Gear & Clothing review for the Te Araroa

After one major pack shakedown at the 1,000 km mark, I ended the trail with a slightly lighter pack than what I started with (approx 8.5 kg/18.7 lb base weight – not including food or water).

I’ve detailed below what I kept and discarded, and what I thought about each piece of gear during the 3,000 km journey from Cape Reinga to Bluff.

Equipment Review/Notes Photo
Backpack – ULA – Catalyst 75L After over 4,000 km on the PCT this pack still held together for this trip. I could have done with a much smaller pack for the TA, and would probably carry a 60L next time. The most popular packs I saw on the trail were Osprey’s varying between 48-60L.  
Backpack cover – ULA I still believe in traditional pack covers and used this a lot in the South Island. Though it almost got blown off a number of times in strong winds, I would still recommend carrying a waterproof cover or at the very least having a fully waterproof pack liner.  
Tent – MSR Hubba NX Though this tent is bomb proof in wind, it didn’t stand up to it’s name in regards to water repellency. Even though I used the ground sheet in wet weather, I found that water would still seep through the bottom of my tent. One of the poles also came unscrewed frequently and needed to be rejoined.  
Ground sheet – MSR Hubba Footprint As per above, I wouldn’t trust this groundsheet to keep my tent dry, though it works well on rough surfaces.  See above
Sleeping bag – Western Mountaineering Ultralight -7℃ Great bag but way too hot for the North Island. I used it mainly unzipped as a blanket for the majority of the trip and can count the times on one hand I had to be fully zipped up to my chin. A -3℃ bag would be perfect for me for this trip.  
Sleeping pad – Therm-a-Rest Neoair Love this sleeping pad, though I did miss the convenience of my Therm-a-Rest Z Lite. It took a while for me to get used to the narrowness of this pad, but I’d still recommend it.  
Stove – Jetboil I got rid of my stove after the 1,000 km mark and have to say I didn’t miss it at all. I find the Jetboil incredibly fast, but a little too heavy for a thru-hike. I’ll keep it for my kayaking trips where weight isn’t such an issue. Oh and cold soaked food isn’t as bad as I thought!  
Cup and bowl – 1kg peanut butter jar Once I switched to cold food my peanut butter jar was used to cold soak my food and eat and drink from. The lid seal isn’t 100% watertight, but it’s pretty good. It’s also super easy to clean – fill with a little water, shake for 10 seconds, empty and repeat 2-3 times!  
Spork – Titanium Once I switched to my peanut butter jar I would have liked a slightly longer spork – preferably foldable or adjustable.  

Sponge – 1/3 kitchen sponge I got rid of my sponge after km 1,000 along with my stove as my peanut butter jar was essentially self-cleaning!  See above under ‘Stove’
Fuel I obviously didn’t need this once I got rid of my stove but they’re readily available in all towns and even in some of the very small supermarkets. I only used half a canister by the time I reached Auckland. Fuel for alcohol stoves is sold in 1L bottles, which is never convenient for a thru-hiker.  
Lighter – mini BIC lighter Predominantly used for lighting fires in the huts in the South Island once I got rid of my stove.  
Pocket knife – Mini Swiss Army multi tool This tiny multi tool has a knife, scissor, file, tweezer and toothpick. What more could you want?  
Water bottles – 1L BPA free wide mouth water bottle I needed a wide mouth water bottle when I was using my steripen to purify water. I liked having a water bottle in the side pocket of my pack and my 2L hydration bag inside my pack. I only ever carried a maximum of 3L of water at a time, and on average would only carry 1.5-2L.  
Water bladder – 2L MSR Dromelite with drinking hose I’m a big fan of having a water bladder and hose for easy access to my water. I find people with a hydration system drink small sips more frequently, while those with water bottles drink larger amounts less frequently. I end up carrying more water because it’s harder to refill, but it’s a sacrifice I’m willing to make.  
Mouth guard for drinking hose I highly recommend this to keep your mouthpiece clean when you throw your pack on the ground.  See above (blue cap)
Water filter – Platypus 1L Metabottle I had been using a secondhand SteriPEN Freedom (which I loved), but I think the lamp needed replacing and it finally died on me. In Twizel I picked up the Platypus Metabottle, which is kind of like using a Sawyer Squeeze except it’s all-in-one. Though it held 1L I could only squeeze about 750 ml out of it and I got tired of the process, but it was a decent $100 alternative to using Aquatabs.  

