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New Zealand Trekking - Grade Details, fitness and personal care tips

Trips have been graded to help you choose an experience that is right for you. Fitness is subjective, what you may find easy may be strenuous to someone else or vice versa. Individual tour dossiers give more detailed information on the fitness requirements.

If you need to bring your fitness levels up for the trip you'd like to do, why not check out our tips for getting fit further down the page.

Grades Descriptions

Grade A

  • General good health necessary.
  • No specific fitness requirements

Grade B

  • Average of 4-5 hours physical activity per day
  • At times carrying small backpack of 4-5kgs (9-11 lbs)
  • Tracks generally in good condition
  • Altitude gains of up to 600m (2000ft) on harder days
  • No hiking experience necessary
  • Reasonable standard of fitness required

Grade C

  • Up to 6 hours of physical activity per day
  • At times carrying a backpack of 5-6kgs (11-13 lbs)
  • Tracks generally in good condition
  • Altitude gains of up to 600m (2000ft) on harder days
  • No hiking experience necessary
  • Reasonable standard of fitness required
  • NZ Uncut - some overnight hikes involve alpine hiking, uneven terrain and carrying a backpack of 10-12kgs (22-26 lbs)

Grade D

  • Average 4-5 hours physical activity per day, up to 8-9 hours on longer days
  • Pack weights of 10-12kgs (22-26 lbs) on some days
  • Altitude gains of up to 800m (2600ft)
  • Some uneven track surfaces and river crossings
  • No multi-day hiking experience necessary
  • Agility and fitness required

Grade E

  • Up to 8-9 hours physical activity each day
  • Pack weights of 12-15kgs (26-33 lbs)
  • Altitude gains of 900 to 1000m (2950 to 3300ft)
  • Some exposure to heights
  • Hiking experience necessary.
  • High level of fitness required

New Zealand is famous for its hiking or "tramping" as we call it. We have several famous tracks, e.g. the Heaphy and Abel Tasman, which attract thousands of visitors each year. However, New Zealand's hiking is not limited to these areas. We have great hikes throughout the country. On the Hiking Safaris we explore the less known tracks and try to avoid busy huts and walkways. Instead, we seek wilderness, off the main tourist routes. The scenery is just as spectacular if not more so.

As we explore many less known wilderness areas, tracks can at times be slippery and rough, and may involve river crossings. At times we hike off the track so hiking boots are essential. Although you do not need previous hiking experience you do need to be reasonably fit, enthusiastic and prepared for a mental and physical challenge. Our New Zealand Hiking Safaris are designed for adults and you generally need to be at least 16 years old to join us. However, fit and mature younger teens may be able to come if accompanied by an adult.

You won't be left behind! We hike together as a group at a steady pace, stopping for a good lunch and often for snacks. Due to changeable weather conditions and the remoteness of the areas we visit, we insist that the group stay together. We expect you to follow the guidelines in our environmental care code.

Getting fit for your New Zealand hiking trip

Most younger people are naturally fit if they participate in some form of sport or visit the gym every week. You will get fitter on your hiking trip, but in general the fitter you are to start with, the more enjoyment you will get out of your trip. If you are concerned about your fitness and want to prepare yourself for your New Zealand hiking trip then here are some tips.

  • Start doing hikes a month before the trip. Start with a walk around your village or town at a brisk pace for 1 or 2 hours and build up slowly to 4 -5 hour walks with a small, loaded (5-10 kg) pack. Also take walks over uneven terrain to improve your balance, over farmland or into the mountains.
  • Cycling is great exercise for building up your leg and knee muscles.
  • Visit your local gym and talk with your instructor. They can put together a fitness program best suited to your needs.
  • You will find that when hiking you will eat more than what you would normally, especially snack foods, e.g. chocolate, peanuts, muesli bars, banana chips, biscuits, etc. It is important to keep your energy levels up. You will be burning a lot of energy. When you are training for your trip, remember to take some snacks with you.

Hiking times and distances are approximate only. They indicate actual hiking times and do not include breaks.

 Personal Care

Injuries - The tracks we hike on are sometimes slippery and uneven which can put extra stress on ankles and knees. Please inform us if you have previous ankle/knee problems as these are our most common injuries. We strongly recommend that you wear a reliable knee/ankle support if you have had previous injuries. A walking pole can also help considerably.

Blisters - There is nothing worse than a blister on your heel on the first day of hiking when you've got 9 more days to go! With new boots blisters are especially a problem, but can also occur with broken-in boots due to the amount of hiking and the terrain we travel over. In most instances they are preventable, simply by applying tape to your feet before you start hiking. If you feel a hot spot on your foot, stop and tape it up. This is an early sign of a blister developing.

Insect Bites - sandflies and mosquitos can, at times, drive people crazy. The most important thing is not to get bitten. Wear long-sleeved shirts and pants in the mornings and evenings when they are at their worst, and put on insect repellent. If you do get bitten, antihistamine cream will help to stop the itching. We do not have any malaria in New Zealand.

Sunburn - New Zealand lies under a big hole in the ozone layer and has little air pollution so the sunshine can be very intense especially in midsummer. You can get sunburned in as little as 15 minutes when you're out hiking in New Zealand. Therefore it is essential to have a good sunblock and to apply it repeatedly.

Personal Hygiene - Part of the New Zealand hiking ethic is getting away from it all, which can sometimes mean missing out on a hot shower for 3 or 4 days (Hiking Safaris). However there are always lakes and rivers to wash in at the end of a days trek. You'll really get to enjoy this part of our Safaris. For those doing the Great Hike guided walks, hot showers are available at the lodges.

Water - New Zealand's mountain water is great to drink. Giardia has arrived at some of the tourist tracks but unlikely in our hiking areas (except Abel Tasman NP). It is important to drink plenty of fluids while hiking, as dehydration will slow you down and give you headaches, and can lead to sunstroke on hot days. Make sure you bring a drink bottle.

Toilets - All camps we use have some form of a toilet, quite often the long-drop style. If you need to go to the toilet while hiking, make sure you bury all traces of excrement. Always go well away from any water ways (at least 50 metres). The lodges on the Great Hike tracks are equipped with flush toilets (except Stewart Island).


"New Zealand hiking - fitness tips and personal care advice from Hiking New Zealand."