In 1991, Andrew Mitchell was working for what was then David Hall Publishing as the editor of New Zealand Windsurfing. That magazine was only published for part of the year, so during the downtime, Mitchell was tasked with finding a gap in the newsstands for a new title – what was missing amongst the myriad mastheads?
Mitchell’s research revealed there was little, indeed nothing, in the way of magazines for trampers. The niche was found and soon after, in October, Wilderness was launched as a bi-monthly magazine. It was printed on newspaper stock, mostly in black and white.
Within two issues, it was clear Wilderness was going to be a winner. Letters poured in, advertisers flocked to the title. Demand was such that the December/January issue was the last in the bi-monthly format. From February 1992, it became the monthly title you are holding in your hands.
Of course, there have been many changes over the years: the magazine’s design, size, masthead, and even the mediums on which it is presented have undergone changes. Editors have come and gone. But the guts of what Wilderness is, a magazine for trampers, has never wavered. For 25 years, Wilderness has brought the outdoors into living rooms around the country. It has helped inspire countless trips, showcased the essential gear to help get people out there and been a window onto the world of tramping – that peculiarly Kiwi pastime undertaken by hundreds of thousands of people each year.
This issue we look back over the last 25 years to see how the outdoors and the way we enjoy it has changed. Mostly, there have been some great leaps forward; the hut network is in as good a shape as it has ever been. Many tracks are bursting at the seams, used by more people – from here and abroad – than ever before. Our birdlife – and for me, beyond the high point views of landscapes of unimaginable beauty and the wonderful feeling of being alive that spending time in nature provides, it is encounters with birds that I cherish most – is for once facing a future where decline in numbers can be reversed. Explorers are still out there: climbing, tramping, caving. There are many more milestones to share and the future of outdoor recreation in New Zealand looks positive, though scarily different to what we have become accustomed to.
Whatever the next 25 years brings, Wilderness will be here to chronicle it, explain it and share it.