About the Tongariro Alpine Crossing

The Tongariro Alpine Crossing is located in the middle of North Island, New Zealand, at the Tongariro National Park. It is a must-visit in my opinion if you are at the North Island because of its unique combination of active volcanoes and the three blue lakes near the peak. I completed this hike in the summer of February 2017 and it was no doubt, one of my toughest yet best hiking experience so far! In this blog, I’ll be sharing how I prepared for this 19.4km track at the Tongariro Alpine Crossing and may it be helpful for you too in crafting your own experience there!

Preparing for the Tongariro Alpine Crossing

1. Know what you are in for

First, you got to know what you’re in for.

  • This is a full one-day track that can last up to 8 hours. It is also recommended to start really early so you have enough daylight to complete the track before the sun goes down.
  • The difficulty of the track varies largely throughout 19.4km track. If you’re not used to hiking long hours, you will probably need some training and preparation before to brace yourself for this.
Preparing for the Tongariro Alpine Crossing
  • If you’re planning to attempt this hike in winter (between June to October), you need to be a skilful hiker to navigate through the snow, ice, avalanche terrains and freezing temperatures.
  • Even if you do this hike during summer, note that temperatures still vary largely and you need to be prepared for it. It can go as low as 6 degrees Celsius in the morning when you first arrive and also at the peak. On normal terrains, it can also get really warm, so layering is really important!

2. Time to gear up

Dressing up in layers is one of the most essential things to do to preparing yourself appropriately for the Tongariro Alpine Crossing. You’ll want to gear up appropriately for the four seasons you’ll experience while on the Crossing. Conditions can change so quickly that you would not even realise until a while later. You will want to layer your clothes such that you trap the warm air in and keep the cold wind out.

  1. Start with a base layer of thermal wear. I wore one layer of Uniqlo’s Heattech and then a fleeced thermal wear after that.
  2. Then, put on a lightweight jacket that is preferably of dri-fit material. I got mine off Warehouse in New Zealand for $12 and it worked wonders for me in keeping me sufficiently warm but not TOO warm.
  3. Finally, complete the outfit with a waterproof and windproof outer jacket. You’ll give yourself a pat on the back for wearing this once you experienced the wind and rain while on the Tongariro Alping Crossing.

3. Pack your bags with the necessary things to bring

Preparing for the Tongariro Alpine Crossing

Wearables to protect yourself

  • Layering of clothes
  • Hiking boots (a waterproof one is preferable, otherwise normal hiking boots with good grip would work too!)
  • A poncho to prepare for heavier rain than your waterproof jacket can hold
  • A hat to keep the sun and rain out
  • A cotton mask to keep the cold wind and sand out of your face

Food to fuel you on

  • Enough water to last you for at least 8 hours
  • Snacks to fuel you through during breaks (energy bars, nuts, bread, digestive biscuits)
  • Breakfast/ Lunch (food that does not require re-heating like sandwiches, burgers etc. and can last outside the refrigerator without spoiling fast)

4. Decide where to stay and book early

As the Tongariro Alpine Crossing is especially popular, I recommend booking your accommodation early. You should be safe if you book it at least two weeks early! There are a number of lodges around Tongariro and we stayed at Howard’s Motor Lodge. I liked the place as it was really clean and quiet. They had a really clean and comfortable shared kitchen where we made a good dinner and chilled at for the night. Take note though that there are no supermarkets close by, hence, make sure you buy at least 2 days’ worth of food before heading to the lodge.

5. Plan your route and get there in time

Decide when you like to start hiking and work backwards to the time you need to leave your accommodation to reach on time. Also, remember to factor in time for:

  • Securing a space at the parking lot if you are driving since parking lots do get filled up quickly. I got to the parking area at approximately 6.45 am and it was filled already. I ended up parking at the roadside that was dedicated to many other hikers who missed parking in the carpark too.
  • Taking the shuttle bus back to the starting point after parking. The shuttle runs once every 15 minutes then, and so it was approximately 8am by the time I got back to the starting point despite leaving the lodge at 6.30am.
  • Starting the hike early to avoid the crowd, especially if you’re going during the peak season
  • Preparing and packing breakfast and lunch for your 8-hour long hike

That’s all I have for you! With this information now, I hope you have fun preparing yourself sufficiently for the Tongariro Alpine Crossing! All the best to you for your upcoming adventure~

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