Planning a trip to New Zealand in winter, but not sure what you need to pack? I’ve put together this New Zealand Packing List to help you. Quite like the UK, where you can also experience the infamous “four seasons in one day”,
New Zealand’s weather is temperamental all year round. This means you need to pack for any weather which is a bit of a pain in the arse. And whilst I have plenty of experience packing for Europe in summer, packing for New Zealand in winter was a totally different ball game.
It doesn’t help that packing for any trip which is more than a few weeks is also difficult. How do I fit the kitchen sink and every other necessity into a tiny suitcase or backpack??? Don’t worry, I understand your woes. So whether you’re visiting Queenstown, Auckland, Christchurch, Wellington (great choice!), or beyond, this New Zealand packing list will help you understand what you need to chuck in your bag and help you be prepared.
What should I pack everything in?
Ah, the age-old question, not “what came first, the chicken or the egg?” but “suitcase or backpack?”. Depending on how long you’re away for and what type of travelling you plan on doing, different things will work better for you.
Since I was only travelling around the country for about three weeks, then living in Wellington for a whole month, taking a suitcase worked best for me. However, if you plan on backpacking the entire time you’re out there, then a backpack would probably make more sense.
I picked up my 23 quid Antler suitcase the morning of my flight (oops!). I was torn between taking a suitcase which couldn’t fit all my stuff in or one which was stupidly big for a student staying in hostels. In the end, I figured why not just buy a new suitcase. This cheap and cheerful suitcase was the perfect travel companion for me in New Zealand.
It had a 72-litre capacity, and a fixed TSA combination lock meaning I didn’t have to worry about anything being stolen in hostels. The suitcase’s reasonably small size (66 by 47cm), retractable handle and four wheels meant I could also easily whizz it around the country. Ensure you pick a suitcase big enough to fit in any New Zealand souvenirs you might want to bring home!
Osprey Palea backpack
My Osprey backpack, pictured above, was the best day companion I could ask for and more. It has a super comfortable back system plus a padded laptop sleeve and an integrated stand to keep it upright wherever you put it down which comes in very handy every time you want to get something out of your bag!
You’re definitely going to want to bring a travel daypack of some kind to New Zealand because obviously, you don’t want to be taking your suitcase everywhere with you. A travel backpack is the best bag for the job for long days and hikes and it will save your back and shoulders a lot of pain.
Make sure your hiking backpack is big enough to fit everything you need in but not too big that it’s a nightmare to carry around. I’d say mine was the perfect size!
New Zealand Packing List
Good luck getting out of the country without this bad boy, mate. Your passport should always be your priority – if you lose this you’re a bit screwed so keep your eye on it!
International credit card
You do not want to incur ridiculous fees using your card or withdrawing cash abroad. Ensure your credit or debit card is travel-friendly so you’re not spending more than you need to!
New Zealand dollars
I’d recommend not taking too much cash and sticking to your card (I don’t like carrying wads of cash around but maybe that’s just my personal preference), but a little bit of cash to get you started doesn’t hurt.
Mobile phone with international SIM
Luckily my contract with EE meant I didn’t need to get a new SIM in order to use my phone abroad but this may not be the case for you. Make sure you know before you go so that you’re not suddenly stuck somewhere rural with no 3G!
Obviously, you don’t need to physically pack this but just make sure your travel insurance is sorted! Better safe than sorry, pal.
Having one place where you keep all your important documents, cards and cash is ridiculously handy; I am a huge advocate for a good old travel wallet and mine (linked) is so beautiful!
If you lose your luggage and you forget to put a luggage tag on it you will seriously regret it. Need I repeat the “Better safe than sorry” line again?
A big winter coat or puffa jacket
Weather varies from region to region in the country, and you never know when you’ll need to ward off a chilly breeze or a sudden rainfall. When I was in Auckland in July (New Zealand’s winter) the weather was glorious; there were even people dressed in just a t-shirt, shorts and flip flops.
However, when I hopped on a plane down to Queenstown just a few days later I learnt just how bad New Zealand’s winter can get. I lived in my huge grey coat (pictured above) every day in New Zealand. When it comes to picking a coat to take with you, make sure it’s a neutral colour so it goes with all your clothes!
Three pairs of leggings
Anyone who knows me in real life will know I live in skirts and dresses which doesn’t fare too well in New Zealand’s winter. I practically lived in leggings for the entire time I was in New Zealand and I can’t say I regret it one bit.
A pair of jeans
For those times you want to feel just a tad fancier.
Layers are key, people.
If I could have somehow fit one hundred jumpers into my suitcase I would have. Trust me, you will live in these. If you can, bring a couple of different styles and colours so you don’t feel like you’re wearing the exact same outfit everyday.
A skirt or dress (or two!)
Depending on what you like wearing and how much you plan on dressing up on your trip to New Zealand, you can choose whether to bring these or not. Since I went out drinking practically every night for two months (don’t judge!), it was nice to have a couple of nice skirts with me to make me feel a bit more dressy.
However, you seriously shouldn’t worry about this as I was always the most dressed up out of my group. Whilst some of the locals may dress to the nines in the evenings, all the other young backpackers are always wrapped up warm in hiking gear.
