Hiking FAQs

Here are a number of questions that we are frequently asked. If you don't find the answer (or question) you are looking for, just contact us - we're here to help. Also see our general New Zealand FAQs.

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The Questions:

Should I do a guided or non-guided walk (free walk)?

A number of New Zealand's walks can be done as "freedom" or non-guided walks, but not all. The major advantages in doing an organised walk are the higher levels of safety from having an expert guide and the depth of knowledge that a local guide can add to your walking experience. In many cases the standard of accommodation for organised walks is also much higher.

Which walk is right for me?

Good question. It depends on a number of things, including your preferences and fitness level. The best thing to do is ask us and we can recommend the best option.

What happens if we can't walk?

Most New Zealand walks are all weather walks, but in the unlikely event that a walk had to be cancelled due to weather conditions we will either try and re-schedule your walk, suggest an alternative or provide you with a refund. If you are on a self-drive tour the best thing to do is to call us and discuss what options are available.

Do I need insurance to walk in New Zealand?

The short answer is no, but we cannot strongly enough suggest that you take travel insurance when travelling anywhere in the world. We have a number of different policies available.

What season sleeping bag should I bring?

Unless you plan on sleeping outside, a good 3 season sleeping bag is all you will need. On some of the walks, all your sleeping equipment is supplied for you, so please enquire before buying an expensive sleeping bag.

What weather should I expect on the Routeburn Track?

The unpredictable nature of the weather in this region means that snow, high winds and rain can occur at any time of the year. It is therefore very important to be prepared for the worst weather conditions, and carry the appropriate clothing at all times. Generally January and February are warmer, not necessarily dryer. In November and December the mountain lilies are just coming out and there is still snow on the surrounding mountains. If you are a keen photographer this would be the time to walk. The month of March is more settled weather wise: fresh mornings, sunny days, cooler nights and the days are getting shorter. Due to the nature of Fiordland we cannot predict any forecast.

How heavy is the pack?

It's likely to be 5-7 kg (10-14lbs) full.

Do I have to carry my pack or do you transport it?

You carry your own pack from lodge to lodge. Unfortunately we do not offer a service for transporting your luggage.

What clothing do I need to bring?

For walking: boots, polypropylene underwear (top and bottom), fleece or merino hat, fleece jacket, gloves, shorts, walking socks, t-shirt for fine days.

For evenings: shirt, trousers, underwear, sandals or light shoes, night wear.

Can I wash my clothes?

All of the lodges along the Milford Track have facilities for hand washing your clothes, including soap powder and drying rooms. Most people choose to wash and dry their clothes rather than carrying extras, as it helps keep the pack weight down.

Do I have to bring all my clothing with me?

Yes you will, but raincoats are available if you want to borrow one.

If you're traveling a bit before your walk and you're not keen on bringing what you need from home, there are plenty of stores in Queenstown where you can buy these items.

Where should I leave my excess baggage while I'm walking?

If you want, you can leave a small bag (we can lend you one if necessary) of clothing with us and we will have it for you to use at Milford Sound when you arrive at Mitre Peak Lodge.

It's best though that you leave any bulky luggage at your hotel in Queenstown.  If you're staying the night before and after your Milford Track walk in Queenstown then storing your luggage at your hotel won't be a problem.

What time do I arrive back in Queenstown?

If we're on time you should be back in Queenstown just after 4pm. If you're departing Queenstown the same day then it's possible to get dropped at the airport, but we would advise you stay in Queenstown that night just in case you are delayed.

How bad are the sandflies on the Routeburn Track?

We recommend that you wear insect repellent each day. They are notably worse on the Milford Track. Insect repellent can be purchased from our retail shop.

Where can I park my vehicle?

Some hotels will allow you to leave a hire car with them.  But in most cases it's better to return your hire car before the walk and pick up a new one when you get back - saves you 5 days car hire!

Is there alcohol on the track?

All of the lodges along the track have a selection of New Zealand beer and wine for purchase. Any purchases you make can be settled at the conclusion of your walk.

I am vegetarian. Is this a problem?

No, not a problem at all. Just make sure we know your dietary requirements well in advance.

How many people share the bunkrooms?

On the Milford Track the bunk rooms sleep 4 - 6 people and have shared bathroom facilities.

Private rooms are available on the Milford Track at an additional cost.  They come with either a queen-sized bed or twin single beds and have their own bathroom. Private rooms are much more popular than bunk rooms, so if you would like a private room you'll need to book early.

I will be travelling by myself, is that a problem?

Absolutely not.  There will be plenty of other singles so you'll have no problem finding someone to walk and talk with.

Are there toilets on the Milford Track?

