Te Araroa : Cosmo’s Gear Advice for the First Time Thru-Hiker

Are you preparing for your first thru-hike and find yourself completely overwhelmed by all the gear lists, technical terms and lightweight or ultralight musings? Like when you read other hiker’s blogs and they talk about their trail runners getting soaked while walking through wet grass and you just think: ‘What in the world are trail runners? Aren’t hiking shoes waterproof?’ If that’s you, then this blog post is for you.

I’m Cosmo. A year ago I was hiking the Te Araroa trail, where I quickly met Bee. It was her first thruhike, and she was used to short trips in Scotland where she hiked with heavy maps, sturdy boots and a pack topped with a full sized medical kit. On the TA she started with a 12kg / 26+lbs base weight and a pack that didn’t properly fit. It reminded me of my first trip in Tasmania, when my base weight was about 11kg / 24lbs and I carried a small tablet because I thought I couldn’t do without.

When we hit Auckland after the first 600km / 370mi, we did a gear shakedown in front of the YMCA, and quite literally took every single item out her pack and scrutinised it. Unsurprisingly, she was lugging around a lot of heavy items she wasn’t actually using. Heavy gaiters she’d worn only once, a leather Kindle case and talcum powder in the original, bulky container which she had managed to make even larger by wrapping a load of duct tape around. Every item had its own stuff sack, and they weren’t light ones either. There was a lot of opportunity for getting her base weight down without even changing any of her main gear.

What is base weight? All your gear, minus the clothes you wear and consumables, ie food and water.
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If you’re going to carry duct tape hundreds of kilometres, you better use it

When I hit the trail in New Zealand my base weight was about 7.5kg / 16.5lbs. Nothing ultralight by any means, but lightweight, and a weight that anyone could achieve. If you are carrying anything heavier than, say, 8 or 9kg / 18-20lbs, you are simply carrying things you don’t need. I carry luxuries with this weight, so if you don’t need those, then good for you – your weight and comfort will reflect this. You should only carry about 15% of your body weight on your back so try and keep that in mind. I know with food and water I’m way above and I’m less and less comfortable with this – I’m reducing the weight for the PCT next year, and I can’t wait to reap the benefits of a lighter pack.

For reference, you can find my full TA gear list here, and my PCT list here.

Before I continue can I just quickly take this opportunity to highlight how badass women are on the trail? No-one ever mentions this but women carry the same amount of items in our packs as men, even though we are generally smaller, weigh less and are physically less strong – a 10-15 kilo pack may feel like nothing on a guy but it’s significant for us – and still we hike the same trails and succeed!

Making it to kilometre 2000!

Okay, before getting into specific gear, there are a few things I want you to consider before you start procuring gear. I’ll raise some points that might help you figure out what kind of a hiker you are and what your experience of the trail might be, because this will influence everything.

HOW DO YOU HIKE?

This is the key to most of your questions. How do you hike? Perhaps you don’t know it yet, and you’ll find out once you’re out there. There are largely two types. There are the people who like to start hiking before the sun has even come up, and walk right until it goes down again. They spend little time in their shelters and spend all day on their feet, walking. Then there are the people who enjoy a more moderate hiking style: they hike 8 or 10 hours a day, set up camp and spend the rest of the afternoon reading and relaxing.

If you find yourself within the first set of people, you need a lot less items than you would than if you’re in the second bracket. You can ditch that Kindle for one, and you may need less clothing if hiking keeps you warm. Hell, you might even loose camp clothes altogether and just wear your filthy hiking clothes at all times. You may get a tarp instead of a proper tent, as you don’t spend enough time in it for it to have to be comfortable. The one thing you probably will need, is a head light strong enough for night hiking.

Setting up my inner only on a very very hot day

If you belong to the second lot (nice to meet you!) you will want that Kindle. You might want some camp shoes and camp clothes. You might even get yourself a lightweight solar powered tent light so you can read late at night, until those terrifying giant stick insects start crawling on your inner tent, and then you regret bringing the light altogether. You will probably go for a shelter that’s comfortable, especially on a thruhike where the weather can easily deteriorate into days of utter misery. You might get stuck in your tent, waiting for better conditions.

