Thursday, 28 February 2013

Tramping Food: Great tramping beverages

You are what you drink, or a tale of many beverages!

Does your beverage of choice say anything about you? Trampers have a diverse range of preferences, some people like tea, others coffee, or some other variety of hot or cold drink. I have seen people drinking soup for breakfast, liquid jelly for dessert and you often see tramping parties having a quiet tipple as well. Tea seems to be the leader with coffee, fresh or instant, a close second.  

Cheers...Jon enjoying a hot brew in East Hawdon Bivvy

Hot drinks for tramping...

My preference runs towards Early Grey tea, black with sugar and in large quantities. I don't care if it is bagged or loose just so long as it is hot and sweet. My brand of choice is Dilmah but even the roughest gumboot tea will suffice in an emergency.

My choice of tea, Dilmah Earl Grey
I sometimes take packets of instant hot chocolate or cappuccino mixes with me as they make a nice change from tea at every meal. If I can find them, I like the Nestle Hot Chocolate with marshmallows the best.

Nestle brand hot chocolate
I usually carry either Nescafe or Jarrah coffee and cappuccino sachets, both are freely available here in New Zealand. The individual sachets weigh 5 gm's and make a perfectly acceptable version of a coffee.

Nescafe Cappucino sachets- 20 per pack

What about a nice hot mug of soup, when I am out tramping I start every evening meal with soup. I use both quick cook packets and the classic Continental Cup-O-Soup.

One of the Continental Cup-O-Soup range

If you are going to have a soup look for ones that just requires hot water or ones that need only a short period of simmering. Personally I like the creamy or noodle filled flavours for added taste and nutrition.

A massive mug of Dutch Curry and Rice Soup to go with my freeze dried meal, Totaranui Camp ground 2018

I'm also partial to a mug of hot Raro or Vitafresh fruit powder drink with dinner. I know this sounds strange but its really good. Lemonade is the flavour of choice if you want to drink it is beautiful!

Classic Raro Sweet Navel Orange

Water, iced tea and a hot coffee, Lake Isabel Hut, Victoria Forest Park2014

Sweeteners and condensed milk...

I used to carry sugar for my hot drinks but now I use Splenda sugar substitute. One tablet is equal to 1 teaspoon of sugar, the packet below holds 100 tablets or enough for 50 cups of tea/coffee. The packet is the size of a matchbox and weighs only 22gms, by comparison 100 teaspoons of sugar weighs 640gms.

Splenda sugar substitute

If I have a instant coffee it would be sweetened with Nestle condensed milk. This is a drink I picked up in the Army, it dates back too before WW1, the only way to drink coffee in the outdoors IMHO. It is also excellent in a brew of tea as well.

Update: Since I posted this in 2012 I have struck several people who also carry condensed milk for their coffee. It really is delicious- no need for sugar or milk with this product. In fact I have seen Ray Mears the survival expert using it on his TV programs.

Forget stupid syrups, classic old timer coffee additive

Condensed milk is still a part of both New Zealand and Australian Army field rations to this day.
Having a coffee at the Davies Bay campground, QCT in 2016

Cold tramping drinks...

.....(actually cool as you have no refrigeration to chill your drinks)
There is nothing better than water for quenching your thirst, but sometimes you want something different.
Powdered fruit drink packets are very popular, there are a wide range of flavours and several brands. My preferred type is Vitafresh especially their Peach Iced Tea, Orange Mango, Blackcurrant and old fashioned Lemonade.
Orange Mango Vitafresh

Raro is the other well known range available here in New Zealand. 

A Raro drink powder three pack

I also use isotonic drink powders, these are basically fruit flavoured mineral replacement drinks. Vitasport is one of the more common brands available here. 

Vitasport isotonic drink powder

I will generally carry one packet of Vitasport/Raro/Vitafresh (12 gms) per day and have it with my evening meal.

Red Vitasport with my meal, Carrington Hut, Arthurs Pass National Park

Beer,  spirits, wine anyone?

