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 itโ€™s roomy, yet has a lot of pockets and space for a water bottle or two on the sides. Itโ€™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. Very well packed suitcase, Amanda! I always make my packing list ten days before the traveling day. I try to be practical too and not taking a lot of unnecessary stuff.

    A rain jacket, yes… But even more a wind jacket!!! I stayed there 2 most and had to buy one after 1 week, it was soo windy!!!
    and good trekking shoes are a must as well!

      Good point! Wind-proof jackets aren’t a bad idea, either!

    I’m quite impressed at how much are can fit into your backpack. I love keeping it simple when I travel. You did a good job packing.

      I keep it “simple” in that I tend to pack mostly solid colors and clothing I can mix and match in lots of different ways. But yeah… I’m often surprised by how much I can fit into my bag, too! Haha.

    You certainly thought of everything! I love how thorough your post is. You really maximized the space you had with the bags that you brought. I’ll definitely be looking into those on my travels. Appreciate your packing tips.

      Thanks, Savannah! I’ve had to pack a bag so many times that I’ve definitely gotten pretty good at it!

    No matter how hard I try I ALWAYS overpack but just a little and then get frustrated with myself. Learned to deal with that flaw.. ๐Ÿ™‚ haha
    And yes rain jackets I never go anywhere without one

      Slightly overpacking probably won’t kill you – I still have trouble, too!

    I guess everybody wants to go to New Zealand at least once. I’m in the same situation. I wanted to go there in 2011 when NZ hosted the Rugby World Cup but in the end I missed it. I still plan to go there. Have a great time in NZ!

      Definitely still worth going! Just go during rugby season and you can still catch some great matches!

    There’s something really pervy about getting a lot at other traveler’s bags! Looks like you got it spot on – it’s all about the layers!

      Hahaha well then call me pervy – because I love reading other peoples’ packing lists!

    According to my travel buddy, I once said, “I never go anywhere without a fleece.” Well, when I did, I froze! So next time, yes, bring the fleece!

      Yeah, it really should just become a staple in my packing lists for cooler-weather climates!

    I love getting a peak inside other traveler’s bags! It always keeps things in perspective when packing!

      I’m the same! I love packing lists of all sorts – which is why I share them on my site, too!

    Sounds like a sensible bunch of stuff to take – actually pretty similar to what I took for my 4-week trip to NZ a few years ago, though I took a hoody, which proved absolutely priceless for when it got a bit chillier than expected. And I totally agree – it’s all about the layers. Hope you had an amazing time – and in Tahiti too. Must have been fab! ๐Ÿ™‚

      Yes I had an amazing trip! (Then again, how could you not in New Zealand?? ๐Ÿ˜‰ )

        Kiaora.I am very impress with your writings.I am happy to know that you enjoyed your adventure at our land The long white cloud Aotearoa.I live here in Utah for 30 years now and I got home sick sometime when I see or read things like this.Stay safe.

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