This is how your hiking style will determine the gear you need. This is generally also the difference between lightweight and ultralight – only the people who hike all day and barely spend any time in camp manage to be ultralight. They cover more mileage in a day and therefore require less food at each resupply. Pack accordingly. If you don’t know what you’ll be like on trail, you’ll find out soon enough.

How do you hike?

YOUR EXPECTATIONS OF THE TRAIL

It wasn’t until I recently did a three day hike in Scotland that I understood the heavy gear debate. A lot of countries with quite interchangeable weather (although really, once you’re up on a mountain it’s always interchangeable, no mater where you are) promote heavy, reliable gear. Scotland, Norway, New Zealand… the locals like to show off their extensive experience and backcountry knowledge by telling you what the weather is going to be (usually they are wrong) and look down on any hiker coming through with a fanny pack and half a toothbrush.

It’s a constant fight between locals telling you you need a lot of heavy gear to deal with their weather conditions, while a lot of lightweight and ultralight thruhikers manage just fine with a lot less.

So who’s right?

It all comes down to your expectations of your personal time on trail. Hiking for a couple of days or a week is an entirely different experience from thruhiking for five months. When I fought my way through the off-trail heather in Scotland during a miserable white-out with a wind and rain that had me wear every single layer and pray to the gods I would get down that mountain ASAP, I suddenly wished for Gore-Tex boots, my Hilleberg tent and a stove for hot tea (no, I didn’t wish for gaiters, don’t push it.)

If you’re out for just a couple of days, you’re out to enjoy yourself, and you’ll want your feet to keep dry for as long as possible. You’ll want warm layers and some extra things that might come in handy. You’ll want to make sure you don’t get stuck in bad weather because you need to be back at work on Monday morning. Suddenly the boots make sense because they keep you warm and cosy, and by the time they do soak through, you’re on your way home again. That heavy gear will enhance your comfort levels greatly and ensure your return, and that makes all the difference.

But thruhiking is something different altogether.

We’re not there to enjoy the mountains for a few days. We’re on a journey. We wear trail runners because with all the rivers our shoes will be perpetually wet anyways, and trail runners dry faster and they’re lighter which simply makes more sense when you’re hiking for months on end. They’re made for the same terrain anyways: the trail. In fact they are made to run the trail, which arguably makes them more suitable than heavy hiking books.

We’re okay to spend a few miserable days hiking in the rain or waking up cold in our minimal shelters because that’s just part of the experience. We have the option to stay put and wait out bad weather conditions if need be. The weather will improve again, we will dry out, and we keep on walking. We can’t justify all that heavy gear because there might be a couple of subpar days. That heavy gear will keep us from achieving our goal, from actually finishing our thruhike.

If you’re used to short hikes or are receiving conflicting advise from other hikers, think about the experience they are basing this on. Thruhiking is absolutely not the same as normal hiking. It’s a different animal altogether.

Different hikers carry different gear

NORMAL PEOPLE GEAR vs HIKER GEAR

One of the indulgent items Bee had brought were a lovely pair of thick gloves. Gloves are great. Mountains are unpredictable and gloves are very useful. Bee loved hers and didn’t quite understand my reluctance. She used them, and they kept her very warm, so what was my problem?

Enter the difference between normal people gear and hiker gear. I had no reason not to trust the superiority of Bee’s gloves. Of course they were amazing! Thick and warm, and undeniably: they were normal people gloves. You know, for people who are going on a day hike or bike ride or just roaming around some fields behind their house. Or walking through town on their way to work. Not people who are on a five month trail and need to justify carrying every single gram on their backs. People who may need these gloves fifteen days out of 120.

The question is: how much weight are you willing to add to your load once you know you will be carrying dead weight for 105 days? Suddenly, normal people gloves seem a tad heavy. Perhaps you can do without altogether, or perhaps the cold bothers you so much that you need something for those fifteen cold days. And that’s all right. Just don’t buy normal people gloves. Buy hiker gloves.

Hiking gear is generally light, moisture wicking and works with layers, so they are multifunctional. Sometimes made of highly technical layers and always lighter than normal people gear. To be fair, anything significantly more lightweight isn’t necessarily going to be as warm and cosy as Bee’s normal people gloves, but your possum / merino mix gloves only weigh 55 gram, and they will do you well for most of that time. You’ll just have to deal with a few uncomfortable and cold hours or days a couple of times. Ultimately, you will be fine.

