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Women’s Gear List - Hiking Te Ararora Trail, New Zealand

Gear is a subject that often sparks passionate debates, with everyone having their own opinions on what's essential and what's unnecessary. But amidst the diversity of viewpoints, there's one undeniable truth: the right gear is what works best for you and your specific adventure. What keeps one person warm and comfortable might not suit another's needs.

For me, staying warm is non-negotiable. I despise the cold and will go to great lengths to ensure I'm snug, especially during chilly nights on the trail. That's why I invested in the Thermarest Hyperion sleeping bag, which boasts impressive warmth down to 20°F (-6°C). Paired with my PHD down jacket, with its lightweight yet insulating 1000 down, I'm prepared for any evening chill or brisk morning breeze. While these items may seem extravagant to some, they're essential for my comfort and enjoyment outdoors.

Consider these key questions: 

What do I truly need? What is the cost, weight, and value of each item? And where can I find the best product for my budget?

My gear collection didn't materialise overnight; it was carefully curated over several years. Each year, I prioritised saving up for one high-quality piece of equipment. 

Here's a glimpse into my gear evolution:

  • 2016: My major investment was in gear for the Marathon des Sables. My first BIG challenge, including a Raid Light sleeping bag, a running backpack, and trainers.

  • 2017: I added a Thermarest Air Pad to my arsenal.

  • 2018: The standout addition was the Terra Nova 2 Person tent—an absolute favourite of mine.

  • 2019: I upgraded to the Thermarest Hyperion sleeping bag for enhanced warmth and comfort.

  • 2020: (No major purchase recorded)

  • 2021: Splurged on the PHD Yukon Down Jacket from the K Series, a significant investment at £530.

  • 2022: (No major purchase recorded)

  • 2023: Unfortunately, the MSR Tent 2 Person Carbon Fibre, costing £450, proved to be a regrettable buy—an experience I don't recommend.

It's worth noting that I'm fortunate to receive gifted gear from sponsors like Inov8 and Osprey, which has certainly bolstered my gear collection over time.

Striking the Balance: Gear Weight vs. Durability on the Trail

Opting for the lightest gear doesn't always guarantee success. Take, for instance, my experience with the Sea to Summit ultra-lightweight large dry sack. Despite its featherweight design, it proved disappointingly fragile. Its thin material felt on the verge of tearing with every use, and during particularly wet days on the trail, it failed to keep water at bay. While my belongings weren't soaked, they did end up damp, thanks to water seeping through the outer dry sack and into some cheaper, less reliable smaller dry sacks I'd purchased from Amazon.

This situation raised genuine safety concerns. The last thing I wanted was to reach the end of a challenging day only to discover all my dry essentials—my down jacket, sleeping bag, clothing, and more—drenched. Such a scenario could spell trouble, especially if I couldn't find warmth and shelter quickly.

Fortunately, towards the conclusion of my hike in Wanaka, I stumbled upon a simple yet effective solution: a MacPac giant yellow plastic bag. Costing a mere £4 / $8, this unassuming bag served dual purposes—it doubled as a survival bag. Despite its basic construction and thick plastic material, it outperformed its flashy, lightweight counterpart. While I can't predict its longevity with certainty, it admirably withstood the final two weeks of the trail, including some light rain showers. It might lack the glamour of high-tech gear, but sometimes, simplicity triumphs over sophistication.

Gear Envy to Adventure: Defying Comparison and Embracing the Outdoors

As we scroll through social media, it's easy to fall into the trap of comparing ourselves to others embarking on grand adventures. We're bombarded with images of sleek, high-tech gear—lightest, smartest, fanciest, latest colour, prettiest—that seem essential for tackling challenges. But let's not allow the allure of shiny equipment to overshadow the essence of outdoor pursuits.

Remember, your gear should never be the obstacle preventing you from enjoying the great outdoors. However, there's a caveat: while embracing simplicity, ensure you have the basics covered and can comfortably carry them in your backpack.

