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. He’s sharing advice on how to do your own thru-hike in a series of posts here on Salomon.com. Here, he offers some training tips.
January 30th, 2019
Lake Hawea, New Zealand's Southern Island
Since the 1st of January, I’ve been living a dream wide awake. I’ve hiked 900 km of pure happiness, goosebumps, screams of joy... and almost no rain. I still can’t believe it after the horrible month of December I was exposed to. So I enjoyed a non-stop show of Mother Nature with the impressive diversity of landscapes and terrains this country has to offer. Will I ever see something more beautiful than this sunset above Lake Hawea?
Yet, along this spectacular journey, I went through some challenging sections: river crossings, steep descents on unstable ground, a ridge walk in high winds. None of it was unmanageable, but you’d rather be prepared when you’re out there. So to enjoy even more of your backpacking trip, here are a few tips I’d like to share with you on how to train for a thru-hiking trip.
When we think about training, most of us see the physical training as the most important thing. And it’s true that being in great shape before starting a long distance hike will make your life easier. The bad news is that it is impossible to be fully prepared before starting a long distance hike. No matter your experience or your training, the first days are the hardest and most people quit then. It’s easy to understand why—your body needs time to get use to the physical challenge of hiking 10-12 hours a day.
Happily, there is a simple solution and what you might call a golden rule: Start slow. That’s exactly why one Australian guy I met on the trail was only hiking 5-6 hours (about 25km on the flat) per day during the first week, even if he was starting his fourth thru-hike. And if a guy from Cairns is that wise, you can be too.
But I can hear you smart guys now: “Awesome, so I don’t have to train at all before my trip!”. Even if technically you could take that approach, you really should spend some time in the outdoors before going on an adventure. First, having a good level of physical fitness will help your body feel great faster while you’re on the trail. Secondly, the training is not only about fitness, it’s also about experience. Having sure footing, knowing how to cross a river or knowing when to turn back if the weather changes are all priceless areas to have experience in. Sadly, I’ve seen too many people quitting here because of the roughness of the South Island.
So, to conclude, go outside before you start your thru-hike and start slow. It will make your time on the trails much more enjoyable. That’s enough words from me. More crystal clear lakes and untamed mountains peaks are waiting.