Water filter (backup) – Aquatabs I was glad to have these when my SteriPEN died, but I wouldn’t want to use these all the time because they take 30 minutes to purify.  
Hiking Poles – various brands My secondhand Black Diamond Ultra Distance Trekking Poles with metal tips both broke in the North Island, so I replaced them with one ultra heavy pole I found at a fishing store in Kerikeri and the other with a cheap Kathmandu pole in Auckland. The heavy pole lasted the rest of the trail, while the Kathmandu pole completely broke by Wanaka. While you don’t need poles for all the road walking I highly recommend them for the steep and slippery terrain on the rest of the tracks.  
Umbrella – Gossamer Gear Liteflex I used my umbrella in the scorching sun on the North Island and for rain during the road sections on the South Island. I love this umbrella, but it doesn’t perform well in wind so I couldn’t use it on 90-mile Beach, and it’s hard to use on any of the tracks as they’re generally overgrown or have low-hanging foliage. Even though I carried it most of the way in my bag I’d probably still pack it next time.  
Bug head net – Outdoor Research Deluxe Spring Ring Headnet The most use I got out of my head net was to store cans of beer in so we could float them in the river to keep them cool during the Whanganui River section. I did use it twice while stealth camping without my tent, but despite all the sand flies in the South Island, I preferred to cover most of my face with my bandanna instead.  
Dry sacks (2) – Sea to Summit 8L & Outdoor Research 15L (clothes and sleeping bag) I was so thankful to have my sleeping bag and dry clothes stored safely in dry sacks. I fell in rivers twice and had my hydration pack leak all through my bag, so these bags saved me!  
Food bag – Loksak (Odourless sack) 32 x 50cm Even though the seal on this bag broke after 2 weeks, I still liked the size of this bag and the way it stood upright against my back inside my pack. In the huts in the South Island you need to hang your food to protect it from mice (trust me, I made that mistake twice!) To hang my food I just put this bag inside a regular plastic shopping bag.  
Headlamp – Black Diamond Ion One of the best headlamps I’ve ever used because it’s so light and waterproof. Even though I’d love a rechargeable headlamp, I only went through 2 sets of batteries and didn’t have to stress about recharging it in town. I highly recommend a headlamp with a red light for the huts, which this headlamp has.  
Mini torch I like having a mini torch or turtle light hanging from the roof of my tent so I don’t always have to use my headlamp. I couldn’t find a turtle light in NZ so I used a cheap mini torch in stead. I didn’t replace the batteries when they ran out (and just did without), but would absolutely use a turtle light next time as they seem to last forever.  
Clothing Review/Notes Photo
Shoes – various I may need to write an entire post on footwear. The Vasque Mantra’s I started with killed my feet on the road walks (though I’ve loved them on shorter trails), and after switching to a cheap pair of no-brand runners, I got a pair of New Balance WT620LB2 . The New Balance worked better on roads and were nice and wide in the toe box, but their tread was not very aggressive on the steep, slippery descents. I ended up with a pair of Inov-8 Roclite 305’s, which lasted for most of the South Island. Finding the balance between comfort on roads and good tread was challenging in the North Island. In the South Island, your feet are constantly wet so shoes that dry fast are key – though boots would protect your feet better from the sharp rocks and from getting crushed between rocks during the multiple bouldering sections. Saucony trail runners seemed to be the most popular.  
Socks – Darn Tough & Smartwool I only went through 2 pairs of Smartwool socks and a cheap pair of running socks I bought at the Warehouse. The Smartwool Women’s PhdD Run Ultra Lite Low Cut Socks were the best I’ve ever worn because they lasted so long and never smelled very bad. I only used my Darn Tough socks to sleep in so they are still in great condition.  
Gaiters – Dirty Girls Love these gaiters. My hiking companions were always getting stones in their shoes while I was not. The only time I did was when walking through rivers. The only hassle is having to superglue a little piece of Velcro to each pair of my new shoes but this was easy to buy in any of the cheap $ stores in most towns.  

