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Watch Four Novice Thru Hikers Attempt New Zealand’s Longest Trail

‘Comfort Theory’ is a fascinating glimpse of someone else’s questionable decision making

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“Comfort Theory: New Zealand” tells the story of four enterprising souls who do what most of us only threaten to do: drop everything to dive headlong into a rugged adventure with little-to-no-idea of what we’re getting ourselves into. 

For McKenzie Barney, Kevin Cox, Eric Biege, and Kole Krieger, that means thru hiking New Zealand’s Te Araroa Trail: 1,800 miles of exposed, mountainous terrain, dense forests, long rivers, and even stretches alongside busy roads, which traverses the entire island nation from north to south. It’s a six-month undertaking for even the fittest amongst us, and these folks certainly aren’t that. They barely have any backpacking experience between the four of them, and the misery of long-distance blisters lays them low … on Day One. 

Shown in shaky cam vignettes as the voyage progresses, “Comfort Theory” gives a fly-on-the-wall view to the novice adventurers experiencing the highs and lows of such an undertaking. Even after spending six months together, challenging physical and mental obstacles, the group never loses their sense of humor. “[We] do like staying at the huts together and camping together,” Kole says. “But [we] don’t necessarily love walking with each other the whole time.”

About three-quarters of the way through their hike, there’s a shift from surviving to thriving, and each member finds his own path to a singular experience. Even if you’ve never been to New Zealand, “Comfort Theory” doesn’t really cover new territory—that being in nature makes one more introspective and appreciative is hardly a novel insight—but as they say, it’s the journey, not the destination. And, as journeys go, this one’s worth taking.