Tuesday, 19 May 2020

DOC Intentions Books: What they are and why you should fill them out...

A source of information for the tramper, SAR and DOC


One thing you will find in every back country hut in New Zealand is the ubiquitous green and gold intentions book. They are supplied by the Department of Conservation and are there to impart useful information to trampers and to record the passage of anyone who has stayed at or visited that hut. 


Cover of the ubiquitous back-country hut intentions book

The front of the book has pages of excellent general tramping information covering a broad range of topics This is followed by a number of pre-formatted pages where you can add you name, date of arrival, hut payment method, home location and intended movements once you leave the hut.

Every solo tramper or a designated member of any group should be filling in these details at each and every back country hut they are visiting. 

Typical entries in a DOC Intentions Book, Kahikatea Shelter, Pelorous Bridge

You will often find the intentions book sitting on the dining table in the hut but they can also be found in specially built book holders on a convenient wall, bunk or flat surface. They usually have a pen attached or close to the book but you should always carry your own pen for writing messages in an emergency. 


In Lakehead hut, Nelson Lakes National Park...note hut book holder...
..a more elaborate intentions book holder in Bark Bay Hut, Abel Tasman NP...

Reading the entries in the intentions book is one of the stand out pleasures I get when staying in a hut...you will read stories of raging rivers crossed, mountain peaks conquered, bush bashed, new routes discovered, epic meals consumed, adventures long dreamed of finally completed. 

If you are a keen tramper like me you will get to recognize some of the names...legendary names like Spearpoint, Barnett, Potton, Ledbrook and Salisbury but also others less well known. You will also see tramping clubs, walking clubs, people you work with or might have once met in some tramping hut. 

There is almost always something interesting and or relevant to be gleamed from the pages. 


Hut book open in John Tait Hut ready for Jon to complete...

Lets have a look at this icon of the back country hut and see what information it can impart to us. 


What information will I find in an intentions book

The DOC intentions book is jammed full of valuable information for the novice and experienced tramper alike and it is well worth taking time to read the first ten pages of the book the next time you are at a hut.

The hut intentions book on a table in Rod Donald Hut, Banks Peninsula

I thought it might be useful to break the information down and look at the contents in the front of the book on a page by page basis. Let us take a typical hut intentions book say from Mangetepopo Hut in Tongariro National Park and look at that information....


Hut intentions book: front page and hut details...Mangatepopo Hut

Headings covered in the front of a DOC intentions book

Each of the pages has a different heading, the first heading is.....


Hut Users Guide

These are general recommendations on proper behavior and good etiquette in and around back country huts. This includes making space for newcomers, not taking more space than required, not moving another trampers gear, conserving firewood, cleaning huts before you go etc. etc.

Huts are a communal space & tramping is a communal activity but modern society is anything but communal. The modern world is programmed for self gratification so people can often be selfish and have little thought or sympathy for those around them.

Tramping involves an awful lot of communal living....

Most of this should not need explanation to any tramper but as I have seen recently people need to be educated. This stuff is second nature to people who have spent time in the military or emergency services if they come from a big family or have attended a boarding school or halls of residence.

I personally feel the old trampers ethos of mutually supportive self sufficiency is eroding....trampers, hunters and climbers used to get along well in the confines of a hut. I see increasing tension and more selfish behavior... I think it is directly related to the growing numbers using the back-country hut system.

More crowded conditions = more aggro = less enjoyable tramping!


Hut intentions book: the hut users code....


The basic tenet for happy hut life should always be...show kindness and consideration to those around you...



What to do in an emergency:

This page contains some basic information about immediate actions you should consider in the event of an emergency. There is a list of emergency service phone numbers, advice on activating a PLB and the information you need to provide to SAR/DOC/Police if you manage to contact them and can pas this information on.



Hut intentions book: Emergency information
This stuff is vital and is probably some of the most important information provided in the intentions book...


