Campfire Questions with MSC + Torpedo7: Part 1

5th May 2021|3 min

Want those burning questions answered? One of our outdoor pros, Bevan Smith, collaborated with Torpedo7 recently to help answer your Safety and Survival questions about everything from emergency shelters and fire startingto communications devices and survival kits, plus general tips and tricks to help you have the best outdoor experience.  

Q1: What do you recommend taking for an emergency shelter? Are those silver bags really effective?  

Those silver bags (a.k.a. survival bags) are great in a pinch, and also really useful for warming up a hypothermic patient, but they’re not so useful if you want to spend all night sleeping in one or if you want shelter from wind and rain. 

I pretty much always take a lightweight tent. If I know the weather isn't going to be perfect, then I'll carry the fly separately and towards the top of my pack, so I can pull it out as a temporary shelter to use during the day. Bothy bags are awesome, as they're lighter and smaller than a tent fly, and a really good option if you don't want to carry a full tent. 

Q2: What is your go to website for weather? And when should you cancel a hike in regards to the weather? 

 MetService forecasts all the national parks in NZ (plus a couple of forest parks), and NIWA also now does a mountain weather forecast for selected huts and tracks in NZ. 
Don’t go if there’s any alerts and warnings, unless you are absolutely sure that you won’t be significantly affected. It’s a good idea to understand the weather and how to observe it before leaving home. 

Q3: Is there a recommended ratio of extra food to take in relation to the original number of days planned for the tramp? How much extra food is reasonable to take? Always hard to balance too much, especially considering weight versus being safe if something goes wrong? 

 It can be complicated to estimate: but here’s a few rules of thumb: 

  • if you’re doing an overnight tramp: take at least one extra meal 
  • if there’s a river crossing: take an extra day's food (in case you can’t cross and need to wait for the river to drop) 
  • on a multi-day trip: take an extra days food
  • on a long day walk: be prepared to spend a night out
  • on a short day walktake some dinner just in case. 

Q4: What would be the best item that you guys think is a must take... besides food, clothes and your normal gear?

Bevan: It's a tough one, as it depends on what you mean by "your normal gear". For many people, they neglect to take an emergency shelter. In my opinion, this is an essential. If you’re not sure what the essentials are click here to find out. 

Or, you can find this for your intended walk at 

Q5: What are the best guidelines for crossing rivers in the back country. Should your pack be undone or clipped up? 

 Keep your waist belt done up but unclip your sternum strap. Check out our video and how-to guide on crossing rivers here 

Q6: Are there any tips for a scenario when someone has to leave someone (e.g. a person injured) to go seek help?  

Bevan: If possible, do not leave the most vulnerable person in your group on their own. Obviously if there are only two of you and you have no way of calling for help, you need to find a way to get help, so leaving them as comfortable and warm as possible is essential. Also, make sure that they know where you are planning to go to find help so that if someone else comes along (or you get lost on the way - this has happened before!) SAR will have a starting point for where to find you. 

Q7: Is there a way you can tell if river or stream water is safe to drink?  

 Not easily or quickly. However, if it's discoloured (muddy or silty) this will affect the taste. Also, if there's any livestock, roads or buildings upstream, I would definitely treat it! 

Q8: What do you think about people drying their boots in the microwave?   

 Not a great idea! Boots generally have metal eyelets, so would spark inside a microwave. Instead, stuff them with newspaper, put them near a dehumidifier until dry, then clean them with a stiff brush and reapply leather polish (or waterproof spray for non-leather boots) to look after them. This will also help to keep the waterproof qualities at their most effective. 

Q9: Any strapping tape recommendations for hot spots?  

 Strapping tape is good but your skin needs to dry out thoroughly beforehand so it'll stick well. Second skin and similar products are also very effective. 

Q10: Do you recommend carrying fire starting items as part of your survival kit even if you never use a fire?  

 I do. When staying in huts, this is also helpful as there isn't always an abundance of kindling provided by the previous occupants! 

Watch the full Safety and Survival Tips and Tricks video with MSC and Torpedo7 on Facebook or watch the edited version on Youtube.

Keep an eye out for Part 2 later this month.

If you have questions you would like answered by the Mountain Safety Council team, send an email to for it to feature in the next story.  

Before any outdoor adventure, read about the skills they will help you have a memorable trip.