A quick snort of something is as old as tramping itself, and is a Kiwi tradition. I would imagine even the sainted John Muir carried a flask of something to make the evenings more convivial.

The outdoor 'Saint'- John Muir, father of the US National Park movement!

Personally I am of two minds about alcohol and outdoor activities, I like a drink as much as the next person but in the right place and at the right time.  A glass of a nice red with your freeze dried meal is good, a litre of Vodka with lunch not so much.

I'm partial to a river cooled can of beer and have taken several with me in the past. Nothing like finishing the day with an ice cold brew in your hand! Oh yeaahhhh!

Using nature's beer chiller....some tasty beverages cooling in a river.

I also enjoy a snort of whiskey or rum,  normally in a coffee. Leave the hip flask at home and carry it in a tightly sealed plastic bottle- hey, its not going to compromise the quality any worse than humping it around in a pack for a couple of days.

The Bundaberg Rum range...great in your evening coffee...

Just a final word; carry out your empties! Nothing worse than arriving at a hut to see a pile of empty bear cans or wine bottles cluttering up the bench. If you carry it in, carry it out.


Tuesday, 26 February 2013

Magdalen Hut, Lake Summer Forest Park: December 2012

A trip to Magdalen Hut, St James Conservation Area

I went up to the Lewis Pass area for an overnight trip in to Magdalen Hut on the St James Walkway, it was 9 km (4 hours walk) from the Boyle River Outdoor Education Centre. The centre offers a car parking and shuttle service, I left my car in their care and followed the St James Walkway back up the valley,  this is the opposite direction from those walking the complete walkway.

Start of the St James Walkway at the Boyle River entrance

Day One: Boyle Village to Magdalen Hut: 11 kms, 3-4 hours

DOC sign at start of the St James Walkway at Boyle river
   The track is in excellent condition, wide and easily followed, as befits one of the Te Araroa tracks.

Map: Boyle Village to Magdalen Hut on the St James Walkway

Sidle track, St James Walkway, near the start of the track at Boyle River
You cross over two swing bridges on the way to the hut. As you can see the rivers were high, as there had been a week of hard rain before I visited. Classic kiwi tramping, single track and swing bridges!

Lower swing bridge over Boyle River, St James Walkway
 You pass a number of meadows as you walk along, they were all covered in these beautiful yellow flowers , quite idyllic.

Forest meadow near the Boyle river swing bridge, St James Walkway
 The walkway follows the forest edge most of the way up the valley, the Boyle River Valley is a part of the Glenhope high country station.

View up Boyle Valley from mid way point to Magdalen Hut, St James Conservation Area

Looking up the Boyle Valley towards St Andrews Homestead, St James Conservation Area

Muddy track conditions on the St James Walkway

 There are occasional sections of track through the bush, some were quite muddy, but it had been raining for the previous week so its not surprising.

St James walkway, the highest point this trip, above the second Boyle River swingbridge
The river was bank to bank near the second swing bridge, normally you can ford this river lower down but only an idiot would have entered it that day.

Upper Boyle River swing bridge, St James Walkway

I stayed at Magdalen Hut, which is 30 mins from the second Boyle River swing bridge. You access it via a short track heading down the true left of the river. It is an excellent hut, with plenty of space around it for tenting, but the sand flies are atrocious. Beware!

Magdalen Hut, St James Conservation Area

Built in 2010, it is one of the new breed of 6 bunkers, spacious, insulated and with a top notch log burner and rain water tank. This would make an excellent family trip destination. Thanks to the Hanmer scouts who had visited and dropped off a load of dry wood for the hut fire.

Magdalen Hut: the cooking bench...

Magdalen Hut: the bunks with my gear laid out on my bunk for the night

I shared the hut that night with Phil, an American academic and hiker in New Zealand for a conference. It was interesting to share details about hiking/tramping culture and recent political events (just after the US election). An enjoyable evening.