Don’t forget – actually this is very important – you can always choose to wait. If you don’t have the gear to deal with the weather conditions, don’t go out and hike. Crawl into your sleeping bag to warm up or wait in town for the weather to improve and head out then. Adjust your hiking style to suit your gear. You might lose a day or so, but at least you’re not carrying those heavy normal people gloves.

Very UL in Tongariro – using my camp socks as gloves. It was so cold it snowed

COST

This is where your weight may fluctuate: lightweight items can be very pricey, and ultralight ones even more so. This is where my 7.5 kg could be your 9, or how my base weight is about to go down to roughly 5.5 (12lbs) for the PCT – not because I’ve made any huge gear changes, but because I am about to change out just about every single item for a slightly lighter version. This is costly, so if you can, try and make some early investments as you don’t want to have to pay for items twice – it certainly happens that people realise their brand new gear is too heavy once they hit the trail and are then forced to spend even more money replacing it all.

Saying that, once you’re hiking you’ll probably be replacing gear regularly – either because it’s reached the end of its life due to the intense usage us hiker-folk throw upon these poor items, or because you get obsessed about gear and fancy trying out different products for fun.

While lightweight gear might be pricey, this isn’t even the biggest reason as to why some people carry packs way too heavy for their bodies – it’s because they’re not clever about WHAT they pack. You just need to make the right choices.

STAYING SAFE

This is a big topic often steamrolled by stories of unprepared tourists getting caught up in unpredictable weather, who get lost in the mountains and die. As thruhikers, I hope you’ll have the gear and common sense to make better choices. Everyone has different abilities and just because someone else is able to ford that swollen river or hike in deep snow, doesn’t mean that you can too. Know your limitations, know your gear and know your experience.

Don’t think that carrying all the gear in the world is going to help you prepare or stay safe: by nature carrying a heavy pack means you’re more unbalanced and move slower. When you carry less and light, you can move out of tricky situations faster and are more mobile moving through difficult sections.

WHAT IFs

You carry your fears. What if something happens? What if I get cold? What if I get hurt? The bigger question is, what can you realistically do if something does happen? If you fall and get injured badly enough, you will have your PLB to call for help. It your injury is not life-threatening, you will more than likely be able to make do, keep on going until you get to a town and deal with it there. There really is no need for that huge medical kit.

No medical kit would’ve saved me from this sprained ankle. I took hours to get down the mountain and I managed to hobble 30 kilometres through farmland to get back to civilisation the next day

THE GEAR YOU BRING TO THE TRAIL ISN’T NECESSARILY THE GEAR YOU BRING BACK

This is the thing: don’t stress. You are likely to get something wrong and it’s okay. It’s very possible to buy new things in town and replace accordingly. New Zealand was significantly hotter than I’d expected, and I replaced my clothing for lighter items. Then, gear breaks and and needs replacing, or you may meet someone carrying a better system and want to switch something out. Remember you are not married to your gear.

Old and new – shoes are always the first to go

Now on to the actual gear!

CLOTHING WORN

Hikers from the US like to wear button-up shirts (like fishing shirts) which isn’t a bad idea for New Zealand – light and airy, they offer good protection against the sun and they also get really, really smelly. I like merino wool and rejoice in the fact that I don’t smell quite as bad as people who wear synthetics. On the TA I ended up with a sleeveless top as well as a long sleeved one. Usually I’d say this is overkill but I don’t adjust to the weather too well – I can’t quite take the cold or the heat and MY GOODNESS did it get hot on the TA. I will never forget walking through the farmland on those horribly exposed stopbanks, virtually dying. Match your top with some running shorts and you’re good to go. Just make sure there are no zips on the pockets or they will rub against your pack and annoy you endlessly.

Additional layers for the cold are typically a down jacket and a hardshell / raincoat. This is really all you need, unless you are me and you end up with an additional down vest (fleece would’ve worked as well) because your body is incapable of generating body heat. This is why I really like the Patagonia Torrentshell. It traps heat and functions as a great rain coat. I got Bee to buy one in Wellington (don’t be like her and buy a light yellow one, unless you want to show off just how much hiker trash you really are.)

