The Ultimate New Zealand Road Trip Packing List (Learn from my mistakes!)


Psst, FYI – this post may contain affiliate links, which means I earn a small commission (at absolutely no extra cost to you). Thanks for supporting the free content on this site (and for sponsoring more doggy treats for little Albus!)

New Zealand packing checklist

I lived in Australia for 5 years. So, prior to my trip to New Zealand, I did not look up any packing lists, or research what I needed to pack because I thought “Meh, New Zealand’s just gonna be pretty much the same as Australia.” I thought “hiking” was just going to be a few hours of a slow stroll in a nature reserve or park. I’m not sure what universe I was living in then thinking that but, NOPE. So, I just packed my usual–jeans, t-shirts and denim jacket. Boy, was I in for a ride.

New Zealand’s climate is pretty crazy. We got rained out almost every day on our 10-day road trip around the South Island, and were 100% not prepared.  We had 30°C sunny days in Christchurch, and then heavy downpours of 7°C in Te Anau. So it’s safe to say, that you’re gonna need to prepare yourself for an all-season packing list. And if you’re going to be hiking, which you probably will since it is New Zealand, you probably won’t have shelter for the many hours you’re out in the wilderness, so you’re gonna need the proper gear.

Well, my loss is your gain, as I can now tell you what to pack for New Zealand road trip, and not be a fool like me.

Here’s everything you’ll need for your wonderful self-drive road trip down New Zealand’s South Island!

PS. I’ve handcrafted a super handy printable checklist to help you pack for your New Zealand South Island road trip! Just pop in your email below and you’ll get it sent straight to your inbox!

Btw, I’ve got a few other resources here to help you in your New Zealand South Island road trip planning!

How to Road Trip New Zealand’s South Island in 10 Days
How Much Will A 10-Day Road Trip in New Zealand Cost: A Budget Breakdown


What should I bring on my New Zealand road trip?

1. Waterproof jacket women’s and men’s

This was the single most important thing we needed but did not have. New Zealand can get pretty chilly even in Summer, and it does rain quite a bit, so it’s ideal to have a jacket that is waterproof and warm. Don’t be fooled by a sunny morning, as it may suddenly start pouring in the afternoon. You’ll also want something light and compact that you can keep in your daypack for this reason.

See more options on Amazon →


2. Daypack

You’ll definitely need a light backpack you can carry around, especially on your hikes, to hold your essentials such as your water bottle, passport, rain jacket, camera, etc. I love my Marmot Kompressor Plus that weighs next to nothing, so I can pack all of my stuff in it and it still doesn’t weigh me down. There’s also a laptop compartment where I can safely stow my Macbook away.

See more options on Amazon →


3. Packing cubes

Whether you’ve heard of packing cubes before or not, it’s something that most seasoned travelers swear by. It’s the easiest way to organize your things, especially if you’re gonna be on the move every other night, and this is something you will definitely do on your South Island road trip. You’ll be able to separate your things into different packing cubes according to your needs, and it makes it much easier to find in your luggage as well.

See more options on Amazon →


4. Travel adaptor

Depending on where you’re coming from, you’ll likely need a power adapter so your devices can be safely plugged into New Zealand power sockets. You can get this international adaptor that you can use worldwide, and this nifty little gadget also lets you charge up to 5 devices at the same time! I love that there are 4 USB ports so you won’t need to carry your bulky power heads.

See more options on Amazon →


5. Camera

New Zealand is filled with postcard views at every turn, so you’ll want to capture them the best way possible, and immortalize those wonderful memories. I personally like Sony’s range of mirrorless cameras, because you get excellent photo quality without the bulk and weight of a DSLR. I currently use the Sony A6000, but am currently drooling over its successor, the A6500 or the full frame A7S II.

See more options on Amazon →


6. Action camera

If you’re looking to get your adrenaline pumping, which you really should while in New Zealand, you’ll want to bring a handy action camera that you can attach to any surface to capture your action shots. My handy GoPro has been with me on every single trip around the world, and was super useful when I went swimming with dolphins in Kaikoura as it’s waterproof up to 33 meters!

See more options on Amazon →


7. Portable charger / power bank

I never travel without my portable charger because I am a heavy mobile user, especially as I use a lot of Google Maps when navigating on our road trip. And that drains my phone quite quickly. I usually go for a portable charger with at least 10,000mAh so that it holds multiple charges. My smartphone  supports Fast Charging as well, so I always look out for a Fast Charging portable charger.

