How to prepare for the Kepler Track

So – New Zealand’s Kepler Track has caught your eye. Perhaps it’s the fact that the Kepler was custom-built to showcase everything that’s awesome about Fiordland. Or, maybe you like the diversity of places (like huge waterfalls, rocky limestone formations and emerald rainforests) you’ll get to see in only 3 or 4 days. Whatever the reason, we promise you won’t be disappointed! While not as famous as its nearby cousins the Milford or the Routeburn, the panoramas of the Kepler are just as impressive. The main benefit of the Kepler being lesser-known – fewer people! You won’t see nearly as many hikers on the Kepler as you would on Fiordland’s other tracks.

Planning and preparing your multi-day Kepler adventure in advance – especially if you’re not from New Zealand – is definitely a good idea.  You’ll need to think about things like whether you want to walk the track as a loop or a point-to-point trail; what type of transport you’ll need and the gear you should have ready to go. But don’t stress! We know the Kepler like the back of our hand, and how should I prepare for the Kepler Track is a common question we’re asked often. We put together the guide below to give you a hand.

Time of year – the best time to hike the Kepler Track

Looking down on Lake Te Anau from the Kepler Track

Looking down on Lake Te Anau from the Kepler Track near Luxmore Hut on Day one

The first thing you should do is decide on the dates of your Kepler Track hike. When is the best time to walk the Kepler? That depends on a few factors.

Spring – October / November

October is when our New Zealand Great Walk season officially opens for hikers. While you may experience slightly more rain during springtime than in other seasons (remember, this is Fiordland!) you can get the track pretty much all to yourself during the day and mix with other ‘trampers’ in the huts. Spring is a great time to spot native birds, like the Kea Parrot, and admire waterfalls thundering with water from snow melt.

Summer – December / January / February

Rainfall is slightly lower during the summer months, and you may come across more of those ‘blue-sky days’ than at other times of the year. When you’re breaking out of the bush line after the two-hour climb on Day One, and you’re lucky enough to be able to see all the way to the Takitimu and Earl Mountains, you’ll be pinching yourself! The down side of summer is that it’s the most popular time to walk the Kepler – but remember, because the Kepler isn’t as well known as other trails you still won’t be dealing with heaps of people on day trips.

Autumn – March / April / May

This is what we locals call the Great Walks ‘shoulder season’, and many believe it’s a fantastic time to hike the Kepler. There’s heaps less people around, and autumn sees less rainfall than spring. Temperatures stay warm till late April too. Keep in mind that the Great Walks season itself ends every year in early May.

Winter – June / July / August

Being so far south, Fiordland does get its fair bit of snowfall during winter and avalanches are a risk on the Kepler Day 2. Also, when it’s not official ‘Great Walks Season’, facilities in huts are greatly reduced. We don’t recommend walking the entire Kepler Track during winter however an overnight stay in Luxmore Hut is a great idea if you are prepared for a winter adventure.

Preparation and gear – what do I need to walk the Kepler Track?

Second Day on the Kepler Track

Second Day on the Kepler Track between Luxmore Hut and Irisburn Hut

Fitness

The better shape you’re in, the more you’ll enjoy your Kepler adventure. That said, this track is perfect for anybody with a ‘moderate’ level of fitness. We’ve seen many people enjoying the Kepler well into their 60’s, so as long as you’re confident carrying a pack of your belongings (sleeping bag, clothing, food and cooking utensils) over a hilly trail for 4-6 hours a day, you’ll be absolutely fine. A great tip is to walk stairs or hills at home with your pack with some weights in it so your body gets used to the resistance.  Try sticking to a daily walking regime from at least 2 months out from your hike.

What to pack to hike the Kepler Track

Fiordland is known for its variable weather – one moment can be sunshine and blue skies, the next minute the clouds are rolling in and there’s a chill in the air. A layering system is a great way to stay warm, no matter what kind of weather you encounter. Adding or removing layers is an easy way to dress for the conditions.

