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Packing list for a multi-day hike in New Zealand

You and some mates have 4 (5 at a stretch) days up your sleeve. Over a couple of pints of beer you decide that it's time to get serious – maps are strewn across the table and the battle for supreme geographical knowledge ensues. Eventually a somewhat democratic decision is reached, based more on gusto than facts. It's time to explore the Landsborough and Clarke valleys located between Makarora and Haast.

Please note - the following gear guide is general and not specific to an Active Adventures Tour. The good news is, if you join us on a multi-day hike, you won't need some of the gear we've listed below - because we take care of it for you. If you're joining one of our trips we'll supply you with a gear list that specifies everything you'll need! 

Things to consider

  • Is this really a good idea - to hike up one valley, better known for rafting than hiking, climb over a mountain and hike down the other valley, back to the 4WD? Yes, of course it is! It's in the spirit of adventure.
  • Do you know anyone that's been here, that you can get first-hand knowledge from? No, not really.
  • Can you mark out a route that fits with the length of time you have and if you're wrong, do you have a contingency plan? Hmm, it's debatable whether we did this, because it could have led us back to the first question!
  • What is the weather forecast? This time, it's the end of summer and from memory the forecast went something like this “chance of showers with some fine spells, gusty about the ridges…” In other words, anything was possible!
  • Will there be drinking water? Yes, plenty.
  • Will there be shelter? We know of at least one hunter's hut, but have no idea what condition it is in. Best to bring tents.

Now when you approach a trip like this it's easy to get carried away. Not only will you need a tent and all that that represents, but you'll be carrying food too! Let's start with the obvious things (and I'll cover food at the end).

Hover over any link to see the image! 

A good quality 60L hiking pack:
Hiking Pack
For goodness sake make sure you've used this pack before and feel comfortable with it. I've specified 60 Litres (3,700 cubic inches) because that is the size of my pack and I wouldn't want to have anything bigger. For folks that like to carry the kitchen sink, try 65-70L.

Pack liner:
Pack Liner
As you will soon find out, a pack liner is worth its weight in gold. I like to have the pack liner running right the way through my pack to the bottom, so that I effectively just have the one compartment. Although it is harder to get things from the bottom, it's a sacrifice I'm willing to make for guaranteed dryness.

Tent (2-person)
Regardless of whether you have an equal party of hikers, I would URGE YOU to get in quick, FIND a partner and share a tent. You've got plenty of time for solitude during the day, so to save space (and your shoulders), grab a buddy and split the tent up. Actually there are 2 ways to do this each with its merits: One person carries the whole tent and another carries something else, or you split everything as evenly as possible.

Sleeping bag:
Sleeping Bag
I cherish my sleeping bag. It gets aired out after every trip. I've seen what can happen to a bag that is un-loved – it's not a pretty site, or smell. Everyone knows there are down-feather and synthetic options out there and everyone will have an opinion on what is better. I'm no different. My opinion lacks much credibility and is based mainly on habit…I've always had a goose-down bag and it is nice and warm. For added warmth and to protect my bag I often take a silk liner
Silk Liner

Rain Jacket:
Waterproof Jacket
Choose a respectable brand and you'll find that 9 times out of 10 you get what you pay for. Gor-Tex is the obvious choice, although these days there are many viable alternatives. Just make sure it's waterproof and breathable. At least as important, if not more, is its shape. If you're going mountaineering you'd choose a jacket that isn't baggy and doesn't get in the way. For hiking though, you can be a bit more relaxed. New Zealanders have developed their own 'tramping' jacket:
Tramping Jacket
style jacket (and no, it isn't an old jacket with lots of holes, worn by a tramp!). A tramping jacket is designed for wet bush conditions and is longer than your typical jacket, reaching down to your thighs. This stops it riding up, but also allows you to wear shorts and still stay warm.

Hiking boots:
Hiking Boots
You won't be packing these, but you also may not wear them in the truck, so let's not forget ‘em! A pair of trail runners, or below-ankle boots won't cut the mustard now. Make sure you have a good pair of boots that are worn-in and waterproofed. I religiously tend to my leather boots after each decent hike, using some wax
to keep them in top-notch condition. You should do the same.

