When I was packing for my open-ended trip to New Zealand last year, I had a one-way ticket and a work visa good for a year’s stay. I knew I’d be living out of a travel pack for some time and wanted to take only the essentials to travel light. The problem is, New Zealand is the adventure capital of the world, and I planned on having plenty of adventures. That requires a certain amount of gear on top of the usual backpacker’s scant wardrobe, so I needed to plan what I packed carefully.
Traveling in a country like New Zealand demands movement and adaptability. I knew I could come by some things—like a surfboard and wetsuit or fly rod, plus certain toiletries—after I arrived. But, as an avid backpacker and camper, I didn’t want to take a chance with my wilderness essentials. In the end, I opted out of any bulky standard luggage (it’s best to be able to carry your loads on your back in New Zealand) and went with an ample 85-litre travel pack for gear and clothing, with a smaller daypack for personal items like books, camera, and an extra layer. Luckily, I also had a travel companion, so a few things—like our computer and cameras—could be shared between us. For your own trip, here’s a checklist detailing exactly what to pack for New Zealand.
Step 1: Pick the Right Back for Your Trip
When you’re in New Zealand, you’ll be grateful for weatherproof and water repellant luggage, as well as rugged gear able to be tossed into shared buses, hiked to a mountain peak, and more. These are three ideas that make the perfect New Zealand luggage.
● Global Companion 65L: Offered in a Women’s Fit as well, this is the ultimate option for backpackers planning to travel New Zealand from one end to the other. Not only is it ergonomically designed for complete comfort, lockable zippers will keep your gear safe in hostels, a padded laptop sleeve makes it easy for digital nomads needing to stay connected, and the Check-in Rainfly™ adds extra rain protection for those wet days.
● Gear Warrior Convertible Carry-On: If you prefer a rolling suitcase, you should still opt for a suitcase with optional backpack straps so you can tackle anything the New Zealand terrain throws your way. The removable daypack is perfect for day-tripping, meaning it’s a total solution for travel and hiking.
● Migrate Duffel: Perhaps the most perfect duffel for road trips, you’ll love this bag if you plan to rent a campervan and drive around the north and south islands. Made from 900D heavy-duty TPU and with a water repellent coating that was developed by harvesting windshield plastics from landfills in Asia, this duffel is perfect for hauling any gear you need.
Step 2: Pack the Right Clothes For the Weather
Layers are key when you’re packing for New Zealand—not only can the weather change rapidly throughout a single day, but many of the best hikes start at sea level and then rapidly climb to stunning views, where it’s a lot chillier!
Most travelers visit New Zealand during the North American winter, when it’s summer and thus a tad warmer in the southern hemisphere. Check the weather for your trip: The warmest months are December, January, and February, when you can expect temperatures of 68 - 77°F (20 - 25°C ), but winter isn’t too bad either—averaging 53 - 61°F (12 - 16°C) in June, July, and August.
Step 3: Pack With Your Lodging In Mind
New Zealand offers about every adventure you could imagine, and the style of accommodation varies by budget and the level of adventure planned. Many travelers rent a campervan for their weeks of driving the islands, while others plan a road trip and then pack camping gear. If neither of those appeals, there are great accommodation options—ones ideal for everyone from budget backpackers to luxury travelers.
Why does this matter? Well, this affects what you’ll need to pack for your New Zealand vacation! For campers, pack a tent, sleeping bag, and sleeping pad. Backpackers may just need a sleep sheet, sleeping bag, and ear plugs. If you’re staying in hotels throughout your trip, you can skip the sleeping gear.
Step 4: Assess Your Priority Activities
New Zealand is a land famous for adventure activities, incredible walks, views of Middle Earth, epic canoe journeys, and so much more. For me, my trip to New Zealand was a fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants journey with a healthy dose of the unknown. But a few things I did know. I’d be WWOOFing on organic farms (work attire), backpacking in the mountains (camping equipment and warm hiking attire), playing in the ocean (swim wear), and occasionally dipping into civilization (presentable dinner/pub attire). And I’d be documenting it all, which meant a few electronics and some old-fashioned pen and paper.
Your luggage is only a start to packing for your trip—you also need the right gear to use while you’re out adventuring. The Wayfinder series offers travelers a range of backpacks and waist packs. The backpacks offer side water bottle pockets and ergonomically shaped shoulder straps. The waist packs offer travelers easy access to cameras. All of the promise a comfortable bag for anything from hiking to glaciers or exploring Auckland.
Step 5: Choose the Right Packing Accessories
There’s nothing worse than losing the essentials you worked so carefully to pack. The Pack-It System includes packing cubes in a range of sizes and shapes to easily organize your bag. The garment folder is ideal for shirts while medium-sized cubes work best for pants and bottoms. Small cubes are perfect well for socks and underthings, while the packing sacs are an ideal way to organize cords, chargers, and more. Meanwhile, use compression cubes for puffy jackets or any bulky items, and a shoe organizer to keep hiking boots separate from the rest of your clean clothes!
Packing List for New Zealand
Clothes (Layers are key)
● Jeans (one pair)
● Shorts (one pair)
● Wool socks
● T-shirts and button-ups
● Zip-off quick-dry hiking pants
● Quick-dry shirts for outdoor activities
● Fleece jacket
● Lightweight down pullover
● Base layers (top and bottom)
● Rain jacket
● Tennis shoes
● Flip flops
● High-cut waterproof hiking boots (wear these on the plane to save room in your luggage)
● Water shoes/sandals (with buckles or straps to stay on your feet)
● Watch (water-resistant)
● Wool beanie
● Lightweight insulated gloves
Gear and Extra
(This might seem like a big part of the checklist, but it’s the most important part of packing for New Zealand travel.)
● Lightweight 2-person backpacking tent
● Down sleeping bag (15 degrees or warmer)
● Ultra-light inflatable sleeping pad
● Pots and backpacking stove (buy fuel after you arrive because it’s not allowed on the plane)
● Trekking poles
● 3-liter water bladder (such as CamelBak)
● Water filter/iodine tablets
● Lighter and matches
● Small med kit in a water-resistant packing sac (ibuprofen, bandages, gauze, tape, etc.)
(You can buy most items locally, but bring any of your preferred items.)
● Toothbrush and toothpaste
● Extra contacts and solution
● Bar of soap & deodorant
● Toiletry Kit
● Razor and shaving cream (or just grow a beard!)
● Digital camera
● Mini HD video camera
● iPod/Music Player
● Laptop (This is optional. I needed it to document my trip for a story, but it can add extra weight if you don’t absolutely need it.)
● Tablet/Kindle (optional)
● Electronic chargers and adapters
● Passport and driver’s license (plus copies of both)
● Credit cards
● Pens and notebook/journal
● Books and guide book
● Travel Pack (with chest strap and waistbelt for heavy loads)
● Camera bag
● Packing Cubes & Sacs
Now you’re ready to go! But don’t forget to keep your data safe by using an RFID wallet or money belt on your travel days. And if you’re curious, our Ultimate Packing Checklist includes advice ideal for any trip anywhere in the world.
Global Companion 65L
Pack-It Original™ Starter Set
Related Links (from Eagle Creek blog):
What to Pack: Ultimate Packing Checklist
Adventure Travel Bucket List: Great Walks in New Zealand
Six Best Budget Friendly Accommodations in New Zealand