  • Thermal leggings, short sleeve and long sleeve tops. Merino wool is an awesome option – it breathes really well, keeps you cool or warm and dries quickly.
  • Waterproof jacket and pants (lightweight)
  • Shorts or pants that are comfortable to hike in
  • Hiking boots/shoes. Make sure you have worn these in well before your hike. Blisters from new boots can be very painful!
  • A good quality hiking pack – 50 to 60L is a great size – with harness that’s been fitted to your back
  • Pack liner (don’t forget this one – it means everything stays dry!)
  • Cooking utensils, head lamp, First Aid kit, insect repellent and sun cream
  • Warm, lightweight sleeping bag and liner

If you’re coming from far away, the idea of lugging a hiking pack and sleeping bag all the way to New Zealand is a bit of a hassle. A great option is to borrow quality-hiking gear from EasyHike as part of our Kepler Track independent hiking packages.

Food

At the end of a long day on the Kepler, a hearty dinner becomes very appealing – food is something you very much want to get right! Try to strike a balance between ease of preparation, weight, taste and nutrition. Quick and easy to heat is always a winner in our books.

For hiking the Kepler Track, we recommend:

  • Dinners that are easy to heat and eat, so at the end of the day you can relax and tuck in rather than spend ages preparing the meal
  • Light weight desserts and energy-laden breakfasts (you’ve got to love porridge for breakfast!)
  • Lots of snacks and comfort food. The Kepler is a solid 60km (37 miles) over mountainous terrain.
  • Keep in mind you need to carry rubbish out with you!

Shopping and organizing food for a multi-day hike in a foreign country might be a bit overwhelming, but there is an easy alternative. Our Kepler Track Premium and Kepler Track Essentials packages also include high quality, delicious food that’s been specially selected to enhance your time on the Kepler. We’ve sourced heaps of locally made goodies, hearty comfort food and nutritious meals. Too easy!

Limestone Caves near Luxmore Hut

Visiting the Limestone Caves up near Luxmore Hut is a fun activity if you have time to spare

Transport & logistics

Kepler Track Distance: 60km (37 miles) loop track. You can finish after 50.5km (31 miles) if you would prefer, but to do this you’ll need to organize transport in advance.

Kepler Track Duration: Most people stay 2 or 3 nights on the track; 3 or 4 days total. There are 3 different Department of Conservation huts (shared facilities and bunks).

Direction: Up to you! The views are awesome either way. We usually recommend walking up to Luxmore Hut on Day one.

Transport: You can begin the walk at Te Anau town, on the path outside the Visitor Centre. However, to really ‘get amongst it’ right from the start, a water taxi/car relocation combo is a great way to go – skip the start of the track, and enjoy a beautiful boat ride to Brod Bay. Your car will be waiting for you at Kepler Carpark at the end of your hike (the last day is often a long one – having your car waiting means there’s no rush to meet bus transport).

If you haven’t organized car relocation, you’ll need to catch the bus back to Te Anau at a pre-organized time at the end of the track.

How can I book my hike on the Kepler Track?

Awesome – you’ve decided to hike the Kepler!

There are 3 communal Department of Conservation huts along the trail, and these must be booked well in advance. To organize hut tickets yourself, jump on the Department of Conservation website. Do keep in mind that this track sells out very quickly – we recommend securing your booking as soon as you know your dates. Hut tickets for next season are usually released in May.

If you’re feeling a bit overwhelmed organizing everything yourself, or the hut booking system seems a bit confusing, our Kepler Track Premium Pack is an awesome option. This is a fully supported independent hiking Kepler Track adventure – you’ll still get to hike the trail independently, but we’ll take care of all the logistics that come with independent hiking.

Our Kepler Track Premium Pack includes:

Kepler Track Day Two Lake Views

Fiordland National Park from Kepler Track Day Two

  • Hut tickets – 2 nights/3 days on the Milford Track
  • Track Transport (ex Te Anau) OR car relocation
  • High quality hiking food
  • Osprey pack
  • Sea to Summit Sleeping Bag
  • Rain Jacket and Pants
  • Cooking/Eating equipment
  • Hot Drink Thermos
  • First Aid Kit
  • Inflatable Pillow
  • Care Package

Optional addition – Hiking Poles

We also offer a Kepler Track Essentials Package, or Car relocation/water taxi combo package.

We look forward to seeing you out on the beautiful Kepler Track!

Bobbie Mulgrew
Creating the perfect work/life balance by helping people experience our beautiful country. We enjoy helping others and continually being wowed by what our backyard can offer.

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