Salomon employee Jean Hacquart recently hiked the length of New Zealand from the northernmost point of the North Island to the southernmost point of the South Island, then bicycled back. Here, he offers advice on how to set up camp each night.
March 27, 2019
Cape Reinga Lighthouse, New Zealand's North Island
On March 27th, I sit next here at the northernmost point of New Zealand. That was it, after 6,000 kilometers and 140 days, I was back where it all started--emotionless, empty and exhausted. I knew that time would be my best ally to understand what I’d been through, to regroup some memories hidden far away in my head. I had to force myself to remember that before cycling New Zealand from south to north I was hiking for three months from north to south. At this point, the only objective I had was finding a quiet place to rest for a few weeks.
So here I am in Kaitaia, a small town in the Far North, spending most of my days sleeping in a real bed, with a pillow and sheets. Such a sweet pleasure! Yet, I know that soon I’ll miss my nights in the wild. Since I was a child, I’ve loved to sleep outside, set up my camp and have the feeling of being part of nature. I also like the fact that on a long distance trail, you never have two identical camp sites. So you always have to think, at least a bit, about where you’re going to pitch your tent.
One of the main issue you’ll face is not rain or wind but condensation (when the vapor in the air is cooled at night and changes to a liquid state against your tent walls). But if you keep a few principles in mind, you can drastically reduce it.
1. Don’t camp too close to lakes or streams where the condensation will be stronger.
2. Try to find a high, breezy place and open your tent ventilations. It will help to keep your tent dry from your own moisture (breathing and wet gear) and keep your walls warmer, which will prevent the vapor that turns into water.
3. Camp on durable surfaces, which will also help to leave no trace of your night.
4. Sleep below a tree if possible. The temperature will be a few degrees warmer under this natural shelter.
5. Keep your tent easily accessible in your backpack and use your lunch break to dry it.
Of course, once in the outdoors you might not be able to apply all of them at the same time, try only to follow those rules when you can. And sometimes forget all of them if you find the most beautiful camp site. The memories you’ll collect are more important than a wet tent!
And if like me you're keen having a roof above your head from time to time, New Zealand hut system is amazing. More than 1.000 huts are spread across the country, quite often in spectacular locations, for only a few dollars most of the time!