I’m a big fan of merino wool and New Zealand is the land of merino so what better place is there to wear it? I practically lived in my thermal long-sleeve top in New Zealand; it formed the perfect base of my winter outfits. Thermals trap a layer of warmth close to your skin and, trust me, you can feel the difference when you don’t wear them, especially when hiking.
Underwear and socks
I figure these are a given. Please don’t forget ya underwear.
A scarf, hat and gloves
All the cosies!
Bikini or swimsuit
You may think that you may not need these in winter but trust me, you will! Whether it’s zorbing in Rotorua or bathing in one of the many hot springs, there will certainly be opportunities to get your kit off in New Zealand’s winter. The islands were formed by volcanic eruptions, and thus the country is riddled with geothermal activity meaning there is plenty of hot water all year round.
This is one thing I didn’t bring with me to New Zealand and I definitely regretted it. Who knew the sun would be so damn bright out there in winter?!
Don’t be a stubborn idiot like yours truly and refuse to bring hiking boots because they’ll take up too much room in your suitcase. Trust me, you will need them. I mean sure I got by fine just wearing my trainers but having a pair of hiking boots handy would have been a blessing at times and would have made me far less anxious about twisting my ankle on some of the hikes we did.
Perfect for everyday wear!
This one is optional. I liked wearing shoes that were a little more dressy to work and on nights out but New Zealand is so laid back that you can definitely get away with just wearing trainers all the time.
You’ll want a pair of flip flops for wearing around the hostel and especially in the hostel showers. Oh, and the pools too!
Toiletries and Cosmetics
Toiletries in New Zealand are absolutely extortionate. I’m talking paying over four times the price than what you would at home. If you can fit toiletries in your suitcase, take them, because trust me you do not want to be spending any money in New Zealand’s pharmacies.
Don’t bring your favourite wash bags. Bring some clear cheap ones that you don’t mind inevitably getting ruined in hostel showers
I’m not sure what it was about the climate in New Zealand, but boy did my skin dry out like crazy! Bring allllll the moisturiser, y’all.
New Zealand is pretty bloody beautiful and you’d be silly not to get snap happy over there!
Whether you plan on bungee jumping, jetboating or ziplining, New Zealand is riddled with adventure activities. And if you are an adrenaline junkie like yours truly, who also loves Instagram an unreasonable amount, you’ll want to capture some sick footage of your escapades.
Not essential but definitely helpful!
I was kindly sent my travel adapter by Yugen Explore and it was ideal because not only did it have a place to plug in your British (or whatever country you are from) plug but it also had two USB points meaning you could charge three electrical items at once without packing three separate adapters. It also comes with a free zip case to protect it from getting damaged and stop dirt or sand going in the holes. Ideal!
A small portable charger is a wise idea when travelling, especially since you may be taking day trips far enough away from your accommodation that you can’t stop back midday to recharge your phone.
Ideally, buy one that gives you a few charges so you don’t have to be charging the charger every day (sidenote: how many times can one person use the word charger?). Mine only cost 8 quid, and it’s super slim and portable and does the job ever so well.
You’re gonna be travelling a lot and music and podcasts will make that a hell of a lot easier, trust.
A virtual private network can allow you to browse the internet despite restrictions and any country-specific censorship. I essentially just used it to catch up on the latest Love Island episode. Don’t judge!
Packing cubes just make everything a hell of a lot easier and more efficient, especially when you will be opening and closing your suitcase every night in a different hostel. Heck, if I could pack my entire life into a packing cube I probably would. I bloody love packing cubes and will rave about them until the cows come home!
First Aid Kit
Let me be a bit of a mum for a minute, yeah? New Zealand is a Western country, of course, so you’ll be able to find the vast majority of medications you’d take at home there. However, I like knowing I’m safe and sound and got everything I need on me anyway, especially when everything costs approximately a billion dollars in New Zealand.
I brought a big one (which cost me less than four quid – bargain!) which I shared with my roommate in Wellington so we could do laundry together.
Hostels generally won’t provide towels and you’ll never know when you need one on the road too. I got mine from Yugen Explore and it was fantastic. Microfibre towels are quick drying and ultra-absorbent, meaning they are great for chucking in your bag when checking out of a hostel.
My own came with a compact storage bag which makes this process a heck of a lot easier too. Plus, they tend to be anti-bacterial and don’t smell which always comes in handy.
This bundle was perfect and probably the best bit of money I spent before heading out to Kiwi land. If you’re sleeping in hostels or on planes, trust me, you’ll need all three of these things. Especially if you’re an adult-sized baby like me who also used the pillow to cuddle up to when sleeping in hostels.
Again, if you’re an adult-sized baby like me and want to make the long plane and bus journeys, and sleeping in crap hostel beds, that little bit easier then bring your own blanket.
My book of choice was Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood. Books are delightful, but heavy and bulky, which your back will not thank you for. Either bring just one or two (you probably won’t have much time to read anyway!) or bring your Kindle or similar e-reader. This will help save precious suitcase space!
Are you planning a trip to New Zealand soon? Is there anything you think I’ve missed off my New Zealand packing list? Let me know in the comments below!
I was gifted a backpack by Osprey and a travel adapter/travel towel by Yugen Explore for the purposes of this post but as always all opinions are my own.
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