Are you joining a group tour of beautiful New Zealand? Maybe you’re signing up for an adventure with Kiwi Experience, G Adventures or Haka Tours? Whoever you’re going with and however you’re doing it, you’re going to need to know what to pack to take with you. If this is your first time on a group tour, you should probably read this helpful guide to 22 things you need to know before doing a group tour.
I spent 24 amazing days exploring the north and south islands of New Zealand with the guys at Haka Tours, which you can read all about here. My trip took place in winter, so all the advice I’m going to share with you today is geared at preparing you for a winter trip to the north and south islands, from the very top at Cape Reinga right through to Queenstown.
It is essential to pack at least one pair of thermal long johns and a thermal long-sleeve top to form the base of your winter outfits. Are thermals really worth it? YES! They trap a layer of warmth close to your skin and, trust me, you can feel the chilly difference when you don’t wear them. These will be put to good use as soon as you start to get to places like Lake Tekapo, Wanaka and Queenstown. Find thermal underwear here.
I recommend packing two really warm coats for your trip, so you don’t feel like you’re wearing the same thing over and over. I packed my Mountain Designs Geneva Down Jacket, which I used all over the north island and in the south too. It rolls up really small, like a sleeping bag does, so it was great for packing. It kept me warm, dry and was really cosy. You can check out my Mountain Designs jacket here. For men, I’d recommend packing the Bern Hood Jacket, it’s the same as mine, but the men’s version. You can check out the Bern Hood jacket here.
Pack at least one beanie, preferably two so you can wear the other one if the first one gets wet in the snow. Wool is definitely your best bet, I took a few beanies but my go-to every day was my Mountain Designs beanie. It’s made of 100% Merino wool, has a fleecing lining everywhere inside (so it’s super cosy) and a cute pom pom on top. I can’t recommend it enough. You can check out the pom pom beanie here.
Gloves and Scarves
You’ll definitely need a pair of gloves and a scarf comes in handy too. If you plan on going skiing etc, you’ll need gloves with a waterproof outer lining. For days where you’re exploring the local area, you’ll just need a warm woolly pair of gloves. Find gloves here.
Be sure to pack a few pairs of very warm, thick socks. I would recommend buying yourself some proper thermal socks, they really made al the difference to keeping my feet toasty warm. Find warm socks here.
Take two pairs of jeans with you, but make sure they’re that nice thick denim, not the flimsy stretchy stuff your skinny jeggings are made of. Also, make sure your thermal long johns fit beneath them comfortably. Find jeans here.
Pack clothes you can layer easily and comfortably. Baggy, long sleeve tops are great, as are cashmere sweaters, light pull-overs and other items you can use to build warm layers. You should also pack a few scarves to change out and layer, which will extend your wardrobe combinations and make it look like you packed more than you did. Find cheap layers here.
Pack a couple of your warmest knits too, things like big woolly jumpers are absolutely ideal! Find warm knitwear here.
You will definitely need comfortable shoes and a few different types too. I packed a pair Salomon X-Scream sneakers, they’re light-weight, super comfortable and waterproof which is absolutely essential. Salomon have great shoes, you can check them out there. I also packed one pair of nice, knee-high black boots for a few nights out we had and my converse high-tops, which I wore when I knew I didn’t need my shoes to be waterproof.
There are loads of thermal pools and heated spas and pools in New Zealand and, after a long day on the slopes, you’ll want to get your tired body in them, trust me. So be sure to pack your swimwear! We made lots of stops at spots where a swim was optional and I missed out cos I didn’t pack mine.
You’ll definitely need a decent day pack for days spent on the tour bus. It should be lightweight, comfortable, have enough room for absolute essentials and not weigh you down or break your back. You’ll need to fit water, a book, headphones, snacks, a few extra warm bits of clothing and your camera in it, at a minimum. Find day packs here.
I highly recommend packing a quick-dry towel as, usually, you don’t stay in one place for very long and a normal towel probably won’t have time to dry.
