How should we prepare for the New Zealand outdoor wilderness?
The New Zealand wilderness is not to be taken lightly. We live in a beautiful country, but Mother Nature can be very harsh. Because we are a long narrow country surrounded by sea, we are subject to rapid weather changes. The weather in the mountainous spine of the South Island in particular is extremely changeable and can turn from being benign to treacherous in a matter of minutes at any time of the year. Rivers can rise in an instant and blizzard conditions can close in on mountains for days at a time. That being said, with the proper clothing and equipment, you can enjoy a wonderful experience in the New Zealand wilderness.
If you are intending going on one of the many great walks in our national parks or forests, tell someone where you intend to go. DoC offices and I-SITES (information sites) maintain intentions books, please use them. For mountain weather, the Mountain Safety Council maintains a website at www.mountainsafety.org.nz Check it out for the latest information. If you intend doing one of the many longer walks, radios, GPS and ELPs (Emergency Locator Beacons) can be hired at no great cost. Good outdoor clothing is a must.
Polyprop or wool underlayers topped by layers of good insulating fabrics and a wind and rainproof outer shell are recommended, along with rainproof leggings, stout footwear, hat and gloves. Food and drink should be carried and a map and compass are essential for all wilderness excursions. Please do not wear jeans or cotton trousers in the wilderness. When wet, they draw warmth from the body and ultimately hypothermia can result.