If tramping is all about roughing it, Matthew Cattin didn’t get the memo – he’s extravagant and he doesn’t care who knows it.
For as long as I have my knees, I’ll be a luxury tramper.
But, before you judge me, please know that it’s wildly out of character. In all other areas of life, I reject extravagance. I wear op shop clothes, drink $7 wine and though I hear it’s lovely, I’ve never stepped foot on Waiheke.
South Islanders would no doubt tell me it’s my roots – I am a born and bred Aucklander, after all. But that said, I don’t take soy milk in coffee and my dad doesn’t own a yacht or a bach, so something doesn’t add up there.
I suppose it could be a symptom of being a millennial. I’ll never afford a house and I’m allergic to avocado, so why shouldn’t I waste my savings on portable coffee grinders and memory foam pillows?
I never experienced the gritty golden years of tramping, when hypothermia was a rite of passage and everything was made from canvas or wool, and perhaps that’s what I needed to toughen me up.
Now, when I say luxury tramping, I don’t mean guided or private walks that cost more than my car – I mean packing enough extravagant meals and home comforts to take decades off my knees and joints.
It’s something of an addiction, and it’s slightly problematic. I’m that guy whose pack weighs the same whether packed for two or four days. On an overnighter, I’ll pack a three-course meal and complimentary beverage. On a four day tramp, I tend to ditch the entree and drink, and bring slightly less extravagant meals, but I’ll never give up my 250g foam pillow.
Being so bougie does come with sacrifice. I tend to pack minimal clothes – you’ll be amazed at the resilience of merino underwear – and I’ve cut the weight of my sleeping bag and essential gear to compensate.
Aside from the weight, the biggest problem with luxury tramping is that once you’re on board, there’s no jumping ship. How could anyone go back to dehy mac and cheese after a meal of smoked mussel fritters, blue cheese ravioli and mulled wine? Or return to gritty cowboy coffee after freshly ground beans, percolated over a stovetop? You have to maintain a standard – especially when your reputation is at stake.
But there are some who take it too far. A friend of mine who had never shown much interest in tramping accompanied friends and I on an overnight hike to Waihaha Hut, in Pureora Forest Park. Not a hard track by any means, but that’s no excuse for the unforgettable debauchery we witnessed.
When in the carpark he asked me to carry his sleeping bag and dressing gown, I accepted – though I expected he’d have good reason to relieve himself of something as essential as a sleeping bag.
When we stopped for lunch, however, my jaw dropped. As the group pulled out muesli bars, tuna and the usual tramping snacks, this glitzy glutton whipped out a litre of yoghurt and guzzled it straight from the tub. That was the first red flag, and it was just the beginning.
At the hut, he changed into slippers and a dressing gown and got to work. From his clown car of a pack, he pulled an array of foods you would never expect to see in the backcountry; several more litres of yoghurt, a litre of mango puree, berry coulis and two litres of cream.
It’s no wonder he couldn’t fit his sleeping bag.
Onlookers watched in disbelief, and some even took photos, as the robed Aucklander in slippers whipped up litres of ambrosia and mango lassi on the deck of the hut. It was outrageous, extravagant, and it inspires me to this day.
But, for the record, I made him carry his sleeping bag and robe home.