Digital Camera
We're now moving into the only-just-non-essential items, if that makes sense. The only real question here is whether to get the short, stumpy gaiters or the long ones that go to just below your knee. I have a pair of the long ones, but actually wish I had shorter ones, because they get pretty warm. It mainly just depends on the shrubbery you'll be charging through.

You may wonder why thermals follow gaiters. There is a genuine reason. I tend to pack as I imagine my clothing from bottom to top. If you're like me and do care about your fellow hiker's overall experience you should bring more than one pair! Merino wool is my preferred choice, but it can be a bit expensive!

Quick Dry Shorts
and pants
QuickDry Zip-off Pants
: I'm not a huge fan of zip-off pants. I prefer a simple pair of quick-dry shorts with a few pockets. They need to be strong enough to handle the bush lawyer and odd rudely placed sharp branch. You will need a pair of warm pants
Fleece Pants
for the evenings and morning though and this is when fashion really takes a back seat. Tight around the ankles so you don't step all over them is the way to go.

Camping stove, cooking and eating utensils: Clearly still in the essentials basket, but you'd be surprised how many people forget these things! Cooking stoves come in many shapes and sizes these days, but unless you're worried about melting snow, you should go for a light-weight butane gas
Butane Gas Burner/Stove
option (rather than a kerosene style
Kerosene/Liquid Fuel Stove
). They burn cleaner fuel and are much easier to use. You'll obviously need at least one pot
Cooking Pot
, a pocket knife
Pocket Knife
, fork and spoon
Fork and Spoon
– don't bother with a 'spork'
– it's not natural for a nice friendly spoon to have sharp, menacing points! Over the years I've tried many different configurations and have found that the old fashioned stuff is just as useful as the new funny-shaped gizmos.

Lighter and matches in a little container:
Lighter/Matches in a Waterproof Container
Vegemite containers work a treat, or old film containers.

Now we're moving into the important, but not essential items – have you still got space left in your pack?

Digital Camera
You'll be spending 4 or 5 days in the wilderness. You'll hopefully catch some great sunsets, maybe some funny shots of your mate's tent poorly pitched. Who knows? But it really would be silly to forget your camera.

Personal Locator Beacon
Personal Locator Beacon
As mentioned previously, these are becoming more popular by the minute. They're now at a friendlier price point and well worth considering.

Hiking Poles:
Hiking Poles
They're light weight and can make a huge difference, especially if you happen to tweak an old knee or ankle injury. Most people like them to be at about right angles to your elbows when standing.

First Aid Kit:
Personal First Aid Kit
I would at least include: Strapping tape
Suntan Lotion/Sunblock
, sun block
Suntan Lotion/Sunblock
, insect repellent
Insect Repellent
, torch
, pain relief, some toilet paper and hay fever tablets. I tend to include toothpaste in this list – for no other reason than to save on bringing a separate toiletries bag! Each to their own!

& topo map
Topo Map
: Arguably essential, but only if you know how to use them! Make sure somebody in the group actually knows how to use the compass with a map. The Land Information New Zealand (LINZ) is responsible for our maps here and they typically come at a scale of 1:50,000. You should also consider laminating your maps for durability.

Food: What sort of bond do you have with your fellow hikers? Have you lived together before? Do you know what each person likes to eat, or how important food is to them? I definitely recommend you put aside some time either on the day you plan to leave for your adventure or the day before, to do a group shop! Be systematical. Don't be afraid to plan out your meals on a scrap piece of paper. You really want to nail this part of the planning. It's unlikely to be a matter of life and death, but on a rainy evening if all you have left is a jar of peanut butter and some scroggin, it's not going to cheer you up. Rather than stipulate a hiker's menu, I'll provide some ideas (I'm an omnivore and have no allergies or dislikes…):

or porridge. Consider bringing some sultanas and other dried fruits in a small snap lock bag, also some brown sugar and milk powder.

Pita Pockets
Pita Pockets
if packed carefully are great. If you know it's not going to be hot, bring cheese, salami
and humus. Canned tuna is great too.

Something packed with carbs is essential. Nowadays you can get pre-made backpacker meals
Dehydrated Backpacker Meals
, although they are expensive. Pasta packets are great and a lot cheaper and can easily be made tastier by adding almost anything to them. Sun-dried Tomatoes
Sun-dried Tomataoes
are a good flavour booster!

