are quick and easy to use.
- Due to the aforementioned lack of use, these are probably the top item to borrow until you have built up the rest of your gear list over time.
This is where having a couple of options on hand can help come race day depending on what kind of weather you end up with. If it's going to be dry and hot go for a nice lightweight fleece that packs down small as it will spend most of the day in your pack but may still be needed at the top of a mountain or later in the evening if you're still out and about. Alternatively, if you're looking at sub zero temperatures and know you'll need every bit of warmth you can squeeze out of your kit, then go for something a little heavier and warmer as you'll need to be able to stay warm if you need to stop for any reason out on the course or if you're likely to be wet for much of the day. Due to the high amount of perspiration involved, I tend to shy away from merino as it gets heavy when damp and will make you cold once you stop. Lightweight synthetic fleece layers are better when wet and will keep you warmer in cold wind when your back is all sweaty. For the tech geeks out there I'd recommend looking at Polartec's new Alpha fabric for superior breathability and packability.
- High neck to cut the wind when it's cold
- Close fitting for easy layering under your hard shell and race bib
- Thumb loops can make for a good alternative to gloves while keeping your fingers free to operate your compass
- Long enough to cover your lower back when you're on the bike
- Ventilated under arm panels are a bonus
Some examples are the Marmot Thermo Hoody, Macpac Pitch Fleece, Ground Effect Pushover and Arcteryx Gaea Jacket
These are usually pride of place on any gear list and once again the weather on the day will dictate whether or not you wear them the whole time or they just come along for the ride. I find my thermal top can be perfect for just a little extra warmth in the early morning before the sun comes up even on a nice day. I wear this over my quick dry tee (more on these further down) then remove it once I've warmed up or after the first transition. Thermal leggings are often needed in winter events for the whole course or throw on before heading into an alpine section to keep those leg muscles warm. There are lots of options in terms of material; lightweight merino helps wick moisture away from your body and helps with temperature regulation although I find some synthetics dry faster and can be a nice alternative depending on what you like the feel of. Thermal layers are a good place to save money if you're on a budget as entry level versions will still do the job of keeping you warm although they lack the breathability of some of their pricier counterparts. Definitely train wearing your leggings especially as I've had pairs in the past that have rubbed me up the wrong way after hours of running in them.
- Should be close fitting to the body with enough length in the top to give good coverage of your lower back when on the bike
- Fabrics that have a good amount of warmth but also breathability are key for aerobic activity
- If you choose wool go for lightweight merino 150-180g/m2 in warmer weather and 200-220g/m2 in colder weather
- Make sure the waistband is comfortable but snug enough that your pants won't ride down with prolonged walking/running
Some examples are: Icebreaker Zone LS Crew, Macpac Prothermal Hooded, Macpac Geothermal, Arcteryyx Rho LTW Zip Neck
Tops and Shorts/Tights
If the weather Gods choose to bless you with blue skies and a high temperature then you'll find you spend most of the race in a tee and shorts or tights. These are also likely to be layers you spend most of your time training in with the thermals and mid layers only coming out sporadically depending on the time of year. This means choosing layers that are comfortable, meet the requirements of racing and are durable enough that you won't be wearing through them every few weeks. For Tees, quick drying and moisture wicking is important to keep moisture moving away from your skin. When you get sweaty and/or wet you are more likely to get chaffing in areas where your clothing is rubbing against your body. The more these fabrics can work to keep you dry the better your skin is likely to stand up to the rigors of training and racing. With that said, if you're facing serious heat on race day then you may want to look for a fabric that will hold some of that moisture to help keep you cooler while on the move. Polartec have recently released it's first cooling fabric - Polartec Delta, which wicks sweat away from the skin but then holds it close enough that you still benefit from the cooling process as it evaporates into the air. It enhances the body's own sweat response but is still comfortable to wear as the fabric won't stick to your body. For those of you just looking for a good all round option for a mix of running and cycling, then opt for fabrics that have a UPF rating of 50+ to keep you protected from the sun and that all important breathablitly. I use Polartec Power Dry fabrics and have found them to be quick drying and durable. As with any synthetic though, all the sweat can get a little smelly over time so throw your layers in a hot wash to keep them fresh!
On the legs I go for a thin legging (don't have to sunscreen my legs then) for races where the average temperature is in the teens or higher. For mid-winter I switch to a fleece lined tight which has a little wind protection (I still need the thermals under these if it gets closer to freezing). I prefer a drawstring on the waistband so they stay in place while I'm crawling through fields of matagouri and avoid zips at the ankle as they can wear a hole in your skin after a long day. A zip pocket is a bonus for stashing bits of food if your pack doesn't have pockets on the waist band. If your race is biking heavy then you may opt for a chamois which offers more padding for your behind. These can be a full bike short which you might choose to wear for the whole race or a lining short that you can wear over or under your other layers. Train with different combinations and decide what works the best for you and how speedy you need your transitions to be.
- Sun protection UPF 40-50+
- Moisture wicking and breathable
- Waist bands that won't ride down
- Weather appropriate - will you need cooling down or will you be trying to stay warm most of the race?
