"In a single day you might swim in the emerald waters of the Tasman sea, hike through prehistoric-feeling jungles, get lost in an ice cave and explore some of the wildest mountains in the Ring of Fire!” Graham’s voice carried over the phone lines between Seattle and New York City, as I simultaneously booked dates on my Google Calendar. I made a checklist, packed my gear and ventured toward New Zealand. Gear Essentials for a Grand Alpine Walkabout: Hard Shell Rain Jacket: The soaking clouds that enveloped us for most of our New Zealand walkabout tested all of our gear, and I was lucky to have a GORE-TEX Outdoor Research Axiom shell along for the wild [wet] ride. Hiking Boots: During our climb Mt. Aspiring, my footwear and rain jacket dueled for the Most Valuable Gear (MVG) award. The rain and slush were trying but these boots were incredible - not only did they keep water out, but they let my sweaty feet breathe, too. Helmet: Our trek included a lot of climbing and it’s always advisable to wear a helmet to help protect you in the event of rock fall, or in case your climbing partner gets rowdy with their ice tools. As a photographer, I already had too much to carry, but this Petzl helmet was the lightest available and very durable. Trekking Poles: Trekking poles were one of those luxury items that actually added efficiency and safety to our journey. These poles provided stability and leverage which allowed me to navigate the tricky terrain. And yes, [MOM], they also help to save your knees on the descent - especially when traveling with a heavy load. Snacks: Easy access calories were essential on our long walk. Bars are good, but my favorite go-to lately has been Boggs Trail Butter. You can eat it straight from the tube or slap it on a piece of fruit. If you’re feeling extra saucy - as I often am - check out the espresso version. Crampons: For this sort of travel, I recommend light-weight aluminum crampons, so feathery you’ll hardly know they’re in your pack. Base Layers: The key to staying comfortable and psyched while moving through New Zealand’s microclimates was proper layering. I wore (and don’t think I ever took off) the Patagonia Capilene Lightweight Crew, and layered for extra warmth. Waterproof Down Sleeping Bag: I was lucky to have my waterproof down sleeping bag with me, so the warm feathers stayed dry even against my damp skin, and I slept away the day and the night in comfort. Seeing as we spent over 36 hours trudging through the rain and slush, this bag was a lifesaver. Space Blanket: Some climbers are steadfast light-and-fast packers, but I didn’t mind a few extra ounces if it meant having some safety measures on board. This emergency blanket weighed in at 3 oz. and was worth the extra effort. Waterproofing the Camera: Some people get creative and use what they have to save their camera in the moment. I’ve seen garbage bag concoctions and all sorts of failed attempts. I prefer weatherpoof casings that can protect the camera from water damage, encounters with rocks and that mischievous thing they call gravity. Whether you’re headed to New Zealand or into your home mountains for the weekend, make sure you bring the essentials. Staying warm and dry in a wet environment can keep misery at bay and ensure a walkabout filled with wonder and joy. On those peaceful mornings when rain patters against the tent, or evenings found in a cave, drying wood and clothes around a fire, you’ll be glad to have the gear you need to enjoy the mountains in their natural state. We’ll see you out there, and make sure you bring your GORE-TEX products.
Forest Woodward recently embarked on a wild adventure through New Zealand. Learn what gear he felt was essential to his grand walkabout.