Police are urging people to ensure they are well prepared for outdoor activities after a full scale search and rescue operation was launched to find two ill-prepared trampers who spent the night hunkered down in a Northland forest.

Senior Sergeant Cliff Metcalfe said the alarm was raised yesterday morning after an Auckland couple, in their early 40s, had not returned to their base in Waiare Rd from a day hike in Puketi Forest, 14km north of Okaihau, on Saturday.

While 10 volunteers from land search and rescue and five from police search and rescue were deployed at 7am yesterday to look for two people. However their search lead to the discovery of four trampers who were found about 12pm.

"They met up with a couple of German tourists who gave them misleading information about the walk. They couldn't get back before dark so they all ended up staying out in the bush," Mr Metcalfe said.


Constable Jim Adamson, who was the incident control officer for yesterday's rescue, said the Auckland couple were told by the German tourists they were more than halfway along the track, but they were not.

He said the couple were only prepared for a day hike and urged people who were intending to hike over summer to ensure they are were well-prepared, which included researching walking tracks before heading out.

"They were not prepared at all for any overnight tramping. [People should] prepare for the worst. Take extra clothing, let people know of your intentions, for more serious trampers get a locator beacon," Mr Adamson said.

Police search and rescue member, Constable Marco Van Den Broek, said the group of four had set up shelter in the forest. He said some night hikers who came across the group had given them some "comfort gear", it was not clear what that gear was.

Mr Adamson said the Auckland woman was dehydrated but otherwise okay.

"The conditions last night were quite pleasant, it could have been worse...Know where you are going and seek advice," he said.

Statistics from New Zealand Search and Rescue for the Northland police district showed trampers and walkers account for 37 per cent of land incidents.