Being an active outdoor’s person and enjoying books might seem an odd mix to some. But for many people some of the pleasure of getting outdoors is in planning trips and learning more about the places they’re going to or have been, or reading about others outdoor adventures. For kids and teens who love the outdoors, these books will encourage reading and for the young ones that love reading they’ll be encouraged outside!

Top Outdoor books from my Bookshelf (or selected to go under the Christmas tree):  


NZ Backcountry Cooking
NZ Backcountry Cooking by Paul and Rebecca Garland

New Zealand Backcountry Cooking: recipes for trampers, campers and other outdoor adventurers by Paul and Rebecca Garland was a welcome new title this summer. Full of ideas for quick meals and lightweight foods, this will be fun for families planning camping trips or picnics as well as trampers looking for a change from readymade de-hy packaged meals. I’m getting good ideas for my next tramp and the Date and Walnut Loaf has already been tried and met with approval. The only drawback is there is no index, just a list of recipes at the beginning of each section.

Safety in the Mountains
Safety in the Mountains by Robin McNeill

My tramping group has recently joined the Federated Mountain Clubs and through this I’ve discovered a little gem which became the ‘must-give’ present for my son, nieces and nephew. Safety in the Mountains: useful reminders for trampers, mountaineers, hunters, and others in the New Zealand Backcountry by Robin McNeill and available from FMC is in its 11th edition. It’s full of important safety tips from river crossing skills to what to do in an avalanche, as well as useful facts about a whole range of topics from weather to bush medicine. Useful for anyone who is involved in outdoor adventure sports. Available from


The Beginner's Guide to Adventure Sport in NZ
The Beginner’s Guide to Adventure Sport in NZ by Steve Gurney

A more commercial publication aimed at a younger audience than the one above, The Beginner’s Guide to Adventure Sport in New Zealand by Steve Gurney also covers safety along with lots of useful ‘how-to’ information from nutrition to training. It is an excellent introduction to a wide range of adventure sport from kayaking to mountain biking. Those already out there doing these sports will be able to refine their skills, and other teens reading this should be inspired to give outdoor activities a go. Links to some ‘how-to’ videos on Steve Gurney’s website.

Essay and Pictorial

Molesworth by Harry Broad, photography by Rob Suisted

I recently picked up and re-read Molesworth: stories from New Zealand’s Largest High Country Station by Harry Broad with photos by Rob Suisted, published two years ago. My interest was rekindled by recent trips driving through Molesworth and rafting the Clarence River. This book had influenced my decision to pay a visit, so it was interesting to pick it up again on my return. Much of the enjoyment in reading about ‘place’ comes from this interaction – either I’m reading about somewhere I haven’t been and I’m encouraged to go, or my reading is revisiting somewhere I’ve been, seeing the place again from different perspectives. Books like these deserve to stay available in bookshops for many years as people discover and rediscover the book and its setting.


James Hector
James Hector by Simon Nathan

James Hector: explore, scientist, leader by Simon Nathan does an excellent job of setting the record straight about James Hector’s contribution to New Zealand exploration and science. A well illustrated and readable biography that doesn’t dwell on minutiae at the expense of the bigger picture.  I marvelled at the kind of expeditions that Hector undertook, discovering mountain passes in Canada, as well as exploring New Zealand’s rugged terrain.

Notes: These books were ones I chose to buy – not review copies.  Apart from Safety in the Mountains which is available from FMC, you should be able to find these books in all good bookstores in New Zealand.  

And my recommendations for Children:

Gifts for children this Christmas were easy, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to give my own books. The youngest got a copy of my book Whose Beak is This? illustrated by Fraser Williamson and older children (and some adults who I knew would enjoy a copy) were given my latest ‘explore and discover’ book In the Bush: explore and discover New Zealand’s native forests illustrated by Ned Barraud.

In the Bush, includes a pull-out bird identification card
In the Bush, includes a pull-out bird identification card
Top Outdoor books from my Bookshelf