New Zealand. The Land of the Long White Cloud. A country filled with literally every kind of landscape and climate you can think of — there are beaches in the north, snow-capped mountains in the south, glaciers descending into temperate rain forests in the west, and volcanoes in the middle.
So, needless to say, packing for a trip to New Zealand takes a bit of planning.
Here are my top 3 tips for packing for NZ:
- Pack layers — warmer than you think you'll need, because the weather can change in an instant.
- Bring something waterproof — again, that weather is unpredictable.
- Good shoes are a must, especially if you plan to do any hiking — hiking in flip-flops is NOT going to cut it here.
What to pack for a trip to New Zealand
Here's a look at my New Zealand packing list, which I've used for a trip in November (which is late springtime there) and a trip in March (which is late summer going into autumn). This list can be tweaked for any time of year in New Zealand!
My go-to bag these days is my Osprey rolling bag. It's a great bag with sturdy wheels and removable backpack straps. Knowing what traveling in New Zealand is like (i.e. no subways to climb in and out of, and mostly getting around by bus or car), I decided to leave the backpack straps at home, since I knew I would have no problem rolling my bag everywhere I would be going.
I've now used this exact bag for more than 4 years of traveling, and it STILL is holding up great; Osprey makes great bags! (Though if you want to see more of my luggage/bag suggestions, check out this post.)
(Note: I pack the same amount of clothing whether I'm traveling for 2 weeks or 2 months; laundry facilities are pretty easy to come by in New Zealand, so you don't need to over-pack!)
Sample New Zealand packing list
- 3 pairs of stretchy jeans/leggings
- 1 pair of zip-off hiking pants
- 1 pair of stretchy, breathable capris (I like these by Columbia)
- 5 t-shirts
- 2 tank tops (for layering)
- 1 long tunic top
- 1 zip-up hoodie (my go-to is the North Face Agave jacket)
- 1 layering shirt (I love this turtleneck by Terramar)
- 1 dress
- 1 cardigan
- 1 set of pajamas
- 5 pairs of socks (including one pair of nice hiking socks)
- 10 underwear (including my favorite ExOfficio quick-dry bikini briefs)
- 3 bras
- 1 swim suit (for all the thermal pools!)
- 1 long casual coat (in spring); one packable down coat (in autumn)
- 1 raincoat (my go-to these days is the Columbia Arcadia)
- 1 knit hat + gloves in autumn
- 1 infinity scarf (I love my Speakeasy scarf, which has a built-in pocket!)
- 1 pair of boots (in autumn); 1 pair of walking sandals (in spring)
- 1 pair of Merrell Moab waterproof hiking boots
- 1 pair of Crocs flats (which can double as shower shoes if you're camping)
- 1 quick-drying microfiber towel
- Shampoo and other toiletries (including sunscreen, which you REALLY need in New Zealand since it has basically no ozone layer)
- Travel hair dryer (this dual-voltage one is great!)
All of this easily fit into my bag with room to spare — I ended up coming home with a bunch of gifts for family and friends (we're talking 5 t-shirts, 6 tea towels, some Manuka honey, and a bunch of magnets) and could still zip the bag up without issue.
My carry-on: STM Haven bag
My go-to carry-on backpack is usually the Pacsafe Camsave V17 when I'm taking camera gear and my laptop with me, but another good option (for those not so concerned with photo gear) is the STM Haven bag. This bag isn't too big or too small (it will fit a 15-inch laptop), and I love the “floating” pockets inside to hold laptops and/or tablets. It has plenty of other outer and inner pockets, too, including one on the side for a water bottle.
Inside this bag:
- My Macbook Air
- Kindle Paperwhite
- Electronics chargers, extra batteries/SD cards, etc.
- A power bank so my phone never runs out of juice
- Belkin power strip/surge protector
- Skross travel adapter
- A small make-up bag (with things like my toothbrush, jewelry, etc.)
