Experienced trampers VICTORIA and seven-year-old EMILIE have left their Christchurch home to walk the 3,000km Te Araroa trail, which runs from Cape Reinga to Bluff. VICTORIA tells us her top tips for getting your kids into tramping too, regardless of your experience level.
I started my first overnight tramp anxious and overloaded, just me with my little Miss Four in tow.
The only certainties were the hut tickets stuffed into the pocket of my backpack and the vague notion that if we followed some orange track markers, we’d eventually make it to our destination. We’ve come a long way since then. Emilie has visited over 50 huts and we’ve endured snowstorms, flooded rivers, sweltering summers, bush bashing, and wild weather. Each trip was built upon the last one, carefully learning and growing in experience as we figured it all out and pushed ourselves to go further, deeper into our beautiful backcountry.
These days, even after a snowstorm in a tent we’re still smiling…
Now that we’re embarking on the biggest tramp of our lives – Te Araroa – New Zealand’s trail, I’ve been looking back at where we started from. So many people might read about Te Araroa and think ‘I could never do that (especially with my kid)’, but I’m saying, ‘Yes you can’. You’ve just got to start somewhere, find friends and mentors to learn from, and develop your confidence and experience along the way.
And you’ll experience the unequaled healing power of time spent exploring our magnificent wild places.
We’ve come a long way from February 2019 and our first overnight tramp together up the Miners Track at Mount Somers, hot, irritable, anxious, and wondering what the hell to expect from the two nights we’d booked at the Woolshed Creek Hut. And this is what I’ve learned along the way about making tramping a success with kids.
My five top tips
- Just do it!
Tramping is for everyone and there’s a heap of accessible and family-friendly walks around you – from short day walks, to longer tramps to huts and campsites. Start where you feel comfortable and build up your confidence. You don’t need expensive gear – warm clothes, school bags, and ordinary shoes will do – you can invest in good gear later once you’ve caught the tramping bug. Top tip: op-shopping is a good way to build up your tramping wardrobe.
- Keep it fun!
Pick a walk that everyone can enjoy and check the weather forecast for a good weather window. Keep things fun with games and activities such as I Spy and stop often for mini-breaks, nutritious snacks, and a drink of water.
- Plan it together
Planning your overnight tramping adventure can be almost as fun as the tramp itself! Download a gear list from the Department of Conservation website or write your own, plan where you’re going, where you’ll stop for breaks, choose what you’re going to eat for dinner/breakfast at the hut or campground. Getting the kids involved helps get them excited too and eases nerves as you’ll all know what you’re doing. There are plenty of bookable huts around Canterbury, so choose one of these for your first overnight and you won’t need to worry about rushing to get there on time.
- Less is more
Resist the urge to bring everything in your backpack, as heavy packs are a sure-fire way to take the fun out of first tramps. Refer to your gear list for all the essentials and try not to take more than you need. As long as you’re warm and dry and have something yummy to eat, you’re sure to have fun.
5. Be a citizen scientist
You’ll be sure to spot a whole heap of interesting new things on your tramp, from plants, insects, fungi and wildlife. Download the iNaturalist app on your smartphone and take photos of things you see – later you can upload these observations for scientists to identify. It’s a fun way to learn more about your natural world.
And remember – take time to look around. Tramping isn’t about being the fittest or fastest. Sometimes the best memories are made when you take time to enjoy beautiful places and observe nature doing its thing.
Victoria and Emilie are walking Te Araroa over the 21/22 summer season. They’re raising funds and telling stories about the mental health benefits of time spent in the wild places of NZ, as well as the importance of protecting those areas for future generations to enjoy. To see all their stories, visit wilderlife.nz/adventures_with_emilie/. Ninety percent of the funds raised are donated evenly between the Mental Health Foundation and the Federated Mountain Clubs of NZ Mountain & Forest Charitable Trust. Ten percent is going towards some of the expenses of walking the trail. If you’d like to help them out, please donate via their give a little page.