Most tramping in New Zealand is over "Conservation Land." This is public land administered by the Department of Conservation (DOC), and includes National Parks, Forest Parks and other reserves. Access to Conservation Land is free and unrestricted, with a few exceptions, such as conservation reserves.
The Department of Conservation is responsible for maintaining huts, campsites, tracks, bridges and other facilities on the Conservation Land. All these facilities are available for public use, although use of most huts and campsites incurs moderate charges with a backcountry hut ticket system. Camping is allowed anywhere unless specifically restricted, for example, camping is only allowed at certain points on the Great Walks, and might not be allowed in city water catchment areas, or sensitive habitats. Of course many tracks cross sections of private land where camping may be prohibited. Huts are unlocked and open to all visitors. Payment for most huts is by backcountry hut tickets. Some huts are owned by other organisations such as alpine clubs, but may also be open to the public. In general, you cannot book hut space. You must be prepared to share with all hut users, even if the hut is overcrowded.
The "Great Walks" are a series of popular and high quality tracks over public lands. Camping is restricted, with hut and campsite use paid for with special Great Walks passes. On the busier Great Walks, you book each night's accommodation in a hut or campsite. Other Great Walks simply require the purchase of a pass for a chosen number of nights accommodation, and you may stay at any hut or campsite as you choose. The Great Walks are designed to be high quality, high capacity tracks through some of New Zealand's finest scenery. They are very popular and often relatively crowded. The Great Walks are: Tongariro Northern Circuit, Lake Waikaremoana Track, Abel Tasman Coastal Track, Heaphy Track, Routeburn Track, Milford Track, Kepler Track, Rakiura Track.
- Tramping is a potentially dangerous pursuit. Tracks vary in difficulty according to the season and the weather. When you embark on a tramp you should carry a large scale topographical map and a recent description of the track or route. Both these sources of information are often inaccurate and date quickly; neither are to be trusted fully.
- Many aspects of tramping can only be learnt through experience. There should always be a member of your party who is familiar with conditions similar to those you are anticipating.
- Ascertain current track and weather conditions at the DOC field centre nearest the track and call it off if the weather looks bad. Weather in New Zealand can change rapidly, so watch the weather as you walk. If you lack experience tramping, you should begin with short, easy, summer tramps, avoiding mountainous regions, and take an experienced person with you.
- Carry water if there is none available while you are walking, and drink regularly. Take spare food: you may be out longer than you expect. Take high energy food that is on hand while you are walking -- this helps keep you warm.
- Take layers of clothing to protect you from cold, wind and rain. If you stop walking, put on extra clothing. Synthetic clothing such as nylon, polyester, and polypropylene dries quicker than wool and cotton. Nylon shorts and polyester tee shirts are good for summer tramping, along with polypropylene or merino thermal wear, fleece mid layers, and windproof and rainproof outer layers.
- Take survival bags or a tent fly for emergency shelter. Survival bags are available from outdoors stores and DOC field centres, and double as pack liners.
- Leave your detailed trip intentions with a trusted contact. Be sure to let them know when you return. Forms to help you do this are available at the AdventureSmart website. If you are travelling away from common tracks, consider mountain radios and personal locator beacons.