New Zealand risks becoming a "timid nation", but fears of
the great outdoors should not be exaggerated, given hundreds of
thousands of people have tramped there, largely without
incident, Robin McNeill says.
Mr McNeill, of Invercargill, has been tramping for more than
35 years and recently edited the 11th edition of this
country's outdoor safety bible, Safety in the Mountains.
He attended a function at the University of Otago Staff Club
in Dunedin this week to mark publication of the book, by the
Federated Mountain Clubs of New Zealand.
Also celebrated was the 75th anniversary of the book's first
edition, published in 1937.
More than 130,000 copies of the book have been printed.
The latest edition features colour illustrations by Adele
Jackson, of Wellington, and involves a full revision of a
previous mid-1980s edition.
Mr McNeill urges more New Zealanders to enjoy the outdoors,
while preparing well and taking precautions.
Some people had become over-fixated with dangers and safety
concerns, but there were also significant health risks
arising from inactivity and spending too long indoors.
"Most people need to be encouraged to get off the tracks.
"Once you get off the tracks, you start to find a whole new
world, a whole freedom.
"You build up confidence," he said.
"You have to be unlucky and try really hard to have an
accident that causes a real problem."
There was "thrill and elation" in taking a risk, but taking
unnecessary risks with serious consequences was reckless.
The book warns people to ask questions before entering risky
situations, including: "What would you say to the coroner if
there were to be a mishap?"
Several outdoor perils, including avalanches and the risk of
falling into crevasses, featured in the book's first edition,
Some recommended safety techniques, including for crossing
rivers, had changed through the years, and recent scientific
knowledge, such as how to assess avalanche risk, had been
The book's title emphasised safety, but much of the focus was
actually on "how do you make it more enjoyable while doing
Such tramping tips included putting on dry socks and wrapping
your feet in plastic bags, then slipping your feet into your
wet tramping boots.
Common sense remained the key to outdoor safety.
Most people tended to avoid going beyond the limits of their
physical ability and training, but some trampers
underestimated journey times and weather changes, he said.