Planning a trip to New Zealand in winter, but not sure what you need to pack? I’ve put together this guide to help you. Whether you’re visiting Queenstown, Christchurch, Auckland, Wanaka or beyond, this guide will help you understand what you need to pack and help you be prepared. We recently spent 10 days exploring New Zealand’s gorgeous South Island and these packing tips are based on our experiences.
But first, watch this…
If you plan to go hiking, snowboarding or skiing, cross-country skiing, dog-sledding, snow-shoeing or any other kind of outdoor activities, you’re definitely going to need some snow gear. I took the Kathmandu Parsenn 2 Layer Waterproof 3 in 1 jacket and Verso XT Hiking Pants. Matt took the Kathmandu Teton 2 Layer Waterproof 3 in 1 jacket and Verso hiking pants like mine.
We both wore these for all of our snow and adventure activities and they turned out to be absolutely essential. Honestly, we would have frozen without them. It’s really important your snow gear is warm, comfortable, gives you room to move, has lots of pockets AND is quick to dry. That’s what our gear gave us and because they’re such great quality, they’re going to last us forever. Visit Kathmandu here.
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. Find thermal underwear 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 the cable-knit beanie from Kathmandu which I loved because it has a fleece lining inside that keeps your ears and forehead extra toasty. Find beanies here.
Okay, so you won’t always be on a snowfield. There will be times when you’re exploring the local area but still need to keep warm. When I wasn’t wearing my ski jacket, I wore The North Face Suzanne Triclimate Jacket from Cotswold Outdoor. Because it’s long it covered more of my body, keeping me warm when I was wearing jeans, and because it’s black it was really versatile and looked dressy while still keeping me warm. In short, I love it! It’s definitely going to be a winter staple for me year-round. Find warm coats here.
Take two pairs of jeans with you, but make sure they’re that nice thick denim, not the flimsy stretchy stuff your skinny jeans are made of. Also, make sure your thermal long johns fit beneath them comfortably. Find jeans here.
Be sure to pack a few pairs of very warm, thick socks. We took Bonds Explorer wool socks with us and they were fantastic. On super cold days, I wore two pairs layered up and my feet were very toasty warm.
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.
Pack a couple of your warmest knits too, things like big woolly jumpers are absolutely ideal!
You’ll definitely need a pair of gloves. If you plan on going skiing etc, you’ll need gloves with a waterproof outer lining. For days when you’re exploring the local area, you’ll just need a warm woolly pair of gloves.
You will definitely need comfortable footwear, so pack a few pairs of shoes that you can happily spend all day in. I recommend packing at least two comfy pairs to switch between because even the most comfortable pairs of sneakers start to hurt a bit if you wear them for three or four days in a row. Remember, New Zealand in winter is no place for your lace-up thigh-high boots. Opt for comfortable, practical footwear you can spend a long time in and do a lot of activities in.
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!
If you’re planning on going cross-country skiing, hiking or exploring long distances on foot, you’ll definitely need a decent day pack. It should be lightweight, comfortable, have enough room for absolute essentials and not weigh you down or break your back.
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.
I also recommend packing your tripod as there are some truly beautiful places you’ll want to capture to the very best of your ability. Consider packing a spare memory card and spare camera battery as well
Put a mini flashlight in your luggage, just in case you break down and it’s dark. This is especially important if you’re visiting during the winter months.
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 and dirty hands taking off/putting on snow chains. 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.
If you’re doing a lot of driving, hiking or outdoor activities, put some snacks into your backpack for the day out. 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 car/activities 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. I don’t leave the hotel without putting this on my face and this on my body. 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.
Packing hacks and tips
Here are a few tips and tricks to help you hack your pack!
Stash some eco-friendly bags and reusable 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!
Stop leaky bottles
If you’re worried about your shampoo, conditioner or body wash leaking in your bag simply unscrew the lid, place some cling wrap over the top and screw the lid back on. It’ll stop everything from leaking and potentially ruining your clean clothes.
If like me, you travel with a laptop, two phones, two cameras 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!
I use Tupperware or similar hard plastic containers to put all my toiletries in. This ensures no leaks will destroy my clean clothes and makes it really easy for me to grab my toiletries in one easy swoop, keep them together in the hotel and makes re-packing easier too. I also use a small container for all my jewellery and another one for electronics like adaptors, cords and chargers. It keeps me organised and stops me from losing things!
Put dryer sheets in your suitcase to keep your clothes smelling good throughout the whole trip. If you don’t have dryer sheets, a few drops of essential oil on a tissue, laid flat in-between layers of clothes, works wonders. I also have a little bottle of spray which instantly freshens up clothes, it’s from The Laundress and it’s amazing! No musty-smelling clothes for you, my friend.
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