What to expect
Track surfaces are varied and involve long sections of mud that can be knee-deep and thick, regardless of the season. Some sections of track are prone to flooding.
Keep to the tracks as valleys are steep and the bush is dense.
Beach access can be difficult when tides are high and seas are rough – if necessary, wait for low tide.
Stewart Island’s weather is extremely changeable and difficult to predict. Strong winds, hail and heavy rain can occur at any time of the year. Earthquakes and associated tsunamis are a possibility.
Obtain an up-to-date weather forecast before starting the track and be well equipped for extreme weather conditions. Remember, exposure and hypothermia can affect anyone and can kill.
Radios are not provided in any of the huts. Cell phone coverage is very limited and should not be relied on.
Taking a personal locator beacon and/or mountain radio is strongly recommended.
Huts and hut tickets
All backcountry huts on the North West Circuit Track require Backcountry Hut Tickets or an Backcountry Hut Pass. Read more about Backcountry Hut Tickets and Passes
Trampers planning on staying at any of the Great Walk huts and campsites while walking the North West Circuit Track must make a booking prior to departure.
What to take
The following gear is essential, no matter how warm it is on the day of departure. Remember to pack everything in your pack inside a plastic pack liner to keep it dry, especially your sleeping bag and clothes.
- At least two complete sets of clothing – one set to walk in and another to change into at the hut if necessary (it is not possible to dry clothes at the huts). Note: Cotton clothing like jeans, T-shirts and sweatshirts is not suitable; polypropylene, which is quick drying (but can be flammable), is recommended.
- Boots – comfortable and broken in
- Mittens/gloves – wool or polypropylene
- Woollen hat/balaclava and sun hat
- Raincoat – waterproof and windproof, with hood
- Overtrousers – waterproof and windproof
- Gaiters (optional but recommended)
- Extra socks, underwear, shirt/lightweight jersey (depending on length of trip)
- Food – lightweight and high in energy value. Take all you need for the entire trip – once you leave Halfmoon Bay there is nowhere to buy more
- Sleeping bag – good qualitydown or hollofil
- Portable stove and fuel
- Cooking, drinking and eating utensils, pot scrub and tea towel
- Drink bottle
- Matches/lighter, in waterproof container
- Candles and torch – include spare batteries and bulb
- Toiletries – including toilet paper
- First aid kit – including insect repellent and sunscreen
- Topographical map and compassor GPS – note that thick forest cover can interfere with GPS signal
- Survival kit – include survival blanket, whistle, paper and pencil,spare food
- Personal locator beacon and/or mountain radio (optional but strongly recommended)
Before you go into the outdoors, tell someone your plans and leave a date to raise the alarm if you haven't returned. To do this, use the New Zealand Outdoors Intentions process on the AdventureSmart website. It is endorsed by New Zealand's search and rescue agencies and provides three simple options to tell someone you trust the details about your trip.