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March 2013 Issue
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Packing for a long-distance trail

You’ve got more chance of completing Te Araroa if you keep your base pack weight to around 4-8kg. Photo: Benjamin James

Te Araroa Trail veteran Benjamin James shares his advice on how to pack to succeed

Ankle, foot and knee injuries account for a significant proportion of Te Araroa Trail dropouts. Do yourself a favour; lighten up to increase your chances of making it to the end in one piece.

The ideal philosophy for preparing for the TA is to go as light as possible without sacrificing on safety; a 4-8kg base weight is a reasonable goal.

You need to consider the following:

Shelter: A trend of tents that use trekking poles as the main supports means that a sturdy shelter can weigh as little as 500g. A three-season down sleeping bag (aim for 600g) and an inflatable mattress are essential. A DOC Backcountry Hut Pass is needed for the South Island.

Hydration: For most sections, carrying two-litres of water will suffice if you have a means of filtration.

Nutrition: After a few weeks of walking you will tune in to the energy needs of your body. Thru-hikers need between 600-1000g of food per day. Eating is a daily highlight, so spend extra on good quality food. Get used to one-pot meals as the lighter your cooking kit the better.

Clothing: Layers, quick drying materials and no cotton.

Navigation: Unless you are experienced with map and compass, carrying a GPS will make your trip a lot easier. Parts of the trail are poorly marked and unmaintained. Maps and track notes can be downloaded from the TA website, but be sure to pack your common sense: sometimes the GPS/maps don’t exactly match up to the track notes and trail.

Communication: ManyTA hikers have a blog. Don’t carry a laptop, phone, kindle and a tablet; get one device that does it all. An external battery pack is also worth having to recharge whichever devices you choose to take.

Hygiene: All you need is wet wipes, a multipurpose eco-soap, sunscreen, insect repellant, toothpaste and toothbrush (and tampons for the girls).

Emergency: A personal locator beacon is essential. Search and Rescue will much rather return you safe and sound than recover your corpse. An emergency blanket is also essential.

First aid: Focus on blister care.

Packing system: There are times when your pack may be submerged underwater so use a heavy duty pack liner and pack your gear in smaller dry bags inside that. Leave your rain cover at home.

Camera: Take a lightweight, waterproof camera; anything else is overkill.

Company: Get involved with the TA facebook community and find people to hike with, it’s a lot easier to look back and laugh when you have shared it with somebody else.

– Benjamin James is a Te Araroa Trail veteran and blogged his experience at