Story: Tramping

Anyone wanting to explore New Zealand’s scenic back country on foot can use a wide range of tracks and huts. A well-stocked backpack, all-weather gear and a love of the outdoors are the main requirements for an adventurous break from everyday life.

Story by Carl Walrond
Main image: Trampers on the Milford Track

Story summary

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Tramping (hiking or trekking) is a great way to see New Zealand’s forests, rivers, mountains and coastline. New Zealanders have long loved being close to nature, and there are many walking tracks and huts. A tramping trip can last several days.

Tramping history

In the 1800s, the first Europeans to arrive often explored on foot, as it was too rough for horses. After deer and trout were brought to New Zealand, hunters hiked into the hills, and fishermen walked to the rivers and lakes. Mountaineers began to climb the higher peaks.

In the 1920s women had to wear long skirts when tramping. But in 1929 one girl wore her brother’s rugby shorts, and others soon copied her.

Tramping clubs were very popular between 1940 and 1970. Club members built huts, cut tracks and learnt how to survive in the bush.


Most people walk in the national parks, such as Abel Tasman National Park. The Department of Conservation maintains thousands of kilometres of tracks. On some private walking trails you can have your gear carried, and a chef cooks your meals.


Huts were built first from wood, and later iron. Modern huts are often bigger, with stoves for heating. There are about 1,400 huts and shelters, but many trampers carry their own tents.

Equipment and food

Important equipment includes:

  • boots
  • lightweight backpack
  • warm, waterproof clothes
  • gas or white-spirit stove
  • map of the track.

Food should be light, high in calories and quick to cook. New Zealanders eat ‘scroggin’, a mix of nuts and chocolate.


New Zealand’s weather can change quickly. Rivers soon flood during heavy rain, and many trampers have drowned trying to cross them. Each year, Search and Rescue find lost or injured people. Deaths have increased, partly because there are more tourists who are unfamiliar with New Zealand conditions. It is important to:

  • let someone know your planned route
  • write your route in hut books
  • take a mountain radio or emergency locator beacon.
How to cite this page:

Carl Walrond, 'Tramping', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, (accessed 23 July 2024)

Story by Carl Walrond, published 24 September 2007, updated 1 July 2015