Help yourself find your way around the outdoors. Planning your route on a map is one thing, but knowing where to go when you’re out there is a whole other matter. It is essential that you know how to find your way to your destination, and even more important to know how to make it home.

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How do people get lost?

New Zealand may not look big on the map, but people often underestimate the thick bush, changing terrain and can become disorientated on even short walks. Common occurrences are:

  • Losing concentration of where they are going
  • Not choosing a suitable route in their skill set
  • Following incorrect track/ track markers
  • Avoiding obstacles
  • Getting water
  • Taking a shortcut
  • Splitting from a group
  • Following a desired sight or animal 

Watch as we experimented how easy it is to get lost

Watch here 

Did you know?

72% of search and rescues are to recover a single person or someone who has been separated from a multi-person group.
– There and Back, 2016 
Explore the proportion of rescued people for different activities below by clicking on the grey tabs:


What you need to know

How to effectively plan a route

Talk to your group members, locals, experts and carefully gauge a route that suits your skills. See the Plan Your Trip section to help you understand everything you need to consider while planning a route.

How to reduce the chance of getting lost

This might be frequently changing weather, new terrain to navigate, unfamiliar tracks and fatigue from enduring physical activity. Looking after yourself isn’t always about managing the big hazards, sometimes it’s the less obvious details that can lead to unintended consequences. Here’s some tips and tricks worth considering.

      • Stick together – This way you’re able to support each other if decisions need to be made, or if the situation changes. Never leave slower or tired group members behind, stick with them and make it there together. Watch How to Travel as Group
      • Follow the correct track markers – orange triangles represent the marked track. Pink, yellow or blue tape or a differently coloured triangle marker and they typically are for pest control and lead you off track.
      • Think before you turn – track junctions are key decision-making points. Use them as an opportunity to stop, regroup and have a rest before carrying on.

Helpful hint

Have a group management plan to make sure everyone sticks together along the way.

What essential supplies you need to take

Always take enough supplies for an unexpected night out. See the Take Sufficient Supplies section of the Outdoor Safety Code. You can also find packing lists for your desired activity in our resources. 

How to navigate with a map or GPS 

The skills of navigation involve knowing where you are, where you want to go, and how to get there. Various tools help this process. A map, compass, and watch are basic; an altimeter and a Global Positioning System (GPS) receiver are useful extras. However, no tool substitutes for map-reading skills.


 Helpful hint

Take spare batteries for your GPS as well as a map and compass for backup.


Laminate your map / keep it dry in a clear plastic bag. Keep your map handy so you can refer to it frequently, particularly when moving through unfamiliar or untracked areas. 

  • Maps are used for many different purposes so they differ in size, scale, and the type of information shown. Some show only specific features such as roads and towns; others such as topographical maps provide more detailed information. 
  • Use a pencil to write on a map or plot a bearing on it. On laminated maps, you need a pen that will write on the lamination.
  • Free online topographical maps that are able to be saved and printed can be found at 


Helpful Hint

Print multiple versions of your planned route for your entire group. 

Getting lost is always a potential risk in the outdoors, and you might need to get help. In this case, it needs to be an emergency situation, but always consider how you might get help if you need it.

How we can help 

Learn from our resources


Outdoor Safety Code

The first thing to remember is that every trip needs a plan. A few simples steps to take before you head out can make all the difference if something goes wrong.


Helpful Links

Land Information NZ - Learn about and access NZ Topo50 Maps

Find out more

Department of Conservation - Discover places to explore in NZ

Find out more 

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