Don't get sick/Look after the environment(Leave no trace):

This is general health and hygiene information for outdoor enthusiasts...not everyone knows how to keep themselves healthy in a communal outdoor situation. We are having increasing problems with gastrointestinal viruses at huts...Norovirus and Salmonella are two of the worst. A few key points;

  • wash your hands regularly and thoroughly
  • keep human waste out of the water table
  • use outside sinks for washing/cleaning your teeth. 
  • Indoor sinks for food preparation, dish washing only
  • treat drinking water if recommended or required
  • if you get sick take steps to minimise the spread of germs
  • inform the authorities if there is a widespread outbreak of sickness

Hut intentions book: LNT Leave No Trace information

When they talk about looking after the environment they are talking about Leave No Trace (LNT) principles. The seven LNT principles are intended to minimise your impact on the outdoor environment...they are;

  • Plan ahead and prepare
  • Travel and camp on durable surfaces
  • Dispose of waste properly
  • Leave what you find
  • Minimise the effects of fire
  • Respect wildlife and farm animals
  • Be considerate of others

You should always try to minimise your environmental impact...remember....take only photos, leave only footprints!





General Survival Information

There are a couple of pages of general survival information that can help to keep you safe when you are out exploring the outdoors. The first two are about hypothermia and navigation. 

Hypothermia is one of the most dangerous health concerns when tramping...it is an over cooling of the body's core temperature which can lead to lethargy, irrational thought patterns, physical collapse and ultimately death. It is not as prevalent as it used to be due to advances in tramping clothing BUT there are still several deaths a year from hypothermia.


Hypothermia is a silent killer here in New Zealand...

It can happen to anyone..I have personally had very mild hypothermia a couple of times over the years...you often don't realise you have hypothermia when it is happening to you. This is because one of the symptoms is dis-associative behavior i.e. you are acting out of character but do not realise you are.


Cold, wet and windy conditions contribute to hypothermia...
On my recent tramp on the Routeburn track last December we had several people in the mid stages of hypothermia at Howdon Hut. It was perfect weather for it...cold, windy, heavy rain and people woefully ill prepared to be out in those conditions. Luckily some of us old timer trampers recognised the symptoms and took action to assist the people affected. I actually had my PLB out at one stage as one woman was looking really unwell but she recovered with warm clothes, some food and a couple of hours of rest.

Awful weather on the Routeburn Track in December 2019...

You need to know the signs of hypothermia and how to deal with it effectively both for your sake and for those around you.  The hut book is a good start but read some general tramping manuals, books on outdoor medicine, look for authoritative online information and keep yourself and your tramping buddies safe.  



Hut intentions book: survival information

The information about navigation is not so much how to as how to avoid making navigation errors. Basically it is important to always be in the here and now i.e keep your mind on the task at hand...stay together if in a group, regroup on a regular basis, think before you act, consider the results of your actions and do not let outside distractions lead you from the righteous path...hallelujah brothers and sisters!

Stay together when tramping in a group......

The second two topics are about weather and river crossings....if you are new to this country be aware that we can have warm sunny conditions in the morning and be in the middle of a raging beast of a storm by 12 noon! We have a oceanic environment so our weather is unpredictable, fickle and changes in a heartbeat. Keep up to date with weather forecasts, know how to identify different weather conditions and be prepared for all eventualities with good clothing and appropriate outdoor skills.


Hut intentions book: outdoor safety information
River crossing is a vital skill in New Zealand as we are surrounded by potentially dangerous lakes, rivers and the oceans. So many people drowned in colonial times that it was known as the "New Zealand Death" !!! Even now with our modern gear and vastly better water skills people are  constantly dying crossing waterways...point of illustration...six people have already drowned in tramping accidents since January 2020.

Stop, look, think...is this river safe to cross!!!!

The information in the intentions book is a very condensed version...the best thing you can do is to take an approved river crossing course with experienced instructors. You also gain experience as you tramp...I have been tramping for more than 20 years and I am still learning new river crossing skills all the time.
Key points here are:


  • Always scout possible river crossing points before entering the water
  • Ensure that your exit from the opposite side of the river will be smooth and safe
  • Never cross a river solo if you can cross as part of a group.
  • If you must cross solo use a stout branch as a crossing aid
  • Do not cross a river if it is flowing faster than walking pace, is discolored or you can hear debris rolling along the bottom 
  • Do not cross a flooded river.


Never cross a fast flowing, discolored and swollen river...

