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November 2016 Issue
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Pigeon Post, November 2016

The letter of the month correspondent wins a Petzl Tikka+ head torch
Purple is here to stay

I believe the innovations in lightweight clothing and equipment (‘From purple fleece to pimped GPS’, October 2016) that took place in the 1990s made tramping accessible to a far greater number of people.

There was no longer a need to keep those expensive, heavy boots in the cupboard until their next outing or hide away that heavy ugly ‘sweaty’ waterproof until it was needed out on the hills with the serious walkers. The new clothing, boots and equipment were comfortable, easy to wear, stylish, colourful and fashionable. They could be worn on a regular basis. Now, 20 years later, fleece, waterproof jackets, down jackets and hiking shoes are accepted as standard everyday dress for all.

Now, it is not only the serious trampers who explore the great outdoors. Walking groups of all ages are everywhere, participating in an affordable activity, sharing and talking with like-minded people and keeping healthy. Families start walking sooner with the comfortable child-carriers for the youngest members.

In the 90s I was working in an outdoor shop in the UK’s Lake District. For me, the introduction of fleece brought the realisation that lightweight clothing was the way to go. Movement was easier, spare layers were lighter to carry and fleece was easy to wash and dried quickly. The owner of one shop that I worked in refused to buy too many fleece garments as, in his opinion, it was just a passing fashion! How wrong he was.

The introduction of lighter footwear was a huge innovation, although many seasoned hikers could be hard to convince. Nylon shanks replaced the heavy steel ones. Trying to convince a customer that there wasn’t an exact replacement for his 30-year-old boots with nails hammered into the soles for grip, could be difficult. Trying to persuade them to wear only one pair of well-fitting padded socks instead of multiple sagging, shapeless pairs could be even harder.

I still wear purple and over the years have had fleece, waterproofs and even a purple one-piece ski suit. Today I have purple merino.

–  Pat Tetlow, email

– Thanks for sharing your memories, Pat. A Petzl Tikka Plus head torch worth $89.95 from is on its way. Readers, send your letter to for a chance to win.

They are already here

Geoff Chapple’s article on the Te Araroa Trail (‘Build it and they will come’, October 2016) reminds us of what an amazing accomplishment the ‘Long Pathway’ has become, and mainly through Chapple’s dogged determination and vision.

The number of thru-walkers, I believe, is substantially higher than those he quotes based on the hut books at Top Wairoa Hut. In January/February this year I did the top half of the Te Araroa Trail from Queen Charlotte Sound to the Rangitata River. Every day there were foreign (mostly German and American), solo male trampers passing me on the track plus a surprising number heading north. Most of them were doing the full trail having previously done long trails elsewhere in the world.

And most of them were not putting any entries in the hut books. (DOC estimates only 30 per cent of trampers make hut book entries).

I bumped into a friend in the Craigieburn who was completing his four-year, episodic walk of the Trail. At Bluff he was one of 13 people completing the walk that day. My guess is that in this last season the number of thru-walkers was possibly as high as 300 or 400.

 – Roger Parsons, email

Sleeping well

‘Snorers only’ reads the sign on one of the two bunk rooms in Waiaua Gorge Hut, Egmont National Park.

It’s unlikely these days that your great outdoor escape will mean a hut all to yourself. And there’s little you can do about those who tramp to backcountry huts in ‘packs’ (the hut sleeps 12 but there’s 14 people in their party), or those who aren’t aware of, or don’t read, the Backcountry Hut Code on display in each hut which mentions ‘making room for latecomers’.

But for those occasions when there’s just a few random strangers sharing a roof for another night in paradise, wouldn’t a less stigmatising  way to indicate a room for snorers be a wee sign saying: ‘Snorers asleep here’?

Others get a great night’s sleep, while the snorers enjoy a guilt-free breakfast, knowing they did their best to ensure others had a decent night’s rest.

– Chris Cropp, Snells Beach