Backpacking in New Zealand: Our checklist of essentials for the trip of a lifetime

Known for its striking scenery, rich culture and friendly locals, New Zealand is on the bucket list of many backpackers around the world. With major cities, small villages and serene, remote areas to explore, this far-flung destination has so much to offer. There’s Milford Sound, Abel Tasman National Park, Wellington’s vibrant music scene, the Bay of Islands, Franz Josef Glacier, Mount Cook and the backpacker hub of Queenstown. And that’s just to name a few of the highlights on offer for travellers and backpackers heading to Aotearoa.

If you’re planning a backpacking trip to New Zealand, you may be wondering what to bring with you. Depending on where you plan to go, what you plan to do, and even where you plan to stay, this will vary from person to person. To help you prepare for a safe and enjoyable trip to this beautiful country, we’ve gathered up what you need to consider before going and how to pack for backpacking in New Zealand.

Planning ahead: your backpacking trip to New Zealand

Divided into the North Island and South Island, New Zealand has plenty of variety when it comes to sights, nature, and culture. Depending on how long you plan to stay and where you start your backpacking adventure, you’ll want to consider different modes of travel and accommodation.

The North Island is more densely populated and is home to major cities Auckland and Wellington. Because of this, it’ll have plenty of choice when it comes to hostels, hotels and options for bedding down for the night. The South Island is less densely populated and has plenty of open space to explore – depending on how remote you go, accommodation will be less easy to come by. It does have backpacker and adventure sports-hub Queenstown and the city of Dunedin down in the south, but the South Island really is the place to get out into the wilderness.

With this in mind, many backpackers will opt to hire a campervan to explore the very best of New Zealand at their leisure, which will provide both travel and accommodation in one. Prior to arriving in the country, make sure that you have a clear plan of how you intend to explore both islands and the logistics that will be involved along the way. This is not only the safest and most cost efficient option – but it will also impact what you choose to bring in your backpack.

How to pack for backpacking in New Zealand

Naturally, there will be the core essentials that every backpacker should bring with them. These include personal hygiene items, travel documents, a first aid kit, and everyday clothing. But what should you specifically pack for a country like New Zealand? Below, we’ve summarised some of the core essentials you need to bring and why.

Invest in a comfortable, well-fitted backpack with plenty of storage. Your rucksack will be your lifeline when backpacking, holding all of your essentials. It will also be a little heavy, so choosing a backpack that has adequate storage and support will be key to a successful trip.

Pack waterproof clothing and essentials. New Zealand’s weather can sometimes be temperamental, ranging from sunny spells to wind and rain in a single day. If you’re looking to explore the landscape by foot, ensure you have quick-drying, lightweight waterproof layers that you can easily pull on and off. If your backpack isn’t waterproof, make sure you also carry a rucksack cover to keep your essentials dry.

Bring a comfortable and reliable pair of hiking boots. If you’re backpacking across New Zealand, you’ll most likely be doing some walking. New Zealand offers some of the world’s most breath-taking natural sights – we’re talking coastlines, mountainous regions, and beautiful rolling hills. No trip to New Zealand would be complete without a little trekking and hiking, so be sure to bring a good pair of hiking boots that will keep your feet protected against moisture and changing terrain.

Bring a phone, tablet, or laptop with internet connectivity. When traveling across the more remote areas of New Zealand, it may be difficult to access the internet, largely because there are fewer hostels and hotels. However, there will be times when you will likely require it, be it contacting friends and family at home or even doing online banking. A device with internet connectivity can save you a lot of headaches when backpacking, particularly if you get lost or simply need to look up where to stay or eat.

Many backpackers also swear by the extremely helpful and friendly backpacking communities online, which can be super helpful in times of need or if you simply want to connect with like-minded people.

Don’t forget the life-savers. There are some things that all backpackers will be grateful they brought to New Zealand but might not always remember. Here’s a checklist of the bits and pieces that you should always bring with you that you might otherwise forget. These handy tools can really make or break a situation, so be sure to include them:

  • Reusable water bottle with backpack clip or attachment
  • Portable self-charging bank for your phone
  • Insect repellent and sunscreen
  • New Zealand power adapter
  • Waterproof passport / document carrier

Ultimately, any backpacking adventure in New Zealand is bound to be amazing. But by planning your trip ahead of time and considering all you’ll need, you’ll set yourself up for the trip of a lifetime. Happy travels!

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