If there is any doubt around crossing a river DONT...find a better crossing place or wait for better conditions.

Always ask...do I need to cross that river???


What goes wrong/Prevent accidents occurring

A good way to enhance your safety outdoors is to cultivate an interest in the stories of those who have come to grief. You often find that outdoor accidents are repetitive...they happen in the same location or the injury has happened to many different people. If you learn about the way other trampers have injured themselves you can adjust your own behaviour to avoid the same result.


Hut intentions book: consider outdoor accident information
Good sources of information about outdoor accidents abound...the Mountain Safety Council or  MSC publish regular reports on the accidents that occur in the New Zealand outdoors. You can also find discussions about outdoor accidents in the FMC journal Backcountry as they have a regular column on this topic called Backcountry Accidents.

An excellent book about this subject is High Misadventures: New Zealand mountaineering tragedies and survival stories by Paul Hersey.


Backcountry has a regular column about outdoor accidents...

I just did a quick search of our library catalogue and we have over 20 books on the subject...other libraries will have similar numbers. 


The outdoor safety code

The outdoor safety code is a New Zealand specific list of steps you should take before undertaking any trip to the back-country. Following these steps can help to keep you safe, healthy and happy while tramping.

The 5 key points are:

  • Plan your trip
  • Tell someone your plans
  • Be aware of the weather
  • Know your limits
  • Take sufficient supplies

Follow these steps every time you go out tramping to help get you home safe....

Hut intentions book: the outdoor safety code
Hut intentions book: how to make it home.....


Lastly there is a list of important emergency numbers on the inside cover of every hut book...if you have cell reception use these numbers to contact DOC/SAR/Police. 


Hut intentions book: useful phone numbers/email addresses

Note: If you arrive at a hut and find the intentions book is full please let the closest DOC office know so they can replace them. I often stop at local DOC offices and ask if they need one taken to a hut on my intended route. They appreciate the help....

Why it is important to fill in your personal details

The actual purpose of the intentions book is as a guide to SAR/DOC if you become lost and to gather generalized information about who is staying in that particular hut. It has never and will never be used to try to track down people who have not paid their hut fees. You have nothing to lose and everything to gain by filling out the intentions book...


Hut intentions book on table in Rod Donald Hut, Banks Peninsula

DOC use the information in the hut book to parcel out funding for such things as track maintenance, hut maintenance and replacement of old facilities. More entries (i.e: more people visiting the hut...) means more dirty lucre for that location. If you do not sign the book DOC (as a government department is apt to do) just assume that nobody is using the hut. 

No usage statistics = no money....it is as simple as that!!!!


Hut intentions book: in depth details of individuals/parties

The other main use for the hut intentions book is as an aid to Search and Rescue operations for lost trampers. If you go missing in the hills or forests the very first place SAR will go to look for information about you is in the intentions books. If they know for instance that you were at Upper Travers Hut one night but did not turn up to West Sabine the next it immediately narrows the radius of any search efforts.


Hut intentions books are the first place DOC/Police/SAR look when you go missing...

You should become religious in filling out the intentions book...after grabbing a bunk and putting on a brew it is the next considered action I take every time I arrive at a hut. Make sure you clearly note your intended route as well as any alternate routes you might be using. Try to encourage other hut users to also fill in their intentions but obviously don't pressure them to do so. 

The hut book as an expression of being...

I have seen a variety of different things in hut books but other than track information the main things you see are art works and non tramping related writing. People often get bored in huts once the meal has been consumed and the card game or book doesn't entice as once it might have.

Resting on my bunk in Magdalen Hut...bit of light reading...brew to hand...nice!!!

Many people have artistic talents and when you are sitting bored in a hut on a zero day it always seems like you are looking for something to do...hey I know lets draw in the hut book. The quality ranges from poor to excellent..the example below is a very nicely drawn picture of a Weta from the hut book in Magdalen Hut. This is typical of the genre...rivers, mountain vistas, flora and fauna are all well represented.

Little stick men with huge appendages and stick women with massive chestal shelves also put in a regular appearance...


