The ultimate packing guide for a trip to New Zealand

With so many adventure experiences to be had in New Zealand, knowing what to pack can be confusing. Happily, we’ve made it easy with this essential travel packing list for New Zealand.

New Zealand has a predominantly temperate climate but its sheer geographical diversity means the weather can be both unpredictable and highly variable. With an infinite range of outdoor activities and adventures on offer, it’s important to follow a comprehensive travel packing list carefully.

“When travelling to a place like New Zealand, it's important to consider where and when you're going and what you're going to do,” says Daan Dijkstra, product specialist at Kathmandu. “You'll require specific garments and equipment based on location, season and activity. New Zealand is renowned for its fickle weather at times; four seasons in one day is not uncommon, and you will need to dress accordingly. You'll need different gear for a lazy beach holiday compared to a hardcore solo hike in the Southern Alps. Where, when and what should always be in the back of your mind when you're looking at what to take on your trip.”

Here are 20 essential items worth adding to your travel packing list for New Zealand:

Spring & Summer (September-February)

1. Sunscreen

The ozone layer is thin in many parts of New Zealand, so in summer be sure pack high-level sun protection even if you think you’re immune to UV rays.

2. Trekking boots

With some of the most scenic trails anywhere in the world, you’ll need a decent pair of walking shoes that offer support on ragged paths. “Don't just bring a pair of jandals (Kiwi for thongs),” says Daan. “If you plan to go for a bit of a hike you'll need to bring sturdy shoes or boots with a good sole for some much-needed grip while exploring the New Zealand bush.”

3. Camera backpack

There are now a multitude of great compact DSLR backpacks available which double as day packs so you can carry multiple lenses (a wide angle is crucial for those landscape shots) as well as essentials for your outing.

4. Travel cards

Pre-load a travel card with local currency and avoid having to carry a chunky wallet while you’re out enjoying physical adventures.

5. Trekking poles

You might feel a bit strange using trekking poles for the first time but you’ll appreciate the support they offer when you’re on that rugged alpine trail to Mt Cook.

6. Waterproof rain jacket

They pack down to nothing and can make the difference between a miserable, soggy outing and an unforgettable day out.

7. Head torch

Camping, trekking, or just trying to find your way to the toilet in the dark without stubbing your toe on a tent peg, trust us, you’ll be glad you packed a head torch.

8. Swimsuit/boardies

With turquoise glacial lakes and pristine ocean at every turn, stuff a pair in your day pack as you might want to cool off mid-trail.

9. Bug resistant spray or clothing

Sandflies can be a real annoyance in New Zealand. Ward them off with some good quality repellent. Daan recommends going one step further by investing in bug-resistant clothing. “New Zealand’s sandflies can be notoriously hungry for a sip of your blood. A great alternative is buzzGUARD insect repellent apparel; clothing that keeps mozzies and other creepy crawlies away.”

10. ID

Kiwis can be surprisingly strict when it comes to ID, especially when it comes to serving alcohol. Avoid disappointment at the vineyard cellar door by keeping it handy.

Autumn & Winter (March-August)

11. Thermals/layers

In and around Queenstown can be mighty chilly during winter and a skinny pair of thermals will prove invaluable on and off the slopes. When it comes to choice of fibre, Daan believes merino is a winner. “Merino base layers are soft against the skin and odour resistant so you can wear them for longer. Merino also wicks away moisture from your skin and provides temperature regulation. Mother Nature at her best.”

12. Beanie

Apparently we lose the majority of heat through our head. Keep it warm and your body will follow suit.

13. Go Pro

So much easier than attempting to ski or snowboard with a bulky camera, strap one of these diminutive bad boys to your helmet and capture all the action of your trip.

14. Leatherman

This compact, pocket-sized tool kit can prove priceless whether it’s tightening the bindings on your snowboard or popping the cap on a beer bottle.

15. Snowboarding gear

If you own it, bring it. It’s far preferable to queueing in rental shops to pull on ski boots that have seen hundreds of sweaty feet before yours.

16. Sunscreen

Previously mentioned but always worth reinforcing: the temperature may be freezing, but the sun can burn in winter, especially when reflected off snow. Pack zinc or seriously high factor cream.

17. Portable charger

Don’t badger the barman at the après ski joint to use his phone charger, pack a pocket sized battery to keep your electronics juiced up.

18. Thick socks

Cold feet suck. Whether you’re trekking, boarding or just hanging out, pack a few pairs of thick socks to ensure you’re comfortable when the temperature drops.

19. Packing cells

Daan believes that packing cells are life changers for travellers. “Packing cells keep your gear organised and ready wherever you go. No more desperate digging in your pack, no more lost socks, no more moments of pure panic just before the bus leaves,” he says. “Use compression packing cells if you need to reduce the volume of your gear. You can even buy anti-odour packing cells to keep your smelly boots away from your clean gear.”

20. Insulated jacket

It packs into a compact ball and keeps you snug. An insulated jacket is also infinitely more travel-friendly than a bulky fleece and is pretty fashionable too.