First tramp to NZ from Michigan USA - Resv at Huts

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My wife and I (Retirees in our 60s) are 30 days away from beginning our first ever tramp in NZ. We have Abel Tasman, Milford, Keplar, Routeburn, Mt Cook/Mueller treks all scheduled and huts reserved (February/March). I did not plan to carry a tent, just a tarp for emergency, as we have reservations at the huts, but I have heard that huts may be over-booked or people stay in them without reservations. My wife and I love to take our time and enjoy the outdoors and take plenty of pictures, rather than race to the hut to claim a bed, versus the floor. We have backpacked many places around the world and have not ran into this issue, yet (luck i expect). Is it an issue in NZ? Last thing we want to do is cause a stir upon arrival to a hut, as we will be tramping with these same people for a few days, I expect.
What huts have you heard get over-booked ?. Department of Conservation (DoC) don't over-book huts. Numbers are controlled (where there is a booking system) & there'll be a Warden present to check tickets. Off-season (Winter) there is more likely to be a non-booking, "first there get the beds" practice. An early start will get you ahead of the mob if you want to target a lower bunk rather than the upper bed. They aren't all bunk beds. Milford Track, they'll helicopter you (for a fee) if weather is stopping hiking as they need to clear each hut for the next days intake. Kepler Track is most scenic on Day 2. But it's pretty much uphill gradient all the way, until the steady descent to Iris Burn hut down stairs & a zig-zag path. Be aware it's the hardest day of the track & more challenging than the Milford. Everbody does it, but a reasonable standard of fitness is a plus. Do take the side trip to the top of Mt Luxmore. it's only 10min or so & has wi-fi reception if you want to phone/pic home. Bring or buy a pair of hiking sticks each. Pay attention to the Weather forecasts. Call into DoC. 50/50 chance of rain on the Milford all year. Can be torrential. Can get snow/hail on Southern mountains any time of year. Nelson region can catch the tail of tropical cyclones & get significant rainfall for a short period. Feb/March is generally considered end of summer tho weather patterns can blow across the country & change the season with just a few days warning. This is all general talk. Check out your plans against "TripAdvisor" website for tourist talk. Any specific questions, there's bound to be people with detailed hiking experience on this forum. Cheers !.
If you have booked the hut then you get a berth (and mattress). As Pro-active notes - in the great walks (in season) there will be a warden who will check. It can be slightly different in other huts. Remember that many of the huts (particularly those on or above the tree-line) were built to save lives. In their capacity as an emergency shelter there is always space. If you've booked then you get priority on the mattresses, but accept that the need of an emergency means you must accommodate others. Even if I've booked I personally carry an emergency shelter, an air mattress (mainly because my neoair xlite is more comfortable than many hut mattresses) and my PLB. If I arrive late at a hut in a storm I can always fit in somewhere. Kiwi hut culture is (in general) superb. Folk are respectful, try to take up as little space as possible, and accommodating. My post is aimed at reassuring you. All Pro-actives points about checking the weather, respecting the elements, and local advise are absolutely important too.
you booked a bunk you get a bunk, if theres too many people its the rangers decision, in theory they dont have to admit anyone without a booking , they can charge them a penalty but they wont get a bunk unless theres a no show. i have seen one hut only, where the weather is really bad and the ranger lets campers sleep on the floor, but rangers are under no obligation to let people in without a booking unless there are going to be issues with their personal welfare with potential issues such as hypothermia, injury or illness. i've seen rangers be very firm about evicting people from huts who were just briefly in the hut to have a meal, who were camping nearby.
Hi Robert. For context there are maybe 900+ back-country huts throughout New Zealand, depending on how they're counted. Most of them aren't connected to a booking system. They're just there to be used on an honesty system by anyone who shows up with the appropriate hut tickets or annual pass. In those cases there's always a risk that you'll show up and other people will be there. It's advisable to carry portable shelter regardless (especially as anything could happen that might mean you don't reach it), but even if a hut's full then the usual culture (as others have said) is that people will make space as needed. It might mean some people being on the floor or under a kitchen bench, or wherever. I'm not sure about huts on the Mt Cook/Mueller area, but Abel Tasman, Milford, Routeburn and Keplar are all Great Walks which are sort of on a segregated system compared with most of the other huts. For those, DOC takes bookings. They usually (not always) will have a warden. People aren't meant to go there without bookings, and you should get bed space according to the booking. Some huts not on Great Walks are also on booking systems, so if you've also booked the others then you may as well treat them the same. DOC never absolutely guarantees you'll get a bed. They can't say with certainty that there won't be some kind of unforseen situation. If your tarp is adequate, just in case, then I'd not worry. Enjoy your visit, and bring earplugs just in case you need them.
Thank you ALL for you comments, they are greatly appreciated. I should never listen to third hand info from my US hikers who haven't been there. We are excited to come visit your beautiful place for 6 weeks!!!! PS. Are the fires in Australia effecting the air quality and visibility at all in South New Zealand, our news here has reported Auckland getting some smoke??
Thank you ALL for you comments, they are greatly appreciated. I should never listen to third hand info from my US hikers who haven't been there. We are excited to come visit your beautiful place for 6 weeks!!!! PS. Are the fires in Australia effecting the air quality and visibility at all in South New Zealand, our news here has reported Auckland getting some smoke??
We have had some minor impact from the fires in Oz (as well as a few fires of our own). In Wellington the breeze of the last few days has taken it away, but it could return. In general the impact was minor - a bit of a haze and more orange in the sunsets.
There's been some Aussie red dust deposited on some of the snowy faces of features in some areas of the South Island that had contact with the smoke. It's a very rare event. It was just a couple of days of blank sky & muted sun with a smokey scent in the evening where I am in the South Island. A couple of days. Been & gone.
There's talk in the newspapers etc. of ash affecting the taste of water from the tanks at huts on Stewart Island and in Fiordland. The tank water supply comes off the surface of the roof and drains into guttering. People have sometimes then got their water from natural sources e.g. lakes and streams nearby.
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Forum Beginners and newbies
Started by Robert Brosko
On 7 January 2020
Replies 72
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