Here at TNZ we are asked many times what exactly is tramping? Tramping is the New Zealand term for hiking or trekking, and usually involves a walk of a day or longer in the New Zealand bush. Generally the tramper will carry in all their own gear they need for the trip, which could include a tent, cooking utensils, map etc. This they would carry in a backpack or tramping pack and of course carry out all their own rubbish.
In New Zealand we are lucky to have a large networks of huts for trampers to stay in. The majority of these huts are managed by the New Zealand's government's Department of Conservation and a small fee is required for use to enable maintenace of the huts and track.
But perhaps most important of all tramping is what you get out of it, whether it's for fitness, photography or just to get away from 'civilisation' for a while, there's nothing quite like it.
A large number of companies offer guided hikes or tramps in the New Zealand bush. These range from day hikes through to multi-day tramps and cater for hikers of all ability level. These guided hikes are great for visitors to New Zealand who are short on time, don't want to buy their own gear or also want to learn more about the countryside they are hiking in.
The distance and standard of the track vary from location to location, but generally the huts are 4 to 6 hours tramp from the road-end. Most tracks are well-marked and easy to follow. As always it is best to be prepared and you should always have a good map, ideally a 1:50,000 Topo map, compass and/or GPS unit. Even the most experienced of trampers can easily get lost, during a white-out for example, and these basic pieces of tramping equipment could save your life.
The cost of a hut varies on its facilities and to a certain extent its popularity. An overnight stay at a hut varies in price from $5.10 for a standard hut up to $51.10 for a hut on one of the popular Great Walks. Go to the Tramping Hut page for more information about hut facilities and cost.
Everything you need to look after yourself in the bush is the short answer. Never assume anything about a hut, the gas cookers may be broken - take your cooker, all the bunks are taken - take a tent or sleeping mat for the hut floor. Go to the Tramping Equpiment page for a list of gear you'll need for tramping in New Zealand.
The Abel Tasman coastal track is served by a number of water taxi companies. As well as picking up and dropping off day-hikers on the track, Abel Tasman AquaTaxi will transport your packs from hut to hut. This will allow you to fully appreciate the sights and sounds of the track without the burden of a heavy backpack.
One of the most famous sayings in New Zealand is that you can experience all four seasons in just one day. Having said that, obviously the summer (offically December to February) will be warmest time of year although the weather will be warm for a number of months either side of this period. Winter can be cold, and temperatures will drop below freezing overnight, especially on the South Island. As with hiking anywhere, it's always best to be prepared and take clothing and equipment suitable for all weather. Closer to the time of your tramp, you should check with the local DOC office regarding weather conditions and good weather forecasts for the whole country are supplied by the MetService.
The best maps available for tramping in New Zealand are the 1:50,000 Topo map range produced by LINZ. These maps have most tramping tracks indicated plus the location of DOC huts. All the Topo maps are available as a downloadable tif file from LINZ. LINZ also kindly supply a list of retailers both in NZ and overseas who sell the Topo map range.
Another good range of maps are the NewTopo topographic series. Each map has detailed information such as track times, number of bunks in a hut as well as the usual topographic details. These maps are ideal for trampers.
You can make hut bookings at any Department of Conservation office. They will issue you with a printed ticket confirming the dates of your booking and the number in your party. The DOC website has a list of their offices around New Zealand. Another way to book, handy if you are overseas, is via the DOC website's hut booking system. Tickets are emailed to you and you can then print them out prior to tramping.
Most huts are available all year round, but may be closed for repairs and of course may be unavailble if the track is blocked. Bunks in most huts are allocated on a first come, first served basis and of course are busiest during school holidays and at the weekends. Advanced booking is required for some huts, especially those on the Great Walks. These can be booked at a DOC office or online on the DOC website.
It really depends on the kind of tramping experience you are after! Tramping during the high summer season (it's usually warmest in New Zealand during February) may reduce the risk of rain and give you warm evenings and nights, but tramping in 30 degree temperatures may not be everyone's cup of tea and of course you need more insect repellant during the warmer months. The New Zealand bush takes on a whole different feel after a good downpour, the rain seems to bring out different smells from the bush but of course tramping when it's hosing down is not the most enjoyable tramping experience. One of the most pleasant day's tramping we have experienced was during June (the start of winter) when we spent the day hiking through a light dusting of snow but wading armpit-deep in a snow drift is hard work! The key thing is to be prepared, take plenty of spare warm clothes in the winter, waterproof gear if rain is forecast and sunblock and insect repellant in the summer months. Remembering just a few extra key items may just make the tramp more enjoyable.