Starting to go Off-Track
Hi all, my husband and I have done a lot of tramping but always on recognisable tracks to official huts or campsites. We've never just said 'hey, that looks like a beautiful valley, let's walk in there and put a tent up'. But that's exactly what we'd like to do. I've bought a copy of Moir's Guide North (we live in Dunedin so this covers a lot of the area we are interested in). We've got the gear we need (tents, bed mats, cooking equipment etc). What I'm wondering is things like 'how do you cook dinner if it's raining and windy but you don't have any shelter?'. 'How do you figure out how far you can walk in one day without knowing the roughness of the terrain?'. Do you take heaps of extra food so that you can extend your trip if it takes you longer than you thought? I'm confident about interpreting contours etc on maps. Not so good at estimating how far I've come on the actual ground though. Any tips that could help us take the next step into the back country would be much appreciated, thanks in advance. Rhondda.
Cooking in bad weather: Cook in the vestibule of your tent while lying in the sleeping space. Be careful not to set the tent on fire (unlikely) or melt a hole in it (more likely). Some tents have better vestibule space for this than others. Start small and low stakes and learn by doing. A good start would be up the [North Routeburn to the rock bivi](https://www.topomap.co.nz/NZTopoMap?v=2&ll=-44.690375,168.206414&z=15&pin=1&lbl=North%20Routeburn%20Rock%20Bivi) and back, either use it or put up your tent on the river flats nearby. There's a track marked as far as the rock bivi, you'd have a day of off track exploring above there if you camped two nights around there. Pay attention to time and distance all the time, see that you're at an identifiable side stream, estimate how long it will take you to the next identifiable landmark, compare actual and estimate and learn to identify 500 m per hour terrain from 2 km/hr from 3-4 km/hr terrain.
Hi Rhondda - for most of your questions, I guess underlying each answer is 'experience'. 1. Cooking : if conditions don't allow outside cooking, then cook in the tent's vestibule. Obviously you need both a tent and a cooking method that enable that - eg trangia isn't a good choice of cooker unless your *very* experienced. 2. Distance : experience & planning - over time you develop a sense of what's possible. Planning includes alternatives, short cuts & escape routes. Knowing when to pull the plug comes from both experience & planning. 3. Spare food : I usually take some spare, but not heaps. If a stream is up or wx too bad to proceed, I'd reduce my intake as needed. While building experience, don't push too far beyond your capabilities (aim to avoid being overdue). PLB (or InReach etc) : always carry a PLB. GPS : invaluable - together with a topo map, a gps provides location, rates of travel & distance in any weather. Hasten slowly; consider joining a tramping club (fastest way to access knowledge & experience, imo). edit : ... and what Ian_H said above :)
Yes we definitely need a PLB. Haven't bought one yet but absolutely will. North branch of the Routeburn looks like a great trip. And yeah I had thought we'd have to start really easy and work our way up to more adventurous stuff. I'm not at all convinced I could safely cook in the vestibules of either of my tents. They are small! I vaguely considered getting a tarp that I could use as a rain shelter for cooking if necessary. Would that be considered totally unnecessary weight? When you're sleeping in the biv instead of putting up the tent do you put your sleeping mat straight on the dirt? How do you deal with sandflies? Is there a special kind of sleeping bag for that or is it just about having the right warmth for the conditions? So many questions! Sorry, Rhondda.
2 deleted posts from kostume01
I don't use a tarp but a lightweight one could be modified to combine with your tent to provide enough shelter to cook safely. In serious wx, I use my walking pole to prop up the fly door (partly unzipped) for increased ventilation. In the biv, it depends on the surface a bit, but I'd almost always spread my groundsheet. What tents do you have? Yeah, Nth Routeburn would be a good start. RouteGuides has a gpx of the route.
We use a novopro cloud up 3 tent most of the time. At the time we bought it we were looking for something entry level for carrying to official campsites that included built cooking shelters, or for putting up next to huts when the huts were full. It has been very good for this purpose. We have another tent which is a 2-person but it is a hand-me-down, no-brand thing and it isn't as good. Too small for two adults, almost no vestibule. I would only take it if there was no other option.
OK, had a look at the tent - around 2kg is good for two so I assume you're not looking to replace it (atm). A major limitation of the tent is that there is no overhang to the entrance/vestibule so it isn't protected from rain (unless you close it). I'd try to design a verandah for the entrance that will give you cover from light rain. Then you can cook comfortably in adverse conditions. eg you can (hand)sew loops to the fly & verandah & clip together with small carabiners or tie with utility cord. Use a walking pole or stick to prop up one side. In heavy rain, zip up and eat chocolate :)
do some trips with a tramping club to get experience, dont rely on learning online... you get out there and then think, what did they say online? practice is far better for learning. especially with skills like river crossing or moving in snow.
"How do you deal with sandflies?" Long sleeve shirt, long leggings/pants, socks/shoes, bug net for your head, then just "zen out". I find having a mindset of "bugs just doing their bug stuff" helps me from being driven crazy by the lil' buggers. You can also minimise your exposure by strategically dabbing yourself with DEET-based repellents. I find I can dab my cheeks, eyebrows, temples, and chin to keep them away from my face, also dabbing the backs of my hands while being careful to not get any on my fingers. As dawn breaks and they start becoming active, I'll drape my bandana over my face and head to keep them at bay while I have a lie-in. Remember, there are countless billions of sandflies, so us swatting a few while enraged doesn't do squat! And thankfully, they do go dormant at night, unlike mozzies~
Hey Rhondda, Dont think you necessarily have to join a tramping club TBH but some sound advice already. Start off small,there are literally scores of ideal tramps/tracks/valleys in the South and from Dunners they dont take that long to get to. You might need to upgrade the tent for the 2 of you and definately get a PLB and navigation tools. A lot of the early tramping/camping is trial and error though.You sound like you have common sense which goes a loooooong way. Once you've done a few trips,you know what your capabilities are and how far you can handle.Obviously everyones different but you'll figure out what your food/shelter/gear requirements will be and then you can enjoy and embrace the wonderful outdoors that us lucky bug.ers in the Sth Island have on our doorstep. Sorry I'm not more specific (I'll leave that to the experts on here,they are a gold mine of great advice),but when you said this it 100% rang true with me: We've never just said 'hey, that looks like a beautiful valley, let's walk in there and put a tent up'. But that's exactly what we'd like to do.
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