New Zealand is insanely beautiful and while I did use my fancy DSLR for a lot of things, I found my GoPro was the star of the show. I was able to take it more places because it’s shockproof and waterproof. If you have one, take it. I also used a GoPro Pole to help me keep it stabilised during filming and get some cool shots from higher and lower angles. Find GoPro Poles here.
Pack your DSLR, if you have one, or at least as good a quality camera as you can afford. You may like to bring a spare battery with you too, just in case you don’t get a chance to change it.
Bring a small bag packed full of essential medicines with you, bring things like cold and flu tablets, hay fever/allergy medicine, ibuprofen, paracetamol, tums and Imodium. You should also definitely pack your prescription medicines and anything special you may require, like a Ventolin inhaler for asthmatics. There are plenty of chemists in New Zealand, of course, but it’s important to be prepared just in case you’re struck down with a tummy bug and stuck in your room.
Pocket packs of tissues tucked into a bag will come in helpful in a few different situations i.e. a runny nose on the ski fields. Don’t be a victim, be proactive. If you’re a germ-a-phobe, I recommend packing a bottle of hand sanitiser which can be used, with a tissue, to sanitise a toilet seat.
Just because it’s winter doesn’t mean the sun isn’t shining in New Zealand! You might like to pack a wide brim hat or two and a baseball cap for those days spent out in the sun hiking up Roy’s Peak.
You’ll spend a lot of time on the bus, so put some snacks into your backpack for the day, which will also help you save money. You don’t necessarily have to buy them from home and fly them over with you, just consider stocking up on snacks and bottled water for the bus when you arrive. There are loads of shops selling beautiful fresh local produce in New Zealand, including delicious fruit, which helps you stay healthy while you travel.
You’ll definitely need sunglasses, a hat and sunscreen with high SPF to protect you from the sun’s harsh rays, like Banana Boat Sport Cool Zone which is SPF 50, sweat resistant, absorbs quickly and isn’t greasy. Remember, sunscreen is only as good as its user and it’s up to you to reapply during the day to ensure you don’t get burned. Remember, cloudy days mean U.V rays!
Pack your beloved brand-name essentials like cosmetics, electric toothbrush heads and feminine hygiene products. Also, pack your environmentally friendly products and products for sensitive skin, as it may be difficult to get your hands on these while you travel. Don’t waste money on travel minis, use refillable 100ml bottles instead.
Lots of Moisturiser
I’m not sure what it was about the climate in New Zealand, but it dried my skin out like crazy! I really recommend packing moisturiser for your body, thick moisturiser for your hands, lots of lip balm and a pumice stone or cracked heel balm.
My packing tips and travel hacks
If like me, you travel with a laptop, two phones, a camera and a GoPro, then you’re going to need more than one power point. By one power-point converter and take a power-board with multiple plug-ins on it. It makes life so much easier!
Stash some large eco-friendly bags and small sandwich bags in your luggage, they come in so very handy for storing dirty shoes and clothes as well as bars of soap, wet swimwear or leaky toothpaste tubes!
I use Tupperware or similar clear, hard plastic containers to organise my luggage. I use a separate small container for toiletries, jewellery and electronics like adaptors, cords and chargers. It keeps me organised and stops me from losing things! This also ensures no leaks will destroy my clean clothes and makes it really easy for me to grab it in one easy swoop, keeping everything together in the hostel and makes re-packing easier too.
I highly recommend you put a small air freshener in your luggage. You’ll be travelling for a long time, putting dirty clothes and shoes in your bag, which means your clean clothes could start to smell, by default! Slip a small air freshener, like this one, in your luggage and it’ll keep things smelling fresh and help eliminate that musty smell.
Need some inspiration? Watch this…
Phoebe is a travel writer and photographer with a love for storytelling and making people laugh. Matt is a videographer and photographer with a passion for the great outdoors and big adventures. Together we inspire big adventures through our guides, videos, vlogs and photographs. Find out more about us here.