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 your generosity of information for visiting New Zealand! My family of 4 are taking our first trip there, leaving North Carolina the last week of May 2017, for 3 weeks. That is the beginning of winter, I believe. Any added advice for traveling and packing during early June? I’ve been reading many blogs today, yours has been one of the most helpful, especially the packing list!

      Yes, early June is the beginning of “winter” in New Zealand, but the season is SO different depending on where you are! This packing list is a good start – layers are always key! It’ll be warmer up north, but getting chilly down south in places like Queenstown by then, so I definitely recommend some layers and a hat and gloves just in case!

    This packing list is super helpful for me right now! I’m setting off for a one month trip to New Zealand next weekend and I cannot wait! 😀

    One slightly random question – I use the same Olympus camera as you (the OMD EM5 II) and remember reading somewhere that you use the 12-40 PRO lens with it. Now, do you think I should upgrade from my teeny pancake lens for this trip? It was my birthday recently so I have the funds to cover most of the heavy price tag!

    Thanks for your help!

      If you have the money, I would definitely upgrade your lens!! The 12-40 does take up a lot more space than a teeny pancake lens, BUT it takes such amazing photos (plus you have the option to zoom a bit!). I don’t think you would regret the purchase. 🙂

        Thanks Amanda! I currently have the 12-42 pancake lens so it’s a similar focal range, but it suits my needs just fine and the 12-40 is still vastly superior quality wise! I’m also worried about the lack of weather sealing on my current lens which may not do for the glacier heli-hikes and other adventurey things!

          Oh and btw – I love your photos and was a big contributor in me choosing to buy the Olympus camera in the first place!

            Awesome to hear! And as for the lens investment, I’m sure you’ll get good shots regardless! (But I do LOVE my Pro lens!)

    Awesome packing list, it’s super helpful! I’m heading to NZ in a week and trying to get things finalized, and your list is a saving grace! what season did you go in? It will be end of spring there for me, so I’m trying to gauge what else I will need. Thanks!

      I’ve been there in every season except mid-summer, and this packing list was what I took when I was there in November/December (so spring, but would also be good for autumn!).

    I live in new Zealand. Hope you had an amazing time. Did you hike the tongiriro crossing or do any of the great walks? Anyway if you’re ever visiting wellington flick me a message and I’ll show you some sights all for free of course.

      I haven’t tackled the Crossing or any of the Great Walks (multi-day hikes aren’t really my thing) yet. But I’m going back to New Zealand next year and am hoping to finally hike the Crossing!

    Thank you so much for this amazing article and suggestions. We’re going in a few days and I’ve been stressing about what to pack. I’ll make sure to have sunscreen!
    Mahalo!

      Happy to be able to help! And yes – be sure to pack sunscreen, and to wear it! The sun is much stronger than you think there.

    My husband and I are planning a last minute trip to NZ in November for 10 days any suggestions on where to go? We fly into Auckland. Do you think we can do both North and South Island in this time? My husbands friend said to spend 4 days in North Island and the rest in South. I’ve read you can easily spend 10 days just in North.

      If you head over to the Destinations page on my site you can find everything I’ve written about New Zealand – which is a lot! To be honest, I don’t think you can really do justice to both islands in just 10 days. I would probably pick one or the other, based on what you’re most interested in seeing/doing!

    Amanda, for New Zealand are the Belkin power strip/surge protector and
    Skross travel adapter dual voltage? If I want to recharge stuff using my ZeroLemon recharger, will it blow up if I plug it in without a converter? I don’t see anywhere on these three items saying they are dual voltage to cover both US and NZ.

      You won’t have any problems with them in NZ (or anywhere else in the world). Nearly all electronics and chargers these days are made to be dual voltage so you can use them anywhere in the world!

        The Belkin power strip has different prongs for different countries or do you plug it into an adapter?

        I’m buying a bunch of stuff from your suggestion list so I do appreciate your help! Oh, and from your page so you’ll get credit for it. Good article and good help.

          The Belkin strip (at least the one I’ve linked to) have regular US prongs, so you will need an adapter for the wall outlets in other countries. (The Skross one mentioned in this post will work!)