Hut intentions book: artwork on the front cover of a book

Closer detail of artwork in a hut intentions book
I have often seen poetry, ditty's, haiku's, philosophical ramblings and deep inner thoughts expressed in intentions books. Usually they are thoughtful and considered but sometimes they can get a bit ribald. So long as you don't go too far.....try to limit the swearing thanks. Don't rant about 1080 either!!!! Remember kids stay in huts and they can read your nasty, smutty comments just as well as an adult...

If you are walking along a section of the Te Araroa Trail you will often see communications between various trekkers telling each other where they intend to go, where to meet up, good or bad track conditions and if they are doing o.k. It makes for some interesting reading....especially the colorful nicknames.


Hut intentions book: an ongoing (slightly sleazy) conversation in a book..

What about Jon...does he add his own personal contribution to hut books?

By gawd yes he says...this is my usual witty entry...

I went to say goodnight to Pwarse the fish, 
I said '...Goodnight Pwarse..."

If you ever see this in a hut book then you know I have visited at some stage.....I cannot claim authorship of this ditty, one of my school mates made it up for our end of year journal back in 1985.....I just like it.

I have also been known to quote from the Anonymous riff on West Coast rain...


Anonymous poem about New Zealand rain...

I look forward to reading your intentions book entries in the future...



Tramping in the rain.....

How to tramp in the wet weather and still have fun...


Despite the current Covid 19 situation we need to start thinking beyond the lock down period and start planning our outdoor adventures for when we are able to tramp once again. This is looking more likely the lower down the Covid levels we move.

Pororari River Track at Punakaiki...possibly my first post lock down tramp!!!

The seasons have continued to roll onward despite our enforced period of isolation....summer has now gone as has most of autumn and we will soon be into winter. With winter comes more wet, cold and stormy conditions.

Heavy rain sets in at Lake Daniell, Lewis Pass Scenic Reserve

With many more of us likely to be out tramping over winter (because we missed the summer season due to Covid 19...) we need to think about how we can tramp in the rain and still enjoy ourselves.


Your attitude to rain counts...

Winter/Spring tramping means getting wet (...and also cold..) so we need to be mentally prepared for the weather we receive. There are many positives to walking in rain...it is cooler than on a hot day, drinking water is easier to find, there are less people/less bugs and I find a forest comes alive during rain in a way it will not when it is dry. Everything is sparkling, clean and fresh after rain.

I really enjoy the look, feel & smell of a wet forest and the squelch of wet ground underfoot. If you have ever tramped in rain you will know what I mean

Wet conditions on the Routeburn Track in December 2019...

There is no getting around the fact that if you are walking in the rain you are going to get wet!! Rain may fall on you from both the sky and from any overhanging trees...if it is raining the track willhave puddles so your feet will also get wet. If you are wearing your wet weather gear perspiration is going to wet you from inside your rain layers.

Wet track conditions on the way to Lake Daniells, Lewis Pass


You have to see the positives in this and maintain a positive attitude to being wet if you want your tramp to be a success. As a person once said "...you can be cold, wet and miserable or you can just be cold and wet..." I would practice being out in the rain by doing some short walks in rain close to home...get to see what it feels like to be out in rain and that it can be a positive experience.

It may be wet but it is also beautiful...

What you have to do is adapt to the wetness and try to minimise its impact on the enjoyment of your tramping trip.

Tramping clothing for wet conditions

Tramping in the rain requires specific clothing....rain layers, gaiters and extra warm clothing...you will need all of these if you want to be comfortable while walking in cold and wet weather.


Walking in the rain on the Lakehead Track, Nelson Lakes NP

There are some things you should never wear in rain...jeans, linen/cotton t-shirts and cotton socks. All of these take a long time to dry and can sap heat from your body as they dry. Wearing wet cotton clothing can potentially cause chaffing, chills, cold strain injuries and possibly hypothermia in extreme cases.

Jeans are not recommended for tramping...
I usually tramp in shorts with knee length gaiters so most of my body is covered...only my knees are exposed. This is a personal preference as I find pants too constricting when I am out in the backcountry. If you must wear pants make sure they are a quick drying, durable synthetic type preferably with zip off legs. These can often be cleaned and dried overnight ready for the next days travel.

...wear shorts or synthetic hiking pants instead!!!

