A lot of our advice is aimed at those of you who are new to the joys of outdoor exploration in New Zealand. But even the most experienced hikers, trampers, climbers and hunters could do with a little reminder from time to time. This is especially the case when it comes to staying safe during the winter months. At this time of year, our winter hiking essentials, like our boots, jackets and other warm clothing, really are essentials. It can get brutally cold in this country and you need to invest in the very best gear you can afford when you’re hiking or doing any other outdoor activity.

Let’s give you an idea of how cold it gets, especially in the South Island. Central Otago and the McKenzie Basin in Canterbury are two inland alpine regions where it gets frosty to the extreme; lows around minus three degrees are common in July, New Zealand’s coldest month. And there are times when things can get much, much colder than that, as the following list of historic temperature lows will illustrate: 

  • - 25.6C, Ranfurly, Central Otago, July 17, 1903
  • - 21.6, Ophir, Central Otago, July 3, 1995
  • - 21C, Omarama, 26km south of Twizel, June 24, 2015
  • - 19.8, Pukaki Airport, near Twizel, June 23, 2015
  • - 19.7C, Ophir, 1943

Those temperatures are so low that they’re barely comprehensible. But they’re actual figures and they confirm that when you’re hiking in New Zealand during winter, you need to be prepared, particularly in the South Island. 

Southerlies blasting up from the South Pole are to blame. When they arrive at the inner South Island, the region’s topography gets mixed up in this wickedly cold wind and creates even frostier conditions. The hills around Central Otago and the McKenzie Basin are natural barriers and prevent icy cold air from going anywhere. It becomes trapped in one place for days on end in river valleys and basins. When that cold air just sits there, with no chance of escape, temperatures go into freefall and get lower with every hour that passes. 

While it is not as cold in the North Island, there is no room for complacency here as well. For example, the Central Plateau covers much of the central North Island, with the peaks of Mount Ruapehu, Mount Ngauruhoe and Mount Tongariro at the heart of this volcanic plateau. Snow and ice are common in the region, so while it is a popular area for outdoor enthusiasts, it needs to be treated with respect.

Yes, we know New Zealand gets cold in winter. But we often forget just how cold it can become. So never take anything to chance when heading out for some cold-weather adventures. Be properly equipped and prepared for the weather to take a turn for the worst at the drop of a hat. Contact us and we’ll ensure you wear the warmest gear in New Zealand’s coldest regions.  

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