Kiwis lace up for long weekend as tramping popularity soars

Kiwis are getting out into the great outdoors in huge numbers, prompting the Department of Conservation to expand its hut and campsite bookings system for summer.

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Popular walking tracks have seen more than double the amount of trampers. Source: 1 NEWS

Popular walking tracks have seen more than double the usual number of trampers, but that growing popularity comes with a warning. 

Trampers are lacing up for the first weekend of summer adventures and it's set to be a busy one.

"Labour weekend is a big weekend where a lot of Kiwis kick off their outdoor experience," NZ Mountain Safety Council's Mike Daisley told 1 NEWS.

The Department of Conservation's Tim Bamford says there's been a spike in demand this year.

"All of the Great Walks that are open are up just over 40 per cent in bed nights compared to Labour weekend last year," he says.

It's not just this weekend. So far this year, nearly 40,000 nights have been booked on the Abel Tasman, while the nearby Heaphy Track has seen a 50 per cent jump in bookings.

Local day tramps are also proving popular over winter, with Awaroa/Godley Head seeing more than double the normal foot traffic.

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"Having the borders closed, people are looking to what are the iconic experiences they can have in their own country," Bamford says.

It's seen DOC add more than 50 campsites and huts to its booking system.

"It's all about certainty," Bamford says.

"The last thing people want to do is to walk four hours or spend the day driving in the car with the kids and turn up and realise they don't have a campsite or don't have a hut."

The demand is sending camping stores into overdrive.

Kathmandu's online sales are up by 350 per cent for tents and up 175 per cent for sleeping bags on last year. 

But the surge in popularity comes with risks.

"Please be prepared before you go, be realistic about your skill level," Bamford says.

"There are tracks and experiences out there for everyone."

For a serious tramp, DOC recommends you need enough food and water for at least an extra day, a torch and first aid kit among your supplies.

Your cellphone probably won't work so if you're going off the beaten track, a personal locator beacon is vital.

"Don't try and knock off some great alpine trip on your first one," Daisley says.

"It's a great opportunity to try out some of those day walks."

And with a sunny forecast this Labour weekend, remember to pack the sunscreen.