Tramping tips

By: Nina Mercer, Photography by: Nina Mercer

Tramping tips Strong winds can make the going really hard Tramping tips
Tramping tips A good book is always in our kids’ packs Tramping tips
Tramping tips And sometimes Dad gets to carry three packs... Tramping tips
Tramping tips Things might not always go to plan but there’s always somewhere beautiful you can get to Tramping tips
Tramping tips Regular rest stops are often needed Tramping tips

When it comes to exploring the outdoors in New Zealand, ‘never trust New Zealand weather’ is a great piece of advice to adhere to, says Nina Mercer

No doubt most of you will have been caught out by our ‘four seasons in one day’, as Crowded House serenaded us with back in the distant past.

But it’s not just weather that can turn a fun adventure into a disaster. Here are a few things to consider when planning a trip into the wilderness.

Flexibility is key!

Pleased to have a first aid kit with good painkillers when I sprained my ankle on this tramp

And by this I don’t mean that you need to able to touch your toes. Flexibility around your plans is key to a happy and successful break away – even if it means changing your plans completely.

On an overnight trip to an alpine hut with the kids, we encountered extremely strong winds. We coped for the first hour of walking, but as soon as we hit an exposed saddle it was a whole different story.

No problem for my 100kg husband to lean in and soldier on, but the rest of us risked becoming human kites if we took one step too far from the sheltered spot we had hunkered down at. There was nothing for it but to beat a retreat back to the car, where we reassessed our options, dumped the overnight packs and walked into a closer hut up the side valley.

It was still windy, but in a fun kind of way. It was still an adventure in the outdoors, just a bit safer and we got to sleep in our own beds. Not what we had planned, but a stretch of the legs nonetheless and a day out with the family. A good outcome overall.

Have a plan b

Sometimes it’s not the weather, but the capabilities of your group that might necessitate a rethink. Whether it is an overnight walk or a two-hour tramp – if you are unsure of your walking buddies’ capabilities it is good to either have a back-up plan or be prepared to shorten your walk if need be.

For us, a tramp that takes two hours might take our youngest child four hours, so we like to go somewhere that has a short and longer option. This was the case when aiming to visit Roaring Stag Hut in the Tararua Forest Park.

It is a real tramping track with mud, roots and a long, steep climb. By the end of the climb it was obvious that our youngest wasn’t up for the longer trek to Roaring Stag Hut so instead we took a right at the junction and headed along a gentle ridge to a closer hut.

What could have been a stressful and long-winded tramp was instead a happy and positive experience for all involved.

Know your party

It’s always a bonus to tramp with people you know you get on with

If you are tramping with someone for the first time, it’s always a good idea to do a less challenging walk together prior to a big trip. Knowing each other’s fitness and confidence levels gives you a clear idea of what to expect from each other on a longer adventure.

This helps avoid frustrations if one party member is slowing the group up, because you already anticipated that. And it influences your planning and time allocations, making for a safer, more enjoyable outing.

Knowing your tramping buddies’ abilities keeps expectations real

It also gives you a chance to decide if you really do want to do an overnight tramp with that person, because, let’s face it, not everyone is tramping-compatible!

Be prepared

This adage is an oldie but a goody. Being prepared can be the difference between life and death in the bush – even at a road-end campsite, which can be remote and isolated. Our middle child has quite severe allergies so we always carry the appropriate drugs in our first aid kit, whether it be tramping or camping in the wops.

We also carry a PLB – a personal locator beacon. With the flick of a switch this beacon sends out a signal that accurately pinpoints your location to rescuers. Our little yellow device goes fishing, camping, tramping and hunting with various members of the family. Luckily we haven’t had to use it yet, but it’s a fantastic tool for ‘just in case’.


A personal locator beacon, whistle and game of Anagrams are essentials!

Books and a set of cards are a must have for remote expeditions. Another favourite of ours is a game called Anagrams, which involves spelling words from small individual letter cards and then stealing other people’s words – much hilarity can be had with not a screen in sight! And I’ll let you investigate the Exploding Kittens card game for yourselves – just ask Uncle Google.

Don’t skimp on clothing

 Whatever the forecast, always take your wet weather gear!

No matter the weather forecast, warm clothes and a raincoat are a must. It’s far better to have them with you and not use them, than to need them and not have them.

The flip side of that coin is sun protection and keeping up fluids on hot, sunny days – it’s easy to forget when you’re busy having fun, but it’s so important to slip, slop, slap and slurp! Pack a first aid kit too.

There’s always next weekend

Strong winds can make the going really hard

And remember, if the weather’s bad or someone‘s not feeling well there’s always next weekend. Don’t be so set in your plans that you go even if it makes people miserable, or puts your group into a dangerous situation.

Communicate, talk to your co-leader and make a plan that suits the whole group. That way you’ll make ‘going bush’ a great experience for everyone. Happy tramping!

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