What To Wear On A Hike: From Lana Van Hout-Graves to Shaun Barnett, Outdoor Enthusiasts Share Tramping Gear Recommendations

By Dan Ahwa
Be prepared for an outdoor adventure and pack wisely. Photo / Guy Coombes

The right gear can make any outdoor trek an unforgettable experience. These passionate outdoorsy types share their personal and highly useful clothing recommendations based on experience.

Hiking is a pastime many New Zealanders have long enjoyed, with a diverse range of trails to suit individual needs.

We’re talking around 1473

This past summer I had the pleasure of going on a couple of expeditions, including a mesmerising hike up Opito Point in the Coromandel to the pā, where at its peak you can survey some sensational views of the surrounding Mercury Islands.

To help me with the trek, I wore an updated pair of Teva shoes that I swear by, made from recycled materials that offer the kind of cushiony support you need from shoes on a long trail. The breathability of these shoes is a saviour for warm-day hikes; and come winter I’ll switch these out for a pair of old Timberland hiking boots, which had their last run during a hike last June in what is possibly one of my favourite day hikes in New Zealand — the glorious Tauhara track at Taupō.

Good hiking gear can help prevent injuries, says Dan Ahwa, pictured on a hike in the Coromandel.
Good hiking gear can help prevent injuries, says Dan Ahwa, pictured on a hike in the Coromandel.

Whatever level of capability you have, going on a decent outdoor expedition requires a little forward planning, including ensuring you invest in the correct type of gear conducive to personal safety and coping with weather conditions.

While investing in quality hiking gear isn’t necessary if you’re a casual adventurist who prefers to keep things simple, it’s always insightful to hear from others on what they find useful and what their recommendations are — particularly when you speak to someone like the prolific Wellington-based tramper, historian, photographer and author of Tramping in Aotearoa and New Zealand’s Best 45 Tramps, Shaun Barnett, one of Aotearoa’s leading experts and most highly respected members of the backcountry community.

Tramper, historian, photographer and author Shaun Barnett.
Tramper, historian, photographer and author Shaun Barnett.

The 54-year-old was recently diagnosed with stage four brain cancer and is currently writing a memoir Wild Notes inspired by his life in the outdoors. He took a moment to respond with his essential hiking gear recommendations and I’m inspired by his immeasurable commitment and contribution to our hiking communities.

For people new to the tradition of tramping, the choices can seem overwhelming, and Shaun shares a few of his top picks here.

I also speak with outdoor hiking enthusiasts documenting the activity for a new generation. Model and fitness influencer Lana Van Hout-Graves offers her insightful must-pack essentials for a decent hike and her list of suggestions are both practical and well-designed.

The diversity of these suggestions offers plenty of ideas to invest in the right gear for an activity you can enjoy all year round. Take note.

Anna Roberts geared up in the Haketere heading in to Double Hut.
Anna Roberts geared up in the Haketere heading in to Double Hut.

Anna Roberts

Anna is an officer of the Auckland Tramping Club and has been an avid tramper for close to half a century.

My first hike ... was in Tongariro National Park while at university and I was hooked. New Zealand has such diverse, easily accessible landscapes and spectacular scenery that draws you in to go exploring and hiking.

We are still discovering new places. Auckland itself has a large number of parks, reserves, maunga and coastlines to explore and hike — a great starting one is the coast-to-coast walk from Manukau to the Waitematā.

My advice for packing is ... pack right and pack light! Essential is a comfortable, well-fitting day pack —difficult to go wrong with Lowe Alpine or Osprey packs.

What goes in it? A lightweight rain jacket or parka for rain and wind protection (New Zealand can have four seasons in a day any time of the year!). I also pack a lightweight warm jacket and/or a long-sleeved merino sweater. A drink is a must, along with food snack bars. A basic first aid is important for blisters, cuts and grazes. Pack sunblock, and if you’re tramping in cold weather, add a merino wool beanie and gloves.

The shoes I swear by ... depend on the track and conditions. In rough conditions we prefer hiking boots as these provide ankle protection, otherwise wear hiking shoes. Pair with lightweight merino socks for comfort and to absorb sweat.

I wear Long Peak Altra boots and shoes; Keen makes excellent footwear as does Salomon. Some people even go for outdoor sandals — select ones with closed toes and heel straps. Teva has a good range of options. A quick pro tip: footwear must have a good tread for grip; when tread begins to wear and get smooth, bin them!

Anna's Long Peak Altra hiking boots.
Anna's Long Peak Altra hiking boots.

When I dress for a tramp ... I go for merino clothing for comfort and warmth. A merino T-shirt is much better then a cotton T-shirt at keeping you warm when it gets wet. Wear a short-sleeved T-shirt when warm, and a long-sleeved one when cooler. Try Mons Royal for great merino gear and also Icebreaker.

Tussock Ridge also has great gear I rely on for both outdoors and around the town. You can wear any comfortable, well-fitting shorts (ideally with plenty of pockets!). Long trouser options are ideal for tougher treks and offer both additional sun protection and scratch protection. And don’t forget a hat!

RAB makes excellent hiking gear and I would recommend also checking out Arc’teryx — I have one of their lightweight jackets.

Shaun Barnett approaching the summit of Mt Somers, Hakatere, Canterbury. Photo / Peter Laurenson
Shaun Barnett approaching the summit of Mt Somers, Hakatere, Canterbury. Photo / Peter Laurenson

Shaun Barnett

Wellington-based tramper, historian, photographer and author of Tramping in Aotearoa.