- My glasses and extra contacts
- A reusable water bottle (I love my CamelBak Chute)
- A travel umbrella
- Inflatable neck pillow
- Small Bluetooth speaker (great if you're roadtripping)
My trusty Donner bag by Overland Equipment got to visit yet another continent. I love this bag because it’s roomy, yet has a lot of pockets and space for a water bottle or two on the sides. It’s super practical and useful for a traveler like me, AND it's not completely ugly. (Sadly it's not sold any longer, but this Travelon Bucket Bag is really similar!)
In my purse (on travel days):
- My Olympus camera
- Extra camera battery and lens cleaner
- GoPro with floaty GoPole stick
- Small zippered pouch with Dramamine, chapstick, Advil, etc.
- Tiny hair brush with attached mirror
- Business cards (because you never know who you'll meet!)
What was I glad to have?
On this trip, there were a few things I was super glad to have. Namely:
A good rain jacket
I got a Sinta jacket from prAna right before my spring trip to New Zealand, and I ended up wearing it nearly every day while I was there. prAna is known for making yoga clothing, but they make a ton of other great stuff, too, including comfy pieces perfect for travel. Not only did I get lots of compliments on this jacket, but it also kept me dry exactly as promised.
My other favorite rain jacket for traveling is the Columbia Arcadia, which comes in a bunch of cool colors and has a nice mesh lining to keep you cool as well as dry. I wore this a lot during my autumn trip to New Zealand, and highly recommend it. (My husband also has the men's version of this coat, and also wore it while we were in NZ!)
My infinity scarf
I almost didn't pack a scarf for this trip, but I'm SO glad I threw one in my bag before leaving the house. It got quite chilly in many places, and I was really happy to have something with me so I could cover my neck. (If you want an infinity scarf that does double duty, check out Speakeasy Travel Supply – they make infinity scarves with hidden pockets!)
My hiking boots
I bought my Merrell Moab waterproof hiking boots specifically with this trip in mind, and was not disappointed at all. Not only do these boots do exactly what they promise (i.e. provide support and keep your feet dry), but they're comfy and required very little breaking in. (And good hiking socks are a smart investment, too!)
Convertible hiking pants
I'm not really a huge fan of hiking, but I WAS very happy to have a pair of zip-off pants with me on my spring trip since it got quite warm on a couple days! The pair I took were Columbia hiking pants, which are very lightweight, yet water-resistant.
How did I do?
On both my spring and autumn trips to New Zealand, I ran into several days that were colder than I expected. A pair of light gloves and an additional long-sleeved top or sweatshirt wouldn't have been a bad idea to add to my bag!
I took too many tops (as always), but I like having a bit of variety to choose from. I also only wore my dress once, because New Zealand isn't a particularly fancy place. But, I think I will always be a bit of an over-packer for as long as I live. #sorrynotsorry
On my spring trip, I only used my microfiber towel twice (since I was mostly staying in hotels and B&Bs where towels were provided), but it takes up hardly any room, so I didn't mind that I packed it anyway. On my autumn trip, I was doing a campervan trip around New Zealand and used my towel every single day. I love these types of towels because they really do dry fast!
What else do I need?
It's not a tangible item, but I also always recommend packing a good travel insurance policy! That way everything from lost luggage to a bad accident is covered – because you just never know! I recommend World Nomads for basic (and really affordable) travel insurance.
What if I'm a dude?
Good news, fellas! I have some New Zealand packing tips for you, too!
Here's a look at some of the things my partner, Elliot, had in his bag during our autumn trip:
- A Columbia rain coat
- 2 zip-up jackets for layering
- 7 t-shirts
- 2 pairs of jeans (including one fleece-lined pair)
- Zip-off hiking pants (2 pairs)
- Hiking shoes by Oboz + SmartWool hiking socks
- Swim trunks (for those thermal pools!)
Stuff you might find useful:
Is there anything else YOU would put on your New Zealand packing list?
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Amanda Williams is the award-winning blogger behind A Dangerous Business Travel Blog. She has traveled to more than 60 countries on 6 continents from her home base in Ohio, specializing in experiential and thoughtful travel through the US, Europe, and rest of the world. Amanda only shares tips based on her personal experiences and places she's actually traveled!