The wood burner in Magdalen Hut, St James Conservation Area

Inside Magdalen Hut, St James Conservation Area in 2012

Day two: Magdalen Hut to Boyle Village: 11 kms, 3-4 hours

The route out followed the walkway back down valley, it was another beautiful day to be out tramping. I was up and out of the hut by 8 am, it was cool but no rain so I was able to walk without my jacket all the way back to Boyle Village.

Magdalen Hut, Muritana Stream in front of the hut

St James walkway, heading home along the edge of Boyle River

More attractive beech forest track on the St James Walkway

The track follows the edge of the forest over river flats for some distance in the middle of the valley, it makes for quick and very easy walking.

Boyle River Valley, about halfway to the Boyle Outdoor Education Centre from Magdalen Hut

Another meadow of Spring flowers on the St James Walkway
  This is the track just before it emerges near the Boyle Education Centre, as you can see it is quite civilised for a New Zealand bush track.

Track end St James walkway near the Boyle River exit

An excellent track, with a fantastic hut to stay in, I had a lot of fun on this trip. I would like to walk the whole St James Walkway and would definitely make the effort to visit the hut again.

Boyle Outdoor Education Centre from the road outside the centre

Access: Via the St James Walkway, from the Boyle River Settlement off SH 7, Lewis Pass
Track Times: 3-4 hours from Boyle Settlement
Hut Details: Magdalen Hut; standard, 6 bunks, wood burner, water tank, wood shed
Miscellaneous: Muritana Stream can be a problem in moderate rain, some other side streams on the St James Walkway are impassible in heavy rain

Monday, 25 February 2013

My Tramping Gear:Vaude Astra 65ltr + 10 Hiking Pack

The Vaude Astra Pack: 65 liters of fun!

When you go out into the outdoors you need to carry a certain amount of gear with you. This is too keep you warm, dry and safe. You need a backpack to carry this gear in, it needs to be strong, comfortable and fit for the task you set it.

My Astra II on the bunks in Magdalen Hut, 2013

I use a variety of packs depending on the type of trip: small sub 35 liter for day walks, a 55 liter bag for overnight and a larger 65 liter version for multi day trips. 
My Vaude Astra 65+10 mulit-day pack

The Vaude Astra II...

My current multi-day pack is a Vaude Astra 65ltr + 10. It is slim, almost like a mountaineers style pack but still large enough to carry 3-7 days worth of gear in. This pack is made by Vaude, a well regarded German company who produce a range of excellent outdoor goods.

Detail of the Vaude Astra design, frontal view

Its a touch heavy at 1.9 kg, but the harness set-up is excellent, so far I have had no trouble with it at all.The material of the pack is heavy duty nylon to provide durability. I especially like the expandable pockets on the side of the pack which are large enough to hold a 1.5 litre water bottle.

Harness set-up on the Vaude Astra II

I have an ongoing project to get my base gear weight down to 10-12 kg without water and food, I'm currently around 14 kg's (2018 Update: now at 9.5 kgs!). When I get my base weight down I may look at buying a lighter pack for shorter overnight trips.

The Vaude Astra II on the Casey-Binser Circuit, 2012
Wearing the Vaude pack on the Wharfedale Track 2014

I brought this pack from Complete Outdoors, a Christchurch outdoor retailer. The pack cost me $275 NZ dollars, a fair price for a pack of this size/type.  

Me and the Vaude Astra up the East Hawdon Valley, Arthurs Pass NP in 2014

UPDATE: Feb 2016

The Astra on the Queen Charlotte Track, 2016

I've been using this pack for nearly 6 years now and it has proven to be one of the best pieces of kit I have invested in. It is very comfortable even with a moderate-heavy load and over distance. It has worn well, hardly any wear at all really, 

The Astra on the Abel Tasman Coast Walk, Sept 2017

Update 2018: 

I am really attached to this Vaude pack as we have shared many an adventure over the years. I expect the Vaude Astra will be with me for years to come although it has recently been superseded by my new Ospray Volt pack.  

Wearing the Vaude Astra while acting as a hut warden, Packhorse Hut, 2018