Jon tramps in shorts, a synthetic shirt and long gaiters...

It is essential (especially in wet New Zealand conditions) that you have a sturdy, fit for purpose 2.5-3 layer rain jacket with an adjustable peaked hood and rain proof zips. The large hood is large enough to go over a hat or head covering. Rain proof zips stop water ingress in heavy rain and opening them allows you to regulate your body temperature. Try to find a jacket with a waterproof flap over any zips for added protection.

Stony Creek jacket...waterproof zip and a rain flap...


The jacket should be slightly loose to allow mid layers to be worn under it and to allow a degree of air flow. I prefer a classic Kiwi style down to the waist model to ensure any rain runs off the end of my lower garments. 

My wet weather gear: long  jacket, wet weather pants and Goretex mittens

I normally tramp in shorts but wind+rain is your enemy when dressed like this. A stiff breeze will quickly cool you to a dangerous level if you do not cover your legs in wet windy weather which is common on ridges and at higher elevations. If you are tramping along ridge-lines or on the tops it is essential that you carry a pair of wet weather trousers. They help to limit wind caused heat loss through your legs.

Rain pants are also useful if you are in a wide open valley (think South Island tussock covered-i.e the St James/Waimakiriri/Godley/Ahuriri/Greenstone etc.) with little vegetation as they form natural conduits for strong wind.  

Wet and windy conditions in the Tararua Ranges....

Make sure they are durable..I have literally had a pair of cheap over-trousers blown to shreds by strong winds when out tramping on the tops...


The remains of my wet weather pants after stormy tops travel...munted!!!

If you are spending most of your time in the bush or on forested valley floors you can normally go without rain trousers...wind is not such a factor here. I would still use a commercial rain kilt or modified rubbish bag kilt to keep the shorts dry

Mixed group of trampers wearing various rain gear....
Your feet will get wet from rain running down your legs and from the wet track. Boots are better than shoes in rain and a pair of gaiters can assist with keeping your feet dry. Make sure you have clean, dry socks to put on once you reach your destination and reserve them for this purpose only. Be prepared to have wet feet and plan accordingly.



Boots & gaiters are excellent in wet, muddy conditions...
Make sure you always carry your wet weather gear whenever you go tramping because our weather can dramatically change in just a few hours. It may increase the weight of your pack but it can easily be the difference between life and death. 

Other gear you will need to tramp in the rain

There is some other gear you need for tramping in the rain...some is used to keep you dry and some is to keep your gear dry. Here is a list of rain equipment I carry;

Good wet weather gear...both jacket and over trousers
Knee length gaiters to stop water running into your footwear
Polypropylene gloves to keep my hands warm
Gortex over-mittens to keep my gloved hands dry
A water proof map cover...I use a ziplock bag
A water proof pack cover and a plastic pack liner
A separate waterproof cover for your sleeping bag
A standard truckers/baller cap

A ball cap keeps rain off you face and provides sun protection....

It is important to keep the contents of your pack dry so put a plastic liner bag inside your pack and use a pack cover to minimise water getting inside. Your pack contents are your lifeline...keep them dry at all times. It is especially important to protect your sleeping bag...wrap it in its own plastic bag or keep it in a waterproof cover. Make sure you have a change of clothes if you are on an overnight trip. It is warmer and more comfortable to have something dry to wear at the end of a wet day.

A plastic pack liner will keep your gear dry...

You will need to read your map so place it in some form of waterproof cover so it can still be used in the rain. It can also be useful to carry a waterproof pack cover...commercial version or a plastic rubbish bag can suffice if it is well secured. While they will not keep your pack completely dry they do decrease the amount of rain water your pack will absorb.

Why carry an extra kilo of rain soaked pack if you do not need to?


...and a pack cover will help keep your pack drier....

A baseball cap is really useful in rain...it keeps the rain out of your eyes with its wide brim and keeps the wide hood of your jacket from falling over your eyes. If it is raining but warm a wide brim hat is better as you will probably want your hood down for better ventilation. 


Check the weather before you go


This really needs little explanation...always check the weather conditions before you go out on any walk/tramp/MTB ride. There are many sites and places to find up to date weather information for your intended tramping route...my go to is Met Service for both general and the Ventusky website more specific information on wind , rain and snow.