Sometimes a lightweight rain jacket may be enough, Like the OR Helium II. In New Zealand though, bush is intense, and those flirty lightweight jackets will get shred to pieces when you find yourself up close and intimate with a tunnel of gorse.

Absolutely dying in a heatwave

CLOTHING PACKED

One spare pair of socks and underwear (because why would you want to lug around five dirty pairs of underwear?) People rave about the ExOfficio underwear I have, although I’m not sure why. They really don’t dry faster than any other brand and I hate how the sizes run way too big. I do like the Injinji toe socks. The toe bits are actually a little annoying but for some people they do help prevent blisters (saying that, the ONE time I got blisters in Iceland was between the toes, wearing these toe socks.) I wish they made normal socks because the fabric is amazing and so far they are only socks that don’t overheat my feet.

Towards the end in New Zealand I had so many holes in my socks that I tried to replace them, but no one carried the standard Injinji hiking sock I was looking for. I ended up with Icebreaker merino wool ones. Unfortunately, my feet got really hot and the material felt uncomfortable and restrictive. I also got holes very easily. Darn Toughs are another popular brand, but they didn’t work for me either – they overheated my feet as well.

CAMP CLOTHES

Clean camp clothes! How I long to get into those at the end of the day. If you are hardcore UL and sleep four hours in the dirt before you start hiking again, don’t bring any extra clothes. Just wear those filthy hiking rags all day every day and stay away from me (which will be easy as you’ll run pass me and I’ll never see you again.) The only time I’m jealous of people who don’t have camp clothes is when it’s cold and wet in the mornings and breaking up camp takes about three hours because you just can get yourself to get out of your quilt to take off your clothes and put on those damp, cold items. Thinking about this, I wonder why I like hiking at all.

Injinji socks beyond repair

SHELTERS

I brought the Big Agnes Fly Creek UL1 to New Zealand, a double-walled tent that some would call a coffin but I say it’s cosy. It’s awkward to have to do a halfway dive/turn/squat on top of your pack into the vestibule in order to get inside, but you get used to it. The newer versions are a little bigger AND lighter, so you can’t really go wrong.

For the PCT I want to get the Tarptent Notch Li which is just about the cutest and smallest tent I have ever seen. One of the pros to me is that it’s double-walled because it helps with the cold, and I plan to bring it to colder places like Norway. Plus it’s tiny and I like being able to hide my tent in the smallest of places. It’s made of Dyneema so super light and since I now use hiking poles, I can use those to pitch it.

If you hike night and day you can probably get away with a tarp, otherwise get a real tent. Single-walled or double-walled, as a general rule I’d say keep it under 1kg / 2.2lbs. I even met someone on the TA who carried a hammock. Apparently, it worked quite well on the north island, but on the south there often weren’t enough trees to suspend it. So explore your options. Ask yourself: how much time will you spend in it and what is the weather going to do where you plan on hiking? Get whatever you think suits your hiking style and comfort levels and consider your proximity to sandflies or gnats and you will be fine, unless that thing is a rain poncho held upright with a few sticks and a hiking pole. If that’s your system, then no, don’t get that.

Getting comfortable in my ‘clean’ camp clothes!

SLEEPING BAG or QUILT

These things get bulky and heavy and can take up half your pack so if you can, spend all the money and get yourself a lightweight quilt. I know what you’re going to say: you need a hood. But you really don’t. If you’re adamant, get a beanie or buff to keep your head warm. Quilts cut out all the non-essential heavy details sleeping bags include, such as the hood and heavy zips. I’m going to get a new quilt because I’m always cold, but you shouldn’t be. As a very general rule, men go for a 20 degree F one and women a 10. Meanwhile, I can’t wait to get my hands on a 0 degree quilt. Hello weight-gain, you are going to be so worth it.

SLEEPING PAD

I like my Sea to Summit pad. It blows up with only about 13 deep breaths, which means by the time you get dizzy from inflating it, you’re done. It’s a small luxury. It started going mouldy some time ago, so I’ll be replacing it with a NeoAir. The NeoAir takes a lot more breaths to blow up, but it’s a little lighter (and it’s not orange), so that’s a good trade-off.

