Safety (incl. Biosecurity and Leave No Trace)
Long distance tramping in New Zealand can be challenging. The land is rugged. The weather is changeable. Rivers rise and can trap you. The North Island has dense forest – we call it bush. What’s called hiking in the northern hemisphere is called tramping here for good reason – it’s slower and requires more strength. Average tramping speed along North Island forest tracks is 2.5km/h. South Island tramping is generally more open but is higher altitude and unforgiving to the badly prepared.
Plan your Te Araroa trip thoroughly and follow all recommendations, guidelines and parameters around access.
When planning your walk or thru-hike we highly recommend that you familiarise yourself with the below important information and seek further advice from trained professionals and providers as required.
To further assist you with your preparations please view our FAQ page, Trail Status and Downloads (including Trail Notes and Maps).
Click on the below links:
Adventure Smart Intentions System - Outdoors Intentions for Land-based Activities
SAFETY IS YOUR RESPONSIBILITY.
TELL SOMEONE YOUR PLANS...BEFORE YOU HIT THE TRAIL...IT MAY SAVE YOUR LIFE.
Although most trips into the outdoors go without a hitch, you need to be fully prepared so that if the unexpected happens there are appropriate measures in place to recognise there is a problem, alert the appropriate authorities and, if necessary, enable rescuers to find you quickly.
The New Zealand Outdoors Intentions process (endorsed by New Zealand's search and rescue agencies) provides 3 simple options which enable you to 'tell someone' all the details about your land-based trip into the outdoors.
For comprehensive information click on the link - Intentions Systems Adventure Smart
These Outdoor Intentions are for land-based activities only, if you are looking for Boating or Aviation intentions please refer Adventure Smart Website
Walkers should also use the hut book system - not only when overnighting but also when passing through during the day. This greatly assists emergency services if they are required to narrow down a search area.
New Zealand’s rugged landscape and changeable weather mean you can get into trouble very quickly. If you were forced into a wilderness survival situation with limited to no equipment available could you survive?
It’s very difficult to know how you would cope in an actual survival situation unless you have experienced one or have received extremely realistic training.
The priorities of survival guide coupled with an absolute determination to keep living will put you in a strong position to achieve a successful survival outcome.
Stop, stay calm, control your fears, and start addressing the principles of survival. Don’t make hasty decisions, as poor decision will lead to negative outcomes.
The four step priorities of SURVIVAL GUIDE are listed below are in order of importance and are designed to increase the chance of not only staying alive, but also being rescued.
Protection - First Aid, Clothing, Shelter, Fire
This structure must be followed in order. You can address two or more priorities simultaneously but only if the group size allows.
Here is an overview of each priority of survival.
First Aid - Focusing on your ability to prevent further injury. It is imperative that this is addressed before moving on, or you may be unable to function well enough to carry out the following priorities.
Clothing - This is your first line of defence against the elements. Dress for the environmental conditions, keep fully covered at all times to reduce effects of exposure. Use the layering system; base layer (wicks moisture away), mid-layer (provides warmth) and outer layer (prevents moisture from entering while allowing sweat to escape).
Shelter - No tent? Then you’ll have to build a natural shelter to provide additional protection of the body from the environment. The type of shelter chosen will be depend upon local conditions and material available but should be accomplished quickly in order to provide protection from the elements.
Fire - The importance of a fire in a survival situation cannot be over emphasised as a fire provides us with a way of keeping warm, repelling insects, moral and a means of cooking food & boiling water making it safe to drink. Also as a signal, smoke/light for rescue.
Location - It is wise to place immediate location aids out upon entering a survival situation. Eg Personal Locator Beacon (PLB), make sure it is registered. A distress beacon is one of the most reliable ways of signalling that you need help in an emergency. These can be hired if you don’t own one.
You must have a well thought out plan, think about why things are seen and try to provide a large visual footprint of your location to increase the chances of being found.
What location aids would you normally have? What does the environment offer?
Water - Being dehydarated affects us not only physically but mentally so we need to maintain hydration level by replacing body fluid loss. Remember thirst is a poor indicator of degree of hydration. If you are thirsty you will already be dehydrated. An easier way to know if you are getting enough water is to simply monitor your urine.
