Safety in the outdoors

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New Zealand is an incredible place to explore, with untouched terrain that's remote yet easily accessible.

It's also likely to be quite different from what you're used to, so it's important you prepare beforehand for an unfamiliar climate and environment.   

Here are some simple tips to ensure you have an enjoyable and safe experience.

The Outdoor Safety Code: 5 Simple Rules

1. Plan your trip: Seek local knowledge and plan the route you will take and the amount of time you can reasonably expect it to take.

2. Tell someone: Tell someone your plans and leave a date and time for when to raise the alarm if you haven’t returned. Use the free online tools available on the AdventureSmart website to create a detailed trip plan, which you can leave with or email to a family member or trusted friend. The more details you provide, the quicker and more effectively search and rescue teams will be able to respond.

3. Be aware of the weather: New Zealand’s weather can be highly unpredictable. Check the forecast and expect weather changes. You can check the weather at MetService.

4. Know your limits: Challenge yourself within your physical limits and experience. Going with others is better than going alone. Here's a list of some of our most popular guided hiking trips.

5. Take sufficient supplies: Make sure you have enough food, clothing, equipment and emergency rations for the worst case scenario. Take an appropriate means of emergency communication like a locator beacon or satellite phone and remember that mobile phone coverage in the great outdoors is limited.

For more information about outdoor safety, visit the Mountain Safety Council website.

River safety

New Zealand’s rivers are unique as they can rise incredibly quickly. Unlike in many other countries, very few rivers have bridges and it’s possible you may need to cross a river on your hike by foot. In some areas bridges are removed in winter to prevent damage from avalanches.

Never be complacent about a river crossing and always stop before you cross and ask yourself ‘do I need to cross?’ Always use the mutual support technique when crossing with other people.

For more information about river safety visit the Mountain Safety Council river safety page. 

Getting lost

If you get lost or face an emergency, think STAR: Stop, Think, Assess and React appropriately.

Seek shelter and stay where you are. Use a torch or camera flash to attract attention at night. Try and position something brightly coloured that contrasts with the environment and is visible from the air to help a helicopter search during the day.

Do not continue walking without knowing where you are and where you’re going.

Carry a personal locator beacon; this will allow you to contact help in an emergency situation. These can be hired relatively cheaply. For more info, visit www.beacons.org.nz or talk to your local Department of Conservation Visitor Centre for local advice.

Avalanche

Avalanches are part of life in the mountains. They can occur in any season, but are more common in winter and spring. Any time that snow and steep slopes are combined there is potential for an avalanche.

Backcountry terrain is neither patrolled nor controlled by professionals, so if you're planning on going 'out back' or 'off the edge', it’s important to be well trained in avalanche safety and search and rescue techniques.

For more tips about avalanches in New Zealand’s outdoors visit the Mountain Safety Council avalanche safety page.

Track closures and updates

Review track updates and important notices on the Department of Conservation website here.

The New Zealand Walking Access Commission is also available to assist in identifying land in New Zealand that is open to recreational access on foot. 

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