Thursday, August 22, 2013

Top Tips for Safer Hikes and Long Walks

Walks in New Zealand can be a great way to enjoy the breathtaking beauty of the islands - and an especially attractive treat for the 'outdoorsy' tourist visiting for the first time. Safety must always come first, however, especially for long walks and hikes. While travelling with a group and experienced guide is your best bet to explore the Land of the Long White Cloud, it still pays to be prepared in case of any eventuality. These tips will help you out without hampering your experience:
Create an equipment and food checklist
The very first thing you may want to do to prepare for your hikes or walks in New Zealand, is to write up a checklist. This checklist will vary depending on the duration of your planned walks and whether you will be camping or lodging. Whatever your plans are, check with your tour leader or guide to make sure you have basics like maps, water, high-energy bars, first aid kits, raincoats, emergency blankets and waterproof matches. You may want to bring a satellite phone as well if you plan to trek deeper into the heart of the mountains and rainforests.
Take note of prominent landmarks
Many walks in New Zealand have directions along common paths, but it is still important for you to keep an eye out for major landmarks along the way - even while travelling with a guide. Mountains, rock formations, unique trees and other natural or geological features will be of immense help. Yes, you may have maps or GPS navigators but taking note of local landmarks will help reorient you should these tools fail you when you need them the most. This is especially important to remember when hiking through thick foliage.

Pack a few basic DIY items for longer incursions
If your planned walks in New Zealand are more like miniature hiking trips, it may help to pack a few light-weight items to help deal with emergencies. Duct tape, shoelaces, socks, garbage bags and a simple length of tough nylon cord - all these things have various uses in cases of emergency. Shoe laces can be used to stop bleeding and to tie up small objects, socks can double as handy containers and water strainers, garbage bags can function as waterproof containers and a shield against rain, tough nylon can carry heavy loads and duct tape will help quickly patch up torn objects - or torn flesh should the need arise.
Dress in brightly coloured clothing
Green, brown and black are colours you do not want to be wearing when you are lost in nature and your mates are out looking for you. Dress in colours that stand out against natural colours, like white, yellow or orange, if you really want to be noticed. If you feel you cannot stomach wearing bright colours, just imagine yourself knocked unconscious in a dark ravine with two broken legs while rescuers overlook you because they can't see your immobile body. Macabre, yes, but you have to admit it's a compelling reason to put aside your personal preferences for safety's sake.
Learn when to turn back
There is no shame in deciding to turn back or even cancel your plans if the weather is bad - your guide will make this all-important decision. What may seem to you like a light drizzle could easily turn into a torrent, making everything slippery while getting you wet and at risk of developing hypothermia.

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