Yes.  All of the lodges you will be staying in have normal flush toilets. Along the track there are also toilets - some are flush, others are Kiwi long drop style!

Fitness Prerequisites

Ideally you should have previous tramping or hiking experience, because much of the trek is across untracked terrain and you need to be sure-footed. However, if you are relatively new to tramping, then this is an ideal introduction, especially for families, as long as you are fit and walking 6-8 hours in a day would pose no problems. Your pack will contain just your clothing and a few items of fresh food to be carried to the hut on Day 1. Non-perishable food and sleeping bags are at the hut.

Who is this walk for?

The guided Ball Pass is suitable for experienced hikers capable of sustained walking, at times over steep, rugged, untracked and very exposed terrain. It is NOT a tourist excursion. Besides personal clothing you'll need to carry some items of fresh food to the hut. Your pack on Day 1 should weigh no more than 10-12 kg. Several walks of at least 6 hours' duration are recommended as preparation for Ball Pass. You do not need prior mountaineering experience.

Fitness Prerequisites

Participants of a Ball Pass crossing need to:

- be of above average fitness
- have extensive hiking, tramping or bush walking experience
- be capable of sustained walking over steep, rugged, untracked and very exposed terrain
- be able to hike or climb at least 6 hours in a day without difficulty
- be secure-footed, be well-coordinated and have good balance
- have no fear of heights

Should I stay in Kaikoura the night before departure?

You need to be at the pick-up point, generally your accommodation, by 9.30 am on the morning of the walk. Most people prefer to stay the previous night in Kaikoura and we can recommend various accommodation options for you. Kaikoura is 2.5 hours from Christchurch and 2 hours from Picton. It is possible to travel there in the morning, however, allow time for delays. In this case you will be met at the Kaikoura Information Centre, where your guides can arrange off-street parking. Post-walk, we recommend staying a few more days as there are many quality activities to do in Kaikoura and we can arrange activities if you so wish.

What clothing do I need to bring?

Preferably comfortable, worn-in hiking boots with good ankle support or, alternatively, sturdy shoes with good ankle support. Suitable clothes for walking, warm hat, gloves and jacket, shorts or long trousers, walking socks, wet weather gear. Please remember Lodge footwear for the evening - slippers, sandals/light shoes, or comfy socks.

Do I have to carry a pack?

You only require a day pack for personal items, eg any medication, drink bottle, camera, etc, together with wet weather gear, as all luggage is transported to the Lodge.


NB Please take as little luggage into the Lodge as possible. Holdalls are available for loan for this purpose. Left luggage will be kept secure, if not left at your Kaikoura accommodation, ie hotel/motel. Just take what you will need for the 2/3 days.

How long is the walk?

Having arrived at the beginning of the track your guide will give you a short briefing before setting off. The walk will begin at approximately 10.15am, and by approximately 12.15pm you will have reached Totara Saddle, where lunch awaits. We have a lunch break of approximately 45 minutes, before proceeding on the afternoon walk, through beech and kanuka forests and, later, ancient totara forest. The Lodge comes into view about an hour before we reach it – approximately 4pm. By 5.30pm you will probably be socialising on the main deck with your fellow walkers and enjoying a nice cold drink! The distance walked on day one is 8.5km. Day two begins with an optional walk of a similar distance but with vastly different landscapes; you will walk through some of the most dramatic, spectacular alpine scenes imaginable. It is a loop walk and arrives back at Shearwater Lodge for lunch. We then depart the Lodge around 2pm, and reach the end of the track about 4pm where transport back to Kaikoura will be waiting. You will be back in Kaikoura around 5pm.

Will I be fit enough?

You need average fitness with good mobility and be able to walk for 5 -7 hours over mountain tracks each day. The track surface varies from smooth, well formed paths to uneven terrain with occasional rocks, stones and tree roots. Your guide will ensure a walking pace suitable to the level of fitness of the group and there will be regular stops.

Is there alcohol at the lodge?

Yes - New Zealand wine will be served with dinner.

Are there any insects?

Generally there are very few but it’s a good idea to carry insect repellent just in case; anyone allergic to bee or wasp stings should carry appropriate medication.

Who is the Lake Tekapo Trek suitable for?

The young and the old (who no longer want to carry heavy packs) and everybody who wants an active holiday. You should consult with us first if you have anybody in your group younger than 10 and older than 70. Fitness is more important than age! To climb a peak over 2000m is both challenging and rewarding. If you enjoy challenges and a good physical workout in a scenic environment, then this trek is for you. If you appreciate getting away from where everybody else is going, then this is definitely the place to go – it is rare to encounter any other people outside your own group.