In our Day Walks in New Zealand competition, we asked you for your top tips for a fabulous walk in Aotearoa. This week, your tips on how best to enjoy your hike.
Start early. Catch the early-morning freshness of the day, birdsong, few people (on the road or on the track) and the sunrise if you are really keen, savouring the memory of a great day walk in NZ.
Hiking tips? There are many books and organisations you can research or join to ensure a safe New Zealand wilderness escape, but none tell you what really "brings home the bacon". My advice is hike with good friends and take time to soak up the wonders of your journey. Enjoy the spectacular scenery then relive your experiences, preferably at an isolated hut around a campfire. Retelling these events later will make you the envy of all.
My top tip for a great day walk in New Zealand is to wear tramping boots, cleaned from your last tramp; to use the kauri dieback cleaning station before you head on your walk; and to keep the dog on the leash. We've got to keep our great tracks beautiful and pest free so we can continue to walk them and experience the magic of New Zealand nature and wildlife.
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Be prepared: The weather can change quickly so have extra clothes handy. Have spare food and water. Let someone know where you are going and when you will be back. Take heaps of photos and make notes of where you were and outstanding features. Above all enjoy yourself. Take photos and leave only footprints.
One of the first benefits of walking is improved mental and emotional health. Walking falls within the category of activities with repetitive motions that help the brain more easily process thoughts and memories. It increases the production of neurons, which helps the body and brain cope with anxiety. Walking also boosts mental health by helping us feel more energised and happier. Walking burns calories, which is an important component of losing weight. It also helps preserve lean muscle, which regulates our metabolic rate and supports greater weight loss. Walking contributes to targeted weight loss around the midsection, which is often a problem area.
And the best part is the mental health benefits of just 30 minutes of walking can last up to 12 hours or more, so it's a great way to start the day the right way.
My best tip for a day walk is to keep a bit of raw sheep's wool in your socks to prevent rubbing and blisters. Weighs nothing and works a treat.
First work out where you will go — it doesn't have to be exact, half the fun can be exploring and being able to wander, look and see as you can. Pack accordingly and grab as many good walking buddies as you desire. I think what makes it fun is making the most of wherever you go or end up. It may not be exactly as you expected, but if you are prepared to actually "see" where you are and absorb all that surrounds you, you will find it is a wonderful experience. We are so lucky in New Zealand that even the most insignificant or smallest walk can end up providing a full day of discovery, beauty and joy.
Top tip for any walk ... just do it. But as with all things planning and preparation make for the most enjoyable day out. Always know the limitation of yourself and/or your group. Sharing a walk with like minded friends/family leaves memories forever as long as you ensure you have good walking shoes/boots, plenty of food, snacks, water and suitable clothing. Start small and work up to longer outings and in our fabulous country the choice is endless. Enjoy!
My top tip is always have in your backpack a silver emergency blanket in case of injury or getting lost. They keep you warm and are small and light.
Make the journey more important than the finish. Start early (first light) and take your time. If you're interested in birds, stop to listen and look. If you like trees, sit and observe. Hug the tree(s). We already live in a fast, fast world, so slow down when you do a walk. Learn to listen to your breath and slow it down a bit too.
A simple survival tip is: carry a whistle on your backpack.
As NZ has such variable weather conditions, it's important to keep layers of light clothing (such as merino or fleece top) in your bag. With the harsh NZ sun, a wide brim hat is essential when walking in open areas. Keep a few sweets or chocolate handy if your energy crashes and you need a last energy push to get through a long day's hike. Lastly, have a few cold drinks in a cooler back at your car or camping site. Beer or kombucha does wonders.
Always make sure you carry enough water. Once on the Queen Charlotte walkway we ran out of water and had to drink some of our wine, as we were so thirsty. The taps we found had run dry.
We are both in our "twilight years" and very much enjoy NZ's outdoors. Our top tip for a day walk or overnight trek is we always tell family or someone where we are going and carry an Epirb (Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon) that is linked to the Rescue Co-ordination Centre NZ. We know our limits, dress appropriately for all weathers, have suitable footwear, plenty of food and water, also any medications needed. Earlier this year we were trekking the Routeburn track in wet weather and witnessed a tramper wearing jeans, jean jacket (no raincoat), running shoes, little food and carrying a small handbag. He had set his limits way too high because all the huts were fully booked. We actually heated water in our billy for him to enable him to have some hot food. We could not believe how unprepared this person from overseas was.
Take double the amount of water you think you will need to drink — a 1litre bottle plus a water bladder to save on weight. Load up on good snacks and take the local paper map of your walk from the nearest i-site — just in case of no mobile service. This is also a good way to show others in your party how far to go or how far you have walked.
Wear IceBreaker or other fine wool garments. They really do work well in both hot and cool conditions. No itch, no clammy feel when you are cooling down after a sweaty walk, and no pong if worn day after day. They have revolutionised my walking and I wish it had been available when I did my long treks in Nepal.
Socks - and make sure they're merino even on the hottest summer day as they really do reduce the likelihood of blisters. Always take a spare pair in your backpack. It may only be a day walk but walking with freezing wet feet isn't fun and the bliss halfway through of putting on a dry pair changes the outlook to otherwise fine.