Some examples are: Macpac Warp SS Tee (Polartec Power Dry), The North Face Better Than Naked SS (Flash Dry), Ground Effect Short Cuts,
These include socks, gloves, hats, buffs, shoes and the bits and bobs that may end up in your pack come race day.
Socks - find a pair with good padding, train in them and then buy a brand new pair for race day.
Gloves - thin, lightweight merino or polypro will keep your hands warm even when they get wet on the running sections. Bike gloves for the biking sections are key - full fingered if it's cold, fingerless in the heat.
Hats - a thin merino beanie breathes well and again will keep your noggin toasty when wet. I go for a buff over a cap as I can keep it on under my helmet and it keeps my hair out of my face all day - it also soaks up the sweat quite effectively.
Shoes - These are a pretty personal choice and depend on the type of training you are doing and if you plan on wearing cleats on the bike. I tend not to go too lightweight with trail shoes as I have flat feet and need extra support around the ankle. A grippy sole with plenty of tread is key but there is a wide range of choices on offer that would be totally suitable. It's important you try on different brands to find one that fits your foot the best - then shop around for anything that fits into the trail running family. Don't buy shoes too far out or too close to the race, the former may wear out after 6 months of training and the latter won't be broken in very well if they came out of the box the same week.
You will also need a basic bike tool kit and the knowledge of how to use it. Many bike shops do beginner bike mechanics info sessions or rope in someone to teach you the ways of changing a tyre before you need to do it in the middle of a race. I carry a puncture repair kit, chain breaker and spare link, spare tube, bike pump and tyre levers. Strapping tape fixes a multitude of problems including blisters so I usually have a roll of this in my bag with a simple first aid kit (plasters, paracetamol, survival blanket).
If you have any questions regarding any of the gear I have mentioned feel free to leave a message in the comments section below. Most stores that stock outdoor apparel will have staff that can talk you through the pros and cons of different fabric choices so ask plenty of questions before you commit to any of the pricier items and make sure they are going to offer you the versatility you need for adventure races.
*There are lots of great options on the market and the items I've included above are just a few of the examples that I have come across or used personally and are by no means an exhaustive list.
There is a bit of a saying around these parts that the only thing that can kill you in New Zealand is the weather. Alternatively you can never trust a weather forecast for more than 4 hours around here. This conveniently leaves any adventurer with little choice but to take enough clothing for any eventuality even on a day walk. This is where layering comes in. Rather than set off into the wilderness with an army of yaks to carry your gear, follow these simple steps and you too can be warm and dry even in New Zealand.
- Mid layers do the real work of keeping you warm and provided there is no wind or rain to contend with, they should be all you need on a cold day in the hills. Fleece is usually the most popular choice as it has a pretty good warmth to weight ratio. Mid-weight merino tops are great in terms of warmth and odour control but are heavier than their synthetic counterparts. Once again avoid cotton hoodys as they perform poorly when wet and have a low warmth to weight ratio.
- While this layer isn't always necessary in the height of summer it is a great addition to your kit during the rest of the year. Many back country huts in New Zealand don't have fires in them and being able to throw on a down or synthetic jacket at night is a definite bonus. They also make great pillows when stuffed in a dry bag when you're ready for bed.
Last but not least, make sure that you have a warm hat, sun hat and gloves. I've learnt the hard way not to leave any of these behind.
While this list is not exhaustive it should be an indication of what you need before heading into the hills and mountains in our beautiful country. If you have any questions regarding the above please feel free to leave a comment or contact us by email.
There comes a time in every trampers life when they look at their sleeping bag and think wow, that thing stinks/is much thinner than it used to be/has burn marks in several places. Do not fear, you can return even the saddest looking bags back into lofty goodness with half a bottle of down wash, a couple of sock balls and oh about 9 hours of your life. Washing your down bag is somewhat of a marathon effort and you should first seriously consider paying to have it done by a professional while you make better use of the time . Also, you will be needing a dryer and a bath so perhaps start by scoping out which of your friends possess both and offer to water their miniature cactus next time they go away for a long weekend.
It seems like these days , especially in my line of work, that every man and his dog has a down jacket of some description. Mostly these are being paraded through the local Westfield Shopping Centre or on the side of the rugby field on a chilly Saturday morning but a chosen few do in fact make it out of suburbia and into the wilderness. We are more than spoilt for choice when it comes to technical insulation layers so how do you choose something that is going to perform for you across the multitude of activities and terrains you might need it for? Firstly you need to ask yourself a few key questions.
- Gaiters are a great addition to your kit, especially if you are wearing shorts or heading to areas without wide open tracks. They protect your legs from cuts and scratches and can keep water out of your boots when crossing rivers.
- Personal Locator Beacon. Now as you can easily fork out $600 for a beacon you may be better off borrowing or hiring a unit you can invest in your own but they are well worth the money.
- Trekking Pole or the river crossing, tent supporting, crow bar as I prefer to call them.