Survival Essentials

Plan and prepare for a survival situation. Certain events in the backcountry of New Zealand can lead to the possibility of you being in a survival situation, it is therefore up to you to understand how to prepare and how to do it.

Helpful hint

Always plan for an 'unexpected night out' when starting a journey. Think: What would we do if we got lost and it got dark today?

Survival Essentials recommended for trampers in NZ - A basic list 

This is not a comprehensive list, your needs may vary depending on the situation you might find yourself in. However, with the items below you're more able to deal with the elements if you're caught out, lost or injured.

  • Communication - Something to raise the alarm if there's an emergency. Head to the communications page for more details.
  • Emergency shelter - Head to our store and grab a 'pack liner' that doubles as an emergency shelter. See it in action here. 
  • Fire-lighting equipment (matches or lighter and a fire-lighting aid - along with rubber and a candle, these can be purchased from supermarket and popped in a ziplock bag).
  • Whistle - available in our store
  • Cord or string
  • Sharp knife
  • First Aid Kit
  • Plastic bags
  • Pencil and paper


MSC's Blog

Head to our blog for helpful articles on New Zealand conditions and how to manage the challenges you might face.



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Outdoor Safety Code

The first thing to remember is that every trip needs a plan, even a short day walk. It doesn't take much to turn a short walk into an 'unexpected night out' in the bush. If you've planned before you hit the track using the outdoor safety code as a guide, there's a good chance you'll be prepared to handle an unexpected turn of events. 

Safety is the outcome of good planning and good decision making
– Mike Daisley, MSC CEO
Find our more about the Outdoor Safety Code below. 

What can go wrong?

Getting lost

This can be surprisingly easy to do in New Zealand, especially if the weather changes quickly. Once you're under the canopy of the trees it becomes very difficult to navigate off track without significant experience. Even those sticking to tracks can miss a turn in New Zealand relatively easily. 

Stay on Track

To stick to your planned route, you should always carry and be able to use a map and compass or form of navigation. Location awareness skills are also important; know where you are and where you have travelled, be observant, and remember natural features. See our Navigation section for more information.  

NewsHub: How easy is it to get lost? 

Despite your best efforts you may get disoriented. You need to know how to cope with a survival situation.

Helpful hint

Remember that water, shelter, warmth and the will to survive are the essential elements to your survival. 

Change of route due to changing conditions

New Zealand's weather conditions are notoriously fickle. This can have a big impact on your intended route and may require a total re-think of your plan. For example, isolated rain in the head of a valley many km away can produce a rapid rise and fall in river levels making crossing them a serious undertaking. Tracks and facilities may be affected by weather events and it's up to the participant to adapt to the conditions. Having the right gear is one part of the picture along with sound decision making and good situational awareness. 

As they say in countries like ours, “If you don’t like the weather, wait five minutes.”
– Mike Daisley, CEO 


It doesn't take much of an injury to slow a person or group down. This could affect your intended plans dramatically. Take a first aid kit on each trip, along with a communication device suitable to the requirements of outdoor use. If you run out of time you may be looking at an 'unexpected night out.'


What you need to know


Find out what to do in an emergency situation. 

How to effectively plan a trip

No matter how long you plan to be out there, it is essential to plan with you and your group the intended route, days you can accomplish this and what you might encounter along the way. Follow the Outdoor Safety Code or read our planning guides to help you plan. 

Find out more

Leave intentions with a trusted contact

Before you leave it is essential to tell someone your desired track and so they can alert emergency services if you have not returned. 

Find out more


How we can help:

Get some of our helpful books and flyers

We have free pamphlets, books and equipment to help you find out more information about outdoor survival in New Zealand from our online store and resources page.

  • Going Outdoors Pamphlet
  • Bushcraft Manual 
  • Packliner, Survival Bag, Safety Whistles etc.

Find out more 

Read more about your desired activity

Whether you walk, run, hunt or climb – we have specific information you need for your favourite activity – find them here

Attend an outdoor safety course

Find a course provider in your area to help you learn the essential skills to help you know what to do.

Find out more



What is #MakeItHomeNZ?

MSC encourage exploration and adventure in the incredible wilderness regions of New Zealand. We encourage you to participate, get out there and see what all the fuss is about. New Zealand is on the bucket list of so many people around the world for good reason.
We also encourage safe practices that ensure you make it home to your family and friends. We want you to make it home with adventurous stories, memories and photos. But, most of all we want you to make it home to do it all again next time. That's why on every advertisement, press release, video and resource we reaffirm our intent to help the 1.2 Million+ participants in outdoor recreation to make it home. You can help us spread this philosophy by sharing our resources and following the outdoor safety code so you make it home.
– Mike Daisley, CEO


Helpful links


Explore our insights
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Read Outdoor Safety Code
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