Food - Is given the lowest priority in survival, provided there is enough water - a fit person can survive for around 25-35 days without food.
It is HIGHLY recommended you check the weather forecast before you commence your walk/hike as the weather patterns in New Zealand are extremely changeable and you could get into trouble very quickly.
For all the latest Weather Forecast log onto
We also recommend that you check the tides before you set off if you are doing any coastal routes or river tracks.
For information on Tide times log onto: NIWA
Essential Winter Tips:
For some, winter marks a time to pack away the tramping gear and replace our interest and spare time with something else until summer arrives again. While others are relishing the opportunity to get out into the cold of winter and discover its natural beauty. Winter does however present unique challenges for those who want to get outside and explore the backcountry. The on going battle to stay warm and prevent cold weather injuries occurring, the ability make natural shelters or pitch a tent in snow to protect against the wind, finding or melting snow for water and the effort it takes to walk through deep snow.
Ten Tips to help see you through:
Plan your trip - Whether it involves a day out with your backpack or full on adventures over weeks, you need to plan it very carefully. Minimise the “If Only”.
Check Weather - Before setting off check the weather forecast. New Zealand’s weather is very changeable and a sunny day can quickly turn wet, windy and cold. Don’t get caught out!
Training - Elementary cold weather techniques, skills and methods should be practiced and maintained before you need them. Attend a cold weather training course.
Environmental Conditions - The wind and temperature have the greatest effect on living conditions. Prevent against cold weather injuries, frost nip, snow blindness, and hypothermia. Snow can hide many hidden dangers, avalanches, and crevasses. Learn to recognise avalanche terrain and how to recognise snowpack stability.
Equipment - An individual needs to have a good knowledge of and be able to use equipment that is suitable for cold environments. Carry avalanche transceivers, probes and metal-blade shovels and know how to use them.
Clothing - physical exertion to avoid sweating and putting on layers during rest periods to prevent chilling.
Go to Bed Warm - Carry out light exercise, drink and eat something hot prior to jumping into your sleeping bag, this will make for a better sleep.
Stick to Marked Tracks - Don't rely on following your footprints back out from wherever you have traveled. They can get snowed over or blown in.
Drink enough water - We tend to ignore this in cold weather, as we associate drinking water with hot climates.
Person Survival Kit - One should always carry a small compact container which will contain specific items to assist you in a survival situation. Matches, hand and feet warmers, light stick, survival blanket etc.
Rivers are one of the greatest hazards in the New Zealand Outdoors. Errors of judgement, often have serious consequences. There is an average of about three river-crossing deaths each year. Eighty per cent of these accidents were in flooded rivers or side-streams.
The Te Araroa trail is pepper potted with beautiful rivers and sooner or later you’re going to cross one. It is absolutely essential you know how to cross a river safely as it’s among the riskiest things you can do on the trail. It's not only the untrained who die.
Experienced and skilled people have drowned after being tempted to give it a go against their better judgement.
You should not take any river crossing lightly: the risks are too great. You must take particular care with children playing in or near moving water. Whenever possible, plan to use bridges or cableways to cross rivers.
The problems of cold water:
New Zealand rivers are often only just above freezing point, especially when they drain a glacier. Even a short time in the water causes rapid cooling of your legs and feet, resulting in poor co-ordination and cramping.
With deep crossings, the shock of cold water may cause a rapid and involuntary intake of breath. There is a risk of drowning from gulping water. It may help to splash your face before crossing to condition yourself.
Prolonged crossings, or long gorge trips with many crossings, may lead to hypothermia. You can reduce this danger by choosing a route and a method which minimise your time in the water.
After deep crossings, it may be best to stop and make a hot drink, change into dry clothes, and rest.
Before you or your party attempt to cross a river, there are questions you need to ask:
1. Should we cross?
2. Where do we cross?
3. How do we cross?
Ask yourself before you cross, is there a safer alternative available?
Assess the Situation:
Where the track meets the river may not be the best place to cross. Study the river carefully for dangers, look both up and downstream.
Try and view the river from a height and from different angles to get a better prospective.
