Time in nature gives you sharper thinking and more creative problem-solving, as well as boosting your immune system. Don’t leave the kids at home – researchers have shown they gain improved concentration and even better eyesight from time in parks.
Still more research shows that connecting with nature is followed by lower levels of hypertension, less of the stress hormone cortisol, and reduced inflammation – no wonder we think and feel better when we venture into the forests on our doorsteps (ref and ref).
Get out there and start reaping the benefits!
Common misconceptions about hiking and camping
- I can use my cellphone if I get lost. You’re unlikely to have cellphone coverage in wilderness areas. Take a map and keep an eye on signs and route markers.
- It’s dangerous. Follow official guidelines, keep an eye on the weather and be aware of your group’s abilities, and you’ll have a safe, rewarding experience. Here in New Zealand, hiking and camping is a massive part of New Zealand’s overseas and local tourism industry, and, as such, DOC makes a huge effort to make parks accessible and safe. Tracks are well-marked and well-maintained. The DOC website is kept up-to-date with alerts and hazards to be aware of.
- I’m warm enough at home, so my usual clothes will be warm enough. Even if you’re staying near home, wilderness areas can have weather patterns all of their own! Bring thermal layers to make sure you’ll be comfortable. Polypropylene and merino are both warm and lightweight, and they tend to stay fresh.
- I’m not fit enough to go hiking. There are routes out there for everyone! Start with the easier tracks and you’ll soon find your ideal level. DOC categorizes New Zealand’s tracks for all levels of fitness and ability, including those suitable for people with disabilities.
- I should bring what I normally eat. You will probably need more calories when you’re hiking and camping. In addition, you’ll want to bring food that doesn’t go off without a fridge, is practical to carry in a backpack, and is easy to prepare on a camping stove with only one pot. You can find lots of camping meal ideas here at www.bestcampingmeals.com.
- I need to buy specialist equipment and food. Most of what you need can be adapted from what you have, borrowed, or hired. Hiring gear before investing in your own is a great idea! You’ll have a much better idea of what works for you after trying it. Similarly, you can prepare your own nutritious and delicious camp meals using recipes and tips from other outdoor types. I share my own favorites on www.bestcampingmeals.com. I’d love to hear from you if you try them!