travel advice: tramping   8 Dec 2006

Tramping your way around New Zealand is a great way to see some of its most breathtaking, tucked-away sites. However it is vitally important to be prepared when venturing out into the elements. Being an island nation, New Zealand is particularly susceptible to changing weather patterns and one wrong turn can lead to unnecessary despair. The Department of Conservation works hard to preserve the country’s natural beauty and provide great facilities for those who choose to explore it, so stick to these rules and make their job easier. •

CHECK WEATHER & CONDITIONS: New Zealand’s weather changes rapidly. Be physically and mentally prepared for the worst conditions and ready to change your plans if necessary. Obtain the latest information from or or phone the NZ weather service on 0900 999 + area code.

BE PREPARED: You need well-developed skills for backcountry adventure and it is vital you know the layout of the region you’re exploring.

• Choose a track that matches your fitness, skills and abilities.

• Learn or brush up on your navigation skills and carry good maps if you are going to attempt "tramping tracks" or "routes".

• Research the types and severity of hazards you might encounter and prepare for them.

• Learn to recognize survival situations. (This can be achieved by attending bushcraft and outdoor first aid courses – contact the New Zealand Mountain Safety Council (NZMSC) for info).

• Be aware of causes and symptoms of hypothermia and how to treat it.

• If possible, travel with and/or learn from experienced people. Joining a tramping or mountaineering club can be a great way to get to know the ropes.

• Attend river safety training if your trip involves crossings. Never nderestimate a river and avoid them after heavy rain or snow thaw at all costs.

• NEVER cross a flooded river.

• NEVER travel alone.

NOTE: Special equipment is needed for New Zealand’s alpine terrain. Seek local guidance and information before hitting the mountains.

YOU WILL NEED: 1. Clothing: Parka (waterproof with hood), overtrousers (windproof), sturdy boots, 2-3 pairs of thick socks, hat and/or balaclava, gloves, warm undergarments (thermal long-sleeved tops and leggings), two warm tops (wool, polypropylene or polar fleece), two jerseys or jackets (one lightweight), quick-drying shorts, cotton shirt and sunhat. Note: two light layers are warmer than one heavy one.

2. Equipment: Carry a map and compass, first aid and survival kits, a water bottle and a supply of high-energy foods. Hire a PLB (personal locator beacon), a mountain radio, or satellite phone for backup. Carry a tent or fly at all times (in case huts are full). NOTE: Mobile phones RARELY work in the mountains.

3. Survival Kit: Pad & pencil, cord, aluminium foil, whistle, knife, mini compass, survival blanket, bandage/bandaids, rubber inner tube, fish hooks and line, lighter/candles/matches, solid fuel primer, plastic bags.


• Read up on how to survive hypothermia (see NZMC’s Survival and Hypothermia brochures).

• Find out about the best emergency communication equipment (NZMC Radio Communication brochure).

• Let someone know your plans! Leave a detailed itinerary with a responsible person and make sure you check in on your return. Include planned route, party member names and vehicle details. The NMSC has a special "trip intentions" form to make this easier.

• Check at local DOC visitor center for changes to tracks, huts, facility closures, local conditions, hut passes, tickets and conservation information.

WHILE TRAMPING: Always fill in hut books, even if you don’t stay in the hut. They are extremely helpful in search and rescue operations and may help save your life. For fire, search and rescue emergencies phone 111.

IF YOU GET INTO STRIFE: Most importantly – stop, stay calm and plan. If you are without any of the following – water, shelter, warmth, the will to survive, or food – you face a potential survival situation.

1. Keep Warm By finding or making shelter protected from wind and rain, putting on additional dry clothing, making a fire, using a sleeping bag or vegetation to insulate yourself from the ground, covering yourself with dry vegetation.

2. Drink Plenty of Water and Ration Food

3. Conserve Your Energy and Be Determined to Survive

Getting Help: If you have a mountain radio, call for help. If not, send someone, or if possible two people, for help with a clear message. This must outline: what happened and when, details of missing person/people and other group members, details of injuries/illness, relevant resources (clothing, equipment and experience), location of group, action taken and immediate plans. Messengers MUST mark their route carefully so searchers can easily find their way to the group.

USEFUL CONTACTS: (Federated Mountain Clubs of NZ) (NZ Land Search and Rescue) (NZ Outdoor Instructors’ Association) (NZ Search and Rescue Council) (Water Safety NZ)


Safety in the Mountains – FMC pocket-sized guide

MSC survival bag (with hints and packliner)


– NZinspired magazine, December 06/January 07

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