Water Obstacles and Hazards:
Flooded - 80% of river crossing drowning in New Zealand have occurred when the river has been in flood.
Fast Flowing Current - Test the current speed by throwing a stick and watching how swiftly it moves downstream. Rolling stones also indicated fast moving water.
Deep Water - Even shallow water can knock you off balance if the current is fast. The depth of water plus current speed needs to be considered together.
Run-outs - Check run out and make sure it doesn’t lead to dangerous rapids or waterfalls.
Debris is present - Debris is an indication that river flows are high. Any objects flowing downstream can create serious harm if they strike you.
Discoloured water - Indicate high river flows from recent rain.
Rapids - Avoid fast, shallow rapids
Avoid obstacles - on side of river bank such as strainers
Don’t cross on bends - Water is at its greatest depth and strongest flow on the outside of corners.
Excessive river width
Avoid rock hopping over slippery rocks
Where to Cross?
Cross on the straights (not bends) at the shallow points and slowest current with a safe run out. The only time its ok to wade through deeper water is when you locate a flat pool with little to no current.
If in doubt STAY OUT! No your limits!
Preparation before Crossing:
Technique for Crossing: Single Pole Crossing (Used for individual crossing)
- Body parallel to the direction of river flow
- Feet slightly wider than should width apart with bent knees
- Trekking pole or sturdy wooden pole held with two hands diagonally across the body and upstream
- Lean on pole to avoid being pushed over
- Shuffle across the river with a slight angle heading downstream towards the exit point
- Keep two points of contact with the riverbed at all times
- Maximum depth of water approximately thigh deep.
Mutual Support Crossing:
- If available use a buddy system by linking up with others.
- Points to consider
- Strongest person at upstream end
- Second strongest person downstream end
- Keep the link tight by linking arms at the elbows or grasping clothing around waist
- Enter water in a straight line parallel to the direction of river flow
- Shuffle across the river with a slight angle heading downstream towards the exit point
- Group moves as a single unit
- Maximum depth of water approximately waist deep.
Worst Case Scenario:
- If you get knocked off your feet and fall in, your pack can be used as a flotation device.
- Regain your composure
- Maneuver yourself so you are leaning back on pack and facing downstream
- Fend off rocks/obstacle with feet
- Move legs in a running action and head diagonally towards the bank
- Remove pack only if you lose control of it and/or it starts to push you under.
- Keep hold your pack and use for floatation
Note: Pack shoulder straps should be loosened off and waist strap/sternum straps should always be undone before crossing a river.
Use mutual support methods. The more people in the party, the more strength there is for crossing and for supporting anyone who slips or falls. All river-crossing methods have their advantages and disadvantages and, in difficult conditions, no method is absolutely safe.
We advise that you attend a River Safety Course to learn how to anticipate what might go wrong and therefore recognise and avoid potential problems. For information on safety course see below.
What you need to carry on the Te Araroa Trail depends on how far you're going, where, and when.
In unfamiliar settings where unpredictable weather, unfamiliar terrain, and the unexpected are the rule, planning and preparation are keys to an enjoyable and safe walk/hike.
See below a suggested gear list - it is not a definitive list and we recommend that you undertake your own personal research and engage with specialist providers to take sufficient supplies appropriate to your needs, technical capability, length of walk and physical fitness.
What should I carry?
- Several pairs of trail socks
- Decent trail shoes (light-weight ones that drain well) or boots - personal preference
- 2 x shirts
- Merino long sleeve/thermal top
- Decent waterproof coat (can be a life-saver!)
- Waterproof trousers
- Primaloft jacket
- Windproof shell
- Buff/wooly hat/sunhat
- High SPF Suncream
- Descent backpack
- Light-weight tent/bivy
- Blow-up sleeping mat
- Down sleeping bag/waterproof bag
- Cooking stove/fuel/cooking pot/spork
- Laminated maps
- GPS with trail downloaded
- Marker pen/sharpie
- mobile phone/waterproof bag
- PLB (Personal Location Beacon)
- Strobe light
- SOS Survival Tin
- First aid kit incl. Hikers Wool
- Emergency foil blanket
- Light-weight walking poles - personal preference
- A stool tool/loo roll
- Headtorch/spare batteries
- Water purification tablets/UV steripen
- Hi-viz vest and/or pack cover - essential for road walking and forestry sections
What kind of clothing do I need?
