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November 2023 Issue
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Important gear for your next day walk

Even on short walks it pays to be prepared for changes in the weather. Photo: Alicia Carthew

Spur-of-the-moment walks are fun, but what do we need to take for a couple of hours or a short day walk?

We are never far from mountains and the sea here and both elements affect New Zealand’s weather. Many established bush walks are in or near mountains, where the weather can change from warm to cold, blue skies to mist or rain, calm to windy in a very short time and with little warning. It’s why a few simple items thrown in a day pack could be a lifesaver.

Warm clothes

Whatever the season, the immediate weather conditions or the forecast, a waterproof coat and warm clothes are the bare essentials. A woollen hat and gloves can make a huge difference, too. I have experienced a sudden unforecast hailstorm an hour from the carpark. Even with a fleece jacket, coat, hat and gloves, I was cold by the time I got back to the car.

Food and drink

Take some snacks, even if the intention is to walk for just a couple of hours. Food provides energy and comfort. When you’re cold, energy is used to get warm, and as you get hungry, there is less energy, you travel slower and get colder. Water is also important and is quickly lost when you are hot and sweating. Before starting, consider whether you will have enough water for the conditions and whether water is available along the way. A stream shown on a map, doesn’t mean there will be water in that stream, or that it will be accessible.


I recommend taking a map and compass, even on short trips. At the very least, have a look at a map online or in hard copy. Many tracks have maps at the start. These are often limited, but they will provide a mental picture of what to expect. Take a photo of this if you don’t have a proper map. Also, read any descriptions and, of course, any warnings.

Other items

Many people have found themselves unexpectedly walking in the dark. There can be many reasons why, but a torch can make all the difference to walking safely, or if you need to spend an unexpected night out. All it takes is a rolled ankle or a rising side creek to turn a short walk into a night out. If this occurs, a simple piece of plastic, or a small tarp can provide an emergency shelter.

If you have a Personal Locator Beacon (PLB), inReach, Spot or similar, take it on your short walk. You never know when you might need it. While a cellphone can’t be relied upon, it may just work when you need it. In an emergency, turn it on even if reception is poor or non-existent. Search and Rescue have been able to triangulate a person’s location through the activity of their phone attempting to ‘ping’ cell phone towers.

Heather Grady is an instructor with Outdoor Training New Zealand