My adventures have pulled me all over New Zealand in the past two weeks.
I have constantly been on the move, but I’m at a place I can finally write something for you guys. I recently went on the Milford Track in the Fiordlands of New Zealand. It’s advertised as the best walk in the world, and it’s hard to disagree.
Not for the faint of heart, the Milford Track features beautiful ocean scenery, lakeside beaches, mountain skylines, and alpine views.
If you are not necessarily in the best of shape, do not let that deter you. The Milford Track is the easiest of the three top walks in the area, and the hut systems they have are impressive.
At strategic places along the Milford Track, the Department of Conservation has set up huts with beds, cooking stoves, and bathrooms. This shelter system helps drastically cut back the weight you have to carry on your back for four days.
There are a few essential things that you need to make sure you do bring, though. Here’s my list of those top eight items!
1. 0 Degree Sleeping Bag
Whether it’s in the middle of the summer or late in New Zealand’s autumn season, you’ll need a good sleeping bag. You’ll likely be hiking through some sunny days, some rainy days, and some chilly alpine days and you need to be able to get a good nights sleep.
While the huts do provide a mattress to sleep on, you do need to carry your sleeping bag. Every stop over your four-day journey has a different climate.
For instance, in the alpine hut named Mintaro, you’ll need a decent bag that will retain heat. They frequently get snow at that elevation and can get chilly at night.
Don’t be that guy that had a miserable time because you couldn’t sleep at night. Get a decent sleeping bag.
2. Remarkable Waterproof Jacket
The Milford Track rains on average 7-9 meters every year. They also forecast that more than half of every month it rains.
It rains. A lot.
Expect AT LEAST half of the four days to rain. That means, from my experience and other people that I’ve asked, 48 out of the 96 hours you’ll be hiking, it’ll likely be dumping rain on you.
Now, just because it rains doesn’t mean you are going to have a bad time. In fact, you want it to rain most days. The mountains will be filled with massive waterfalls all around you, and the rivers will be stunning.
To keep yourself from getting soaking wet every single day, make sure you don’t skimp on your rain jacket. If you don’t want to invest in an expensive rain jacket, you can rent one of these from Queenstown or Te Anau before you set off. Make sure it’s high-quality and has good reviews online if you do opt to buy one, though.
Many people also bring along some rainproof pants, as well. I never minded having my legs wet while hiking since I had separate pairs of pants for hiking and sleeping in but it is a nice thing to have.
As I said before, the huts on this walk provide stoves and clean water for your use, but you do have to carry a pot to cook in, eating utensils, and a bowl. I just used the pot I cooked with to eat out of, which saved me some weight but it is nice to have a bowl handy.
A word of advice, MAKE SURE YOU DONT FORGET A FORK! I forgot my fork/spoon/knife combo I left at the hostel and had to use a small plastic fork that someone gave me out of their ramen. It was very annoying eating oatmeal in the morning with a small fork no bigger than my pinky.
Some people brought whole dining camp sets with them, but I’ve always found this unnecessary. All the cups, spoons, plates, and forks are just a lot of extra weight that I never want to carry on my back.
4. A Lighter/Matches
Again, there are stoves for you to cook with but that’s it. Something most people don’t think about is how you are going to light the stove for your oatmeal?
Bringing a lighter or matches along with you will ensure you have a hot meal since the stoves in the huts don’t light automatically. I had a small lighter that I bought at a gas station on my way down to Queenstown for this purpose, and I got my money’s worth out of it.
Several people in my group on the Milford Track didn’t know they needed a lighter, so I was constantly lending it out every night. Don’t be like my group and just bring your own.
5. Plastic Kitchen Bags
Plastic kitchen bags are actually on my list of “Don’t travel without” items. They can be used for many day-to-day things, such as keeping your bag organized, separating your dirty clothes from your clean ones, and waterproofing your stuff.
Also, you need something to put all your trash in after your meals. What you carry in, you must carry out. Do not litter on the Milford Track!
For the Milford Track, however, you’ll need them for keeping your stuff dry. With your backpack, you’ll likely have a waterproof cover, but when you’re trudging through a rainforest, that pack shell is more like a “waterproof” cover.
A roll of 40 costs about five NZD. It’ll be the best money you spent on your trip when you’re the only one in camp with dry clothes and food. I shoved my clean clothes in one bag, my dirty clothes in another, and all my food items in a separate part of my backpack in another bag. This waterproof pouch ensured that I was organized, as well.
6. An Awesome Camera!
Whatever camera you have, you should bring. Even if you’re not a huge photography guy, you’re not going to want to miss getting a photo of the Kea Parrot flying away with someone’s shoe.
If you want an all-around camera, I suggest a waterproof, shockproof one. These cameras will usually not give you the best photo quality, but it will ensure you that your camera won’t break on the mountain-side.
Of course, the fancier the camera, the more careful you have to be. It will get water on it, but the next item on the list will help you ensure you have rugged waterproof protection for that camera.
A dry bag is a sturdy bag that waterproofs anything you shove into it. They’re quite a bit more expensive, but for me, it’s an investment. If you’re only doing the Milford Track and NOTHING else in New Zealand, you could get away with the five dollar trash bags, but these are prone to ripping if you’re always handling the plastic.
I suggest buying two for this trip. A 10L dry bag will be sufficient enough for your camera, and a 20L is what I used to carry my sleeping bag. This bag ensured a dry night’s rest and some good shots going up the mountain.
Something that I didn’t even think about is what shoes was I going to wear at night? I obviously couldn’t wear the sopping wet boots inside the hut all night. Most people bring sandals or crocs for the end of the night.
Unfortunately, I did not. It completely slipped my mind. I ended up just walking around in hiking sock all night which wasn’t necessarily comfortable all the time.
A few more tips:
Bring a “wet set” of clothes and a “dry set” of clothes. That way, if you’re walking the trail on your first day and you’re caught in a massive rain storm that drenches your clothes, you can quickly change into a dry set at night to lounge around in. Your “wet set” is likely not going to dry over night. The Fiordland is so humid so just change back into them when you’re hiking. They will probably dry on your body over the next few hours of walking. If it starts raining again, you know you will have a dry set when you reach camp.
I hope this list helps you be prepared. The difference between a shitty hike and a fun walk has everything you need to survive. Let me know in the comments if you think I forgot something!