Consider your options wisely. Identify the essential gear you truly need and prioritise those items. Don't hesitate to borrow gear from friends or explore secondhand options, as there's often lightly used equipment available at a fraction of the cost. Stores like Decathlon offer quality gear at affordable prices, while charity shops can sometimes yield unexpected treasures.

Investing in quality gear is paramount for safety and comfort. Reflecting on my own experiences, I recall facing the biting cold with a thin puffy jacket during my Appalachian Trail journey—a decision I now realise was risky. Upgrading to a higher-quality down jacket made a world of difference, albeit at a higher price point.

If, upon evaluating your gear, you find yourself ill-equipped for a safe excursion, don't hesitate to postpone your trip or explore alternative adventures. Remember, the joy of the journey lies not in the gear, but in the experiences and memories forged along the way.


My Gear Breakdown. 

Base Weight: 6.7kg (Excluding food and water)

Big 4 Essentials (tent, sleeping bag, backpack, and sleeping pad): 

3.1kg / 3100g / 6.8 lb

  • Backpack -  Osprey EJA (1250g) £210. I cut off all the extra straps etc that I don’t use. Super comfortable. Good for carrying a heavy load. Osprey gear is always good. This was #gifted

  • MSR Carbon Fibre Reflex 2 Person Tent - (900g) - £450 - bought from Ultra Light Outdoor Gear. I do not recommend this tent at all. It is light weight and spacious. But you can’t put it up in the rain without the inner getting wet and my tent pole broke while setting it up on gentle wind. I hate it - but it’s expensive, so I will continue to use it, until I can get another one. I think MSR gear is good generally and their customer service is great. But not this tent. So many issues. I honestly don’t know what went wrong with this one. 

  • Sleeping bag Hyperion 20F/-6C (Thermarest) - (626g) £385. An incredible piece of gear. I really feel the cold. I am a cold sleeper. I am warm in this sleeping bag and have never had an issue. I do find myself unzipping it and using it more as duvet. But when it’s cold I do zip it up. Highly recommend. The weight to warmth ratio - amazing. 

  • Sleeping Pad - NeoAir® XLite™ NXT By Thermarest - (360g). £180 Incredible piece of gear. I’ve had this for so many years now. They replaced it once for me - as it had a slow leak. But I can’t remember what year that was. Highly recommend any Thermarest products - they are quality and getting a good night sleep is so important and helps with your recovery. They do have newer models on the market now, but unless this one get a hole which I can’t fix. I will carry on using it, until it has to be replaced and I will stick with Thermarest for my sleeping pad.

Total Weight: 3,136g / 3.1kg / 6lb 14oz 

Total Cost:  £1,225

Changes I would make to the Big 4 

  • My Osprey backpack is the heaviest thing I have. Which I am looking to change in the future. I would like to test out either Atom Packs or Gossamer. I think it would be interesting how the lighter weight packs handle long multi-day thru-hikes and if they provide enough support so I can carry my gear comfortably. How does reducing the weight of the pack impact on the comfort of wearing it. That’s my question -and that’s my concern. If it’s still comfortable to carry the gear and it weights a lot less - I’m in. It’s just a big purchase to make in one go. 

  • It’s pretty clear from what’s I’ve said above that I would like a new tent. Larger, so I can sit up comfortably inside and have my pack inside with me and I’d like to go lighter. I go for 2 person tents as I like the space. I want the tent to be green in colour so that it blends into the countryside. Which makes wild camping so much easier. I don’t want a lime green/bright orange tent, so everyone can see where I am camping. As a solo woman it’s a safety issue as well. I’d be interested in a tent that uses hiking poles to set it up….. if I could get the tent weight down to 600g or less - that would be epic! 

Sarah's MSR Carbon Fibre 2 Person Tent, set up after walking Waiau Pass Track. Day 22/64 South Island.


