What to Pack for a Trip to New Zealand

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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:

  1. Pack layers — warmer than you think you'll need, because the weather can change in an instant.
  2. Bring something waterproof — again, that weather is unpredictable.
  3. 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!

Amanda in New Zealand
In the colder months, you'll definitely want to add a warm coat and hat!

My bag

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.)

Osprey Sojourn

I utilized my favorite Eagle Creek Packing cubes (GREAT for keeping tops and bottoms organized) and and my SegSac (perfect for socks and undies)and packed the following for my 5-week trip.

(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

Clothing

Amanda at That Wanaka Tree
I wore this North Face zip-up constantly!

Outerwear

Shoes

Packing for New Zealand
What I would pack in autumn

Other

  • 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:

Packing for New Zealand

My purse

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):

  • Wallet
  • Passport
  • 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!)
Me in New Zealand
Love this bag! (It even matches my pants here.)

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.

prAna Sinta Jacket
Me in my prAna Sinta Jacket

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!)

Blue Pools track
Columbia makes great rain gear

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.

Me in New Zealand
Pants: converted for a hike at Mount Cook

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!

RELATED: The Ultimate Guide to Planning a Campervan Road Trip in New Zealand

Amanda in front of a hobbit hole
The one time I wore my dress: to fit in at Hobbiton!

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:

Stuff you might find useful:

Is there anything else YOU would put on your New Zealand packing list?

 

Pin it for later:

Packing for New Zealand

 

"It's a dangerous business, going out your door. You step onto the road, and, if you don't keep your feet, there's no telling where you might get swept off to." - JRR Tolkien

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80 Comments on “What to Pack for a Trip to New Zealand

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  1. Thank you for making this blog. It was helpful for packing, I leave for New Zealand tomorrow!

    Your packing list is wonderful with very useful tips for the trip. I am visiting Auckland for 6 days w.e.f 25th April, please guide me about the weather and which places I should visit and stay during this short trip. THANKS

      It will be autumn in New Zealand then, but it shouldn’t be too cold in Auckland. I would bring a warm layer or jacket in case you hit a cooler, windy day. As for where to go, you could do day trips to places like Waiheke Island, Waitomo for the glow worm caves, or even Rotorua.

    Loved your blog especially the packing list for NZ. Are laundry services available pretty readily. You didn’t take a lot of clothing.

      No matter the length of trip, I always bring enough underwear for about 2 weeks, and clothing that I can mix/match so that I can usually got nearly two weeks before needing to do laundry. But yes, you can usually find laundry facilities throughout NZ!

    Thank you for the tips. NZ is one of our next trips, maybe in December 2018. Thank you

    Thanks so much Amanda! This is a really helpful blog! We are going to Sidney for a few days and then fly into Queenstown. We’re spending most of our time on the south island and then fly to Auckland for the last 4 days before back to Chicago. So in addition to our 18 hour flight in, we have 3 short flights in NZ. My goal is to pack carry on only for 16 days – you’ve made me feel like it is possible! I’ve already made purchases from your blog! Once concern we have is airport transfer. How easy (or difficult) is it to get around from the airports to hotels? Is this something we should arrange in advance? We have a group of 13 so would really like to avoid chaos!! (we’re traveling with some worry-warts!). Any ideas for me? Thanks again, Nancy

      A carry-on is definitely possible and definitely a great goal for a trip with lots of legs/transfers! You’ll appreciate not having to stress about your luggage. As for airport transfers, most airports in NZ have airport buses that run regularly and are affordable. You can buy tickets once you land, or even on the bus itself. In Queenstown, it’s the Connectabus, and in Auckland it’s the SkyBus. Those are probably your best option for a large group!

    Hi there! I’m super excited about my trip there in Nov 2018! On the picture, the roll bag seems small. Did it fit all of that stuff in there? Coats, hoodies, etc?

    Thank you so much for your list, it has helped a lot!

      Yes, everything on this list fit in that bag! It’s 60 liters and soft-sided – you can fit a lot more than you might think if you pack smartly. 🙂

        Wow, that’s pretty awesome! I don’t suspect ill need to carry it in my back, so the roller version should be fine! I get cold pretty easily, so I will have more long sleeved shirts and hoodies than you did on your list.

        Did you go with a tour?

        So excited to go! Thanks again for your list.

          I never carry that bag on my back, either – it’s great as a roller bag and has really sturdy wheels. As for my NZ travels, I’ve been to the country several times. I’ve done tours and also traveled independently. You can find all of my New Zealand content here: https://www.dangerous-business.com/destinations/

    Very useful. I love reading about what people pack and why……personally I took way too much to NZ. I got the biggest suitcase I could and packed just about everything I could for Summer ( we travelled in December) plus layers for the chillier days and a rain coat too. Didn’t take hiking boots as we didn’t plan lots of off-roading but did take my Merrell ladies hiking trainers. I wore pretty much the same 6 or so outfits for the whole month, washing and drying at camp sites on our travels. Thanks for this article and happy travels!

      I’m a fan of packing lists, too! (I’m with you, though – I almost always bring more than what I need, but thankfully I’ve been able to cut back to a small suitcase in recent years.)

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