Tips for safe and exciting New Zealand camping over the summer break

As the silly season winds down and the Christmas music starts to fade away, the hot summer months offer a ripe opportunity to dig the tent out of the garage and head into the wilderness.

Whether it's a bonding trip with the family, a 'new year, new me' solo outing, or an attempt to get outdoors and lose some of that belly fat from Christmas day, going camping can be a thrilling escapade.

Boasting some of the world's most beautiful settings, New Zealand has an abundance of large conservation reserves and parks perfect to sneak away to for a few days.

For some, however, it can be a confronting experience, with the prospect of sleeping under the starry sky while critters crawl around in the dirt less than inviting.

With that said, here are tips to make your camping adventure easier:

1. Know where to set up camp

While finding a spot that serves up a stunning pic for the 'gram may be on the top of some people's list, choosing where to set up camp can be a really important decision - but first you'll want to let someone know the general direction you're heading in case of an emergency.

High ground is recommended as the best camping spot. It can be tempting to park up near a river which will provide fresh water for cooking and cleaning, but website Kiwi Camping advises against it in case of flash flooding.

Choose somewhere shady so the tent doesn't get too toasty, while a flat surface without any tree roots will make for a more comfortable sleep.

Bivouac by the Aegean Sea, Southern Turkey
Photo credit: File

Pitching near a track or facility can come in handy for a quick dash to the long drop in the dark, but make sure any tent ropes aren't in the way, or you might trip yourself - or another camper - up.

If you find yourself in a clearing or somewhere that is exposed to the elements, position your tent so the tent door faces away from the wind. Having the narrowest side in the wind's path means it's less likely to fly away on you.

Newshub's Features Editor Rhonwyn Newson suggests placing a patch of astroturf outside the tent door. Wiping your feet on this as you get back from a walk can keep the dirt out.

2. You still need technology

Although campers will often head into the bush to get away from smartphones and laptops, that doesn't mean technology and modern gadgets aren't worthwhile investments to make your experience easier - and safer.

Before you even go on your trip, get out your phone and check what the weather is looking like in your area. It might seem like common sense not to head out in a thunderstorm, but with all the hype of an adventure ahead and some people having taken precious time off work for the adventure, poor decisions can be made.

Phone signals can be shaky away from civilisation, so don't expect to have ultra-fast internet at your fingertips 24/7. In case you don't own an up-to-date map, investing in a GPS should be considered. GPS tracking and locators can also help if you are in trouble.

flying drone with camera on the sky
Photo credit: File

To make sure you have enough battery life to take photos of your journey, purchasing a powerbank is also not a bad idea. Other helpful gadgets that Kiwi Camping recommend include LED lanterns with bluetooth speakers, strobe lights to get attention in an emergency, and a portable insect killer.

If you want to take it one step further and take a drone for photos. The Department of Conservation's (DOC) director of recreation, tourism and heritage, Gavin Walker, says it is important check their website to find out if it needs a permit to fly over DOC land and near wildlife.

3. Keeping the food fresh

One of the most satisfying feelings at the end of a long camping trip is hiking back to the car with a pack half the weight it was when you entered. For a big family, a lot of that weight is often food.

Without electricity and a fridge, making sure you are preparing and keeping the food correctly is extremely important. The last thing you need is food poisoning while out in the bush.

Chilly bins are pivotal. Kiwi Camping recommends putting salted ice, which will melt slowly, at the bottom of the bin, keeping the meat cooler for longer. Any meat should also be vacuum sealed to make sure bacteria doesn't find its way in.

For snacks, avoid anything perishable or that can be easily crushed.

4. Leaving little behind

DOC has been focussed on educating campers and hikers about what to do when you've eaten all your food. The 'Visit the Kiwi way' campaign, began last year, aimed to help people understand the negative effects of waste on the environment.

There are two main types of waste to be concerned about: rubbish (such as plastic bags and wrappers) and poo.

For rubbish, it is pretty simple - don't leave any behind. Mr Walker said campers should consider that there won't be many bins around and pack it securely in their bag as they leave the grounds.

As loos (including long drops) can be few and far between, take every opportunity you get to let it out. If you can't hold it in, however, make sure you bury any remains away from waterways and other people.

If that's not your thing, try making a poo tube with some PVC piping.

5. Take it all in

The final tip is all about the experience. Take in the scenery, bathe in the liberating feeling of being away from social media and work emails, and spend some quality time with the people you love.

But also know your limit and when to turn back. Mr Walker says most accidents happen when people don't head back as the weather changes. Don't feel guilty or ashamed you didn't make it to where you wanted to.

Tips for safe and exciting New Zealand camping over the summer break
Photo credit: Getty

If you are with a bunch of people, make sure you know where everyone is and have talked about where to meet if someone gets lost while out on a walk. Have each other's back and the journey will be an unforgettable time away.