25.11.2019 edit: I’m not doing Meetup stuff anymore but the info is still good, aside from the actual going tramping with me thing!
The bush is an amazing place and it does me a world of good. I run public tramps fairly often to meet trampers, help others get into tramping and welcome our foreign friends to this most-kiwi pass-time. I’ve written this to help you gain a common understanding, know what is expected, avoid surprises and have a great adventure!
What to expect
Meetup trips usually go something like this:
- We organise pick-ups etc. with drivers before the go day through the Wellington Region Trampers Meetup group.
- Food is all self-catering (bring your own) unless otherwise organised.
- We get to know each other a bit on the drive to where-ever we’re starting the walk.
- We walk. Folks will chat (or not) and we’ll go at whatever pace the group is enjoying and have breaks whenever it feels right.
- At the hut, we’ll gather firewood before settling in. Snacks to share are nice but not required, and usually we’ll play some cards or scategories or something. A bit of booze is welcome but we’re not out there to get rat-arsed.
- We tidy up in the morning and head out.
- Usually we get an ice cream or meal on the way home.
You’re responsible for your own safety. Your gear is a huge part of that.
You’ll find more substantial gear lists around, but here’s a basic one:
- a good, wind and rainproof jacket.
- sleeping bag
- bowl, spoon, mug
- merino/polypro thermals (one for walking if it’s going to be wet/cold)
- change of clothes for the hut (I wear spare thermal, long-johns and down puffer jacket)
- sandals/jandals and your spare warm socks for wearing in the hut
- earplugs. If you want a good sleep! I also bring a face mask from an international flight.
This is not exhaustive! The Tararua Tramping Club has a good gear list.
I take on some responsibility for your safety when I organise a trip as I couldn’t live with myself. So whether you need me to or not I generally carry enough emergency gear to ensure our safety with or without a hut to sleep in, which will most likely include:
- A large tarp to house the whole group if we can’t get to/stay in a hut [taken most of the time]
- small first aid kit/items [always]
- Personal Locator Beacon (PLB) [always]
- emergency kit (fire starters, rope, so on) [always]
- maps, compass etc [always]
If I’m real bloody slow you’re welcome to offer to carry some of it, but I’ll probably say ‘no no I’m fine’ unless I really am holding us up!
If you want to thank your driver then a small koha (donation) is a welcome sign of appreciation but it’s up to you. $10-$20 is a good ballpark for the Tararuas.
A koha doesn’t have to be money. Buy your driver’s post-tramp pie, ice cream or coffee, share an amazing photo or write a heartwarming tribute if that’s more your jam.
Most pick-ups are from Platform 9 at the Wellington Train Station. Drivers generally don’t mind where they pick you up, so if that’s inconvenient organise something else – just be decisive about a better location to keep the back-and-forth to a minimum.
Share the event URL with whoever might worry about you so they’ll have somewhere to go if concerned. My emergency contacts are sent a link to the meetup event when I tell them where we’re off to and what we’re doing. In the unlikely event we’re delayed, injured or stuck, they’ll post what they know in the comments for the meetup event and they’ll also share it with LandSAR if we set off the PLB.
Share the Meetup event URL with loved ones for some kind of point of contact.
Tramping expectations / etiquette and behaviour
We’re all adults but there’re some backcountry rules of thumb that are worth sharing.
- Always stop at trail intersections. A bit of splitting up is natural while tramping and it encourages decent chats and whatnot, but having people head in the wrong direction is dangerous (especially if we’re sharing gear) and needless. When you get to intersections in the trail, pause and re-group.
- If you leave the track for any reason alone, leave something obvious of yours on the track so we’ll know where you left the trail. Sneaking off for a quiet moment and losing your way happens often and to the very best. Telling someone and/or leaving something will ensure it doesn’t happen to you!
- When off-track, stay together. I wear a real cool bright orange hat to help you (and hunters) spot me, but you’d be amazed how quickly you can lose each other. If you need to pray, rest, whizz, whatever – tell someone!
- Don’t speed off unless it’s discussed and agreed.
- Be tidy with your kit. The only place you should explode your gear is on your mattress. Leave shared spaces open and welcoming for others – they may arrive at any time.
- Pay the hut fees. The huts are a treasure and their maintenance is a costly thing. $5-$15 isn’t much to ask. Paying in the appropriate hut helps apportion DOC budget to the huts via usage etc. too so it’s worth doing at the right place. Here’s the payment information.
The golden rule is ‘don’t be a dick’. The vast majority of people interested in the bush are awesome, but there’s a small minority that just aren’t my jam. It’s always fine but ‘once is enough’ with some. I had a moral dilemma about this but if I keep willingly spending entire weekends with people I don’t get on with I’ll just stop hosting Meetup tramps. What this means in practice is that I may filter folks signing up for future trips just to maintain a balance between enjoying myself and my desire to give everyone a go. The upshot of this is if you like the vibe on my trips you know I’m trying to maintain that.
To learn more about tramping I suggest the Mountain Safety Council training videos.
Here’s a link to the whole playlist. Anything else, I’m happy to help with the questions I can so please do get in touch if you’re unsure of anything.
Tramping really isn’t as big and scary as it may seem; you just need to have the right gear and the right attitude. I look forward to tramping with you – you’ll be awesome.