Tramping in New Zealand
Tramping (known in other countries as hiking, trekking or bushwalking) is a popular way to see New Zealand. Most national parks in New Zealand are administered by the Department of Conservation. The DOC offices and web site are very useful sources of information.
Tramping the New Zealand bush (forests) can be extremely dangerous if you are not properly prepared and equipped. The weather can change without warning. If you don't have the right equipment you may die from hypothermia. NZ Mountain Safety Council has some information online but it is recommended that you visit a DOC office before setting out on a trip.
Listen for the weather forecasts, especially the mountain forecast, broadcast by most AM and FM radio stations, normally every hour, just after the news (and also in the evening TV news). This means having a pocket transistor radio and perhaps a few extra metres of wire to boost the aerial. Also, if you are going into the backcountry for a few days you may want to hire a mountain radio or emergency locator beacon.
Many of the national parks have basic accommodation called huts, which range from a basic roof over your head with large bunk spaces and a "long drop" toilet, to the deluxe huts on the Milford Track with individual bunks and flush toilets (one of which has electric lighting).
There are two classes of huts. Back country huts and great walks huts. The back country huts are very basic but also very cheap. Back country huts range in price from $0 to $15 per person per night and you can get an annual back country hut pass for $65. The great walks huts range in price from $10 up to $35 per person per night.
Back country huts are often maintained by tramping clubs on a volunteer basis whereas DOC tend to maintain most of the great walks huts. Please treat the huts with respect as they are offered to enable people to access the national parks and no-one is paid to clean up after you.
Some people feel inclined to bring a tent. There are tent sites in some of the low lying areas but most people will find that the hut system is roughing it enough. A tent is great if you want to camp next to your car but it's not really what you want for tramping.
New Zealand has a number of 'Great Walks', which are very well maintained, cover some of the most beautiful scenery, and in the peak season, can be quite busy, requiring bookings with DOC well in advance. More information is available at The DOC great walks website.
The great walks are:
New Zealand tries hard to prevent introduction of unwanted flora and fauna. Make sure you clean the mud from your boots, tents, groundsheet and stoves before you enter the country. Tramping equipment will be inspected on entry into the country. If you have any type of sports equipment in your luggage, declare it; there is a $200 instant fine for having undeclared (and dirty) equipment or sports footwear in your possession.