Clothing for hiking 

I thrive in hot and warm climates, but even in these conditions, there are moments—particularly chilly mornings or evenings, or when traversing exposed mountain ridges—when extra layers are essential for comfort and safety.

Here are some key considerations:

  • Affordability: Purchase clothing within your budget. While quality often comes at a price, there are options available at various price points.

  • Quality: Invest in the best quality clothing you can afford. Well-made garments not only last longer but also offer superior performance and comfort.

  • Testing: Before hitting the trail, thoroughly test your clothing to ensure it meets your needs and preferences. Pay attention to factors like breathability, moisture-wicking capabilities, and overall comfort.

By adhering to these principles, you can build a hiking wardrobe that keeps you comfortable and protected, no matter the conditions.

Hot Weather Clothing:

Wearing all the gear I've mentioned. This is before walking into Wellington, the final part of the North Island.
  • Pink Baseball Cap (79g): Protect your face from the sun with a lightweight, breathable cap.

  • Sunglasses (21g): Shield your eyes from UV rays.

  • Black Bra Top (49g): A lightweight, supportive bra top is essential for comfort during hot-weather hikes.

  • Black Strappy Top (56g): Opt for lightweight, quick-drying tops. I've had this top for nine years—a testament to its durability and quality.

  • Underwear (22g): Select lightweight, moisture-wicking underwear for comfort on the trail.

  • Inov-8 Train Lite Black 5-Inch Shorts (101g) - £50: Lightweight, breathable shorts are ideal for hot weather, providing freedom of movement and ventilation. Plus it's easier to get the mud off your legs and easier to walk through rivers.

  • Inov8 Ankle Socks (29g/pair): Choose socks based on personal factors like foot sweat, swelling, and blister susceptibility.

  • Inov8 Trainers (350g) - £150-175: Opt for lightweight, high-quality footwear with excellent grip. Inov8 trainers are a fantastic choice, featuring graphene technology for durability and traction. Avoid heavy, old-fashioned leather boots—modern alternatives offer sturdiness without the weight. You can get a 15% discount here. I used ROCFLY G350 Men's on the North Island and the ROCFLY GTX women's trainers on the South Island.

I have reviewed my last 3 pairs of trainers from Inov8:-

Cold Weather Clothing:

  • Inov-8 Pink Technical Mid Hoody (240g) - £85: Layer up with a mid-weight hoody for warmth in chilly conditions.

  • Lululemon Black Leggings with Pockets (223g): Choose high-quality leggings with pockets for storage. Ensure they offer adequate warmth without becoming see-through.

  • PHD Jacket: In exceptionally cold weather, layer up with a PHD jacket for added insulation, provided it's not raining. 


  • Inov-8  Stormshell Waterproof jacket - 164g £160 - very lightweight, great for wind protection.

  • Mac Pac Waterproof trousers.  Inov8 waterproof trousers don’t fit me in the leg. I tried the women’s size 12 and they are about 4 inch too short for me. So I would need to wear the men’s trousers. But they haven’t been in stock for a while. So I bought some MacPac ones $120 / £60. Make sure you can get them off and on quickly with your shoes. You don’t want to be having to take your shoes on and off every time you want to put your waterproofs on. These have big zippers on the side and velcro around the bottom. 

Miscellaneous Gear:

  • Dry Sacks: Keep your gear organised and dry with a mix of dry sacks from brands like Sea to Summit and Amazon (around £12 for a set of 6). They don't last particularly long. The best brand I've found is EXPED.

  • Sleeping Bag Liner - Sea to Summit (325g): Invest in a sleeping bag liner for added warmth during chilly nights. I bought this in 2017 and it has been ov every hike with me since. I bought this in the White Mountains on the Appalachian Trail when the cold at night was intense.

  • Blow-Up Pillow - Sea to Summit (79g): Enhance your sleeping comfort with a lightweight blow-up pillow. Despite its minimal weight, it makes a significant difference in ensuring a restful night's sleep. Also had for many years.

