West Coast Wonders: Planning Your Trip and Staying Safe
The West Coast area of New Zealand is one of the most remote and sparsely populated areas of the country – the stunning scenery and challenging terrain are a draw for many outdoor enthusiasts. But it also experiences some of New Zealand's most extreme weather, and the isolated nature of the region means you need to be prepared if you're venturing out of the car. Go armed with some basic survival skills, and thoroughly prepare your route and supplies beforehand to ensure a safe and enjoyable trip.
Know Before You Go
The West Coast bears the brunt of the changeable and harsh weather coming in off the Tasman Sea. 'Four seasons in a day' really is true here – no matter the time of year, always take waterproofs and an extra thermal layer, as well as sunblock.
The Department of Conservation website has a wealth of information on hiking routes and their length, terrain and suitability, as well as alerts of severe weather or natural disasters. Plan your route carefully, making sure you have the option of an alternative route to get back safely and quickly if an emergency strikes.
While New Zealand might not be home to any dangerous predators, there's still plenty of things to catch you unawares. The West Coast experiences the highest rainfall in New Zealand, so rivers are prone to flash flooding and slips. Remember to make use of the outdoors intentions process to leave details of your expected route and time of return.
Coping in a Survival Situation
If you find yourself in an emergency situation, stop and take a deep breath before calmly analysing the situation. Save your energy, think about any current or possible dangers, and formulate a plan to get yourself out of harm's way. Use the rule of threes to get your priorities straight – first shelter, then water, then food. Make use of the environment around you and seek shelter from the elements; if a storm has blown in, it's better to find shelter and stay out a little longer than expected rather than trying to carry on through it and putting yourself at risk of exposure or hypothermia.
What looks easy on a map or like a good day on the weather forecast might actually be difficult or turn nasty later, so get in touch with i-SITEs and Department of Conservation visitor centres to get more information about weather, tramping routes, and outdoor activities.