Te Araroa Done UltraLight

Words and photos by Dahn Pratt

Like a giddy school girl, wearing her new outfit on the first day of high school, I galloped down 90-mile beach and embarked on a quasi-metaphysical acid trip down the thru-hike rabbit hole. Sensory deprivation and sensory overload were going to be the chemical cocktails on Te Araroa, 3,000km (1,800 miles for you uninitiated folks) of all manner of trail (or lack thereof). The sensory deprivation/overload conundrum weighed heavily, both figuratively and literally, on my shoulders. How do you take the bare essentials or even less than that and live out of a 8 lbs pack for four months? This was definitely on the backburner during my drunken euphoria on day one.

When emptying the contents of my pack at a hut or in town, a bystander or fellow hiker will usually comment on their concern for my lack of gear. “Where’s your gaiters?”, “Why aren’t you using boots?”, “Is that really your shelter?”, “Why aren’t you wearing pants?” OK that last one is a fair question but these ubiquitous questions for the uninitiated hiking-folks are a reflection of the disconnect we’ve increasingly widened between ourselves and nature.

Hiking in New Zealand is different from other hiking I’ve experienced. They even have a different term for the endeavor. Here it’s called tramping, and for good reason. The unpredictability of weather and the minimally maintained trails are a point of pride amongst the hearty Kiwis. Going out into nature is referred to as “going out into the bush”. I much preferred to think of it as “bush bashing”, irrespective of one’s opinion, tramping in New Zealand is tough.

One’s gear must mirror the difficult topography and luckily I was in good hands with my Liteskin fabric Katabatic Gear 50L Onni as well as my 22 degree Alsek quilt. The Onni was easily my favorite piece of kit and really shined in the varied, often miserable conditions that NZ weather and trail throw at you.

All-in-all going ultralight on the TA was a daunting task that was unsettling to a relatively inexperienced tramper, but the outcome was a successful and, more importantly, enjoyable thru-hike!