  • Fizan Walking Poles (160g each): Opt for lightweight walking poles like Fizan to provide support and stability on the trail. These poles offer durability without adding unnecessary weight to your pack. I've used these for years. However 1 pole broke on the 3rd to last day in the mud. I will look at replacing them or getting something lighter or that packs down smaller - maybe fold away hiking poles.

  • Water Bladder + Hose (94g): Stay hydrated on your adventures with a water bladder and hose setup, ensuring easy access to water while hiking. I prefer walking with a water bladder than carrying bottles. I also have it on the outside of my pack, as it makes it easier to fill up. I don't like carrying it inside my backpack in case it leaks. Plus it makes it easier to get out and fill up.

  • Sawyer Water Filter & Bag (74g): Purify water from natural sources with a lightweight and reliable water filter like the Sawyer system. This essential item ensures access to safe drinking water during your outdoor excursions. I lost the white part inside the sawyer filter and moved over to Water purification tablets which I found a lot easier to use. One of the benefits was not having to filter the water, which can take time. If I get a sawyer filter again, I would get the normal size filter and not the small one. My water filter bag got torn, but i fixed it with duct tape.

  • Micro Towel - Large (47g): Pack a lightweight and absorbent microfibre towel for quick drying and versatile use during your travels. Super useful for drying the inside of your tent if it gets wet.

  • Purple Cushion Seat Pad (26g): Enhance your comfort during breaks with a lightweight and compact cushion seat pad, an inexpensive and practical addition to your gear. I love this and makes my breaks super comfortable. I also use it to sit on hard benches etc

  • Trowel (27g): Practice Leave No Trace principles with a lightweight trowel for responsible waste disposal during wild camping adventures.

  • Battery Pack - Anker (372g): Power up your devices on the go with a high-quality battery pack from Anker. Offering reliable charging capabilities, it's a staple for extended outdoor trips. This will last me 4/5 days and I mainly charge my go pro, phone and airpods. My watch lasts for about 2 weeks and the ZOLEO lasts for about 10 days without charge. I ended up buying a second Anker Battery Pack for the 9 day stretch over the Richmond Rangers. This was a great additional purchase as my 1st pack didn't last. Plus all my navigation, photo taking, music, etc is on my phone. I would have been lost without the 2nd battery pack.

  • Battery Pack Charger Wire (17g): Ensure you can recharge your devices with a lightweight charger wire compatible with your battery pack.

  • ZOLEO (160g): Prioritise safety with the Zoleo communication device—a vital tool for emergencies and staying connected with friends and family while off the grid. Its SOS button and messaging capabilities provide peace of mind during remote adventures. Plus I could get weather reports while in the middle of nowhere.

  • ZOLEO Charger Wire (21g): Don't forget the charger wire for your Zoleo device, ensuring it remains powered and ready for use when needed.


Full Gear List: - 

  • Backpack -  Osprey EJA 1250

  • MSR Carbon Fibre Reflex 2 Person Tent - 900g

  • Sleeping bag (thermarest)- 626g including compression bag 48g

  • Air mattress - thermarest 360g

  • Large dry sack - sea to summit for main backpack 45g

  • Dry sacks - separate things inside pack and keep everything dry

  • Sleeping bag liner - sea to summit 325g

  • Blow up pillow - sea to summit 79g

  • Fizan Walking poles 160g each 

  • Water bladder + hose 94g 

  • Sawyer water filter & bag 74g 

  • Micro towel - large 47g 

  • Purple cushion seat pad 26g 

  • Trowel 27g 


  • Inov8 shoes 350g each 

  • Ankle Socks x2 (29g pair) 