Knee braces – Mueller Knee Stabilizers I really liked the added stability of wearing these knee braces, though by the end of the trail they had stretched so much I stopped wearing them. (I wore them during the PCT too). The TA destroyed my knees so I highly recommend anything to protect them from the crazy steep descents if your knees cry out for mercy like mine!  
Pants – Kathmandu zip offs I got rid of these after 1,000 km because the shorts were too tight around my thighs (and I had another pair of shorts to sleep in), and I really didn’t need the long pants. When it does get cold in the South Island you’re walking through so many rivers your legs will be wet and cold anyway and shorts dry a lot quicker. For the last 500 km I bought a pair of old knee-high socks and cut off the feet to make calf warmers!  
Shorts – Kathmandu running shorts Perfect hiking shorts because they dried fast, were loose to allow airflow and range of movement, and I liked the fact they were black because of all the grime. A pocket would have been nice, but it’s not a must. Any pair of light running shorts are perfect to hike in.  
Sleep singlet – Muk Muk tank top I liked having this to sleep in and wear around town.  
Short sleeve t-shirt – Icebreaker GT 200 Women’s Base Layer I got rid of this t-shirt after 1,000 km and decided to hike in my long sleeve top below. I recommend a long sleeve top for sun protection in the North Island and warmth in  the south.  
Long sleeve top – REI Lightweight crew shirt This was intended to be a sleep top but because I needed sun protection and it was too hot to sleep in, it became my hiking top. Unfortunately the top is synthetic so I absolutely stank, BUT, it dried so fast when it got wet. A thin merino wool top (not 100% merino though), would be the perfect option.  
Arm warmers – Homemade sleeves from a quick dry towel I ditched these when I changed to my long sleeve top. If they didn’t slide down my arms they would have been a good option to wear with my t-shirt to protect me from the sun.  
Underpants (2) – Patagonia Active Briefs x 2 I love these underpants! They dry fast, don’t smell too bad, and are so comfortable because they are basically seamless. I probably could have survived with one pair, but I was glad to have two when I had a zero day in town.  
Bandanna (2) My blue bandanna performs a few functions:

  1. Holds my hair out of my eyes if not wearing my hat
  2. Holds my hat on my head in the wind and protects my ears from the sun
  3. Keeps my ears and neck warm when it’s cold

I think a wide, thin bandanna like this works best.

My second yellow bandanna is my pee rag.