Hope for the best weather, pack for the worst. Clothing to protect you from cold and rain is a must, even in midsummer and especially at higher elevations. Avoid cotton clothes, particularly in chilly, rainy weather, which can strike the mountains at any time of year. Wet cotton can be worse than nothing and can contribute to hypothermia, a potentially fatal threat. Synthetic fabrics such as polypropylene and various acrylic blends as well as wool or silk will help protect you against the dangers of hypothermia. Layer your clothes—a “polypro” shirt, synthetic fleece, and a coated nylon or “breathable” waterproof outer shell will keep you both warmer and drier than a single heavy overcoat in cold, damp weather.
Remember, hiking will make you sweat, no matter the weather. Shedding thin layers enables you to regulate your body temperature more effectively than choosing between keeping a heavy jacket on or taking it off.
What kind of footwear do I need?
Hiking boots - The most important thing is that shoes fit well and are broken-in. Nothing spoils the fun or ends a hike quicker than blistered feet. On a day-hike, broken-in tennis shoes can be a better choice than brand-new boots. When carrying a backpack or hiking on rocky terrain, more substantial hiking shoes or boots are recommended. The heavier your pack, the more substantial a shoe you will need.
Tramping in New Zealand requires fundamental skills. We recommend that anyone not already versed in tramping hazards in this country takes a mountain safety course before setting out. These courses are available in most locations. They teach alpine awareness and skills, snow shelters, river-crossing skills and bushcraft, including trip planning, gear, outdoor cooking, risk management, and map reading.
The MSC (Mountain Safety Council NZ) are no longer running courses but in its place a new incorporated society has been set up called Outdoor Training NZ (OTNZ) formed by former MSC instructors in order to continue to run low cost quality safety courses by volunteers.
OTNZ currently (Sept 2015) only offer bushcraft course but are growing and expanding rapidly with a plan to develop training courses specifically designed to meet the needs of Te Araroa trail walkers. OTNZ have qualified instructors committed to delivering high quality courses. OTNZ currently have active branches in the Waikato and Manawatu regions they are currently working on setting up branches in Northland and Auckland but in the interim can provide instructors and training sessions in these regions on a as need basis. For more information visit their website: Outdoor Training NZ (OTNZ)
See below a list of other bushcraft or risk management training course providers. It is not an exhaustive list of providers and there may be others you wish to contact. The MSC and Te Araroa does not specifically endorse any of these providers, and recommends you undertake your own research in order to find a bushcraft or risk management training course provider that suits you.
Bushcraft or Risk Management Training Providers
Independently qualified instructors and guides:
Alpine Safety Courses:
The New Zealand Alpine Club offers a variety of courses on different levels of Alpine Safety. We recommend that anyone not already versed in alpine safety within this country takes an alpine safety course before setting out if they plan on including high country or alpine crossings in their journey. Further information can be found at Alpine Club
Outdoor Safety Ten Commandments
Leave your intentions with responsible people and always remember to tell them when you have safely completed a track. Write your entry in every intentions book on your route, even if you are not staying in every hut – going in and coming out. Leave a date for when to raise the alarm if you have not reached your next destination or returned. Intentions Systems Adventure Smart
Know where you are and where you're going. Do a course, mark the track on a proper topographical map (not a road map), take a compass (and a GPS) and know how to use them. Tracks can be hard to find or follow - low use, spring growth, tree fall and vandals wrecking signage means you may need to work it out for yourself.
Accept responsibility for your own safety and well-being. If you're in a group, know the expectations, strengths, weaknesses and medical requirements of that group. Ask yourself if you and your group are physically and mentally up to the task ahead. Travel within your abilities and knowledge.
If you're in a group, plan a clear leadership process so that your party can make decisions and take actions. In an emergency, leadership, cool analysis and implementation of a plan are vital.
