As Kiwis, we’re envied for living in a scenic wonderland – yet many of us have still not taken advantage of it. With warm weather just around the corner, why not trial tramping as a fun and healthy way to reach the big outdoors? Give it a go, using our top insider tips, and you may find yourself hooked before you know it! But before you pick up a pack, remember your safety must always come first. Check with your doctor that tramping is right for you, and check out DOC’s ‘Safety in the Outdoors’ website before you hit the trail.
Fit me up
‘Fit’ doesn’t always mean fitness – though there’s no doubt a level of fitness to suit your hike will make for a happier tramp. ‘Fit’ also refers to the way your pack suits your build and your intentions. Avoid strains and discomfort by buying or borrowing a pack that is the right size for your body (buy from a shop that can offer professional advice or check with an experienced friend). Choose the smallest pack you need to carry your maximum load. Once you have your pack, adjust the straps to suit (this video clip will help).
Think tramping – think tramping boots – right? Wrong! In some instances, tramping boots may be overkill. On well-established tracks suitable for beginning trampers, hiking shoes (or even running shoes) may suffice, and be the most comfortable option. Ask questions of DOC before you go to help you decide on the best footwear to take.
Lovin’ the ‘light’
There’s nothing heroic about carrying a heavy pack. In fact, the smartest hiker carries the least load. Pare back your gear to the minimum while always keeping safety as a top priority (even wind and waterproof layers can be ultra-light if you choose the right brands). Share essential cooking gear with others in the party. Dehydrate your own delicious meals, and forget the cosmetics! Don’t be afraid to let fitter and stronger members of the party carry some gear for those who are less able – it helps everyone in the end.
Pick up a pole
Hiking poles can be your best friend (especially as you grow older). They assist with balance, especially when going downhill, and reduce strain on knees, calves and ankles. Experiment with them on practice walks to see if you prefer 1 or 2 poles, and (most importantly) learn to adjust them to suit your height and terrain.
We heart huts!
Huts are a huge help to beginning trampers. They mean you don’t have to carry the weight of a tent, and in some instances, they will also give you access to a cooker. They’re also a social place to hang out, meet other hikers, and seek advice on the next section of your route. Huts can also be a place to snore so if you’re a light sleeper, take earplugs! If you’re prone to a little snoring yourself, don’t think you have to steer clear of communal sleeping spaces – just invite your neighbour to dig you in the ribs if you get too rowdy!
Rest ‘a’ while
Depending on the difficulty of the route you’re taking, plan to fit in a rest day or two along the way. More active members of the group can go for a side-trip day-walk while those who need time to recover can stay put and rest up at the hut or campsite.
Plan to get on the trail as early as possible in the morning. Most hikers feel stronger at the start of the day, and arriving early at your destination allows more time for rest. Putting a large part of the walk behind you before midday is also encouraging to those who are the least fit.
Regular stops for water and snacks are important. They boost energy levels and allow for rehydration. If you’re an in-between-snack-snacker, keep some dried fruit and nuts in a pocket you can reach while walking.
Make it enjoyable
If your tramp isn’t enjoyable, adjust the various elements until it is. More stops, less weight, better footwear, greater fitness, later start time, different pack – the choice is yours. Don’t give up – get it right so you can enjoy the big outdoors to the max!