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New Zealand Forests: Navigational Tips

Updated: Jul 29, 2021

Do you enjoy the trees, acres of green, flowers? Field mushrooms sprout much earlier than usual. Many would say it's quite good coming home from work collecting mushrooms. Still, others express their worries about walking in a dark forest at night. This is nothing to enjoy about.

Unlike in many other countries, New Zealand's forests are known for their safety and security. There are no bears or other big native predators. Only harmless birds, nature, and some feral cats.

But even though it is quite safe, it still makes sense to learn what to do in case you are lost or need urgent help. So in this guide, I will make a few remarks on how to get around and find your way out of the forest in New Zealand.


Getting Around The Forest

For some, the forest is native land. It is rich in mushrooms, edible berries, and animals. People have been searching for food, and the need to go out and look didn't go away.

Searching for Food

In the forest, there are edible and inedible mushrooms. It is very important to know the difference between the two. To know the difference you have to identify the mushroom. Identifying the mushroom will give you 100% assurance of its edibility.

On the picture, edible mushroom (left) and poisonous mushroom (right).

The two most common rules to avoid poisonous mushrooms are:

  • DO NOT pick up mushrooms with white gills or a ring on the stem.

  • DO NOT pick up mushrooms with a red cap or stem.

You have to have some skills in identifying the mushroom species. Otherwise, your best bet is to stay away from the mushroom altogether. In that case, you can consult a field guide or a mushroom expert before consuming any species.

For example, honey mushrooms, or Armillaria, is a genus of edible mushrooms. It includes around 10 species. Among them are honey fungi that are the largest living organisms in the world.

To recognize this mushroom, look for the shape and surrounding environment. The hymenium, a tissue layer of a fungal fruiting body under the cap, has gills on it, or papery ribs in other words.

Armillaria hinnulea
Armillaria hinnulea

The cap is usually convex while the stem has a ring. The spore print is white and the ecology is parasitic. This means that you will find these mushrooms growing from other plants and trees.

If you happen to find something edible, like berries or mushrooms, do not hesitate to cook them and use them as food.

Navigating the Forest

You should also know several things about navigating the forest:

  • It is possible to determine the cardinal points in a variety of ways. For example, the moss tends to grow from the northern side of a tree while an anthill is located on the south.

  • DO NOT touch anything and everything. Although it might be tempting, some plants and trees have harmful, poisonous or bacterial prickles. They can cause your arms itching or aching.

Now, about the advice on getting around the forest. There are some tips on how to navigate, behave, and what to take with you which we all learned at school at some point:

  • Carrying some food and water is a must when going to a forest

  • Listen to the forest. Listen for sounds of a barking dog, an operating tractor, or the gum of a passing-by train. They can be heard some 3-5 km away from the sound source.

  • Leave some marks on your way out, this way you will know whether you are going in circles or not

  • If you happen to contact rescuers, stay where you are - this way you will be found faster.

How to prepare

Some common things to bring with you:

  • Matches are a must. The smoke from the campfire is visible several kilometers away. During the night, the fire can be seen.

  • Dress in bright clothes - carry red, yellow or white jackets.

  • Your mobile phone is the main means of saving your life. The cheapest mobile phones can have a battery lasting up to a week.

  • If you happen to have chronic illnesses - stay at home! The forest will not tolerate carelessness. Also, evacuation procedures will be much harder and laborious.

How to Find Your Way Out

Jungle Forest
Jungle Forest

People usually lose themselves during forest walks and when there is fog. This happens often with Kahurangi National Park travelers. So here are the tips to get yourself out of the forest:

  • The first thing to do when you are lost is to stop, stay put, calm down and think, realize that you are lost. Often people who get lost are reported to having walked in circles. At the same time, they often believed that they were going along a straight line.

  • When it gets dark, find a safe place to protect yourself from bad weather.

  • Among all the trails, the most trodden should be chosen. It must be reassured that the trail was trodden by humans and not by animals. Animal-trodden paths will lead into the forest and not out of it. One way to do that is by making sure that there are no high obstacles on the path.

  • The advice to go along the stream of water and not against it does not work according to professor Kenneth Hill. This can lead you either to the populated region or a swamp, depending on the environment.

  • What most experienced hunters do when they are lost is finding high ground. They often climb a tree or go up a hill, trying to see something familiar in the distance.

That's it. If you are lacking food or water, try to find a creek and stay where you are. Lit a fire with your matches if you have any. It will be much easier for rescue teams to find you via smoke from the campfire. Stay put and make yourself visible.


This pretty much highlights the main points of the article - how to get around and find your way out of the forest. For more information search for sites on wildlife and nature.

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