Just because you're camping it doesn't mean you have to forgo this luxury. At one end of the delectable scale you could simply pack some chocolate biscuits, at the other you could bring an all-in-one chocolate cake mix
Cake Mix

Scroggin (aka gorp)
, muesli bars, oranges, apples, chocolate
and you may also want to bring tea, milo
or coffee along too.
Remember to get rid of all the excess packaging before you start out, because you'll have to carry everything back with you anyway.

Now you're packed! (I take no responsibility for any mis-adventures resulting from inadequate packing!)

The following New Zealand Hiking Tours include a multi-day hike:

  • Winter Rimu New Zealand Winter Adventure

    • 14 Days
    • South Island
    • US$4599 + tax

    4.64 out of 5 (from 548 reviews)

    Winter Rimu

    May to September is one of the best times to explore New Zealand. Our maritime climate ensures we have relatively mild winters, we’ll almost always have the tracks to ourselves and the snow-capped mountains make an even more dramatic backdrop than in summer – and usually you can get a great deal on flights! Years ago, we adapted our signature Rimu trip to suit the cooler conditions by adding skiing and snowboarding options, along with some of the South Island’s best hikes. This adventure is the perfect excuse to escape the heat!

    Activity level: This is one of our more adventurous trips, but has options to suit a range of fitness levels and outdoor experience. Typically hikes on the ‘Winter Rimu’ range between three and six hours to complete, with a longer more challenging hike on the Copland Track.

  • Rimu Ultimate South Island Adventure

    • 14 Days
    • South Island
    • From US$5299 + tax

    4.52 out of 5 (from 4872 reviews)


    Nat Geo Logo 2015This is our signature adventure and a great, outdoorsy way to see New Zealand. We’ve been fine-tuning this perennial favourite since 1996 and it’s simply an awesome trip. You’ll explore the most beautiful, famous and little-known places in the South Island – up close and personal – with legendary hospitality and our unsurpassed attention to detail. For a great way to see the North Island too, combine this trip with our 11-day 'Kauri' (5-day 'Kauri' options available).

    Activity level: The ‘Rimu’ is one of our more adventurous trips, but has options to suit a wide range of ages and outdoor experience. Typically, hikes on the ‘Rimu’ trip range between two and five hours to complete, with longer hikes available on the multi-day option. If you think you’d prefer a more relaxed pace and shorter one to three hour hikes, we recommend checking out our ‘Kiwi’ trip. Please get in touch with us if you’d like to chat about the various options.

  • Manuka Milford Hiking Adventure

    • 14 Days
    • South Island
    • From US$6199 + tax

    4.43 out of 5 (from 883 reviews)


    If you wish to concentrate on hiking the iconic tracks of New Zealand and like your creature comforts, we’ve crafted this trip just for you. It has a strong focus on New Zealand’s natural history. Our guides have plenty of time to interpret the flora and fauna and explain the geological and social history of the areas you’ll visit. You also have the choice of a selection of the best day hikes Fiordland National Park has to offer, along with an overnight cruise on Doubtful Sound, or hiking the famous Milford Track in its entirety. The ‘Manuka’ really is hiking New Zealand in style!

    Activity level: The 'Manuka' is an active hiking trip, but has options to suit a wide range of fitness levels and outdoor experience. Typically hikes on the 'Manuka' trip range between three and six hours to complete, with longer hikes on the Milford Track Guided Walk option.

  • Tui Essence of the South Island

    • 8 Days
    • South Island
    • From US$3999 + tax

    4.59 out of 5 (from 1824 reviews)


    This is an action-packed adventure where you’ll explore some of New Zealand’s most iconic and remote wilderness. It works well if your vacation time is limited, since you can fly from North America on a Friday evening, sleep on the plane, and be back at work ten days later to share your photos and stories on Monday morning. For a great way to see the North Island too, combine this trip with our 11-day 'Kauri' (5-day 'Kauri' options available).

    Activity level: The ‘Tui’ suits people of a wide range of fitness levels and outdoor experience, particularly if you enjoy a variety of activities. Typically hikes on the ‘Tui’ trip range between two and six hours to complete.

