How To Walk Te Araroa, New Zealand – Part 3
Now let’s talk about gear. We have a full gear review on our blog, but today I am just going to highlight 5 key pieces specific for New Zealand and Te Araroa. You wouldn’t want to bring a cat to a dog park, would you?
1) Navigation Tools
I’ve already mentioned that you are not just following orange blazes on Te Araroa. Navigation is–hands down–the trickiest part of the trail. The trail notes, maps, and a GPS and/or mapping app on your smartphone will help you from poking out your eyes when the trail plays hide and seek. We used a Garmin Fenix watch as our GPS. We bought the “I Hike NZ” app and uploaded all the Te Araroa maps to the app ahead of time (a similar app used by other hikers was Gaia GPS). But, you should also carry a personal locator beacon (PLB), at least for the remote sections of the South Island). We carried the SPOT Gen1 Satellite Messenger. Search and rescue is complimentary in New Zealand, although making a donation would be nice! Thankfully, we never needed to use our PLB for rescue (knew people who did), but we connected it to our Facebook page for updates to friends and family from the backcountry in between blogging.
Search and Rescue is complimentary in New Zealand, but you can’t be rescued if you can’t be found!
2) Sun and Bug Protection
Two important facts about New Zealand. There is very little air pollution and the summer affords many hours of daylight. Strong UV rays translate to always having sunblock, sunglasses and even a hat for protection. It’s not that it gets super hot or humid in New Zealand, it is just that the sun is strong and the majority of your time on Te Araroa is exposed, whether on ridgelines, beaches or roads. On our road walks, the tar from the pavement would often stick to our trekking poles and shoes! In order to ward off New Zealand’s pesky sandflies (oh yes they bite), don’t forget your bug repellant.
3) Trekking poles
I am a trekking pole convert. In fact, on our 2011 Appalachian Trail thru hike, I only carried 1 pole (my way of easing into use). My opinion on poles has changed drastically since then (it is possible age plays a role in that). As such, I would highly recommend using poles on Te Araroa. With trails that often slope at 60 degrees, your knees will thank you. Plus, poles could save your life during your 49th river crossing of the day.
4) International Plug, Solar Charger or Battery Backup
Because we used our iPhone to take pictures, navigate and blog, our battery drained faster than we could find outlets. Our observation was that outlets are not as common in New Zealand as they seem to be in America. Our PowerTraveller PowerMonkey Solar Charger was our lifeline. Justin wore it on his pack everyday and easily powered up. Every night, my nearly depleted Garmin watch charged within an hour (1% for every minute). The leftover power charged our iPhone or iPad as needed. An alternative would be to have a battery backup. Even still, don’t forget to pack an international plug (the one for New Zealand is the same one for Australia)!
5) Comforts From Home
We take a lot for granted in America, which is why I have some creature comforts from home that you should bring along should you decide to hike Te Araroa. First off, if you want to shower at all during your trek and you don’t want to “hire” a towel at hostels, you will want to bring a Pack Towel. Justin & I wouldn’t normally pack one for long-distance hiking stateside, but did for this hike. We shared a smallish one (sharing was one of our weight-saving methods) and it was well worth the weight to avoid the extra expense. I might have said this once, or 10 times, but New Zealand is expensive. So bring things that you’ll only need a few of, like extra batteries, ziploc baggies and medicines. We threw these items in our resupply boxes. Lastly, you usually cannot find shampoo/soap/laundry detergent at the hostels. Before leaving the states, we stocked up on travel sized hygiene products and single-use use laundry detergents (you know those free samples you occasionally get in the mail) and scattered those throughout our mail drops.
Stay tuned for Part 4!
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