Routeburn Track - Guided or Independent walk?

It doesn't have to be either complete luxury or 'go it alone' - there is an in-between option. Independent walking packages take the hassle out of hiking

I saw an independent verses guided walk comparison on a guided walk website the other day.  It made out ‘going it alone’ was a very lonely, uncomfortable and daunting experience.  Of course it was laced with lovely (plus also stone cold) words to make a guided walk sound superior.

To keep things in perspective here is the comparison mentioned, plus another column added to keep things real with information about another in between option offered by Easyhike where you enjoy flexibility and independence, however you don’t need to worry about the logistics and hassle associated with getting everything together for the walk.

WEIGHING IT ALL UP

– pasted from Ultimate Hikes website

EASYHIKE PACKAGE

– an in-between option

 Going Guided

Going it Alone

Simply Independent – the Kiwi Tramping Experience

Well appointed comfortable lodges

Basic huts

Great Walk DOC huts – kitchens complete with cookers/gas, clean running water, log fire heating, communal lighting and beautiful views.

Comfortable beds

Carry your own bedding

Bunk beds and mattresses are provided in shared bunk rooms at each hut. Just carry a sleeping bag – ours are light to carry at approx. 850gms and very comfortable to sleep in.  Liners also provided.

Drying rooms

You get wet, you stay wet!

Be prepared with two sets of light, fast drying clothes – one for walking and one for the evenings.  If you get wet during the day you can ‘Wear dry’ damp walking clothes or warm them up in your sleeping bag.  

Hot showers

No showers

The Kiwi tramping experience - Stay fresh without the need for a shower – perhaps have a crisp dip into the lake or river.

Meals provided

Carry & cook your own food

Enjoy our light weight, tasty, nutritional, quick and easy to prepare menu – an essential part of your kiwi tramp!

Travel provided

Arrange your own logistics

Just tell us your plans we do the rest.  Park your car at the start of the track and see it waiting for you at the other end. No waiting around and finish in your own time.

Small backpacks (5-7kg)

Large back pack (15-20kg)

The less you take, the lighter your pack - approx 7-10kgs.  Just clothes, food, personal equipment and sleeping bag required.

Knowledgeable guides

 

You are provided with track information prior to the walk and at the huts.  DOC hut wardens are at each hut to answer questions/tell you about the area each evening.

Safety is paramount

 

Just like the old Scout motto - be prepared.  We will arrange your gear to your requirements (including first aid kit) so you are prepared for rain hail or shine.  The trail is well sign posted and easy to follow and there are DOC wardens at each hut if required.  You get a trail guide with your hut tickets.

Walk as part of a large group of up to 50 people

Walk independently

Choose your group size and meet other walkers along the way.

Comparison summary

In my opinion it all depends on the type of experience you are looking for.  If you don’t want to spend a night without a double bed/ensuite/hot shower then yes a guided walk is your only option for a Routeburn or Milford Track multi day walk.

 If you are looking for an outdoors experience and enjoy flexibility and independence, you don’t have to go it alone and have great options for independent walking.

To explain a few things:

You can choose your ideal timeframe and track direction on the Routeburn Track

While the Milford Track can only be walked in one direction and you have to book all three huts, the Routeburn Track still offers flexibility to plan the walk to suit your itinerary and required experience.  This means you can walk starting at the Routeburn Shelter (1.5 hours from Queenstown) or the Divide (1 hour from Te Anau on the way into Milford Sound).  Also, you can spend between one and many nights on the track as there are 4 huts along the way.  Most people spend 2 nights/3 days on the track, starting approx. lunch time on day one and finishing near lunchtime on day three.  So if you are planning to visit Milford Sound while you are in the lower South Island area, it makes sense to build the Routeburn Track into your itinerary to avoid backtracking and save a day of travel time.

A lot of people these days are visiting Milford Sound on the morning they start the Routeburn track from the Divide and walk to Lake Mackenzie hut in the afternoon.  Spend the next day in the wilderness and then finish at the Routeburn Shelter late morning on day three planning to spend the afternoon in the Queenstown area.  This is a smart use of time.

To give you an idea of numbers, 40-60 independent walkers start the Routeburn Track each day plus 40 - 50 guided walkers per group.  There are also many other people and guided operators who take day walks at either end.

Huts and facilities on a Great Walk

The ‘basic huts’ are not actually basic huts according to the Department of Conservation rating scale.  The Great Walk huts are maintained and supplied to a high standard and providing stoves and gas for cooking, also hut wardens are in attendance and a great friendly resource for information and safety purposes.  They even have flush toilets and usually either soap or hand sanitizer provided. You also have the option of camping in two designated camping areas along the way.  These just like the huts get booked up well in advance so make your plans and get in early to secure the best huts for your itinerary. 

The DOC huts are located close to the guided walk lodges, however independent walkers are unable to enter the lodges.

Click here for a further explanation about the Routeburn Track hut facilities on the DOC website.

Transport

Bus transport and car relocation (from one end of the track to the other) is widely available.  It is advisable to book in advance (especially for car relocation) to secure your dates.  Choosing between the bus or car relocation often comes down to personal preference or if you are choosing to rent car/camper during your stay in New Zealand.  The bus is approx. $120 per person and car relocation is good value for money especially if you want to stop along the way for photos and take your time visiting Glenorchy and Milford Sound.

Food and Gear

It is important that you are prepared with appropriate clothing, good hiking gear and food.  Keep your pack light, don’t take everything in your toilet bag and choose food wisely.  The equipment you need for cooking/eating is a pot/billy, bowl cup and cutlery (fork and knife etc).  Don’t forget about a tea towel/wash cloth for your dishes.

Click here for information about what to take on the DoC website, or Download the pdf copy here

If you don’t intend to travel with your hiking gear and rather not spend your travel time arranging food/logistics – look into hiking package options.  Easyhike will drop off a personalised food and gear package to your accommodation in Queenstown or Te Anau.  It’s worth checking out and makes for a enhanced experience.

Safety and Fitness

I can’t stress enough – it is important to be prepared.  You are walking in the mountains and the weather can change quickly.  You will also have a better experience if you have a good level of fitness/ have been preparing for the walk.  This will not only minimize the chance of injury, also help you focus on your surrounds – not the track in front of your feet.  During the Great Walk Season there are wardens at each of the huts who have radios in case of emergency. 

Great walk season starts at the end of October, finishes at the end of April and you need to book the huts/campsites well in advance during this time due to popularity.  If you are thinking about walking outside the season please click here for more information on the DOC website.

For further information about a great walk independent hiking package on the Routeburn, Kepler or Milford Tracks, visit Easyhike.co.nz.

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