Climbing and Safety Equipment

New Zealand’s mountains are rugged, windy and often wet. Your gear will get a battering!


A good range of outdoor equipment can be found in all major cities. Prices for packs (rucksacks), shells and clothing may be slightly lower than in USA or Europe. Climbing hardware is generally slightly more expensive and the range more limited. As a rule, hardware in New Zealand is 25–30% less expensive than in Australia. Locally made products are world class, but size or colour selections may be limited. Clothing and packs may be of heavier construction than European brands because they are designed to withstand New Zealand conditions.


Only the most popular brands of boots are imported. For tramping it is better to bring your favourite heavy boots from home, but be prepared for them to be worn out before you return.


Northern hemisphere compasses do not function properly in the southern hemisphere. Southern hemisphere versions of well known brands can be purchased.


A waterproof shell is essential for New Zealand weather conditions. Little non-thermal clothing is carried, for trampers may have to cope with hypothermic conditions even in mid summer. A warm hat is essential.


A climbing helmet is essential. New Zealand rock is often loose and ice fragments can be blown by the wind.


Glaciers are often deeply crevassed and ropes are always used, along with prussik cords for self-rescue.


Climbers often carry a snowstake for use as a snow anchor. It is a section of angle aluminium, pointed at one end, with a strop attached at the other. Snowstakes are available from local climbing shops.

Personal locator beacons

In February 2009 New Zealand changed to (406MHz) Personal Locator Beacons. These are now commonly carried, especially during winter trips.


Several models of avalanche transceiver are available in New Zealand. All 457KHz models are compatible with each other, but some are better at finding different types of transceivers than others. Some models are better at searching for multiple burials than others. Transceivers can often be hired or purchased from many outdoor shops.

Mountain radios

Radios are sometimes carried and can be hired from the Mountain Radio Service who will keep in contact with you and weather forecasts. Contact: Mountain Radio Service, PO Box 22342, High Street, Christchurch 8142.

Portable stoves

"White spirit" stoves are commonly used. Fuel can be purchased at service stations and some hardware shops, sometimes called Shellite, Callite, or Pegasol. It is best to explain what you are using it for. Methylated spirits (alcohol) is easily found, sold with a purple tinge to identify it. Kerosine (paraffin) is also available. Screw-type gas cylinders are also used, both butane and butane/propane mixes.


Fires are still used by many trampers, but these tend to be in the less well visited areas. Sometimes there are fire bans in place during the driest months of summer. Check with the local DoC field centre, or Fire Station, before lighting a fire during the summer months. The Kiwi tramper will carry a deep billy (pot) for cooking over open fires. Its flat brother is very unstable.


Most New Zealanders use big plastic rubbish bags in their packs in order to keep the contents dry during heavy rain. The Mountain Safety Council produce a plastic bag for this purpose. Their pack liner has survival information printed on the outside.


Supermarkets stock a wide range of food, although outside major cities it may be harder to find non-European foods. Prices tend to rise away from the main centres.

Specialist freeze-dried food is expensive and usually available at outdoors shops. The local product "Alliance" is good. The usual weight allowance for food on expedition trips is 750–1000gm per day per person.


Water can be assumed to be drinkable just about anywhere. Signs will be found in some regions where traces of Giardia have been found.