As we well and truly get into the thick of Winter here in New Zealand, we would like to share some tips from our team here at Life Flight for planning a safe trip outdoors during the colder months.
New Zealanders are naturally adventurous - and why wouldn’t we be with such beautiful landscapes within our reach? However, it’s true that nature can be unpredictable, and our crew respond often to rescues where Kiwis have been caught-out by changing weather conditions.
We want to make sure that you’re well-equipped and able to get yourself home the way you started - on your feet, safe, healthy and happy.
Personal Locator Beacon
Westpac Rescue Helicopter Crewman Colin strongly recommends that you invest in a Personal Locator Beacon (PLB), whether its purchasing one or renting one.
This is a particularly useful device to have in winter as generally the backcountry is quieter so there is a reduced likelihood of others coming across you by chance if you need help.
If you have an accident or medical event, activating your PLB will send a help message to the Rescue Coordination Centre rapidly - which could be life-saving. Don’t forget to get the PLB registered before you leave and confirm that your contact details are up-to-date.
“PLB's make our job so much easier. They take the search out of search and rescue.” - Crewman Colin
Communicate your plan
Always check the weather before heading out and communicate your plan to someone. Make sure you stick to that plan, or if things do change then your contact should be the first to know. They’ll be expecting you home at a certain time so will act as a safeguard if for any reason you can’t call for help.
If you’ve never been to the area before, then definitely do your research before heading there. Check out the Mountain Safety Council’s website for some fantastic resources such as the 5-step Outdoor Safety Code.
When planning your trip, you should choose a track that suits your skill level. The Department of Conservation has a user-friendly map that tells you where all the tracks are and whether it's an easy or more advanced one. It's extremely important to know your limits before heading out.
Pack appropriate clothing for the environment you’ll be in. To be prepared for changing conditions, it never hurts to take extra clothing and food in case you’re stuck for any reason. Never underestimate the weather or the conditions that you’re going to end up in. Here in Wellington especially we can experience every-single type of weather in just one day!
Help us get to you
In the event things start to go downhill and you need help, we would rather you make the decision to call sooner rather than later. If you’ve pressed your PLB, the next step is to try to make yourself visible and if it’s safe to do so, stay in one place. This makes it easier for us to locate and get to you if you’re in the bush.
It’s extremely important to charge your phone battery to 100% before you start out; even have a battery pack on hand as extra precaution. Your phone can literally be your lifeline as police are often able to track its’ GPS location. A phone torch can also tell us exactly where you are if you get into trouble; even in dense bush we can see you from miles away. We wear night-vision goggles that can amplify a light-source by 7,000 times – your small cellphone light or torch will shine to the heavens!
If you’re new to tramping, then perhaps it’s not such a bad idea to join your local tramping club. You’ll be able to get some insider advice and find some tramping buddies.
To stay safe, always plan your adventure so that you can enjoy yourself completely! - The Life Flight team