With 5 days till we head up north and 7 till we set off. Here’s our gear and food list with weights and sources along with a few more thoughts.
After reading just about every recommendation and review there is to read. We started our acquisition of gear prior to Christmas and purchased what we could fit into our suitcases in the UK, then dragged it across India, Thailand and Australia before landing in New Zealand. A laborious task it was but it saved us a load of money. Especially on the tent.
Then the 5 months we were in India, we continuously trawled the New Zealand internet retailers for discounted gear on our list, picking up packs and sleeping bags at half price. Then once in New Zealand went in to our chosen retailers with our lists and cheekily asked for discount, which we received fairly generously. So if you’re not time limited, compile your list, take your time and bulk buy items you need more than one of and you should get most your equipment for half what you’d expect to pay. For example: New Zealand is renowned for extremely overcharging on items like tents, boots, stoves, etc. So we purchased 3 pairs of boots at once in and got a big enough discount that the price was comparable to Europe or the US. And if your gear is not available in New Zealand, as is often the case. Then order it in from abroad. We pretty much received everything within a week from the UK and US and in some cases even got free delivery. Helps if you’ve got someone to receive all this stuff though. Thanks again Mum!
Now looking at the gear list, I’ve thrown in quite a few luxury items like ‘the kitchen sink’. Ridicule me if you will but while doing our best to keep weight to a minimum, we’ve also tried to find gear that will add to comfort, convenience and save us time and money in the long run and reduce our dependence on the mods and cons you get in town (at over inflated prices). So ‘the kitchen sink’ will double as a wash basin and a laundry basin and while keeping the funk at bay we also hope we won’t have to put half our pension into the slot machines at the Laundromats along the way. And if any of these extras aren’t really up to the task then we’ll just lose them on the way.
One gear let down, which I consider to be fairly major happened just yesterday. After downloading the up to date maps, notes, kmz and gpx files from the Te Araroa website. I found the gpx file has not been updated yet. So proceeding to convert the kmz to gpx, I added it to Garmin Basemap and was attempting to load on to the Etrex 20. Now the device just wasn’t operating correctly so I installed the Garmin recommended software update and boom. 1 dead device. Basically, it won’t boot as the system software in missing, it won’t boot in mass storage mode despite Garmin ensuring it will and it won’t update via Garmin Web Updater, which Garmin say it will. Being the weekend, the support office is closed and after emailing precise details of the fault and requesting a software fix, I’m met with a message saying I should expect a response within 72 hours from opening time on Monday morning (and may actually have to send the device in). Which means Wednesday. Now considering we leave Friday morning, this is not what we need. So long story short. The Garmin has been abandoned in favour of the iPhone 5 with NZ Topo50 apps and an uploaded kml file to use in conjunction with the maps and notes. And as it stands, I will probably do my damnedest to avoid Garmin products from here on in. All in all, I spent about 6 hours of my Saturday attempting to fix this flaw and found thousands of similar incidents on the various forums on the net. Not really acceptable for a company of this magnitude.
Best buy was our ‘Black Diamond Trail’ poles at: $67NZ per pair (Retail $149)
Being vegan will probably be the most difficult part of doing this trail. We’ve actually had trouble finding what we deem acceptable food in Countdown and New World in Tauranga. Seems New Zealand has an obsession with adding cows milk to anything they can. Including potato chips and dried coconut milk. So finding edibles in a small town 4 Square won’t be easy either.
I started off with an idea of using a pressure cooker on the trail as a means to quickly cook dried beans and pulses on the trail but quickly abandoned this idea as there isn’t a cooker on the market that is lightweight and suitable enough to carry. I just like the idea of thinking outside the box and instead of focusing on the nutritionally limited, bland and overpriced ready meals, shift the focus to light weight effective gear that can cook pretty much everything that is already available. I’m tempted to get a prototype made next time I’m in India, otherwise if there are any hiking and camping entrepreneurs out there, feel free to develop something. It will revolutionise trail cooking and nutrition.
So our solution is to send food parcels ahead to friends, family and hostels we intend on staying at with 10 days of rations and we’ll top up on what we can in between. Many of the items we have included have a cook time of 20 minutes so we will also be carrying extra fuel to allow for the extra cooking time.
The plan for nutrition is to carry 10 days worth of food at 3000kcal each per day and top that up to 4000kcal plus with pita, canned beans, canned pulses and coconut cream etc when we’re passing through town. And if push comes to shove we may have to load on the dirty carbs with chips and ketchup. Nearly 1500kcal will be coming from fruit and nuts that we’ll eat with 500kcal oats and coconut paste at breakfast and grazing through the day. And the dinner will be 1000kcal carb load of rice, pasta, lentil with sauce and dried vegetables etc.
Body Weight - Since leaving Asia we’ve both gained some extra pounds in part to the colder climate, overeating and a few beers and wines too. Downside is the fitness suffers a little but the upside is we’re carrying a buffer we can afford to lose if we’re not getting enough calories. This has also increased our pack weights as we’re carrying up to 25% of our body weight. And if we do drop the pounds we’ll be fitter so it won’t matter so much.
Walks - We’ve been for a few walks but not a lot. Did a 16km trek at Karangahake and we’ve walked up and around Mauau at Mt Maunganui a couple of times. We feel pretty fit and don’t really suffer from stiffness due to the yoga we do. So figure we’ll pick up the extra fitness required for carrying our packs on the way.
Gear trials and tests – We’ve had a run through of unpacking, erecting, taking down and repacking the tent. Tested the sleeping mats and bags. We got 650 fill sleeping bags which are pretty light and small. They zip together so on colder nights we won’t go cold. Packed and unpacked the backpack and have a pretty good idea regarding position of the load. Cooked dinner with our cooker. And am pretty happy with the repeated pack, unpack, assemble, disassemble process for everything.
Trail notes – Sherren has been going through the trail notes and adding supplementary information from previous hikers trail notes that may be useful and we’ve been marking points on the map when we need to send a food parcel. We’ve also noted where we will need to resupply. Accommodation we’ll plan 1 to 2 days in advance as we’re travelling except when we plan to pick up a food parcel which we’ll try and give a weeks notice if possible to secure a booking.
And with all that. We’re ready to stroll!
The outlook for the weather doesn’t look good for Sunday but we’re going to have to get used to walking in the rain at some point and with high tide set for midday, at least the sand at the top of the beach will be a little firmer.
Green – What we got and packed
Grey – What we decided to leave out
Blue – What we’re still waiting on
You’ll see my pack will be a fairly constant weight and Sherren will be carrying the bulk of the food cutting down to a very light pack by day 5 after resupply.