Hypothermia is the second biggest killer in New Zealand tramping. The weather in alpine regions is volatile and unpredictable. If you thought the weather forecasting in your home country sucked, you just wait till you get to NZ. Four seasons in one day? You'd better believe it, sometimes they even have five and nowhere else gets this.
I have seen some stupid choices of clothing, none worse perhaps than on the Tongariro Crossing (no fish). This is an alpine trip, a 6hr hike through volcanoes, described as the best one day walk in NZ, it's very impressive, you can climb the summit of two volcanoes (one of which will take you to a 2200m elevation), it can be warm (parts of the track will experience temperatures over 30 degrees C), it can snow, it can rain, you can have freezing temperatures and 100 mile an hour winds, and you can get all this in one day. And people go in T-shirts.
It's a good run incidentally.
Of course anglers are more sensible than this...
Fly-fishermen and trampers in NZ dress the same (although the trampers may dress a little gaudier). And trampers don't wear clothes; they have an "interactive layering system dude." When it gets cold you add layers; when it gets warm you remove some; during a particularly changeable day you can be forever stripping off and getting redressed.
Yes, I am going to choose your underwear! Sex appeal is generally not a high priority in the bush (if you get it right, it's unlikely you're going to see anyone at all, let alone anyone who you'd want to have sex with. Although the bush can do funny things to your brain...)
The first thing to do is to forget all about cotton. Cotton is fine when it's warm and dry, but once wet it's cold and miserable stuff, and it never seems to dry. For underwear use polypropylene, or wool. Polyprops dry quickly, and are reasonably warm when wet. Wool is warmer but really heavy when wet, and takes longer to dry and is a bit itchy. Interesting fact: sheep wear it.
Buy both long johns and tops, at least two of each. Polyprops really really smell after a while, another reason why you wont be needing your sexy undies.
We used to put little holes in the sleeves to put our thumbs through, which stopped the sleeves from sliding up to our elbows. However some manufacturers actually do this for you now. They may have read this page.
Sandflies cannot bite you through polyprops. Consequently many trampers wear their long johns all the time, and put shorts over the top; like Superman. Sandflies are really attracted to black (Arden experiment) so good idea is to make your polyprop bottoms black and your top a lighter colour. For camouflage; green polyprop bottoms are obviously ideal, and allow you to look like Robin Hood. For the kinky; red and blue striped versions are also available. DON'T wear them when you get home again: you will be arrested.
Polarfleece has the advantage over wool in that it is lighter especially when wet and it is super-quick drying. However wool is warmer. I have some fleece pants which are 100 weight (only really wear them in the evenings) and a couple of fleece tops. One is 200 weight and one is 300; when it's really cold I wear both.
A quality fleece jacket is comfortable, well fitting and will last you for many years. Take caution around fires as spitting wood burns holes in fleece and polyprops. Obviously you should choose your colours carefully; reds and oranges don't blend in so well with the bush.
Hat and gloves
A woolly hat is essential when up mountains. A lot of heat is lost through your head (up to 80%?, don't know, but it's a lot), a nice wool hat will keep it in. For fishing you will of course need a peaked brim, so probably another hat. Gloves are arguable, if you get really stuck you can always wear a pair of socks. A leather glove can be useful for removing pots from the fire.
At least three pairs. Probably more. Good thick woolly ones. Wear them two at a time to avoid blisters. Swap them about on different days and wear them inside out on others and you wont have to wash them as often. Or ever. With all the wetwading that you do in NZ, you can be pretty certain that you will be putting your socks on wet in the morning ('sounds like fun, bet that's a pleasant experience, I'll be sure to get up early for that'). It's simply not worth carrying lots of socks around to avoid this; they're all going to end up wet fairly quickly, and besides often the first thing you do is ford a river.
The 'shell' is a nice fancy way of describing your anorak. The most important function is that it is windproof. I'm going to tell you the truth now, prepare yourself; you will get wet. No matter how breathable or unbreathable, how high tech or how primitive you buy, you will get wet. This is an important point to bear in mind when you choose the rest of your clothing: it's going to get wet, and you need to stay warm.
Now just like everybody else I have a friend who wades in breathable waders and he tells me he comes out dry (this was originally written in '99 when it was a pysical impossibility). No matter that there are fifty other guys who come out with embarrassing wet patches. It works for someone. But I can do better than that; I know someone who dived in breathables and came out dry. How cool is that?
Isn't it strange how some people manage to perform some dramatic exhilarating underwater activity and come out bone-dry, and I get stuck in a light summer sprinkling and get sodden wet?
At this point let me point out that I am not a plastic man. Plastic macs suck big time. I do buy and wear breathables, but I also expect to get completely drenched. And I'm usually right in my forecasting.
It is certainly not worth carrying a pair of neoprenes into the backcountry! If you are going to fish from your car in NZ and spend more time in the water than out, or if it is your intention to float-tube, then carry waders by all means. Otherwise forget it. Breathables are a possibility for liars and careful people.
I now carry breathables and wear them in lowland rivers and lakes. In the backcountry wet-wading is best.
A good pair of stout full leather boots are essential. Forget hybrid boots made for light tramping and invest in the best pair you can afford. Look for Vibram soles. Look for double stitching, preferable triple stitching. Speed lacing is a bonus.
When buying your boots, buy them at the end of the day (your feet expand throughout the day. Try them on wearing the sort of socks you expect to wear. A good shop should have some, but it's more impressive to walk into a shop and whip out your socks, and it has the advantage that the sales assistant wont try and put one over on you. With boots on they should be comfortable. You should be able to stick your thumb (just) between the back of your heel and the boot with the laces undone. With the laces done up securely there should be little slip of the foot within the boot; otherwise its goodbye fun and hello blisters.
Look after your boots using a good wax. They get real abuse in NZ being wet for weeks on end, they'll need lots of attention just to survive one season.
I am currently experimenting with wearing boots outside breathables and it seems to be working; with thin socks I can wear waders and with two thick pairs, just the boots. Yet another Sexyloops success story.
It can be useful to have a pair of sandals suitable for wearing around the huts, so that you can leave your wet boots outside. If you are going to carry a pair of sandles around with you, I'd recommend a decent pair.
Teva's are the waterproof sandal. Made for rafting, you can hike in them, you can fish in them, you can live in them. I had a pair which I wore every day for three years and they only packed up when I left them in the back of my car in Australia and the melted. When wearing a pack you need boots for the ankle support, but elsewhere you can wear your Teva's.
Shorts: quick drying
Waterproof overtrousers (optional) and not if you have waders
Gaiters (cover your boots and keep stones out: optional)
One of those springy things with little windmills that you stick on your head (wear when you see a helicopter: hopefully they'll fly away again, especially if you have a rifle over your shoulder)