How Much Does It Cost to Hike Te Araroa?

Recently, I’ve had a couple people planning future thru-hikes ask me for more information about my Te Araroa hike, specifically how long it took and how much it cost.

Being a bit of an Excel nerd and enjoying a good number crunch, I decided to dig back through my records and create some pivot tables. I found that my hike took 101 calendar days and cost $3,085.98 USD. What follows is a detailed breakdown.

Background Statistics

I kept a daily journal of my hike in which I recorded each day’s start point, end point, and mileage hiked. Using this information, I was able to answer a number of questions.

How long did Te Araroa take?

I started the evening of December 6, 2016, and finished March 16, 2017. In total, Te Araroa took 101 calendar days. Breaking it down by island, my hike looked like this:

North Island South Island Full Te Araroa
Start Date 12/6/16 2/3/17 12/6/16
End Date 2/1/17 3/16/17 3/16/17
Total Days 58 42 101

It was roughly a 60/40 split between the north and south islands. Included in these numbers are seven total zero days (three on the North Island, three on the South Island, and one in between for the ferry). That means I averaged a zero day once every two weeks.

What was my hiking pace?

My average mileage ended up being right around 18.4 mi/day:

North Island South Island Full Te Araroa
18.2 mi/day 19.2 mi/day 18.4 mi/day

Conventional wisdom says that people cover less distance per day on the South Island, but I experienced the opposite. Overall this deviation was small—about a mile per day. This may be due to the fact that while the North Island is easier, by the time I got to the South Island my legs were in trail shape and I had established a rhythm.

The chart above shows my daily hiking totals (the green line) along with a 10-day moving average (the dashed orange line). Some takeaways:

  • My zero days were fairly evenly spread. The only time I took a double zero was Feb 13 & 14, when I was stuck in Blue Lake Hut waiting out a terrible storm.
  • I wanted to start slow and hike conservatively until I felt like I had my legs under me, so (excluding the first full day when I was overly excited) it was reassuring to see my moving average increase steadily throughout the first month.
  • The dip in pace from 1/31 to 2/21 is indicative of the northern half of the South Island. The sections from Ship Cove to Methven were the most strenuous.
  • My longest day was 43.0 miles (69.4km). It was also my final day.

Hopefully this table provides a basic sense of pacing on the TA. As a point of comparison for those familiar with the Appalachian Trail or Pacific Crest Trail, I averaged 17.8 mi/day on the AT and 20.7 mi/day on the PCT.

How often did I pay for accommodations?

The Te Araroa definitely felt like it had less opportunities to freedom (or “wild”) camp than other distance trails like the AT and PCT. Fortunately, I recorded where I slept every night, so I was able to go back through and see if this perception matched my reality.

Turns out, I camped or stayed somewhere for free almost 2 out of every 3 nights. Note that I categorized nights spent in the huts as “free nights,” though I technically paid for this when I bought a hut pass at the beginning. I decided to categorize huts as “free” nights because I wasn’t paying out of pocket upon arrival, so I stayed at them liberally. As you’ll see below, the huts ended up being extremely economical.

Where did I sleep?

Perhaps an even more interesting breakdown is where I slept each night. In my 101 nights on trail, I spent:

  • 53 nights in my tent
  • 26 nights in huts
  • 18 nights in hostels, hotels, or rented cabins
  • 4 nights in the homes of trail angels

Here’s a chart showing the percentage of nights slept in each type of accommodation:

The big takeaway here is how many huts there are on the South Island. I slept in the huts a little less than half of my time on the South Island, which is probably pretty average. I know two guys who slept in huts or hostels all but two nights!

How much did it cost per night to stay in the huts?

Given that I spent 26 nights in the huts, it cost me $3.27 USD/night to stay in the huts. This was slightly better value than buying individual hut tickets, but only by a few cents. It would have been more affordable had I bought the 6-month hut pass instead of the 12-month, which is what I would recommend future thru-hikers do.

Total Cost

Before I get into the breakdown of my total expenses for Te Araroa, I want to note that my thru-hike of the Te Araroa took less than the average of 4-5 months. Because my hike was relatively quick, I had to buy less days of food, and readers should take my numbers as something of a lower limit. Budget liberally. I think a thru-hike could certainly be done cheaper, but the average hiker almost certainly spends more.

In evaluating cost, it’s also important to note that my numbers do not include initial gear purchases or plane tickets. I had most of my gear already intact after the PCT, so I did not need to assemble a kit for Te Araroa. I did include the cost of shoes, which I bought ahead of time, as well as any gear I purchased along the way (e.g., replacement socks). I did not include flight expenses, because they vary significantly by geography. The information below is best interpreted as how much Te Araroa cost while I was on the trail.

How much did it cost?

My total cost was $3,085.98 USD, or $30.55/day.

Remember, that number doesn’t include original gear purchases or any flights. I was surprised that my cost per day was over $30 USD—it didn’t feel like that while hiking.

What did you spend your money on?

I opened a travel credit card specifically for this trip, so I had detailed records for most of my spending. Unfortunately, there was $466.74 in cash spending that I cannot categorize with any certainty. Most of this money probably went toward additional town meals or lodging, as I occasionally split a hotel room or large meal with fellow hikers and paid them back in cash. Regardless, the $2,619.24 that I do have records for give a pretty good breakdown of where I spent my money:

Also, some fun facts:

  • 34%, or one out of every three days on the North Island I went to a Subway, Pizza Hut, or McDonalds. In total, I made 6 trips to Subway, 7 to Pizza Hut, and 7 to McDonalds. By comparison, I only stopped at one McDonalds on the South Island. I assure you that this was the result of availability, not an improvement in diet.
  • In total, it cost me $42.35 USD to mail my bounce box along the trail. I ended up mailing it to 5 stops along the way (Kerikeri, Auckland, Wellington, Wanaka, and Queenstown).
  • I paid $150.17 USD for my Whanganui canoe rental. I was fortunate to go with a group of thru-hikers, or else this cost would have been much higher.
  • My most expensive resupply was $111.44 USD (Havelock).
  • The “Other” is primarily the cost of going to see Star Wars: Rogue One in theaters…twice.

Conclusion

All things considered, my hike ended up costing about $1.65/mi. If you add in the initial gear costs and plane tickets to and from New Zealand, my entire trip probably cost something approaching $3/mi. If anyone planning their hike has additional questions or wants more information, feel free to contact me. For now, I’ll answer one last question:

Was my experience worth it?

Absolutely.

2017-09-29T01:55:44+00:00May 29th, 2017|