See more options on Amazon →


8. Hiking shoes men’s and women’s

New Zealand is all about the outdoors, so you’ll be doing a considerable amount of walking, on and off-track. Plus, as we’ve established, it does rain quite a bit, so you would do well with a good pair of waterproof hiking shoes. I made the mistake of wearing my Nike Roshe Runs, which are extremely absorbent. Bad move!

See more options on Amazon →


9. Lightweight laptop

It can get rather quiet when you’re out in the country where there’s pretty much no nightlife, so my MacBook Pro was really handy during the trip. When we were winding down at night, I would use it to research on our next day’s itinerary and also catch up on my Real Housewives series. It’s really slim and light which makes bringing it around on my travels a breeze.

See more options on Amazon →


10. Outdoor pants men’s & women’s

Again with the rain, you’re gonna want quick-drying pants. I fully regretted wearing jeans–torn jeans, no less–because fashion. <insert eyerolls here> So I ended up falling on one of our hikes, and scraped my knees–WHERE THE TORN PART WAS. Smart one, Steph. You wouldn’t want to be walking around in drenched pants too once the rain hits. Just pack a good pair of quick-drying pants (that are not torn)!

See more options on Amazon →


Other items you might need

Toothbrush CoverI love this cause it fits even my electric toothbrush and tongue cleaner!

Travel Pillow the memory foam ones are the bestest

Car Charger – you’ll need this when you’re on the road for many hours and need to juice up your devices!

Travel Umbrella – this is super handy when it rains. And when I say handy, I mean it fits in your hand. So you can conveniently throw it into your daypack. Whoo!

Noise-canceling Earphones – unless you want to be serenaded by the lovely lullabies of screaming babies on your long-haul flight, I full recommend this. It also helps me sleep when you’re bunking in with snorers (super handy in hostels cause well, you never know)

Flashlight – for those night walks, and when you’re hunting for glowworms in the forest!

Gorillapod – to mount your camera on just about anything for those awesome self-timer selfie shots.

Free Printable New Zealand Packing Checklist

Want all these items in a nicely curated printable packing checklist? Just sign up below to get it straight in your inbox!

Planning your trip to New Zealand? You might like these posts.

How to Road Trip New Zealand’s South Island in 10 Days
How Much Will A 10-Day Road Trip in New Zealand Cost: A Budget Breakdown


Have better packing tips? Leave me a comment below!

New Zealand packing checklist



  1. This is nice guide in packing for a trip , love the steps and it was so helpful. Thank you for this amazing post

  2. You have covered the important essentials, I recently went out and purchased all these items a few months ago. What I strongly recommend is a very large water bottle like a 1L Nalgene bottle.

  3. This is such a comprehensive and informative list! Love the way you laid it out — so easy to read and so much easier to get what you need!

    1. Hi Cristina! Yes, same- my power bank is always with me! I feel so lost whenever my phone’s battery is below 30% 🙁

  4. This is a great guide for going to New Zealand; although I’ve personally never been. It’s definitely on my bucket list though! I’ll definitely make sure to find this page again when I go one day.

    1. Hey Kasia, thanks for reading! You can pin it so you can find it for later reference 🙂 hope you make it there someday! It’s truly amazing.

  5. great tips! i’ve been dying to visit new zealand for the longest time now, it just looks like an entirely different world!!

  6. I’ve never heard of packing cubes. We just use old grocery bags! I’ll have to look into those!

    1. Grocery bags are smart too! But packing cubes hold their shape so they’re a little sturdier. They are a lifechanger!!

  7. I would love to take a hiking vacation in New Zealand. The changing temperatures sound challenging, but your packing list makes it all seem manageable.

    1. It’s definitely manageable and nothing too complicated as long as you have the right gear. A lightweight rain jacket goes a long way!

  8. In New Zealand for the third time as I write this. I can hear the wind rattling in the pipe of the wood-burning stove as the rain pelts the windows. It’s my first time here at this time of year (their winter), and I’m loving every minute of it as always! Stephanie, I have one more thing you should add to your list for those who plan to go to the West Coast of the South Island: sandfly repellent! I get mine in New Zealand because they have stuff that definitely works, but there may be some on Amazon. Happy travels everyone!

    1. Hey Trey, you’re right — sandflies! I will definitely add this to my list, thanks for the recommendation! And have a great time in New Zealand!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *