After 116 days on trail, Kate reckons she has her gear dialled. Here are some of the items she now swears by.


Stepping foot onto the Te Araroa (TA) trail, I thought I had my hiking gear completely sorted. I had tried and tested every single piece of gear on countless day and overnight trips before setting out on this 3000km walk down the length of New Zealand.

What I hadn’t done though, was hike along a beach for 90km, or tramp through muddy Northland Forests, or walk on paved roads for countless days, or wander in and out of suburbia.

I soon learnt that the conditions in New Zealand were like nothing I had ever hiked in before, and my gear adapted to this along the way. After 116 days on trail, I feel I have truly dialled my thru-hiking gear, and these are the items that will be at the very top of my packing list.

1. Injinji Trail Crew Socks

Week one on trail, at the end of the infamous 90 Mile Beach section (which is around 88km), I had an entire photo album solely dedicated to the blisters on my feet.

Trying everything from ‘Compeed’ blister patches, to sheep’s wool, I finally took some fellow hikers’ advice and tried a pair of Injinji Toe Socks.

Not having worn toe-socks since the trend swept through school in the 90s, I was sceptical to say the least. Within days, the agony I had felt from blisters between my toes had disappeared.

The small hassle of making sure my toes were in the right place each morning was worth it for the pain-free hiking. Although these socks may not fit everyone’s toes, the Injinji Toe Socks completely transformed my feet on trail.

2. Altra 2 Point Trail Gaiters

With three major Northland forests closed due to the rapid spread of a plant disease, week two included a whole heap of road detours. On a mixture of paved, gravel, and dirt roads, I was constantly getting tiny stones flying into my shoes.


View from the summit of Ben Lomond

That was until I tried a pair of the Altra 2 Point Trail Gaiters. These lightweight, lycra gaiters made the world of difference for keeping debris out of my shoes, which in turn prolonged the life of my socks.

Sliding snuggly over both socks, and shoes, I often forgot they were on my feet. While designed specifically for Altra runners, they can be tailored to fit all trail shoes as they come with extra Velcro pieces to be attached to the heel, and a toe clip that can loop directly over the laces.

Read: 6 Reasons To Start Wearing Ankle Gaiters

3. MacPac Mica Hiking Dress

I’ve always been intrigued by a hiking dress, but was never truly sold on the idea. During week six, following a break over the Christmas period, I gifted myself a ‘town dress’ to wear on washing day.

At only 140g, I decided the extra weight was a small trade off. I tentatively started by wearing it as we canoed the Whanganui River, then realised ten days later that I hadn’t worn anything else.


Sporting the Macpac dress on the Takitimu track

By the end of the Tararua Forest, I left the shorts behind and fully embraced my new identity as a hiking dress convert. I loved holding onto a piece of my femininity on the trail, but also loved the idea of feeling like a normal person on resupply days (even if I didn’t smell like one).

This dress is made from a breathable, water resistant, quick drying fabric, that has a lot of stretch while still maintaining its shape.

4. MacPac Womens Merino Boxers

On the same day I picked up my new hiking dress, I also treated myself to some new underwear. Opting for a short/boxer style to maintain a little bit of modesty whilst hiking in a dress, these also became the perfect swimming trunks.

The super soft merino fabric is a natural temperature regulator and is also odour resistant – a must on trail when the only washing machine is the natural flowing river.


Wearing Macpac underwear next to a creek on the Two Thumbs track

5. Bodyglide Anti Chafe Balm

During the first week of the South Island leg, my partner joined me on the Queen Charlotte Track. He has always suffered from chafe due to his love of baggy shorts, and was completely chafe-free thanks to this little stick of balm that he ordered as an afterthought before coming to New Zealand.


Trail scrambling in Tararua Forest park

This sweat and water-resistant balm starts off feeling a little bit sticky, but quickly becomes an invisible barrier that stops clothing or skin from rubbing. Not only can it be used to stop chafing, some TA hikers applied this onto their feet every morning before donning the socks to avoid blisters.

6. SunBum Sunscreen Face Stick

When my hands were dirty on trail, the last thing I wanted to do was smear sunscreen all over my face, but that New Zealand sun is fierce and reapplying multiple times a day is an absolute must.


The sun beats down on the Whanganui River

Sadly, it was not until my last month on the South Island that I was introduced to a Sunscreen Stick by my new found trail family. This compact sunscreen fitted perfectly into my backpack hip pocket, and was so easy to re-apply.

Whilst this particular stick has a pretty intense smell, the SunBum Baby Bum is fragrance free if you’re not a fan of your face smelling like a banana paddle pop, with the added bonus of a higher SPF rating.

7. Bumper Brownies

The Bumper Brownie became a stronger currency on TA than any country’s dollar. We would make bets, use it as bribes, or celebrate at the top of an epic climb with a Bumper Brownie.


Summit brownies at the top of Breast Hill!

These ‘bars’ became such a hot commodity that whoever would arrive into town last was likely to miss out on a resupply of these delicious, gooey chocolate bars.

Whilst not available worldwide, I can tell you that regardless of where my next thru-hike is, I will be ordering a box of these prior to take-off.


Kate purchased all of the gear mentioned herself to provide this objective list of go-to gear. Where possible we have linked the product to our partners at Wild Earth. If you buy anything through our Wild Earth links we earn a small commission, which helps keep our site free!