You can choose a foam pad as well. They are super light but bulky and most people are stuck strapping them to the outside of their packs, which seems annoying. There are a few draw backs: apparently, they work well for back sleepers, but get painful if you sleep any other way, and they’re not really sufficient when it gets cold. I’m half-tempted to try one because I’m generally an easy sleeper but I’ll probably just freeze to death or something, and I’d rather not deal with that.

SIT PADS

Someone can enlighten me on this one – what is up with these little yellow foamy things? I know they weight nothing, and some people use them for their frameless backpack but I just don’t get it: all these smelly hikers, covered in caked on layers of dirt, but when it comes to sitting on the floor, they suddenly want to sit on a pad. I was once dubbed the most elegant hiker on trail, and I just sit on the floor. But what do I know. Clearly they are popular.

Gear explosion – my Enlightened Equipment quilt catching some sun rays

BACKPACK

Oh, backpacks. Before my first hike I went to several stores in Taiwan and tried on EVERY . SINGLE . PACK I could find. Basically every pack from every brand available (not just the Osprey that almost every outdoor store in New Zealand -I’m looking at you Bivouac- likes to specialise in). It was a lot of packs. And they were all hugely uncomfortable. There was a Gregory I liked because it was all-black and kind of comfortable, but the only pack was that was actually great to wear, was the Osprey Aura. I scouted for weeks to get the dark green Atmos (the men’s version) so I didn’t have to walk around with this hideous bright green or grandma grey, but alas, they were not available in my size.

While the colour is horrible and the waist belt is so extensive it creates a resting shelf for your arms, it’s also the most comfortable pack in the world. And it’s not too heavy, compared to other backpacks. A lot of people like the Exo / Eja as well, which you could call a more minimal and lighter version of the Atmos / Aura, but I didn’t find it comfortable either. It comes in a 65l and 50l version – get the 50l unless you plan on bringing a camp chair and family tent, and not walking at all. You don’t need anything bigger, or you’ll just fill it with stuff you don’t need.

You can probably tell I’m picky when it comes to backpacks and being comfortable. I never quite understood how people could possibly buy packs online without trying them on. These things are expensive. But unfortunately, a lot of the ultralight packs are only available online. Living in Europe doesn’t help – all these UL cottage manufacturers (ie guys in garages sewing packs and shelters together) are in the US (smelly UL hiker heaven) and import and duty fees are no joke.

But after two years of hiking with the Aura, I’m ready for a risk. I’m realising how restricted a ‘real’ pack like the Osprey is, and how for me, every single gram is really starting to count. I am lightweight as a person, and I need to have the gear that reflects that. On top of that, I’m ready for a pack that is less restrictive – I realise how limited I am because of this pack, solidly strapped to my back, that has become part of me. On one hand being one with my pack feels like a good thing, but on the other I need my freedom back. I want to move. I’m looking at the MLD Prophet for the PCT now. I actually really liked the look and features of the Pa’lante Simple Pack, but it’s so small and I just don’t hike fast enough to carry the limited amount of food it would comfortably fit. Maybe in a few years, Pa’lante.

Is your gear going to get you up this mountain?

TREKKING POLES

I never thought I would use these, but I picked one up in Auckland, as a more flexible substitute for the wooden stick I’d carried since the muddy forests. I mainly wanted one to help with river crossings, and it did become an invaluable tool. I got a cheap one from Bivouac and desperately regretted it when I saw much better Leki ones for about the same price at Trek ‘n’ Travel in Hamilton. The cheap one began to get stuck constantly, and I found it quite heavy. I decided to ditch it in Wellington and gave it to another hiker while I went on a search for the lightest set of poles I could find.

Unfortunately, this was at Kathmandu, where I got the lightweight Fizan ones. It took me the rest of the trail to get used to hiking with them (I often felt like they were in the way, more than anything), but I liked them for the river crossings (I wouldn’t have been able to get through without them), and I hated them because they were absolute rubbish and kept on breaking, causing much fury from my end. I had to walk a huge detour around one river because one of the poles wouldn’t work and I couldn’t cross with just the one. I can’t wait to get a better set from a brand that produces decent gear.

