Editor urges enjoyment of outdoors

Robin McNeill
Robin McNeill
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, he said.

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 incorporated.

The book's title emphasised safety, but much of the focus was actually on "how do you make it more enjoyable while doing it".

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.



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