What you’ll find in my hiking kit ... I’m a big fan of merino underwear! Super comfortable, warm, and they don’t get smelly. So perfect for long days on the trail, and they keep a core part of your body warm and dry. And if you’re in desperate need, they can double as an emergency balaclava!

Lana Van Hout-Graves offers up her personal tips for effective tramping gear.
Lana Van Hout-Graves offers up her personal tips for effective tramping gear.

The Auckland-based model is also an accomplished long-distance running coach and avid hiker, and was a previous contestant on Celebrity Treasure Island.

Being prepared ... is very important when heading out on a walk or a hike, especially if you are hiking in alpine territory where you need to make sure you have the right essentials. I always look at DoC’s website to see what its recommendations are for the particular walk I am doing, as even in the summer the weather can change very quickly.

Ensure you take warm layers — my essentials are always my Kathmandu puffer jacket, Icebreaker Merino layers or thermals; and a good waterproof jacket (not showerproof).

One of the most important things when going on a hike ... is to wear shoes you have worn before. You never want to be breaking in a new pair of hiking boots or shoes on a hike with the risk of blisters and sore feet. Socks are equally important to keep blisters away, so stay away from cotton socks and choose a merino or hiking option. Make sure you try them on with your shoes before heading off on your hike.

Merino and moisture-wicking products are the best especially in the warmer months, as they will help to keep your skin dry and free from chafing or rubbing. The Asics Trail Range shorts are one of my faves as they are stretchy for a great range of movement and have lots of pockets to keep your phone and snacks handy.

Sun protection is very important. Make sure you wear a hat, sunglasses and make sure you reapply sunscreen every two hours. My favourite is the La Roche-Posay Anthelios range as all their products are SPF50+ and are easy to rub in on the move. Don’t forget to wear sunscreen even on cloudy days.

Ensure you take a drink bottle and stay hydrated. I always use an insulated bottle so my water stays nice and cold. If you are planning on doing some overnighters, the JetBoil has been a game changer for cooking and boiling water. It’s been a great investment and speeds up cooking time a lot.

A tip of mine for hikes that have quite a lot of incline and head into alpine territory ... is that I always find as you are hiking up you get hot and sweaty, and as soon as you reach the summit the temperature drops and you can get quite cold. So, what I do as soon as I reach the top of a hike like Roy’s Peak is remove my damp, sweaty top and change into a dry one from my bag and put on a warm layer. This always helps to keep me warm because as soon as you stop moving your temperature drops very quickly.

Emma Gleason on a hike on the Mercer Bay Loop Track.
Emma Gleason on a hike on the Mercer Bay Loop Track.

Emma Gleason

The Viva contributor and deputy editor for The New Zealand Herald Lifestyle audience enjoys a good tramp.

My favourite place for a hike is ... Mercer Bay. It’s my favourite track in Auckland, and I do it once a year. The last hike I did was rather more arduous — from coast to crater on Ambrym Island in Vanuatu — so this one should, I hope, feel like a walk in the park comparatively.

Hiking boots, especially good-quality ones, can be expensive ... due to the resilience of materials and construction required, and the status symbols many of these brands hold. Between the cost and the knowledge needed to know what makes for a good pair and the challenge of the activity itself, the barriers to entry can feel formidable. Many people buy a pair with the aspiration or plan of a big trek or new hobby which doesn’t pan out, or the fit is wrong, so you can find great options on the resale market.

I bought my boots second-hand, on Trade Me; they’re an old Kathmandu style (now out of production) made of leather, and they hadn’t even been worn. Now they have though. They’ve been all over the world and look all the better for it. Lucky boots and lucky me. I love how the leather has worn and shows the memories. I also love leather for boots as it’s a natural material and feels better to me. Some brands still do leather boots, while others utilise newer materials. Regardless of what you choose, do a lot of research; consult forums, read product reviews — be a nerd! Whatever boots you get, size up so you can wear thick socks. (Essential for minimising blisters, bruising and aches).

Trail runners (essentially hiking sneakers) can be a better option for longer hikes as they’re lighter and more flexible. And while they aren’t waterproof — so won’t keep your feet dry when fording a river — they do dry quicker than heavier boots.

Accessories I like to pack include ... a bandana, good for the head; or saturate it with water and tie around your neck, which helps you cool down. A first aid kit. My Nalgene bottle. A head torch, because you never know when you might need it. A small knife — I like Opinel. Toilet paper.

My preferred hiking uniform is ... a pair of old nylon running shorts with built-in underwear from the devastatingly soon-to-close army surplus store on Karangahape Rd (where I also got my camo pants that I hike in too); a thin ribbed singlet that dries quickly; and an old Canterbury rugby shirt that does not dry quickly but is sturdy and I love it; I like the brand’s rugby shorts for outdoor activities. Also along for the ride are some striped thermals — an essential for layering as temperatures in New Zealand are unpredictable — and a rain jacket. This is important; get one that is seam-sealed (check inside) so it’s waterproof, not just water-resistant. You want to be prepared. Check the tags carefully when shopping. I don’t hike in down jackets, preferring multiple layers to stay warm, and so I can adjust my temperature throughout a hike.

Again, you don’t need to spend a fortune on flash gear. Be practical and consider what you already have that might do the trick. I often take a light cotton shirt on a hike, or a sweater vest.

And also, just remember, for many people around the world (and here) a hike is just a walk — a way to get from point A to point B — and you just wear clothes. So, get what you need and what suits you, but you don’t have to invest a fortune getting decked out in the newest gear; spend where it matters, shop around (and second-hand!). Think practically.

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