Martin struggling to get through this swollen river. We had to turn around and go through it again which wasn’t fun, but we definitely couldn’t have done it without our hiking poles

ELECTRONICS

The main item to consider here is your battery pack. Try and figure out how much you’ll be using it. I carry a 13,000 mAh power bank from Anker, which keeps me fuelled for up to ten days. I only charge my phone with it, but I use my phone a lot: pictures (including timer / burst mode, which drains batteries) and routefinding / GPS. Most people will be fine with a 10,000 pack, and many can do with even less. Get Anker or Ravpower.

The downside is that these things take all night to charge – so every week or so, you’ll need to find accommodation or a campsite with outlets where you can charge your battery pack overnight. I am on the lookout for a quick charge device that charges itself a lot faster. Supposedly they exist, but somehow these things are impossible to find. So far I can only find quick charge features relating to output, so if anyone know which one I should get – let me know!

PLB

Get one. Not negotiable.

TOILETRIES

Let me use this section to show how much of an UL hiker I’m NOT and tell you that I love my full sized toothbrush and think that those who snap theirs in two to save weight should rethink their actions altogether. First off, teeth are important. There’s no cure once they go bad. Trying to brush your teeth with half a toothbrush means you end up with your fist in your mouth in an attempt to get some foam on those last few teeth. Really people, what are you thinking. I think it’s a popular thing to do just because people are lazy and it gives them an excuse to not brush their teeth properly. Bee, who brought Scottish gaiters and a leather Kindle case to the TA, had half a toothbrush which she quickly realised was a stupid thing to do. To my utter confusion she never once considered just going into a shop to buy a new one but anyways, bring a whole toothbrush. It’s really not worth the weight you save.

Ear plugs are also very useful. Loud hikers nearby, noisy rivers or bad weather, you think you’ll be out in quiet nature all the time – but you won’t. Bring some.

I personally bring a lot of lotions that most people do without. My skin get dry and horribly itchy so I need some moisturiser. I also carry water-based deodorant, which means I don’t smell as bad as you will. Conventional deodorant will stain your clothes and ultimately make everything stink a lot more than it did originally, but this natural stuff keeps you fresh. It’s nice and not too heavy when poured into a small container.

FIRST AID

Compeed blister plasters and some tape is all I need. Some tape for me and some Tenacious tape for my gear (which is very useful when mice eat through your tent in the Tararuas). Happy days.

Painkillers are very popular on trail. They seem contradictory to the notion of a wholesome existence of hiking through nature. But apparently, people love drugs. Especially in the US, taking drugs has become the norm. It’s as if people have forgotten that we have been equipped with very capable and efficient bodies who will go into healing mode if anything happens to them. Drugs are for people who are in extreme pain and who have bodies who are not so capable. That is, in general, not us thruhikers.

However, people are impatient and on trail, hikers have come to love this thing they call Vitamin I. It’s not a vitamin, it’s ibuprofen, a painkiller. It will ease the pain and take down swelling and help you hike longer days. It very effectively masks what your body is trying to communicate to you: stop walking. Using pain killers now and again isn’t too harmful, but if you constantly take ibuprofen, you simply won’t know when your body has reached breaking point. This is how people get injured.

Instead, listen to your body. If it’s in pain, stop. You only have one body, try not to ruin it because you want to hike another 5 miles. It will get stronger in time, and you can leave the drugs for when you actually really need them. Leisurely hiking is not the place.

The coldest night on trail on the Tongariro Northern Circuit

FOOD and DRINK

Another somewhat controversial topic would be food. Somehow a lot of people still think that they can eat all sorts of crap as long as they stay skinny. On trail or off trail, no-one should be concerned with weight – be concerned about health. Intense exercise on gummy bears won’t keep you going. Hiking every day requires nutrition. Professional athletes do not live off gummy bears and crisps. And we are essentially doing the same thing. Your body struggles under the exercise and needs nutrients to rebuilt itself. You can’t find that at McDonald’s. Bring some cookies and sweets for when you need a sugar rush later on in the day, but try and make the majority of your food items that are packed with the sustenance you need to actually finish this hike.

