I posted about what I was taking with me for the TA here, this is to go through how I got on with different pieces. Gear is very personal, so this is just my opinion of how they worked for me and how they held up over >1,000km.
I was in the minority of hikers in that I didn’t end up sending any gear home or to a friend to keep hold of until the finish. I think this was because I’d used almost all of it before and knew what worked and what I needed.
Overall I was happy with my non-waterproof Inov8 Roclite 325s. I was disappointed with how quickly holes in the foot mesh appeared, after about only 300km, but I sewed them up repeatedly and they just about lasted the 1200km. However, the holes only went through one layer so didn’t actually leave holes for stones to get in. The tread was getting worn but not dead near the end, the soles were still completely intact with the upper, and overall I was impressed that the shoes lasted the whole island given that they are trail shoes which tend to become consumables on long distance walks. I’d destroyed my previous pair so took a brand new pair for the trail. I went half a size up than my previous pair which I was grateful for when my feet expanded over time.
It really came down to a personal preference for trail shoes or boots on the TA – in trail shoes you get wet feet immediately from damp grass or puddles, but they’re light and dry quicker. Boots delay the wet feet but don’t keep feet dry in the near daily river crossings, are heavier and dry slower. The majority of people had non waterproof trail shoes. I did get the beginnings of trench foot in a couple of sections where I was walking through wet grass all day so my feet didn’t dry, but overall I’m happy with my choice of trail shoes over boots – I only got one blister near the beginning, and they were much lighter and comfier.
My Teva Fi Lite sandals were great. I changed into them every evening to air my feet out. A second pair of footwear was essential as my shoes were wet most days. Sandals were heavier than flip flops but I ended up walking quite a bit around towns so I was happy with them. I didn’t walk the trail or river crossings in them, which some people did, so I could have taken even lighter versions.
I took 2 SuperNatural merino blend t-shirts (get them cheap from Sport Pursuit) and I loved them. They were light and cool, never got very smelly despite weeks between washes, and dried quickly if I rinsed them at a hut in the evening. They’re thin but aside from some pilling seem to be durable – no holes despite some tough usage and a lot of bush bashing. Some hikers’ merino shirts were looking pretty raggedy by the end. At the last minute I swapped my third t-shirt for a long sleeve Trekmates merino top and am incredibly glad I did. It was essential that I had something to cover up in the evenings to mitigate the sandflies, and I often slept in it. Again, comfy and no smell.
I wore my Rab Microlight Alpine down jacket twice. It just didn’t get cold enough. But it was important to have as the weather could have changed at any time. I wore my LoweAlpine jumper (it’s pretty old, I don’t actually know what model it is) more often, and in the last couple of weeks would start walking in it in the fresher mornings.
I walked every day in my Columbia shorts. They were comfy, my GoPro and phone fitted in the pockets, and they dried quickly. I wore my SuperNatural merino leggings as a cover up in the evenings and for sleeping in the huts (and the odd camp yoga session). I wore my Berghaus Fast Hike trousers only in towns – they ended up being almost superfluous due to the generally warm temperatures, but they were nice to have.
I had 2 H&M crop top style sports bras, one for trail and one for town, and they were very comfy. Quick drying and not too smelly. I had 2 Patagonia briefs which were great – comfortable and quick drying. They could also double as a bikini which was useful.
I hiked in merino DarnTough socks, which whilst expensive, I found worth the money. Even if I did lose 1 pair half way through. As my feet got so wet/muddy every day I wore the same socks for each trail section – it meant 5 seconds of yuck as I put on damp socks on in the morning, but otherwise I’d just be carrying 2 pairs of wet socks. I had a third pair of cheaper socks that were kept as a dry set for the evenings which was essential. I picked up a pair of Injinji toe socks in Queenstown, which as they were cotton got smelly quickly, but they were good for the beach stretches as it meant no sand got between my toes. Probably wouldn’t take them hiking again though.
Not much more to say about the Mountain Equipment Manasulu jacket and the Berghaus trousers (model unknown…) that I haven’t said before. Both were excellent, kept me dry, great pockets. I realised the trousers are a size bigger than I normally wear, which may be why I like them as they’re nonrestrictive.
The Osprey Aura 65 is excellent. Yes, it’s not light, but I love it. The hip belt is very comfortable, it has all the pockets I want, and survived being dragged through the New Zealand bush for a couple of months without any rips or tears. Ali and Liv happened to have the same so we looked like a green caterpillar when walking in a line. It was the most popular pack for women that I saw on the trail.
I love my Tarptent Scarp 1. That said, if I were to do the TA again, I would probably take a different tent. I ended up camping a lot less than I thought I would, and the space of the Scarp was unnecessary. The main issue is the pack size and weight – it’s light but I could go lighter and smaller. It also got a little tear in the inner mesh which I had to sew up before the sandflies invaded.
