South Island Weekend Tramps By Nick Groves, Craig Potton Publishing, revised edition 2009. Softcover, 180 pages, $34.95.

Tramping guidebooks seem to fit into two camps: ‘comprehensive’ – as epitomised by Moir’s or by Sven Brabyn’s regional guides – or ‘samplers’. This revision of the successful 2003 book by Nick Groves is definitely a sampler, presenting an eclectic mix of South Island weekend trips.

There’s something for everyone here, from family trips to places such as Lake Daniell or the upper Cobb to those requiring some alpine skills, like Ball Pass and Mt Philistine, with the bulk of the book covering something in between. There are bush, sub-alpine and coastal trips, hut-based trips and those requiring a tent, as well as a smattering of off-track trips.

My one criticism of the selection is that the regional spread could be better. Of the 50 trips, eight trips are within coo-ee of Arthur’s Pass, but only nine are in Otago and Southland, and none of them east of Queenstown. The Arthur’s Pass preponderance and another dense area around Lewis Pass are justified in the introduction by their proximity to Christchurch, but as the author rightly points out, people in Hokitika and Te Anau do weekend trips. So do those in Gore and Oamaru.

However the trips that did make the cut are well served. Descriptions are sufficiently detailed that you’ll have no trouble finding your way when combined with a topo map. They go beyond mere route descriptions – there’s enough of a tale in each chapter to give the reader a feel for the place and, when married with some great photos, a desire to hit the track. There’s good information on access, huts and
campsites, and for many trips alternative routes are mentioned.

Descriptions have been updated where necessary, particularly where DOC hut builders have been at work. The new edition dropped three tracks and added six new trips that add well to the mix. The other obvious change is the addition of Geographx’s impressive ‘Bird’s Eye’ maps, which help to give an impression of the terrain beyond that provided by a conventional map.

South Island Weekend Tramps is a great addition to the shelf: for planning or, as Robin McNeill once wrote, to ‘facilitate daydreaming’. It’s particularly useful for people straying beyond their home territory, as it provides some useful taster trips in most regions.