The Met Service web-page is your best place for weather information...

Ventusky is awesome for in depth weather predictions...

During late Autumn to early Spring it is fine to head outdoors in fine and moderate weather conditions but you need to know if any severe weather is expected in your intended location. Because of our temperate oceanic weather patterns we can have extreme cold/wet/windy conditions right through the year.

Even with the best skills and gear no-one should be attempting a tramp in extreme weather...it is just too dangerous. The margin between success and failure is knife thin when bad weather threatens. Save yourself, your family and SAR a lot of grief by only tramping to your skill limits over the winter months. 


Early summer snow fall in the central South Island

Ensure that you know the expected weather conditions before you leave home!!!

Regulate your body temperature

Just because it is raining does not mean that you must stay indoors...you simply need to wear the right clothing layers...especially a good breathable rain shell. These are always one of the most expensive items a tramper requires and usually come in one of a variety of technical synthetic materials.

Goretex is one of many three layer materials...


The various layers in a breathable material....this is Gortex

Remember that no material made to stop you getting wet is completely breathable...condensation will build up making you wet from the inside. Even with fantastic breathable fabrics like Goretex, Omni Dry and E-Vent you are still going to get hot if you are exerting yourself...walking up hills, walking long distances or if you are carrying a heavy load...

Full wet weather gear on a rainy tramp on Te Ara Pataka, Banks Peninsula
To minimise overheating while wearing a rain jacket you need to pay close attention to your layering..thinner moisture absorbing base layers with a thin insulating layer only if it is very cold. This is topped by your wet weather or shell layer. Take layers on and off as required to regulate body temperature, too cold- add a layer...too hot- take a layer off.. Open zips at the collar, front, sleeves and arm pits if you have them to vent heat...or completely remove the rain layer if possible.

Give that body heat a means of escape....


Open zips and hood down for best ventilation...

Hydrate well and make sure you are eating food to both maintain energy and keep your body producing heat. It is especially important to keep drinking when you are walking in the rain as the natural inclination is to drink less. I have a drink every time I stop...this soon becomes a unconscious habit.

Rest stop on the Rakuira Track with intermittent drizzle...

Make sure you still have short regular breaks to rest your body but limit the amount of time at a halt to minimise getting too cold. Take shelter under trees, caves or a man made structure while resting if you can. 

Hypothermia: the silent killer!!!

Hypothermia is one of the most dangerous health concerns when tramping...it is an over cooling of the body's core temperature which can lead to lethargy, irrational thought patterns, physical collapse and ultimately death. It is not as prevalent as it used to be due to advances in tramping clothing BUT there are still several deaths a year from hypothermia.


Hypothermia is a silent killer here in New Zealand...

It can happen to anyone..I have personally had very mild hypothermia a couple of times over the years...you often don't realise you have hypothermia when it is happening to you. This is because one of the symptoms is dis-associative behavior i.e. you are acting out of character but do not understand that you are.


Cold, wet and windy conditions contribute to hypothermia...
On my recent tramp on the Routeburn Track last December we had several people in the mid stages of hypothermia at Howdon Hut. It was perfect weather for it...cold, windy, heavy rain and people woefully ill prepared to be out in those conditions.

Awful weather on the Routeburn Track in December 2019...

Luckily some of us old timer trampers recognized the symptoms and took action to assist the people affected. I had my PLB out at one stage as one woman was looking really unwell but she recovered with warm clothes, some food and a couple of hours of rest.

Wet conditions I encountered in the Greenstone Valley in December 2019

You need to know the signs of hypothermia and how to deal with it effectively both for your sake and for those around you.  There is some information about hypothermia in every Hut Intentions book...this is a good start but read some general tramping manuals or books on outdoor medicine, look for authoritative online information and keep yourself and your tramping buddies safe.  

Terrain dangers in the rain

There are some specific terrain features to watch in wet conditions these are camping locations, river crossings, slip hazards and avalanches.

