The Ultimate New Zealand Packing List
By Orla O Muiri
6 minute read
Get hold of your free New Zealand Trails brochure here
Your mind is made up. Your flights are booked. The countdown has begun. Soon, you’ll be tucking into your lunch on a wild and rustic New Zealand trail, cooling your feet at the base of a waterfall or sipping on an Otago pinot noir while watching the sun dip below the horizon. You’re about to embark on the adventure of a lifetime, filled with glorious hikes, invigorating activities and a seemingly never-ending supply of food. The trouble is figuring out what to pack for New Zealand. By popular demand, we’ve developed the ultimate New Zealand packing list. Check out our easy-to-follow packing list for New Zealand here or better yet, we’ve attached a downloadable version for you to print and tick off as you pack! After reading our advice on what to pack for New Zealand, you can rest assured that you’ll have everything you need to embrace this once in a lifetime experience in true comfort and style.
What to pack for New Zealand hiking
New Zealand Trails super-guide Kim explains everything you'll need to pack for your New Zealand hiking adventure. From boots and clothing, to your backpack and what to pack inside it.
Top tips when it comes to your New Zealand packing list
We want you to be warm and comfortable at all times while playing in the great outdoors. As we explore many spectacular alpine regions on our guided hiking tours, we can encounter cold weather at any time of the year. So, when visiting New Zealand, you should come prepared for any season! Before we dive into it, there are three essential details we feel you need to know.
- We swear by layering here at New Zealand Trails. The advantage of layering is that air gets trapped between the layers which provide insulation, keeping us nice and warm. Opt for wool, silk and synthetic fabrics over cotton as when cotton gets wet, it draws heat away from the body. So instead of packing one bulky jumper, bring multiple lightweight layers instead.
- As for your evening attire, we’re a relaxed bunch over on this side of the world and we’ll opt for the comfortable option over the fancy one every single time. So no need to pack your red carpet frock! Smart casual is as elegant as we go, but you won’t look out of place in hiking gear in any restaurant here!
- The last item worth drawing special attention to is the nifty dry bag. A dry bag is a bag that is watertight once sealed. We advise bringing one for your spare clothes on day hikes and one for all of your gadgets like phones and cameras. They are a lifesaver when the heavens open.
New Zealand packing list – DO’S
- Pack light! People often tell us that they have packed too many clothes for their trip; you will have plenty of opportunities to do laundry so don’t bring your entire wardrobe with you. A few key pieces of clothing will go a long way.
- Invest in a good-quality, breathable, waterproof rain jacket (Gore-tex or similar). Note, waterproof, not water-resistant!
- Wear in your gear before you come! Especially your hiking boots! Train in the gear you are bringing, wear it in, figure out what works and what doesn’t in the comfort of your own neighbourhood and before you set foot on a plane to travel to the other side of the world.
- Quick-dry activewear is a must. If you get wet or sweaty, you won’t be for long!
- Boots with good ankle support are essential. Trail shoes are suitable for many of New Zealand’s trails. However, we’ve found boots with good ankle support tend to be a much safer option as many of our trails here are rocky.
- Layers, layers, layers! A good rule of thumb is usually three layers on top and two on the bottom, starting with a thermal layer.
- We would opt for non-waterproof hiking boots. If waterproof boots get wet on the inside (from a river crossing) they won’t dry and you’ll be uncomfortable for the remainder of the day. Whereas a normal breathable pair of boots will get wet but they’ll dry much faster.
- If you are purchasing hiking poles for your trip, we recommend getting adjustable poles with a clip or fold mechanism as opposed to twisty poles which can get clogged up with dirt easily and become a nuisance to adjust or pack away.
- On our Kiwi Classic trip, you’ll carry a 65 litre or more backpack. We’ll provide you with sleeping bags, mats, liners and packs that are hardwearing, effective and designed to keep you warm. Feel free to bring your own sleeping bag liner.
New Zealand packing list – DON’TS
- Don’t bring ultralight gear, especially on the Kiwi Classic. It’s not hardcore enough for New Zealand! We find it gets damaged too easily.
- Avoid cotton clothing for hiking. If it gets wet, it draws heat away from the body. This includes your denim jeans! We recommend merino wool instead.
- Avoid leather boots. If they get wet during a river crossing or in heavy rain, they become super heavy. Plus, once wet, they take a very long time to dry and there’s nothing worse than putting on soggy boots the next morning!
What to pack for a New Zealand Trails hiking trip
Whether you are trying to figure out what to pack for New Zealand in October or what to pack for New Zealand in February, after years spent out exploring our wild spaces we have come to the conclusion that when hiking in New Zealand you should carry the same gear in your backpack all year round. The reason being that the weather here can be temperamental and unpredictable. Plus, we also hike in alpine environments. Have a read of our comprehensive packing list for New Zealand.
From choosing the daypack to finding your ideal pair of hiking boots; shopping for gear can be a stressful task. We suggest popping into your local outdoor retailer and telling them exactly what you’re doing. They’ll be able to point you in the right direction. If you’ve cruised through the packing process and are knee-deep in preparation, take a look at our five top tips to get you trail-ready.
How to pack a backpack for hiking
It is only on our Kiwi Classic that you need to carry a big pack. For multi-day hikes, you generally use a 65 litre pack with a weight of 15-18kg (33-40 pounds). As a general rule, you separate your pack into three sections. On the bottom layer, you place the bulky items that you won’t need until you’re setting up camp. The middle layer is for heavy items and the top layer is for the items that you’ll need on the trail.
On the rest of our tours, you’ll only need a day pack. Day packs usually weigh around 5–7kg (11–15 pounds). Key items to pack in your daypack are your waterproof jacket and trousers, a spare change of clothes (including socks), walking poles, a rain cover and liner for your backpack (to keep your items dry), camera, phone and water bottle.
Work on a system of least likely to use up to most likely to use. Your spare change of clothes goes in at the bottom, camera next, rain covers in the side pockets. If you are using a hydration pack, pack it on the outside if possible, or not beside anything too sharp if it’s going on the inside of your bag. If you are using a water bottle, place it in the bottle holder at the side of your bag or at the top of your pack. Walking poles can be clipped onto the outside of your pack when not in use.
How to use hiking poles
We are firm believers in the benefits of hiking poles. Not only do they reduce pressure strain on your opposite leg by 20%, but they also reduce the body weight carried by your legs by 5kg (11 pounds) on flat ground and 8kg (18 pounds) when going uphill. Check out our tutorial on how to use hiking poles correctly. If you’ve bought a pair specifically for this trip, try and get out into the fresh air to practise using them.
For a handy and comprehensive packing list, simply download our New Zealand packing list, print it and tick it off as you go!
If you are not yet booked on one of our awesome New Zealand guided hiking trips, then you can request a free brochure here to learn more about them from the comfort of your own home or simply get in touch here!
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This is super helpful! Great to know what to pack for my hiking trip in NZ