Water is another big thing and I find it really difficult to drink on trail. Taking out that plastic bottle from my side pocket suddenly seems like a lot of effort, and drinking water gets REALLY BORING and, when lukewarm, kind of gross. I bought my first water bladder in Hamilton, and I loved it. I drank so much more and felt much better. The only problem is that you need to spend a lot of time filtering your water. I had a Sawyer Mini and spent every evening losing feeling in my arms, my tingly fingers fruitlessly squeezing water through that perpetually clogged up thing. Forget it when you run out of water during the day and have to filter sitting next to a stream. You will hate yourself for having a water bladder.

Despite these intense fluctuating feelings, I still love the water bladder. I have no idea if I’ll bring it with me on the PCT, but one thing I do know is that I’ll replace the Sawyer Mini for the larger Squeeze. The flow is bigger it will be worth the minimal increase in weight.

On that point, make sure to always filter your water. You don’t know what animals was pooping in it a little upstream, so don’t take any risks. New Zealand huts often have water tanks but don’t trust those to be clean either. Animals can go inside and I heard one very disturbing story of a local women who hiked in with her dog, let it drink water from the bucket and then POURED THE LEFTOVER WATER BACK IN THE TANK. Let me just say that’s absolutely disgusting. So yes, filter. Diseases are real and they can make you very sick and keep you off trail for days, if not weeks. Locals tend to get insulted when they see you filter the water, but hikers get sick every year, so don’t listen to them!

The best water on trail is a fresh from a stream on a hot day

STOVE OR STOVELESS

The current rage is to go all stoveless and I’m here to concur, leave that stove behind. You will adapt. You will forget hot food ever existed. You will realise fire was not the best invention of mankind. It was ziploc bags and cold-soaked couscous. And if you add chocolate milk to your coffee powder, it taste like heaven on trail (just don’t ruin it for yourself and try this in real life.)

PERSONAL ITEMS and LUXURIES

You know what? If you really want to bring it, go crazy! At the end of the day, you carry it. Bring something that’s important to you. Journal, Kindle, solar light. I had all those things. I’m like a hermit in my tent at night, although you might actually prefer to talk to people, or just hike all day until you fall asleep next to the trail, hugging your backpack underneath your poncho. In that case, don’t bring your Kindle. Some people bring drawing materials, and paint on trail. It really depends on you as to whether you need any of these luxuries to enjoy your thruhike. There’s also no harm in bringing items and sending them home if you find you aren’t actually using them.

Having said that, on the PCT I’m going to try and go without a Kindle so I can focus more on writing. Kindles are way too distracting!

My favourite luxury item is my scrub glove. You have no idea how many dead, brown skin sells scrub off when you finally reach your weekly shower and feel that warm water replenishing your body. Your hands are not as efficient as you might think  – you need that scrub glove. Go treat yourself to that 12 gram (0.026lbs!) glove!

My and my gear struggling in the intense heat of the Red Hills

I hope that was somewhat comprehensive and useful as a guide. I could talk about gear forever but in the end everyone is different and needs different gear. Good luck finding yours and let me know if I’m missing out on something amazing that you can’t live without!

Published by

Rosanne Luciana

A Dutch-born London-based hiker who has swapped an East Asian backpacking experience for the opportunity to truly immerse herself into nature, by quite simple, walking.

8 thoughts on “Te Araroa : Cosmo’s Gear Advice for the First Time Thru-Hiker

  1. Thanks. Very informative. Carry only 15% of the body weight? hmm..how would that work in the Grand Canyon, where water is critical and not easy to find. Anyway, congrats on the TA adventure. The south island of TA is on my bucket list.

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    1. I know, it’s not a lot is it? I mean 15% of my body weight is exactly my TA base weight… and with food and water it’s easily twice as much. I guess the key is to keep it as light as possible, as anything over 15% will start to get increasingly uncomfortable

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    1. Thanks! There are so many gear posts around, I got really bored when I thought about doing a standard one. I hope this approach is a little more helpful… to some at least!

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  2. Excellent you write well”If wo/man does not keep pace with her/his companions perhaps s/he steps to the tune of a different drummer,let her/him step to the music s/he hears……….Henry David Thoreau, sounds like you are confident enough to do so good luck

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    1. I’m just like you! Sometimes I do wish I could hike longer days so I could pack lighter, but I’m afraid it’s just not my style….

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