The Thermarest NeoAir X-Lite mattress was great, I think it was the lightest and the smallest pack size of all mattress types I saw on the trail. I had no issues with leaks, and it was comfy to sleep on. Sure it’s not quiet to move about on, but it was no worse than other inflatable mattresses.
I slept in the Alpkit Pipedream 400 (old model) every night on the trail, and it was great. At the start it was too warm in the huts until 3am, and a couple of nights I slept in just my Trekmates silk sleeping bag liner which also functioned as a sheet in case the DOC mattresses were a bit mouldy. The Pipedream is incredibly cosy and didn’t get that smelly. I slept with the zip open and used it as a duvet every night.
The Alpkit Koro stove performed great. I was only on my 3rd 230g gas canister at the end of the two and a half months, and it boiled water in the Alpkit MytiPot 900 really quickly. The MytiPot was my only container which was fine, for all my meals I was just boiling water and adding food. I kept the stove in the pot when packed to protect it.
The Sea to Summit spork was my only utensil and worked fine. There’s only so much to say about a spork. It transferred food to my mouth as expected. I had a mesh bag filled with other bits – a small sponge for cleaning the pot, a lighter, and a spark flint as a back-up method of lighting the stove.
I got the Cnoc Vecto from kickstarter last year after being frustrated with trying to fill narrow-necked bottles in rivers for filtering. Being able to fill up 2 litres instantly helped ward off sandfly attacks, and I’d then retreat into the hut/do laps around my tent to filter it with the Sawyer mini. I used a coke bottle and a 1.5L Platypus soft bottle as my bottles, and the Cnoc just for dirty water, as annoyingly it did leak a bit so I couldn’t store water in it. With the abundance of rivers on the trail I didn’t need to carry more than 2 litres at a time so this worked fine, but I’d take another Platypus soft bottle if I needed more on a drier trail. I backwashed the Sawyer with the syringe in every town which kept it working fine.
The Black Diamond Trail Trekking poles are probably my most valued piece of walking kit I own. They’re quite scratched now, but that’s to be expected given that I’ve not exactly been gentle with them and have now used them for over 2000km without any issues. I would have fallen over at least 100 times on the TA without them. Their functions include: walking support, balance support, swamp depth testing, tussock grass parting, fending off dive bombing birds of prey, drying racks for socks, river crossing support, fire stoking.
The Garmin InReach Explorer+ was a really good bit of gear. I had it tracking me at half hour intervals for over 8 hours a day and the battery lasted a week – I only had to charge it between towns once (which did drain my battery pack significantly). I didn’t end up using the GPS map much at all because of the excellent GutHook app that everyone used, but it was good to know it was there. I used the weather forecast function quite a few times which was really useful, and resulted in us changing our plans because of the updated information. Everyone else in the huts was grateful for it too.
I managed to break a Casio watch. I know, I don’t know how either. The button which controlled the back-light, alarm and changing the time stopped working. At least they’re not expensive.
My Anker 13000mAh power bank met my electronic charging needs. It managed about 4 charges of my phone in one stretch which was the most I needed it. I did drain it completely once, and it then took a very long time to recharge. I had a spare battery for my GoPro Hero 3 which I didn’t use as one battery lasted until towns all the time.
I had a midge headnet which I used a couple of times when the sandflies were atrocious, with my hat underneath to keep it off my face. I don’t like wearing hats whilst walking that much as it chops off the view, but it was essential when I was in the sun all day.
I used a Leatherman PS4 every day for the knife for preparing lunch and dinner, as well as the scissors and the crucial bottle opener.
I’ve never had a cover for my Kindle so it’s seen better days, and it’s one of the ‘luxuries’ I’m glad I had. Often I would read in the huts in the evenings and then go to sleep when it got too dark to read.
Thankfully I didn’t need anything serious from my first aid kit. Asides from a couple of pre-emptive Compeed plasters at the beginning (wrapped in gauze bandage so they didn’t gunk up my socks), it was mostly the antihistamines for the sandfly bites and bee stings, and Ibuprofen for my knees in the first week. I used some rehydration sachets in the Richmonds which were very effective.
I used various components of my repair kit. I depleted all of the thread I had in my sewing kit. I replaced the batteries in my SEO Laser 5 headtorch in Te Anau, which I used a lot near the end as I was getting up in the dark.
Would I change anything if I did it again? I would probably win the lottery and buy a lighter tent, sleeping bag and then backpack. I’d probably go for lighter sandals too. Gaiters would have saved my legs from getting so beat up in some sections, but I’ve never worn them before and don’t think they’d be worth the weight carrying them for when they’re needed. That said, a friend wore waterproof boots and gaiters every day and was as happy as I was with my set up. I would still keep the items I wore less (trousers, down jacket) as the weather could have turned any day and I’d be cold without them.