Plan your journey but be flexible, know where you are going and how long it will take. Learn from others: locals, outdoor people, guide books and maps. Take an appropriate means of communication or know your communication options. Make sure you have sufficient food, equipment and emergency rations for the worst case scenario. Checklist your equipment and survival essentials.
6. Have a plan B
Consider actual and potential hazards and know how you will deal with them. Anticipate what might go wrong and what your options are. Have an escape route. Take spare food supplies.
Understand general and local weather patterns. NZ weather can be highly unpredictable, check the forecast and expect changes. Respect your environment: the terrain, the conditions, the weather and the water - river, glacier, lake or sea. A river may rise very quickly even if it's not raining where you are. NEVER cross a river in flood. On the coast, travelling at low tide is always easier and safer.
Be vigilant. Continually reassess the risks. Observe the environment, the weather, your people and your equipment. Check the weather and consider alternatives if it looks bad.
Be honest with yourself about your fitness, mental state, judgement, skill, knowledge and experience. Never let desire over-rule judgement. Better to turn back, than get out of your depth.
Judgement comes from experience, skill and knowledge. Heed your judgement and respect your gut feeling; it is your own in-built alarm. Judgement develops with time, from successes as well as failures. Learn from your outdoor experiences.
Adapted from Johnny Mulheron’s list in NZ FMC Bulletin 169, August 2007
Biosecurity - New Zealand's Freshwater
As you walk the Trail, protect our rivers, lakes, and streams
New Zealand has a large number of pristine rivers and lakes. Unfortunately, some of them are under threat from invasive weeds and algae. Freshwater pests can be spread as single cells or tiny fragments from one river or lake to another by the movement of water, equipment, clothing and any other damp item.
People and their activities are the main cause of spread. Once in a waterway they can disperse rapidly and destroy the environmental, recreational and aesthetic values of our waterways.
To prevent the spread of these freshwater pests please Check, Clean, Dry your boots and anything else that gets wet when moving between waterways.
CHECK - and remove all plant matter from your gear
CLEAN - spray or soak with 5% detergent and water
DRY - completely dry for 48 hours
Which Steps When?
Several days between waterways à CHECK and DRY
Check your gear for plant matter and make sure it is has been dry to the touch for at least 48 hours before entering the next waterway.
Moving between waterways à CHECK
Check and clean every item that has been wet before entering the next waterway.
Keep Kauri Standing – KIA TOITU HE KAURI
New Zealand's Kauri tree's are under threat of extinction and without any treatment or control tools, the only way we can save our kauri forests is to contain the disease in its current locations and stop the spread into healthy areas. If you are going to be moving between waterways we ask you to Check, Clean, Dry any equipment - boots, socks, tramping poles etc that has come into contact with any fresh water.
What is Kauri Dieback Disease?
Kauri dieback is a disease that has the ability to kill kauri trees of all ages and nearly all infected trees die. It can infect single trees or cause dieback of entire stands. There is no known cure, although research is currently being undertaken to develop treatment tools.
What can I do to save our kauri forests?
When you are around kauri:
- Make sure shoes, tyres and equipment are cleaned to remove all visible soil and plant material before AND after visiting kauri forest
- Please use cleaning stations installed on major tracks: scrub to remove all soil and spray with disinfectant.
- Stay on the track and off kauri roots
- Keep your dog on a leash at all times.
- We all can help - tourists, hunters, trappers, trampers, runners, bikers, walkers. We all need to make it happen, rather than hope 'someone else' will do it.
For further information visit the "Keep Kauri Standing" website - Kauri Dieback
Leave No Trace
Part of the appeal of walking Te Araroa is getting face-to-face with the New Zealand landscape - famous the world over as being "100% Pure New Zealand".
To ensure this beauty remains for generations, Te Araroa Trust encourages all walkers to adhere to the "Leave No Trace" set of principles.
Beacons - Information about registering and using 406 MHz distress beacons.
MetService - NZ marine and weather forecasts, snow reports, tides, rain radar & weather maps
Department of Conservation - Protecting NZ's natural environment
NZ Police: Safety Tips - Information for visitors to NZ
i-SITE - NZ's visitor information network
Tourism New Zealand - Official website
Leave No Trace - NZ's environmental care code
SunSmart - Keeping safe in the sun