    I am surprised that you didn’t pack more clothes for warm weather. Normally the end of spring is just as hot as summer in new zealand.

      Since I was starting up north and ending on the South Island (which is always cooler), I didn’t really need many summer clothes. Between my zip-off pants and 3 dresses, I was fine with what I took for the weather I encountered.

    Hi Amanda, Thanks for all the great info on your blog! You have inspired me to get back to my photography blog! I have been checking out your New Zealand Posts. I will be there the last week of September with my sister, flying into Queenstown, then over to Moeraki, down to Otago Peninsula, south to Kaka Point, a couple days in the Catlins, then back up to Queenstown. Should we do Milford??? We are birders and like to walk. And I have one specific question about packing, which travel pillow for the plane do you use?

      Milford is really beautiful, even if it’s not great weather. I’d say go for it if you have the time! (If you’re asking about the Milford Trek, though, I can’t offer any advice on that since multi-day walks are not really my thing. Going to Milford for a cruise, though, is still cool!)

      As for a travel pillow, I just have a cheap inflatable one that I got on Amazon: http://amzn.to/2cgg5hI I hardly ever sleep on planes, so I’ve never bothered to invest in a better one!

    Hi Amanda I´ve been in NZ like 8 years ago, next august 15 I´ll go again for some adventures and visit some good old friends. I really appreciate your tips, your blog is super. Winter time is awesome there specially for who love snow, Queenstown is like a magic paradise.

    Amanda, have you ever been to New Zealand in the winter months (I was thinking of planning a trip for next August)? With your wealth of NZ knowledge I was wondering whether this would be much too cold a time to go? (I wouldn’t want it to be cold to the point where I was in a winter coat).

      Yes, I actually lived in Wellington during NZ winter one year! On the North Island is doesn’t really get cold enough to snow, even in the middle of winter. But if you were to go down south (like to Mount Cook or Queenstown) in the winter, there’s a definite possibility that you’d run into snow, especially in some of the higher elevations. I didn’t have a winter coat for my trip, though – just a heavy fleece and a couple of layers!

    Thanks so much for the packing list! I’m going on Red Carpet’s tour next February, and it’ll be my first overseas trip, so I’m doing a lot of research. One thing I wonder: did you feel like you were over-burdened by having three bags? I’m planning something similar with a suitcase, a small backpack for electronics and stuff, and a purse. Was it too much to carry, or was it okay?

      I’m used to traveling with 3 bags since I carry a lot of tech gear as a blogger (laptop, cameras, GoPro, chargers, etc.). So it didn’t bother me at all. Plus, you don’t do a lot of walking with your luggage on a Red Carpet Tour, so it’s not like you’ll have to be dragging everything through the city with you. 🙂

    Hi! I’ve thoroughly enjoyed your posts about New Zealand! Your love for this beautiful place is clear. I’m going for my first visit in February, and will be visiting the North and South Island. I wondered if you had any advice on combating sandflies.

      Ugh, sandflies! I’m not sure how effective bug spray is against them. My tip would be long sleeves and long pants that fit a bit loosely so they can’t bite you through the fabric. Thankfully they won’t be an issue everywhere in NZ!

    Thanks for the packing list. I’ve just bought padded pants for March April 2016 4 week trip, but not sure I’m going to need them really. We’re doing the Camper Van rather than hotels, so think it could be wise. That as well as shorts, 3/4 pants and convertible ones too. (In place of jeans).

      As long as you can pack everything, I would say it never hurts to be prepared! The weather can be very different depending on where you are in NZ.

    Can I just say that I love your blog! Your picture at the top is super awesome! I was wondering if you had any advice on how you got your tickets. I’m just looking for the cheapest way possible and I was wondering if you might have any insight. Thanks a ton!
    I will be continuing to read your blog! Keep it up!

      Thanks, Malissa! Do you mean tickets to New Zealand? I always keep an eye on flight deals from Air New Zealand – traveling in the shoulder season almost guarantees lower prices.

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