  • Kea New Zealand Family Adventure

    • 13 Days
    • South Island
    • From Adult: US$4599 + tax, Child (15 & under): US$3799 + tax

    4.68 out of 5 (from 242 reviews)


    Let us take care of every detail so that you and your family can enjoy exploring New Zealand’s iconic places on a fun outdoorsy adventure. The ‘Kea’ is the perfect opportunity for everyone in the family to try some new activities together while our guides encourage, entertain, serve up delicious meals and ensure you make the most of your precious vacation time. You’ll be amazed how much everyone learns along the way and our guides will have you laughing as much as the kids! For a great way to see the North Island too, combine this trip with our 11-day 'Kauri' (5-day 'Kauri' options available).

    Activity level: This trip has been designed to be fun and gently challenging for the young, and the young at heart. The pace is flexible and most hikes range between two and four hours to complete. 

    Here's a pretty cool video of what it's like to travel with your family, on an Active Adventures trip.


Trip Reviews

  4.52 out of 5 (from 4872 reviews)

Rimu is Wonderful - A few tips if you plan to go...

My husband and I took the Rimu trip in early November 2016 and had a really terrific time. I encourage everyone who is seriously considering the Rimu to go ahead and sign up. That being said, with all of the fun we had, I do wish we had known a few things ahead of time. I include these tips for you, the soon-to-be Rimu traveler, to make your trip more enjoyable. However, I can promise that even if you do none of these things, you will still have a marvelous time:

1. Guys, if you opt to snorkel with the fur seals be sure to shave your mustache before you leave home. It seems obvious now, but it never occurred to my husband that the mask wouldn’t seal properly to his face with his mustache. Do yourself a favor and shave it off or spend the afternoon dealing with a leaky mask.

2. I also wish I had known just how intense and challenging the 3-day multi-hike through Nelson Lakes would be. If you’re an office worker and occasional hiker like me, then I encourage you to take this trip but do lots of practice/fitness training in advance. Load up your pack and get on the stair-master or start climbing really steep hills. The hike is gorgeous and worth it, but I can promise you it will be a lot more enjoyable if you’re in good shape for it. Also, there are no showers at the huts and only latrines (port-a-potties) for toilets, so bring baby wipes for exactly the same reason you would use them on a baby (wink wink). And also bring hiking poles! I know it says optional on the gear list, but I really found them to be essential. As for the water bottle – leave that at home and invest in a good water bladder system (a “Camelback” or similar). We found the water bottle to be a hassle to take in and out of the bag (forcing us to stop each time), which made us want to drink less water. The water bladders allow you to keep moving and you’ll find you’re more hydrated.

3. The sea kayaks (and, honestly, New Zealand in general) are not made for people over 6’ 2” in height (187 cm). Watch your head everywhere you go, and as for the kayaks, it may help to have the taller person sit in the front seat of the kayak instead of the back.

4. Also, pack enough clothes for a week and then expect to do laundry. Bring some travel-sized laundry soap packets to help save money and make sure you have enough 1$ and 2$ coins for laundry before you get to the hotel (the machines are generally pretty expensive: about $3 for the washer and between $3 - $5 for 30 minutes in the dryer).

5. Bring good cycling shorts – yes, the ones with the weird-feeling padding on the bum. It will help prevent the dreaded ‘grumpy grundle’.

6. And finally, a heads-up to my fellow outgoing introverts (yes, we exist): this trip contains long days of social interaction (think 7:15 a.m. – 9:30 p.m.), with few breaks for introspection/solitude. If you need some down time, skip dinner or unfurl all of the emergency blankets and build your own fort at the back of the bus and hang a sign that says, “Stay Out!” (just kidding about that last one).

A great big thank you to our guides, Rachel and Jordan, who were informative and helpful beyond measure. How they managed to remain cheerful and engaging considering they had to do all of the exertion we clients had to do, plus all of their work on top of it, is beyond me. They are the embodiment of Kiwi hospitality! We are already thinking of coming back for a North Island tour sometime soon.
Lauren Gerth Review Image
– Missouri, United States
Rimu, November 2016
Read Reviews

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With our small groups (no more than 14), you'll get to know our team, your fellow travellers, and have the flexibility and freedom to do as much (or as little!) as you like.

Diverse Experiences

It's all about getting there under your own steam – on foot, in a sea kayak, or by bike. What better way is there to experience mind blowing scenery? If it's your first time, no worries – our expert guides have got you covered.

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