Investing in a winter adventure

4th August 2021|3min

Many explorers this winter will be travelling around the country to get the best experience possible. Some might be trying new places to hit the slopes, or tramping to a new winter hut to stay.

Winter conditions require a bit more investment. Not only in the time to research the right trip for the conditions and your abilities, but also investing in the right gear to keep you safe.

Choose the right trip for you and the conditions

Whether you are tramping, camping or on a backcountry skiing adventure, it pays to take the time to research where you are going, and IF you should be going.

For those going on track

  • Plan My Walk appwe don’t mean to boast, but we have worked hard to pull together the right info for you to understand what to expect for a chosen track. Search tracks by trip length, track levels and then assess if there are any weather warnings for your planned trip dates.

TIP: The app now provides MetService Mountain Hazard warnings for National Parks and Road Snowfall warnings in the app – a super handy feature for winter travel! You can also read track reviews from other users on the app.

  • Get the right local knowledge by talking to people who have been there before or a local DOC Visitor Centre for the best track options in winter conditions. There are sometimes limited resources available during winter months.

TIP: Remember there are less daylight hours in winter, so consider this when planning your walking times, and always have a Plan B and/or turnaround point in your plan.

For example, popular day walks such as the Ben Lomond Track in Queenstown can be extremely different in winter conditions. So get the latest local info before you go.

For backcountry explorers

First of all, you need the to have the skills to ensure you are safe in backcountry terrain. The current weather forecast and backcountry avalanche advisory are also essential to decide whether to go or not, and for establishing what to look out for in the field.

Learn about how to be safe in avalanche terrain here.

  • It is common for ski-tourers and split-boarders to access the backcountry via ski areas. These ski areas will have policies for using the ski area in this fashion, and it is important to follow these for everyone's safety. If you're planning on accessing the backcountry in this way, check out the Backcountry Access Policies for ski areas across New Zealand.
  • The Walking Access Mapping System has all the information you need to find publicly accessible land. Use different layers to display roads, marginal strips, reserves, territorial boundaries and conservation land.
  • If you are ever short of ideas or places to go and ski, the Ski Touring NZ website is a great site where people can enter trips they have done, complete with maps of where they went and photos of the terrain.
  • The Backcountry Ski-touring book is a worthy investment to see the best backcountry touring and ski mountaineering in New Zealand.

If you wish to start further planning for a trip into the backcountry, it pays to visit our website to cover map options and check the avalanche advisory for your trip.

Get the appropriate equipment for your trip

Depending on your trip, you will need to get special equipment for alpine or avalanche terrain. It is essential to learn about these items before you go.

Basic Outdoor Equipment

The things you take with you will make all the difference in the outdoors. It pays to do research, talk to those experienced in the outdoors, guides, professionals or trusted retailers, and invest in the right items for your comfort and safety. Winter gear might require a bit of investment to keep you warm and dry, but it will be worth it.

  • Layer your clothing, but don’t wear cotton– thermals/fleece are a great idea because they stay warm when wet. Watch our video on how to do this.
  • A good headlamp and spare batteries – cold temperatures can wear down battery power faster and the short winter days mean this is an essential item.
  • Take an emergency shelter and additional food always prepare for the worst and keep your body energised in the cooler environment or if you have an unexpected night out.

If you haven’t got one, it might be time to invest in a Distress Beacon – watch and learn about options available.

  • Solid boots and thick socks even on a short trip, slippery surfaces or difficult terrain can be made easier with these. Gaiters are another handy addition to keep your feet dry and warm in wet scrub, snow and rivers. A stiff soled boot is also essential if you are doing anything with crampons – see below.

TIP: You can find basic gear information for New Zealand's outdoors on our supplies section to get you started. Or you can use the gear list feature in the Plan My Walk App – here you get a basic recommended list from us, as well as ability to add items you want to pack. There is also a document upload section if you want to get more comprehensive with the details of your trip such as a meal plan.

Snow Travel Equipment

In some cases, to safely traverse areas of snow you will need a helmet, crampons, and ice-axe. You can watch and learn about some of these items in our 5-part Snow Skills Series. Start with walking with an ice-axe below:

Avalanche Rescue Equipment

Carrying avalanche rescue equipment is just as important as wearing a seat belt in a car, it's the basic stuff that everyone needs. transceiver, shovel, and probe should be viewed as one piece of rescue gear; you need to have all three pieces, not just one or two. Each person in your group must be carrying this gear so that everyone is capable of rescuing others and being rescued themselves. The most important thing is to know how to use it.

You can learn about these items here.

So you’ve got the leave, the hut booked and the gear?

Well, it pays to always book with a 'Plan B' in mind. Winter conditions are harsh and changeable in New Zealand, so every plan needs to be flexible.

Make sure you check the forecast regularly for several days leading up to the day you leave. A 'good week of weather' can still have sleet, rain or freezing temperatures.

So, if conditions don’t suit, don’t worry, go again another time! Discuss with your group and analyse the best approach.

TIP: Make sure to keep an eye out for weather warning notifications and track alerts in your inbox if you have used the Plan My Walk app for your trip - these can help you assess what to expect such as river crossings or other slips.

Not confident going out in winter? We're glad to hear you know your limits. You can start learning some skills:

Header photo: Caleb Smith - Southern Crossing, Tararua Ranges