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Multi-Day Backpacking Trips in New Zealand: A Complete Guide

What to expect from a multi-day backpacking trip in New Zealand.

You have come to New Zealand to experience the great outdoors! One of the best ways to immerse yourself in the sensational scenery is by doing a multi-day backpacking trip in New Zealand.

Multi-day backpacking trips, or more commonly known as multi-day hikes or “tramping”, are extremely popular in New Zealand. That’s why many of our backpacking trails are well-equipped with accommodation huts, campsites and more. This complete guide to multi-day backpacking trips in New Zealand will go over the types of trails that area available, the accommodation on the trails, how to prepare for a multi-day trip, and transportation to trails.

Be sure to check out our Hiking section of the website to get an idea of what to expect from backpacking trails in New Zealand.

The Department of conservation

The first thing you need to know about for doing backpacking trips in New Zealand is the Department of Conservation, or “The DOC”. The DOC administers and maintains the vast majority of backpacking trails and their accommodations throughout New Zealand including the “Great Walks”.

Once you have chosen a multi-day backpacking trip, a great place to start preparing is on the Department of Conservation website, which is a huge database for the trail descriptions and accommodation descriptions. It is also the place where you will need to book accommodation, when appropriate.

For more information, check out What is The DoC, Department of Conservation in New Zealand?

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What multi-day backpacking trails are there in New Zealand

Multi-day backpacking trails in New Zealand vary in their facilities and how well the trails are maintained due to popularity and funding. While the majority of the backpacking trails in New Zealand are free to use, staying in huts or a campsite along the trail, as well as transportation, is where the expenses come in.

The New Zealand Great Walks

Most people will have heard of “The New Zealand Great Walks” which are nine multi-day backpacking trips across the country. They are the most popular tracks, the most-maintained trails and have the most well-equipped accommodation. For this reason, the New Zealand Great Walks are more expensive and usually require booking well in advance. Nevertheless, they are called the “Great Walks” for a reason meaning they pass through some of New Zealand’s most epic landscape.

For more information on the Great Walks, check out The 9 Great Walks of New Zealand and Guide to the 9 Great Walks of New Zealand.

Multi-Day Hikes in New Zealand

New Zealand really has a huge range of multi-day backpacking trails outside of the “Great Walks” category that is not only offers cheaper accommodation options, but also take you through some amazing landscapes. Hut accommodation tends to be well-serviced like the Great Walk huts but smaller and at half the price. Plus, campsites will either be free or have a small fee.

There are that many multi-day hikes in New Zealand that we recommend browsing our hiking section and the Department of Conservation website to get inspiration.

Free Backcountry Hikes in New Zealand

If you want to get well and truly off the beaten track then a number of backpacking trails in New Zealand which have free basic huts (or “bivvies”) to use, essentially making the hike free. The trails to these huts will be less-maintained than your normal Great Walk or multi-day hike, meaning there may be tree roots and rocks to scramble over, but the tracks will be marked with orange makers to keep you going in the right direction.

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Where to stay on a backpacking Trail in New Zealand

Unlike backpacking trails in other countries, you are required to camp or stay in designated huts and campsites in New Zealand. Not only does this reduce the effect your backpacking trip has on the environment, it is also safer and has the essential facilities.

There are more than 950 huts and 200 campsites managed by the Department of Conservation in New Zealand. While some huts and campsites are first-come-first-served, others require booking in advance. You will never be turned away from a hut but you might have to sleep on the floor if the hut is full. The Department of Conservation website has profiles of every single hut and campsite that they manage in New Zealand so you can get details on the facilities, price and booking  for your chosen accommodation.

Department of Conservation Huts

Great Walk Huts – these are your most-equipped huts with water supply, heating, mattresses, washing facilities, toilets and heating with fuel and a hut warden. Prices range from NZ$22 to NZ$70 per person night. Starting from October 2018, prices will double for international visitors for the Milford, Routeburn, Kepler, Abel Tasman and Tongariro Great Walks.

Serviced Huts – similar to the Great Walk Huts, they have mattresses, water supply, toilets, hand washing facilities, heating with fuel available and sometimes a warden. Prices are NZ$15 per person per night.

Standard Huts – they have mattresses, water supply and toilet, and sometimes a wood burner. Fees are NZ$ per person per night.

Basic Huts/Bivvies – provide basic shelter with limited facilities. Sometime there are mattresses. They are free to use.

Department of Conservation Campsites

Serviced campsites – they have flush toilets, tap water, kitchen/cooking bench, hot showers, rubbish collection and road access for all types of vehicles. They may have laundry facilities, barbecues, fireplaces, cookers and picnic tables. Fees are NZ$18 per person per night for an tent site or NZ$21 per person per night for a powered site.

Scenic and Standard Campsites – expect more basic facilities like toilets, water supply (tap, stream, or lake) and vehicle or boat access. BBQs, fireplaces, cold showers, picnic tables, a cooking shelter and rubbish bins may be an added extra. Scenic campsites are a little more expensive than standard campsites due to their location. Standard campsites fees are NZ$13 per person per night for a tent site. Where available, a powered site costs NZ$16 per person per night.

Basic Campsites – although free, basic campsites have very limited facilities. They may have a water supply.

Great Walk Campsites – these are designated sites located near Great Walk Huts (except there are no campsites on the Milford Track). They have toilets and water supply. Fees are NZ$6-$20 per person per night.

Other Accommodation on multi-day backpacking trails

There are some accommodation on limited New Zealand backpacking trails that are not managed by the Department of Conservation. For instance, the Queen Charlotte Track in the Marlborough Sounds has a mix of backpacker hostels and high-end lodges along the track, as does the Humpridge Track in Fiordland National Park and the Banks Penninsula Track near Christchurch. Expect prices to be between NZ$30-$200 per night.

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How to prepare for a multi-day backpacking trip in New Zealand

The first thing you need to know about a multi-day backpacking trip in New Zealand is that the weather can change instantly with no warning. On any trip, summer or winter, make sure you are prepared for all weather scenarios and are dressed appropriately. Now that we have that out of the way, you should read the following articles outlining what food to take and what clothes to wear.

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Transportation between multi-day backpacking trips in New Zealand

The final thing you need to consider for a multi-day backpacking trip in New Zealand is how are you going to get to the start of the trail and how you are going to get away from the end. If you have your own transportation, then the cheapest option would be either be to choose a multi-day hike with is a circuit/loop or to return on the hike the same way that you came.

Many of the multi-day hikes in New Zealand are one way, meaning that the end of the track is in a different location to the beginning. Depending on the trail and location, there are service providers that offer shuttles or water taxis to and from each end of the track, as well services to return you to where you parked your car at the beginning of the track. All Great Walks in New Zealand have such transportation, as do locations near other popular hikes.

More information about backpacking in New Zealand

One last note: the term “backpacking” is usually understood as “budget travelling” in New Zealand, not necessarily hiking in the wilderness. For more information on hiking in New Zealand check out:

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