This is a guest blog by Ashlyn Oswalt. Ashlyn is an American expat living in Christchurch and enjoying being near the ocean and the mountains. She’s a keen tramper who hopes to promote Leave No Trace practices through her outdoor adventures. She shares with us some advice on how to enjoy the outdoors responsibly…
Enjoying the outdoors is looking a little different around the world lately. While some countries are in lockdown and others are restricting activities, New Zealanders are lucky to have access to our outdoors unhindered.
Thanks to our collective efforts during the lockdown, we are able to get outdoors and explore. Here’s hoping the freedom to move around, gather, and travel within our country remain, so we can continue to enjoy the outdoors without restriction. We are expecting to see an influx in outdoor activity by New Zealanders this summer, so I have a few tips and resources to help you be a great steward to the land and a kind neighbour to those you’ll share nature with.
Plan ahead and prepare is the first principle of seven in the Leave No Trace philosophy, a great building block for enjoying the outdoors responsibly. Researching the outdoor activity you intend to do, the skill level required, estimated times, and more before you embark can mean a more fun – and much safer – trip. This is also a great time to gather appropriate gear, check weather, and let friends know where you’ll be and for how long.
Assess Your Skill Level
It can be tempting to bite off more than you can chew when outdoors. All it takes is one beautiful summit sunrise photo on Instagram and now you’re roped into a multi-day hike up a mountain. It’s important to be honest with yourself and assess your skill – and comfort – level before the journey. Never slept overnight in a tent? Maybe test it out on an overnighter close to home instead of jumping straight into a five-day adventure in the backcountry. Trust me, you’ll appreciate being honest with yourself and have a much better time because of it.
Whether you’re on a day walk or multi-day tramp, it’s important to have the right gear. Weather in New Zealand is ever-changing, so packing a waterproof layer, warm hat, and plenty of sunscreen in the same bag isn’t unheard of. Be sure to understand what terrain you’ll be recreating in, as well. Is it exposed tussocklands or covered forests? Understanding the terrain – and the weather – can make all the difference in a good time and bad.
Respect Others and Be Prepared
It’s important to remember you’re not the only one enjoying the outdoors, so respecting your neighbours is a crucial step to be responsible outdoors. The Tiaki Promise lists “respecting others” as one of their core values, showcasing how deeply important it is to New Zealanders. For hut etiquette, be sure to book in now if your desired hut takes bookings. If not, purchase hut passes and either set out very early to avoid missing out on a bed, or pack a tent just in case. At the hut, be sure to keep your space tidy, respect others personal space and belongings, and avoid being the party animal of the evening.
Know When to Turn Back
There is a possibility for even the most seasoned outdoor enthusiast to be caught up in an uncomfortable situation outdoors. What separates the heroes from the fools is knowing when to turn back. If you realise at any point you’re in over your skill level or weather conditions start to change out of your favour, have a backup plan and know when to bail. Paying attention to your surroundings and knowing when to turn back is one of the most essential skills of the outdoors.
Take it Easy and Have Fun
Finally, remember that being outdoors is about having a great time. This year offers a unique experience for New Zealanders – to enjoy the outdoors without the crowds – so take things a little slower, enjoy your surroundings, and don’t stress about fitting it all in. After all, you’re on holiday in your own backyard, so you can come back time and time again.
Find more advice and safety information on our website:
Ashlyn is an American expat living in Christchurch and enjoying being near the ocean and the mountains. She’s a keen tramper who hopes to promote Leave No Trace practices through her outdoor adventures and brings her dog along wherever he’s allowed. Follow her on Instagram to check out her future adventures.