In tramping, experience is more important than general fitness. If you are a fit, active person, do not overestimate your tramping ability.
New Zealand conditions are harsh and changeable. Experienced foreign hikers frequently misjudge conditions and challenges.
A track's difficulty varies with weather conditions. Easy summer tracks can become dangerous or impassable in winter. Rain can make easy river crossings deadly.
Do not confuse track popularity with safety. People die on the Routeburn Track. Being in the outdoors exposes you to a variety of risks you may not be aware of.
Plan your trip around the weakest party member. Do not force that person into conditions they are not ready for. Plan a more challenging trip for some other time!
Here are the main causes of death in the New Zealand outdoors:
- Drowning - rivers rise and fall quickly in New Zealand. Be prepared to wait it out.
- Hypothermia - take adequate clothing.
- Falls - take adequate equipment and don't tramp alone.
The good news is that there are no dangerous wild animals such as snakes or bears!
- Easy: Unusually smooth, well-marked track, easy gradients. Up to about 4 hours tramping per day. Example: Abel Tasman Coast Track.
- Easy-medium: Typical New Zealand lowland tramping track. Generally easy walking and well marked. Ascents of up to 1000m. Some easy river crossings, unmarked travel along rivers. Up to about 6 hours tramping per day. Example: Mount Somers Track.
- Medium: Typical New Zealand tops track. Suitable for experienced trampers only. Tracks may be rough, muddy and poorly marked or unmarked. Ascents of up to 2000m. River crossings, unmarked travel on open tops, passes. Up to about 8 hours tramping per day.
- Medium-hard: Navigation and snow skills (use of ice axe and crampons) required. Expect to encounter glaciers, exposure to falls, and hazardous conditions.
- Hard: Tracks are rough or non-existent. Following ridges, bush spurs, and rivers. Steep ascents, hazardous conditions, snow skills and navigation skills essential. Arduous, hazardous travel that may require basic mountaineering skills.