Sports bra – Patagonia Barely Bra Best sports bra I’ve ever had. Like Patagonia’s underwear, it’s basically seamless, so it doesn’t chafe and is all-round super comfortable.  
Sunglasses – Cancer Council Australia Sunglasses are a must in my opinion. This pair wraps around my head nicely and are super lightweight. They are also approved by the Australian Cancer Council so I felt confident the lenses were keeping my eyes safe.  
Sunglasses bag I got rid of the bag because I always carried my sunglasses on my hat or head if I wasn’t actually wearing them and could clean them on my hiking top.  See above
Cap – Picky Bars trucker hat I did end up wearing a wider brimmed hat for about 200 km on the North Island, but I soon went back to wearing this cap as it breathed well and was more comfortable.  
Rain jacket – MEC I loved having a more robust rain jacket on this hike. I often wore this on the South Island during the cold mornings even if it wasn’t raining.  
Rain pants – Saloman I ended up making a rain skirt out of a garbage bag to go over my hiking shorts, BUT, I loved having these pants to quickly protect me from sand flies on the South Island, and to wear over my shorts or sleep pants when it was cold.  
Beanie – Icebreaker I bought this in Wellington after sending my puffy jacket with a hood home. I wore this a lot in the South Island at night, and sometimes even while hiking on cold mornings.  
Puffy jacket – Arc’teryx Women’s Ceva Hoody I ended up borrowing a lighter down jacket and sending this one home after 1,000 km. I was happy to have a warm jacket on the South Island for the mornings and evenings even though I never hiked in it.  
Wind breaker – Marmot Original Windshirt DriClime® I had so many tops I could have easily done without this, but because it was so light I chose to carry it anyway. I wore it over my down jacket to cut wind when I didn’t want to wear my rain jacket or when my rain jacket was wet.  
Handkerchief I ditched this after 1,000 km though I had used it a few times.  
Gloves – Kathmandu wind gloves I loved these gloves on the South Island and even ended up buying another wool pair after it snowed just north of Wanaka. I also bought a pair of washing up gloves to keep them both dry in the rain, though I never ended up wearing the wool or rubber pair in the end.  
Camp shoes – Immitation Crocs (Frocs) I switched to flip flops for a while on the North Island and sent my Frocs ahead to Wellington, but I was able to hike close to 100 km in my Frocs when my blisters were really bad and they were the best sandal to have on the South Island so I could wear my bed socks in them. I used them for river walking at the start of the trail, but just wore my trail runners after I realised how many rivers we had to walk through.  
Leggings – Sweetlegs (polyester & spandex) I loved these leggings to sleep in during the South Island. I didn’t really need them on the North Island, but I carried them the whole way anyway. I only wore them once under my rain pants while hiking in the snow, but I ended up getting too hot and saved them just for sleeping in after that.  
Technology Review/Notes Photo
Solar panel – sCharger-5 USB Solar Charger This solar panel works a charm. I mainly only charged my phone when I stopped to eat lunch, but on long road stretches with no shade it worked well Velcrowed to the top of my pack. It doesn’t work well when going from sun to shade frequently, but in direct sunlight (11am-4pm works best), it charges my phone faster than plugging it into a wall.  
Mobile phone – iPhone SE In my opinion a smartphone for PDF trail notes, navigation apps and PDF maps is the best way to navigate without printing out (and carrying) hundreds of pieces of paper. I use my phone as my camera as well, and I never ran out of battery with my solar panel and back up external battery.  
Phone charger – iPhone SE plug and cord I carried two charger cords, one for my solar panel and one for my plug. This system worked well.  
Headphones – Apple I never actually listened to music or podcasts during this trail so my headphones became redundant.  
External battery – Powerpod I may have only ever used this once but it gave me piece of mind in case there was no sun at all during a section.  See above under ‘Solar panel’
Phone case – Lifeproof Having a waterproof case on this trail is a MUST! My two hiking companions both broke their phones in the rain and mine would have broken during a river crossing without this case. My only complaint is that when it does actually rain the screen becomes almost completely unresponsive. So even though my phone stays dry, I can barely use it when it’s wet.  
Watch – Casio I like wearing a wrist watch and anything light and waterproof will do the trick.  
Toiletries Review/Notes Photo
Toothbrush I went through 2 on the trail.  
Toothpaste I probably went through a small tube every 3-4 weeks.  See above
Dental floss I didn’t floss enough but it felt amazing when I did!  See above
Mentrual Cup – Diva Cup God bless this invention. I skipped one period in the North Island but it came back in the south… grrrr. I can’t imagine using anything else. TIP: I would carry a water bottle to rinse the cup either in the woods, a drop toilet or even a public toilet.  
Hand sanitizer & Sunscreen I had these bottles clipped to the outside of my pack for easy access.  I have to say wearing a long sleeve top cut my sunscreen consumption in half. I was going through this bottle every section until I made the switch. I had to refill my hand sanitizer 3-4 times during the whole trip.  
Body Glide This stuff is an absolute savior for chafe. I used it a lot in the North Island, especially after swimming in the ocean. You can buy it at Rebel Sport.  
Needle To pop blisters. I ended up using a regular sewing needle and thread to drain the blisters as I walked. It took me until the South Island when I finally bought shoes that weren’t too big for me to stop getting blisters.  
Alcohol swabs (2) Sent home – but did have to borrow 2 during the trip.  See above
Sports tape – Leukoplast Used many roles of this for blisters in the North Island. (It’s not cheap by the way – about $12 for a role in NZ.)  
Second skin I used this on the bottom of my foot for a long road walk after my feet started falling apart from constantly being wet in the South Island. It came off after a few hours so I don’t recommend it. Sports tape is the best.  See above under ‘Needle’
Pain killers – Advil Only really used for period pain.  
Antihistamine – Telfast Used once when I stayed at a trail angel’s house who owned a cat.  
Antiseptic cream – Bepanthen I used this on chafing and small cuts and abbrasions.  See above under ‘Needle’
Lipbalm – Chapstick One stick lasted the whole trip.  
Repellant – Ben’s 30% DEET wipes Never used this. The best way to protect against mosquitoes and sand flies was to cover up.  
Wipes – Kleenex or other brand (unscented) & Trowel I used wipes in stead of toilet paper because I like the fact I can clean myself each time I poop in the woods. NOTE: You cannot throw wipes down the drop toilets and must pack them out!

