Tips to save weight on the Heaphy and Abel Tasman Coast Tracks

By Simon Thomas: 16 March, 2021

Hiking through the lush forests and gorgeous coastline of the Heaphy or Abel Tasman Coast Tracks is made all the more pleasurable when you're walking light. To lighten the load, think about every item you take—ask yourself, it might be useful some of the time, but do you really need it? Also, can you afford to upgrade different bits of gear to lighter versions? Or can you ditch some non-essentials?

Drawing on my lifetime of backcountry tramping, read on for my top 9 ways to save weight when walking the Heaphy Track and Abel Tasman.


Food

Here's my hiking food list (per person per day quantities). If you take what's on this list, it adds up to about one 750ml Pump bottle's weight in food per day.

Fly Agaric mushroom
Fly Agaric mushroom—not for eating!

Breakfast

  • Coffee grounds sachet (strong blends will do 2 cups!)
  • Freeze-dried breakfast cereals

Lunch

  • Wraps pack well and last a long time
  • Crispbread crackers
  • Cheese slices
  • Tuna sachets and/or salami
  • Capsicum

Dinner

  • Dehydrated evening meal
  • 125g dehydrated potato
  • 80g dehydrated rice
  • Instant noodles

Snacks

  • Energy bars
  • Dried fruit such as apricot, mango, peaches, raisins
  • Potato chips have salt, fat, and carbs, just what your body craves!

You can make freeze-dried meals by pouring water into the foil packet. Or, to shave a few extra grams, transfer each meal into a small ziplock bag and rehydrate them in your eating bowl.

Don't forget to take a ziplock plastic bag to carry your rubbish in.


Take versatile clothing

Everything you carry should have two uses. My hooded, down puffer jacket is for camp wear, but when it's cold at night, I wear it to bed. I wear it walking as well if it's cold and frosty or under my rain jacket if the weather's really ugly. I also take a long-sleeved merino top for camp wear; but again, if the day's cold, I'll put it over my merino T and walk in it. Remember that, at a pinch, if the weather's really, really bad, wear all your clothes underneath your rain gear.


Spend as much money on gear as your budget allows

There is a saying about equipment: 'there's strong, light, and cheap—pick two!' Buying quality, light gear pays off big time if you can afford it. Next time you're walking and fill your 750ml water bottle at a stream, put it in your pack and feel the difference—it's slight, but you'll feel that extra weight. Just multiply this by 6 or 8 or 10 hours walking in a day. When you trim 100 grams here, 300 there, it all adds up... and your days become more pleasurable. You can make big weight savings in these five areas when you're upgrading or replacing gear.

Heaphy River mouth
Heaphy River mouth—can you spy the hut?

A different type of sleeping bag

Consider a down sleeping quilts over a conventional hooded sleeping bag. You don't need a hood—if it's cold, go to bed in your hat or puffer jacket—and there's a big chunk of bag that you're lying on (with no warmth there!). Lightweight sleeping quilts lose these unnecessary bits. Check out reviews on the Internet and YouTube.

Light rain jacket and pants

You don't need to wear something heavy to stay dry. Modern breathable waterproof textiles allow you to carry super lightweight jackets and pants that pack up inside one of the pockets. Best to try on before you buy, or if you do buy Online, make sure you can return for a different size...

Weigh your tent

If you are camping, consider the weight of your tent, it may be one of the heaviest things you carry. A modern 2-person pole tent shouldn't weigh more 1-2kg, but to save even more weight, consider designed that use your hiking poles for tent poles! Leave unneeded pegs, guy ropes and spare parts at home. Consider leaving the bag behind as well!

The best sleeping mat

Inflatable sleeping mats are now available that weigh just a few hundred grams and have a high R (insulation) value. Important if you choose a quilt instead of a sleeping bag if you are camping.

Lightweight pack

A traditional New Zealand tramping pack weighs 2-3kg. To carry your lightweight gear you need a lightweight pack, weighing 1kg or even less. And waterproof!

You may have to consider ordering some of your lightweight gear online from overseas suppliers. Many will ship to New Zealand. Compare gear reviews on the Internet and YouTube.

Borrow some lightweight gear from a friend and experience the difference for yourself!


Storing gear

On the Heaphy and the Abel Tasman Coast Track, you don't need to carry anything other than what you need on the walk or ride - use Golden Bay Air's flight and shuttle transport from Wellington, Nelson, Takaka or Karamea. They can look after your spare change of clothes and those post-tramp treats for you.

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 Coast Tracks.

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