Backpacking in New Zealand: How to Prepare your Trip

1. The most important thing to know before you go.

New Zealand's climate is temperate in most parts of the country. Most travellers choose to stay between early spring and mid-autumn.

If you are travelling in winter, our advice is still valid, but plan to wear slightly warmer clothes. Even in the summer, some parts of the South Island require some cover.

New Zealand is a land of adventure. Kiwis consider that men are not supposed to pay much attention to the way they dress. Although women are more careful about their appearance, the style is decidedly casual. The most you can do is to dress more elegantly for high-end restaurants.

The weather has the reputation of varying so often that sometimes four seasons can be seen on the same day. This may seem a little worrying at first glance, but it is not. All you have to do is lay several layers of very light clothing on top of each other, which you can easily add or remove.

Luggage that is too heavy is a source of fatigue and stress, and it significantly increases fuel consumption!

You will very often have the opportunity to do laundry on the spot. All cities offer laundries, not to mention the lodges, B&Bs or campsites that are equipped with them. You have to resist the temptation to take everything with you and travel light. Easier said than done! I'll help you prepare your luggage from A to Z. Feel free to follow my advice to the letter or simply to be inspired by it.

new zealand backpacking landscape

2. What luggage is allowed? 

For a long-haul flight, we recommend a rigid suitcase. It must be equipped with a coded lock, or a padlock if it is intended to travel in the hold.

Labelling is mandatory, but do not use the paper labels provided at the airport. Prefer a sturdy leather pouch with your contact details. It will be less likely to be ripped off by baggage unloaders. Sticking on a sticker or tying a recognisable sign is highly recommended.

Airlines generally allow checked baggage up to 20-23kg.. The baggage that follows you in the cabin is limited to 7kg for a size not exceeding 115 cm.

Consider purchasing any accessories that may make the journey more enjoyable. Neck airbag, earmuff, eye mask, earplugs and compression stockings. Take along anything that can help you relax and sleep. You're ready to pack, but there are a few tricks so you don't have to play Tetris to fill the suitcase!

airplane cabin

3. How to pack your suitcase efficiently? 

The first rule is never packing your suitcase at the last minute. It is also not advisable to fill it up as you go along during the week. This is the sure way to forget something.

It's best to gather all the things you need to take out in front of you before you start packing. Our trick is to allow 24 hours to pass before starting the filling process. Nine times out of ten, that gives you time to realize that something is missing.

Electronic or fragile devices should be packed and placed in the centre to limit shocks. Optimize storage! Anything that might be subject to customs control should be stored last and remain easily accessible.

Heavy items that are least likely to be used during the trip should be stored in the bottom of the suitcase.

Clothes that are not folded in four take up less space (you can even roll them up to make the most of the free space). Items that may be creased (socks, for example) are used to fill in the holes.


4. What clothes should I bring? 

The puzzle often begins when it comes to making a list of things to bring. Here is a list of clothes we recommend to pack to backpack in New Zealand. It is a solid base that you will complete according to your needs.

  • Hats

Enough to cover your head during sunny hikes. Cap or hat, as long as it's not an orange bob (you still represent a bit of France).

  • The top

We take a warm parka with me if the Tongariro Alpine Crossing is on the program, even in summer. It takes a lot of space, but it's better to have one than to regret its absence when you need it (that said, you can buy one there for less than in France).

Mornings and evenings are often cool. The ideal is to be able to superimpose a t-shirt, a big sweater and then a windbreaker. The latter should be of the Gore-Tex type, waterproof with a mandatory hood (the umbrella is to be proscribed because of the wind).

  • The bottom

Jeans mainly for city walks (they should not be worn for hiking, as they dry too slowly). We add two shorts, half-course pants (good compromise) and waterproof hiking pants.

The swimsuit is useful even in winter because there are hot thermal springs. If I plan to swim outside of the summer, a wetsuit is a must. We also take enough underwear with us.

  • Shoes

Before packing our shoes, we wash them methodically so that they are not confiscated by the airport's biosecurity services. This is no joke, authorities are very serious with this issue.

We take a comfortable pair of sneakers for the city and simple hikes. Tap dance shoes for the beach are not essential, but practical. Add a pair of hiking boots, made to fit your foot (absolutely avoid leaving with new shoes!). And finally, a pair of city shoes with spare laces and bandages for blisters.

  • Socks

Apart from the traditional socks, we recommend planning three pairs suitable for hiking to reduce friction with the skin.

  • Towels

We fold a towel, but we don't take any sheets with us, as they are always provided (whether you sleep in a B&B or in a camper van).

luggage packing

5. What identification and how much money? 

Provide photocopies of documents related to the trip. Keep the list of emergency numbers on you, it would be useless at the bottom of the suitcase.

Exchange photocopies of your documents with the other participants of the trip. In case of loss, one of your friends can give you back a copy of your passport. This will make it much easier to deal with the consulate, local authorities and the police.

As far as cash is concerned, do not put all your eggs in the same basket. We usually keep some on us and the rest in our carry-on bag. We don't leave money in checked luggage even if it is laminated.

packing your bag

6. What are the essential accessories? 

If there is one accessory you can't do without, it's a canvas backpack. The small east-pack you kept from your studies may be enough for a short hike, but it is better to choose a suitable bag.

