Trip Planning can never really predict how the hike will actually go, but it does help you to prepare and adapt quickly to the unexpected circumstances.
The more experienced you become in the outdoors, the easier and faster this process will become, but for the purpose of this post I will go in to greater deal then I would normally plan my self. (*1)
Learn how to “read” a Topographical map, and examine the tracks you intend to take on the map;
- Measure the length of your intended route,(*2) and a 2.5-3 km’s allowance to this estimate to allow for contours. This estimate then allows you to ensure the planned trip is inside is a comfortable distance for you.(*3) Avoid pushing past this distance all at once – gradually increase it.
- Examine the contours(hills and flats) on the map around the track and build up a picture of the dominate terrain and other features you will be crossing.
- Estimate how long the track should take you using the distance and the amount of contours with the rule: 2.5km/hr over hilly terrain and 5km/hr over flat ground.
- Read track Information and any area warnings for the track you intend on the land manager website.(i.e.:Department of Conservation / Regional councils)
- Download track specific brochures from the land managers website, and either store on a smart device or print out the relevant parts.
Your Hiking Gear
The success of your hike depends on having the right hiking gear for the trip length, Terrain, Environment and Emergency.
- Assemble your Hiking Gear and ensure every thing is present, working correctly, and you have any spare items like batteries.
- Do you need extra gear or clothing above normal for this track?(i.e: Tracks that follow ridges can cold and exposed, or a water purification method for dry conditions.)
- On longer hikes where back tracking may not be an option once past halve way, consider if you need to add extra food and some emergency shelter and methods for signalling.
- Use the Weather Resources available online, before you head out to help build a picture of the expected weather.(*4)
- Continue to monitor the weather through out your entire hike for a weather change that will adversely affect your route, and your drive in/ out of the forest area.(ie: Flood river crossings or vehicle fords)
- Ensure you know the capacity of the others you are hiking with and be familiar any special requirements. (like required medications)
- Allow extra time depending on the experience levels and fitness of others people attending.
Driving to the Start / after the Hike
- Check out the entrance road to the track start, (many are narrow, gravel rural roads) using tools like Google maps and satellite and make sure you allow extra time for road types you are not used to.
- Pack spare dry clothes, a towel, blanket and extra food and water in the car for your return.
- Many rural roads have paved river Ford’s instead of bridges.(*5) Heavy rain in the area’s the river catchments can cause the rivers to rise rapidly and cut you off.(never drive through dirty water on a ford.)
- Beware that poor mobile phone coverage is common in Rural New Zealand, particularly close to larger hills. Add extra time to your intentions end time, to ensure you can exit he hike and drive to a better signal area if required.
- Write an Intentions plan, and ensure you stick to the route you have documented. If there are variations you think you will make to this main route, make sure they are included no matter how short.
- Discuss how you will deal with injury or medical emergency on the track, such as taking other tracks back to a road or another car park and when and how to activate a PLB if you are carrying one.
- New Zealand Mountain Safety E learning tools
- New Zealand Meteorological Service
- Department of Conservation track information
(*1) With experience this process for me is simply Gear, Weather, Intentions on the track. But take your time to get used to the process while you gain experience.
(*2 ) On a paper NZ Topo50 map, measure the route manually against the scale or alternatively if you have mapping software on your PC or Smart device you can use the measure tool. (the jury is still out as to whether the digital maps measure the vertical distance in the contours or not?)
(*3) Everybody is capable of walking significantly more total distance they would believe, typically we find out when things don’t go to plan exactly how far that is! (often as much as halve or the full distance again! – hopefully you wont have need to find out your distance;-)
(*4) Don’t rely on the forecasts presented on the TV or Radio news, as this is only a small “summary” of the overall data and rarely accurate to the outdoors
(*5) Never cross a river ford in a road when driving a normal car if the water is discoloured by flooding (brown) or over your ankles. Instead wait for it to go down – Rivers tend to come up fast and go down just as fast.