Camp selection: Do not ever camp in a slot canyon, arroyo, wadi or steep narrow ravine. All of these are susceptible to flash flooding which can be extremely dangerous. It may not be raining where you are but 10 kilometers away it is teeming down and a flood can swiftly and easily over whelm you. I would also never camp close to a river unless I was on a raised bank or well above the water. 

Narrow canyons are dangerous places in rain....flash floods can occur!!!

River crossings: Crossing a river is dangerous at the best of times but especially dangerous in wet condition's. It doesn't take much for a river to flood especially here in New Zealand. Do not attempt to cross a flooded river...if it is running faster than walking pace, cloudy, has bow waves in front of rocks, you cannot see the bottom or is carrying debris DO NOT ENTER IT!!! Find shelter and wait for it to subside. 

A flooded and dangerous Alfred River, Lewis Pass Scenic Reserve

Slip hazards: Hillsides are prone to slippage in heavy rain...water permeates the top soil and loosens the bond between it and the sub strata. Slips can be small or large but all of them are dangerous. A good example are the recent slips in Fiordland as a result of heavy rain in February 2020. Several tracks were destroyed by slips/floods and Howdon Hut was damaged by a large slip. The government have recently allocated $13 million to fix the damage in the area...

There is not much you can do about new slips but stay well clear of any established slip zone in heavy rain as the water can dislodge loose material.  

Howdon Hut, Fiordland...hit by a massive slip in February 2020

Avalanches: Avalanches are more likely to occur in heavy rain as the water softens the snow pack and lubricates its forward motion. Stay clear of known avalanche zones during and after heavy rain and be especially careful if crossing avalanche chutes when it is raining.  

Take care around avalanche zones after rain and then snow....

Do not enter any area known for avalanches if heavy rain has been followed by heavy snow as the avalanche risk will be much higher.


Hut/Tent life in the wet

Under the Current Covid 19 Level 2 rules all of the DOC huts are restricted to 10 people or less regardless of their size. This means you are going to be doing a lot of tenting trips for the foreseeable future. Rain can making tenting challenging but it is still totally possible...you simply need to practice your camping skills so that if you have to spend time in a tent you will still be comfortable. 

Inside my tent on the Queen Charlotte Track in 2016

Practice so you can quickly erect your tent under all weather condition's...I set mine up every so often to make sure I am familiar with the process. Look for a good tent site on either a slight mound or gently sloping ground for best drainage. Do not set a tent in a natural bowl or depression as this will often fill with water in heavy rain.

A decent tent site....slightly sloping, protected from wind and an absence of overhead dangers...

Always check for over head dangers...so called "widow makers" ...loose branches that may fall on your tent in windy conditions. These may dislodge in the night and injure you. Try to pick a location with protection from the wind perhaps behind a handy boulder, earth berm or group of bushes. 

Another good tent site, Bay of Many Coves, Queen Charlotte Track

If you are lucky you will have a cooking shelter at your campsite...these are great as they stop you from getting cold and wet while preparing meals. You will often find this type of shelter on DOC Great Walks, private trails and at commercial campgrounds.

Camp shelters make meal preparation more pleasant...Moari Bay campsite, Rakuira

If you are buying a new tent look for one that can be pitched outer first...the tent fly is pitched and then you attach the inner. These types will minimise how wet your inner tent gets during erection but always pack a sponge or bandanna to wipe up any wet patches after you have pitched your tent. Try to buy a tent with a large vestibule so you can leave all your wet gear outside...this will minimise condensation inside.


Store wet gear in the tent vestibule.....
Huts are much nicer in rain as you are indoors and often have a fire to dry your gear and warm yourself. Good etiquette is to leave all wet gear outside- boots, gaiters, pack covers and rain wear. Do not leave it outside in Kea country as they love to shred all of these things. Make space for extra people in the hut if it is raining, use firewood sparingly and if possible replace all the firewood you use so the next people have dry wood when they arrive. 

My wet gear in the veranda of Lakehead Hut, Nelson Lakes NP

Nothing like a dry, warm hut.....a good book, fire ablaze and brew to hand!!!

Finally I would just like to reiterate that having a positive attitude can make all the difference to your experience. Hey...it might not be primo conditions for tramping BUT you could always be at work.

Remember ANY day tramping is better than sitting at your desk for 8 hours.....