  • Underwear x2 1 pair 22g 

  • Gloves Inov-8 pair 61g 

  • Shorts - inov-8 101g

  • Thermal top 108g 

  • Black bra top 49g 

  • Black Strappy top 56g 

  • Grey mid-layer Inov8 217g 

  • Teal mid layer top 146g

  • Pink Inov-8 t-shirt 72g 

  • Pink inov-8 hoody with hood 240g

  • PHD warm down jacket 370g 

  • Tough Girl Buff - also use as eye mask. 37g

  • Lulu lemon black leggings with pockets 223g 

  • Stormshell Waterproof jacket - inov-8 164g

  • Waterproof trousers Mac Pac

  • Hat/baseball cap 79g

  • Sunglasses 21g


  • Toothbrush

  • Toothpaste 70g 

  • Braces & case 

  • Sunscreen for body 

  • Face wipes 167g 

  • Moisturiser

  • Allergy tablets 3g 

  • Plasters

  • Blister pads compeed 21g 

  • Tissue paper in a packet 16g 

  • Tampax 

  • Lip balm SPF

  • Hair bands - spare ones tied around electronics. 

  • Hair brush mini 29g 

  • Mini Nail file

  • stickers for fixing holes in dry bags. 2g 

  • Pain killers - ibuprofen 11g

  • SPF for face 50+

  • Clear plastic bags - useful for carrying food


  • GarminWatch 63g 

  • Watch charger 39g 

  • iPhone 240g

  • iPhone charger wire 47g 

  • Adaptor for New Zealand 30g 

  • iPhone plug

  • Go pro + go pro holder 217g 

  • Go pro battery 32g

  • SD cards X5 8g

  • Go pro battery charger wire 18g

  • Battery Pack Anker 372g 

  • Battery pack charger wire 17g

  • ZOLEO 160g 

  • ZOLEO charger wire 21g 

  • Air Pods 48g

  • Wires grouped together with hair ties 


  • Orange wallet 8g

  • Passport 36g 

  • Debit & credit Cards 10g 

  • Pen 

  • Money



In this comprehensive gear breakdown, I've shared insights into the essential equipment for various weather conditions (In New Zealand, intense sun, rivers, wet feet, muddy conditions) and scenarios encountered during outdoor adventures. From footwear to safety devices, each item is carefully chosen for its quality, functionality, and suitability to the environment.

For hot weather hikes, lightweight and breathable clothing, coupled with durable and grippy footwear like Inov-8 trainers, ensure comfort and performance. In contrast, colder conditions demand layering with quality garments like the Inov-8 Pink Technical Mid Hoody and Lululemon leggings, providing warmth without compromising on mobility.

Facing windy conditions, the Inov-8 Stormshell Waterproof Jacket offers excellent protection, complemented by Mac Pac Waterproof Trousers for complete wind and rain resistance. Additionally, miscellaneous items such as dry sacks, a blow-up pillow, and Fizan Walking Poles contribute to organisation, comfort, and safety on the trail.

Moreover, essential safety devices like the ZOLEO communication device and reliable water filtration systems, like the Sawyer Water Filter, ensure preparedness for emergencies and access to clean drinking water.

Each gear choice reflects a commitment to affordability, quality, and practicality, with a keen emphasis on testing and personal suitability. By adhering to these principles, outdoor enthusiasts can embark on their adventures with confidence, knowing they are equipped for whatever nature throws their way.

Best of luck with your future hikes. If you want to learn more about my time in New Zealand. Please see my solo Tough Girl Podcast episodes below.


Solo Tough Girl Podcast Episodes



Sarah holding her ZOLEO at the end of challenge in Bluff. There is the yellow Bluff sign in the background.
The end of the challenge! Bluff, New Zealand

My Te Ararora Trail New Zealand Adventure was sponsored by ZOLEO.

ZOLEO connects with your phone to provide seamless global messaging that follows you in and out of mobile network coverage — plus added safety features you can count on worldwide including industry-leading SOS alerting features.

24/7 monitoring and 24/7 access to non-emergency medical advice, check-in and weather forecasts. ZOLEO offers unmatched peace of mind for you and for everyone waiting at home.

Stay connected and safe while doing what you love.



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