Keeping smart and safe; your must-have resources for exploring the New Zealand backcountry

The thing that makes the West Coast of the South Island such a spectacular place to visit is its raw, rugged landscape.  That, and the fact that there’s hardly anybody here!!

It might sound like a challenging place to live, but like anything that’s a challenge, it’s well and truly worth the effort.

If there’s one thing about a challenging (and spectacular) place, it’s to always treat it with a healthy dose of respect.  This is something we keep in mind every time we head up onto the glacier.

If you’re planning on getting outdoors when you visit the South Island, then the Department of Conservation (DOC) is your best resource for everything you need to know.  Whether it’s trekking, glacier-hiking, hunting, camping, boating, climbing, flying (or whatever other incredible adventure there is to be had), make sure you’re well informed before you head out.  The DOC website has a load of helpful information, as well as an excellent list of things to ‘know before you go’.

Here, we share a few vital things you’ll need to know if you’re heading into the New Zealand outdoors.


The source of all info – the DOC office



The local Department of Conservation (DOC) Info office should be the first place to visit on any adventure you’re undertaking.  As soon as you arrive in a new town, pop in and say hi and get maps, advice and a list of ‘must-sees’. Often the DOC office will have displays that are specific to the local area like local history, flora and fauna.

The DOC office is also the place to purchase tickets for Great Walks and book DOC campsites, huts or lodges.

To find out the nearest DOC office for your next adventure, have a look here.


Check the weather with MetService

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The MetService website is New Zealand’s most comprehensive online weather service.  The site provides excellent forecast charts, daily temperature info as well as warnings and alerts for any bad weather that might be on the way.  Weather in New Zealand can change rapidly and if you’re heading to high altitude or areas prone to snow, you’ll need to know what you’re in for before you head off.  It could cost you your life.


Know the Outdoor Code

The New Zealand Mountain Safety Council recommends anyone who is heading outdoors should know the Outdoor Code.  These five simple steps will keep you safe and could mean you get home safely if anything goes wrong or conditions change.


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Be fire-wise


Like most places, summer time in New Zealand means an increased risk of fire.  With such large expanses of native bush around Westland, no one wants to see a small campfire get out of control.  Anyone found responsible for a bushfire may be liable for costs.  But there is no price for native bush or native animals that are killed by fire, smoke or loss of habitat.  Make sure you check if it’s safe to light a campfire, a cooking fire or burn rubbish by contacting DOC.  If you do see a wildfire, you should call Emergency Services on 111 immediately.


Keep these great tips in mind if you’re heading out exploring around Franz Josef Glacier or the greater Westland area. In a rugged area like this if you get stuck or get into trouble, help could be a long way away.