  • Backpack

However, there is no need to choose a model heavier than what you will have to carry! Ideally, you should be able to store one or two layers of clothing to keep your hands free. I usually say that each participant should have their own backpack (this limits arguments and everyone wears just what they need). Clean the camping gear thoroughly before leaving (don't say you haven't been told ten times). If you're hiking for several days, bring enough boiling water with you.

  • Glasses

Glasses, whether visual or sunglasses are on the list of things forgotten before the start. Sunglasses are easy to replace, unlike prescription glasses! This is probably the worst possible forgetfulness, especially if you have to drive a car or motor home.

  • First aid kit

Blister bandages, shower gel, nail clippers... it can be interesting to buy the necessary on the spot to simplify customs controls. The UV index is higher in New Zealand because the ozone layer is thinner. Plan a cream with a minimum index of 30. Mosquito repellent is essential, but I prefer to buy it locally. I want to make sure it is effective against sandflies (the small midges in Milford Sound).

  • Mains adapter

New Zealand has an alternating current of 230-240 V and 50 Hz. This standard is compatible with our European appliances. However, the plugs are flat and the adapter is required. Buy this device in advance so that you do not have to pay the full price at the airport or on-site.

backpacking itinerary in new zealand

7. How to make the trip more enjoyable? 

Apart from the essential accessories, there are many objects that can be useful and make the stay more pleasant.

  • Travel guide

The suitcase is already heavy enough not to add an 800-page list of restaurants. Opt for the Lonely Planet guides or the Rough Guide which are the most serious.

  • GPS & Maps

Most car rental companies will charge you for the optional GPS. If you already have such an accessory, make sure you load the country map in memory. Smartphones often have GPS software, but it is almost always dependent on an Internet connection.

Road maps will be provided with the rental vehicle, but a simpler map may be useful for tracking progress during your stay.

  • Binoculars & flashlight

The miniature binoculars and the small dynamo torch take up little space. They are often useful for observing animals or exploring caves.

  • Tablet & Smartphone

The vast majority of accommodation offers WiFi access, which is generally free. No need to buy an application, Kiwipal is free, and automatically adapts to all phones and tablets.

  • Audio Jack 3.5 cable

For a stay that includes long hours on the road, this is a piece of advice that is worth its weight in gold. This cable, which costs just a few euros, allows you to connect a music player to the car radio. You will thank us when you have tried the New Zealand stations.

  • Beach bracelet with a waterproof pocket

It allows you to bathe while keeping a car key on hand. Ideal for not having to watch your beach stuff every ten seconds.

  • Bag for dirty laundry

We are taking more bags than we need on the way out. we always end up using them on the spot or to store souvenirs on the way back.

road in a new zealand landscape

8. Checklist for one person.

This list is valid for spring and summer. For autumn and winter, you will have to opt for clothes more adapted to the cold. The list is not exhaustive and can be completed according to your needs and activities on site.



  • 1 hat or cap
  • 1 windbreak / rain break (light)
  • 1 hiking jacket
  • 1 light sweater
  • 1 thick sweater
  • 1 fleece sweater
  • 1 windbreaker
  • 3 t-shirts
  • 1 shirt


    • 1 pair of waterproof trousers (gortex or raincoat)
    • 1 pair of jeans
    • 1 pair of shorts
    • 1 swimsuit
    • 1 pair of light sneakers (converse for example)
    • 1 pair of good sneakers for walking
    • 1 pair of hiking boots
    • 1 pair of town shoes (optional)
    • 1 pair of beach flip-flops
    • 5 pairs of normal socks
    • 3 pairs of special hiking socks
    • 2 pairs of glasses
    • 1 pair of sunglasses (suitable for driving)


      • 1 backpack
      • 1 bottle
      • 1 bag for dirty laundry
      • 1 plastic bag for each pair of shoes
      • 3 extra plastic bags
      • 1 camera
      • 1 phone
      • 1 device to play music
      • 1 AC adapter for NZ 3-pin flat plugs
      • 1 3.5 jack cable male/male
      • 1 noise-cancelling headset
      • 1 charger for the right equipment
      • 1 wrist strap / waterproof pocket
      • 1 map of the country
      • 1 GPS (optional, but recommended)
      • 1 mini flashlight with dynamo
      • 1 mini pair of binoculars
      • 1 airbag for the plane


        • 1 tube of sun cream
        • 1 mini tube of shower gel
        • Toiletries
        • This stuff should be packed in a transparent waterproof plastic bag

          PAPERS & MONEY

          • Passport
          • Driver's license
          • International Driving Licence
          • Insurance certificates
          • Plane tickets
          • Itinerary and proof of hotel reservations
          • Contact information and emergency numbers
          • Photocopies of papers
          • Means of payment
          • Species


          Wrapping Up

          You have all the cards in hand to prepare your trip to New Zealand. After filling in all these boxes, you can leave with a clear mind, ready to discover the many wonders of this country. 


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