Temperatures are warming, gear is being dusted off, and plans are being crafted for adventures deep into the wilderness of New Zealand in spring.
"And why not, we've got an incredible country that deserves to be explored," says Mike Daisley, CEO of the Mountain Safety Council (MSC).
His views on exploring New Zealand match the 1.14 Million people - domestic and international - who venture regularly into the 'outdoors' of New Zealand every year.
MSC's research into incidents in the outdoors - There and Back, 2016 - uncovered a number of insights that are important to keep in mind.
"It's perhaps not surprising that Labour Weekend has, on average, over thirty injuries and three people involved in a search and rescue as participation does climb over the holiday period."
"However, that shouldn't remove the seriousness of these largely preventable events. In particular, we'd like to see the search number at zero. Accidents aside, dropping this to zero is possible if people prepare well and make good decisions," said Daisley.
Of the 1.14M participants in land-based outdoor recreation, 769,000 went 'Tramping,' in one form or another. Tramping (hiking) represents 63% of all search and rescues between July 2010 and June 2015 and contributes an average of 338 people per annum.
Early next year MSC is due to release their next insights publication focused on Tramping, which like A Hunter's Tale, 2017, will explore one of the five activities MSC focuses on in greater detail. This detailed evidence base is critical to establish the most targeted and accurate initiatives said, Daisley.
"With a broad range of people who recreate in the outdoors of New Zealand, we need to be smart about how we create initiatives that positively intervene and help people 'Make It Home' as we say."
"One of the primary concerns we have been tracking is the 'unexpected night out' which typically arises from a day walk or day hunt that goes wrong. In the last years, we've had a series of near misses that could well have had a tragic outcome. In a few of cases, there were small children involved in winter conditions.
Thankfully search and rescue teams along with local Police were able to find the lost parties and a debt of gratitude are owed to the service of these incredible people. The question we ask is how do we prevent this from happening again?"
"It doesn't take a lot - a small injury, a wrong turn, weather change - for the light to fade and a simple day-walk becomes an 'unexpected night out.' We urge everyone to plan for New Zealand's incredibly changeable conditions. Always tell someone your plans, and take a jacket and headtorch. Follow the outdoor safety code so you'll make it home."
"New Zealand's Outdoor Safety Code encourages people to 'tell someone your plans' along with four other simple things to help you make it home safely.
We'd encourage folks to tell someone your plans for every trip in the outdoors. 'Telling someone your plans' alone may not have helped prevent the recent near misses, but it would have gone a long way to reducing the time it took to find them.
"Regarding Personal Locator Beacons (PLB's) - they're a great investment in your personal safety, and we encourage you to get one if you can afford it, especially if you're walking or hunting in remote terrain. However, there are a number of free and simple techniques you can do for a shorter day-walk that will increase both your enjoyment and safety. Again, safety is the outcome of good planning and good decision making. A PLB makes you a whole lot easier to find, but you may not have needed to be in that situation in the first place."
769,363 trampers (321,997 NZ, 447,366) on average go tramping every year.
- On average tramping has 3146 injuries, 338 people involved in SAR and 6 fatalities.
- We estimate that New Zealanders tend to go tramping around six times on average per year.
- Trampers make up 53% of all injuries, 63% of people involved in SAR, and 45% of fatalities.
- Ethnicity of trampers involved in SAR = 78% European
- 80% of tramping fatalities occurred in the south island
- 16-24 year old trampers are the most likely age to be searched for.
- For every 1 tramping fatality, 57 trampers were involved in SAR, and 531 are injured.
- Source: There and Back, 2016