I also bought a trowel in NZ after realising how hard the ground is to dig in because of all of the roots.

Muscle pain – Sore No More I call this my ‘magic cream’. It’s a bit like Deep Heat but it’s all natural and cured most of my basic muscle complaints. I didn’t take the whole jar, just a small container with a few months worth.  
Other Items Review/Notes Photo
Safety pin For drying wet clothes on my pack. You don’t want your socks or underwear to fly away in the wind. See below under ‘Foam’
Batteries (2) – AAA Lithium batteries As mentioned above I only used 4 for my headlamp the whole trip.  
Pen To write in log books or for notes to other trampers.  See above
Velcro To attach solar panel to my pack. Works a charm!  
Tenacious tape I used this on my tent when a possum chewed a hole in it, and on my hip belt pockets when a mouse chewed holes through them.  See above
Hair tie I ended up using this on my tent so I could extent the back peg further.  See above
Little Muk Muk A small companion goes a long way!  
Trash bag – Large zip lock bag I used the same bag for a long time but switched to using resealable tortilla bags each section.  
Earrings Thin sleepers  
Passport Inside ziplock bag. Necessary if you’re going out in Queenstown (and to get in and out of the country!) 🙂  
Purse – Light zip up pouch You’ll want to keep this handy in the North Island as you pass so many places to buy ‘real’ food. See above
Credit/Debit card Travel money card loaded with NZD. In purse above
Money – $100 A lot of small grocery stores and even some restaurants or holiday parks only take cash. There’s quite a few campsites/shacks at the beginning of the trail that have cash only honesty boxes too so I recommend carrying a number of $10 bills. In purse above
Driver license Used as ID In purse above
Foam To sit on hard surfaces, stick between my hip belt and hips if they hurt and also as a seat on my kayak down the Whanganui.  

(Image of my gear before departing for NZ)

2 thoughts on “Gear & Clothing review for the Te Araroa”

  1. Your gear lists and photos are once again above and beyond the call of duty. Nice job . Ihave two friends from the Oregon Coast leaving tomorrow to hike Iceland for three weeks. Your attention to detail has scared them regarding their preparedness.
    Practice makes perfect !

    Enjoy today
    Still Sings

  2. Hi Sweetie girl….thanks for showing us your gear…..quite an insight….makes me feel your “right at home” with your gear….so, your NZ trip is over now???….and where next, “trippin’ wild” girl!!!!…..Love and much happiness you are safe and sound……Barbie, your old friend in San Diego….home of great surf….

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