Hiking checklist: What to take on the Tongariro Crossing

If you’ve booked to do the Tongariro Alpine Crossing, widely regarded as New Zealand’s best one-day walk, expect steep ascents, moon-like landscapes, emerald lakes, steaming sulphur, epic views, scree-filled descents into craters and green lush forest.

But also be prepared for strong winds, searing heat, driving rain and dramatic temperature swings. You’re heading into the North Island snow zone so be prepared for four seasons in one day. This is a beautiful but challenging 19 kilometre hike which takes on average six to eight hours to complete so it’s a long day in the great outdoors.

From the Mangatepopo carpark start point, the track climbs over layers of ancient and modern lava 800 metres towards the Red Crater and hikers need to be prepared for sudden shifts in the weather. Because of the exposed areas on some parts of the Crossing, and the high altitude, weather changes can play a big part in how the day goes.  As with any mountainous environment, a sunny day can turn stormy at any time of year. It’s not uncommon to be sweating up the Devil’s Staircase then shivering ten minutes later as you climb over the crest into a southerly blast of Antarctic air.

This is an alpine hike. So you need to have a plan. First off tell someone your intentions, where you’re going and when you expect to return.  This could be the hostel front desk, a family member or a fellow traveller. If you’re late returning, instruct them to contact emergency services. 

Check the weather forecast before you set out and come prepared with the right gear for exposed conditions.  We’ve seen what happens to the under-prepared in flip-flops and singlets so follow our advice on what to pack and wear.  Play it safe and follow this ‘top to toe’ checklist, which applies all year round!

·       A day-pack lined with a plastic bag (to keep contents dry in rain)    

·       Sunhat and sun glasses

·       Woollen hat (even in summer)

·       Water-proof wind/rain breaker

·       Extra clothing layers as it heats up and cools down.  Merino and/or polyprop top and leggings recommended. A light down jacket could be handy.

·       Hiking boots or good running shoes (summer only)

·       Woollen socks

·       Hiking poles for stability

·       Water (at least 2 litres per person)

·       Energy food like nuts, raisins, bananas, apples, filled rolls, barley sugars, chocolate, muesli bars.  (There are no food or beverage vendors on the Crossing.)

·       First aid – blister protection like plasters or second-skin, pain relief, sun block

·       Rubbish bag – to sit on while resting and for your litter

·       A camera to capture the jaw-dropping vistas

·       Tissues or roll of toilet paper

·       Crampons and ice axes (Winter hiking only - with mandatory guide)


Missing some gear?  Don’t sweat it as we have essential items to hire from the transfer bus, in a wide range of sizes so no need to pre book. Hop aboard and let the driver know what you need and we’ll ensure you’re fully kitted out to enjoy hiking through this UNESCO World Heritage Site.  Bring a packed lunch, bottled water and snacks as the bus does not sell food nor can you buy it on the track.

Our transfer service ensures the best start to the day.

Two final tips; Keep your breaks short while trekking so muscles remain limber and check the MetService Website for the Tongariro National Park. It’s the most accurate forecast for the region.

Above all, savour the experience and enjoy exploring a New Zealand treasure. Where else can you hike through scenery reminiscent of Middle Earth? Only on the Tongariro Alpine Crossing, one of the world’s top day walks.


Posted by Tomahawk Support on April 09, 2019