What gear to pack on the Heaphy and Abel Tasman Tracks

By Simon Thomas: 9 May, 2021

On a multi-day hike, the gear you take can be the difference between enjoying an epic adventure or suffering a painful slog—I've used my lifetime of backcountry experience to give you some pointers on what you could pack for maximum enjoyment, from the right layers to the lightest drink bottles to the best backpacks. Because, when done right, freeze dried food, lightweight backpacks and modern fabric can see you carrying as little as 5kg for a two-day trip, and 7kg for four days (including food!).


Hiking gear has changed

I did my first overnight trip in high school and struggled beneath what was then a very lightweight pack—the Mountain Mule Featherlight. The company's slogan 'It carries the load' pretty much summed up the nature of a 'tramping' trip back then. Since that first adventure, I've spent weeks at a time living and working in the backcountry and made numerous weekend or longer hiking, hunting, and fishing trips.

First I wore the traditional black wool singlet and full length Swanndri (Barry Crump style), then followed the trend into lightweight polypro and polar fleece. Now, after a number of long-distance hikes (500+km), I've returned to wool and some lightweight technical fabrics such as Dyneema.

Gear laid out ready to pack for Heaphy Track walk
Lightweight gear for the Heaphy Track ready to pack

Heavy packs will strain knees and ligaments, so I like to give my body as much help as I can. My basic gear—not including food—for a multi-day trip now weighs around 4kg. This 'base weight' is 'ultralight', while 5-10kg is seen as 'lightweight' and over 10kg is 'standard'. Many older Kiwis you'll meet tramping still persevere with a 'standard' weight of gear, while a majority of international visitors will go lightweight or ultralight and walk long distances with ease.


Go even lighter by choosing the right huts

If you stay in huts on your Heaphy or Abel Tasman trip you won't need a sleeping mat or tent; and if you stay in gas-serviced huts, you can ditch your camping stove and cooking gas as well. Read my Lightweight Hiking Gear tips for how to lose serious weight in what you carry.


Packing list for a multi-day tramping staying in huts:

Clothing

  • Lightweight hiking boots, trail runners are even better and well suited to formed tracks such as the Great Walks
  • Socks (2 pairs)—invest in more expensive hiking socks such—your feet will thank you for it
  • Underwear (2 pairs, merino recommended)
  • Shorts (lightweight, quick-drying)
  • Light merino tights
  • Light merino T shirt
  • Light merino long sleeved top
  • Light, long sleeved sun shirt helps protect from the sun
  • Warm jacket—I carry a lightweight, hooded down puffer jacket
  • Wide brimmed sun hat
  • Light, very waterproof and breathable, hooded rain jacket
  • Lightweight rain pants
  • Woollen beanie (but if your puffer has a hood, you might choose to leave the beanie out)
  • Sunglasses (do you need the extra weight of the case?)
Crossing the Gouland Downs, Heaphy Track
Crossing the Gouland Downs, Heaphy Track

Other gear

  • Hiking poles
  • Sleeping bag
  • Light plastic bowl, spoon, and mug; light cooking pot
  • Mobile phone (with navigational apps such as Gaia or Great Hikes app that you can use offline and without cell coverage)
  • Small battery bank for your phone in case you take too many photos
  • First Aid Kit
  • Hiker's wool for blisters (put this between your skin and sock when a blister's coming on)
  • Blister pads
  • 2 metres of strapping tape for emergencies (sprains, broken shoes, etc.)
  • Squirt of dish washing liquid in old pill bottle or film canister
  • Enough toilet paper and sunscreen for the trip
  • Ear plugs in case of hut snorers—I find the gel ones best
  • DOC Hut pass or hut tickets
  • 750ml used Pump water bottle/s (far lighter than bladders or aluminium water bottles)
  • Rubbish bin liner to keep sleeping bag and clothes dry inside your pack, or lightweight dry bags

Optional

  • Pillow slip (disposable paper ones are super light)
  • Silk sleeping bag liner
  • Lightweight jandals or crocs for hut wear
  • Emergency location Beacon
  • Water purification, the water on the Heaphy and Abel Tasman should be safe but if I'm treating water I use Aqua-tabs (available from outdoors shops)

Food

  • You need enough high energy food for the time on the track—for a suggested list to keep your food below 750g per day check out my Tips to save weight blog post
  • Emergency food (extra food in case you get delayed)

Take this list and have the most enjoyable experience of the Heaphy or Abel Tasman Tracks—and be sure to get in touch with Golden Bay Air for transport logistics and scenic flights over this special area of Aoteoroa!

For more information check out our Complete Guide to the Heaphy Track.


Simon Thomas is a Wellington-based writer who has biked and walked dozens of back-country tracks in New Zealand and abroad—including the Heaphy and Abel Tasman Tracks.

© Copyright 2024 Golden Bay Air Limited