The dreaded rain storm tent pitch. We’ve all done it, but thru-hiker McKenzie and Comfort Theory rave about the easy set up experience of the Fly Creek as they trek through the unpredictable island of New Zealand.
I take a deep breath and brace myself for yet another muddy downhill. At every step the murky puddles swallow my shoes whole and threaten to snap my trekking poles. The rain is relentless; it began earlier this morning right as we entered the forest. I think back to the countless Kiwi locals who warned our group of the notoriously unpredictable weather in New Zealand. One second you’ll have blue skies, and the next it will explode into a grand show of waterworks. It doesn’t take a weatherman to realize that we’re quite literally stuck in a torrential downpour, the perfect amount of precipitation to drench the steep slopes of the forest, making every incline a dangerous slip and slide. We’re just one day into our first forest stretch on the Te Araroa trail, New Zealand’s thru-hike that stretches the entire length of the country. The trail runs 3000km and will take us around 6 months. Previous to this forest, we completed our first stretch on the 90-mile beach. That now seems like a cakewalk compared to this muddy rainforest; we find ourselves reminiscing of the flat sand and clear skies.
I snap back into the present. I’m hit with a sensation of fury. I decide I’m not going to tiptoe around this slope; instead, I’m going to hit it straight on. I aim for the teeth of the beast and go all in. My feet fly out from under me as I land on my pack with a loud thud that seems to echo in tune with the raindrops. I can’t manage to do anything but laugh hysterically, and I’m joined by my friends around me as we all take in the beautifully disastrous moment. This forest, this rain, this trail. We are exhausted, but in high spirits. Day 1 of our 5-day forest stretch has taken it out of us, and we decide it’s time to make camp.
After another kilometer to find the best flat area for our tents, we suddenly realize that the rain won’t let up for us to build our Big Agnes homes. The drops begin to multiply, destroying any hope we had of it stopping. In the same spirit of the downhills, we choose to embrace the elements. All at once we open our packs, pull out our Big Agnes Fly Creek UL tents, and get to work.
We had heard a lot about Big Agnes tents prior to this trip. The six of us are complete amateurs when it comes to backpacking, so we depended on advice from friends who had hiked the Pacific Crest Trail or Appalachian Trail and researched too many blogs to count. The unanimous answer: Big Agnes Fly Creek. Light, rugged, and practically bulletproof, the Fly Creek had raving reviews from hikers everywhere. When we first received our Fly Creeks, we decided to test them out to Big Sur on the California coast. The only problem was that we arrived at our camp spot at about 3am in the pitch dark, which meant that the first time we would ever set up our fresh new gear would be with headlamps. We were hesitant, but decided to give it a go. We laid down the footprint, lined up the tent body, and in a matter of seconds the poles practically put themselves together. The setup was so seamless, it felt like we had done it wrong. But we checked all the hooks, threw on the rain fly, and in what seemed like World Record-breaking time, we had set up our home. We barely needed headlamps, the tent set up was so easy and fast that we hardly had to inspect anything.
As the rain pelts my pack, I quickly reach in and find my tent, just in time so the interior belongings don’t get soaked. I stare down at my prized Fly Creek in my hands, apologizing ahead of time for how soaked it’s about to get. I hope with every fiber of my muddy being that I can set the tent up in the same amount of record breaking time as I did that one dark night in Big Sur. We had set our tents up on the previous 90-mile beach stretch, but the only difficulty out there was losing stakes in the sand.
I take another deep breath and brace myself for the process ahead. It’s one thing to build your home on a pool of mud, but it’s a whole other mess to add a sleet of rain to the mix. Just like the downhill slope, I choose to embrace the moment and tackle the construction head on. I’m no longer a backpacker; I’m now an extreme weather architect. I open up my tent poles, and they magically put themselves together in what seems like a millisecond. I retrieve my footprint and tent, and before I know it I have my house built. Without taking the time to celebrate, I grab my rain cover and finish the job, adding the roof to my house. I run around each corner, clipping the final touches and securing my stakes. After what seems like the amount of time to fasten my boots, I have already set up my Fly Creek.
I sit underneath my newly built Big Agnes home and relish in euphoria. I might be drenched, but nothing inside my tent is. After a long day of hiking and barely any effort left to set up my tent, I’m grateful beyond words that my Fly Creek can be set up so quickly. Here’s to all of New Zealand’s unpredictable elements to come; bring them on!
* Here’s a light-hearted “spoof” commercial spot from the trail highlighting how easy the tents setup…