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Packing Tips for Camping in New Zealand

packing tips for camping in New Zealand

The following packing tips for camping in New Zealand were provided by Katie Doyle. See all packing list posts here.

At the end of 2015, I finished up a working holiday in New Zealand with what was, in my opinion, the best possible way to experience the country: a weeks‐long road trip. My fantastic Kiwi friend showed us around the best parts of the South Island bush and was our leading expert in how to successfully tackle New Zealand camping. I was lucky enough to pick up a few key packing strategies to pass along so all of you are better prepared to fully explore the region’s wild beauty.

The Obvious

I’m pretty new to camping, so some of the things you camping extraordinaires might automatically bring with you are fascinating to me: food, preferably the kind that requires the least amount of preparation, because you never know what the elements are going to throw at you that will make cooking dinner difficult. Gas for cooking said food and for boiling water for tea, matches (in a waterproof case) or a lighter.

A tent, sleeping bag, sleeping mat (who knew these can make the ground so much more comfortable?), and, from personal experience, a backup option in case it’s extremely windy all of a sudden while you’re sleeping in your tent — i.e. the car or another shelter — is another good idea.

Your basic camping supplies are easy to come by at secondhand shops, so don’t worry if you need to pick up anything at the last minute.

The Not‐So‐Obvious

Sunscreen is a must, especially if you’re camping during spring and summer, when the sun’s rays are the most dangerous. While it may seem like an obvious item to pack at this point, sun protection is important because New Zealanders experience the brunt of a weak segment of the ozone layer that results in high rates of skin cancer throughout the country. I always try to throw in an SPF shirt and a packable hat, too.

As someone from North America, I didn’t have to worry as much about ticks in New Zealand as I do at home. The sandfly, though, is undoubtedly New Zealand’s most notorious pesky insect.

“Sandies” are tiny black flies that love to bite any part of exposed skin they can find, and they’re out in droves when the wind dies down. Depending on which native New Zealanders you ask, there are several ways to deter sandflies — but that’s a topic for another article. Instead of letting these bugs have free reign during your camping trip, pick up some sandfly repellent (unless you have really think skin and have the patience of a South Islander) and bring long pants and a hoodie to cover up as much as possible when you’re out in the open and the sandies appear.

I mentioned gas above, but you should definitely check the container to make sure you have enough before you end up out in the middle of nowhere. You can get gas canisters at the grocery store, but keep in mind that New Zealand’s small‐town shops do not stay open late. If you’re using a custom‐cooking gas device, make sure you buy the correct brand of propane or whatever gas you need, otherwise it will be of no use to you when there isn’t a building in sight.

packing tips for camping in New Zealand
Kate’s camping trip at sunset


Many of New Zealand’s prime camping spots are located in its stunning national parks. You’ll want to take advantage of the vast networks of hiking trails, so bring a daypack with a map, a water bottle, and snacks…and a camera to capture some spectacular photos.

Don’t assume that the campsites are free — check the Department of Conservation website, which also provides detailed information on weather and accessibility to campsites and trails. Often, DOC charges per person at its campsites. Keep some cash on hand to drop in the box to pay, although you may have the option to write your credit card details down on the registration card provided at the campsite DOC office hut.

You may also come across DOC logbooks on the hiking trails. These are tools used to keep track of hikers and they can offer brief stories or pieces of advice from those who conquered the trail before you. Write your name in it, along with the date, time and where you’re headed. If the trail is a loop, make another note in the same book when you return. If it’s not, write in the logbook at the next stopping point to create a record of your trip that can be used as a reference in case of emergencies.

As far as other ways of living on the edge: my friends and I packed some atypical camping items, like a frozen cheesecake to eat for breakfast. I can’t recommend this one enough! Sit, eat, and take in a brilliant New Zealand sunrise with your buddies…joined by a few sandflies, of course.

packing tips for camping in New Zealand
New Zealand wilderness


Tips for a successful New Zealand camping experience:

  • Camping gear: tent, sleeping bag, sleeping mat, etc.
  • Camping arrangements (DOC reservation), if necessary; check the weather forecast before heading out!
  • Adequate food and water supply
  • Double‐check propane/gas canisters and lighters before getting out into the bush (make sure matches are in a waterproof case!)
  • Newspaper or discarded cardboard for kindling
  • Protection from the elements: sunscreen, First Aid Kit
  • Sandfly protection: long pants, hoodie with drawstrings, tall socks, and sandfly repellent if you want to take extra precautions
  • Bathing suit and towel for impromptu swims
  • GoPro or other durable camera and remote battery charger

Camping in NZ packing tips

You might also enjoy these packing posts about New Zealand:

About the author: Katie is a writer and videographer who chronicles her travels on Where in the World is Katie Doyle? from wherever she happens to be. Skiing, road trips, fishing expeditions—she’s up for anything and will tell you the story about it later. Check out www.kadoyle.com and follow @katie__doyle.

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Reader Interactions


  1. Fátima González says

    Thanks for your article! I’m about to start my season with a working holiday visa in new zealand, it would be nice if you could share some tips about what to pack to start the trip.

    Thanks for your advice and good luck!

  2. Emily says

    Sounds like fun! I really like my alcohol stove; you can use a wide variety of alcohol fuels (denatured alcohol, Heet, rubbing alcohol, etc.) depending on what’s available. I have this one: http://www.clikstand.com/ but if I didn’t I’d make one of these: http://www.thesodacanstove.com/alcohol-stove/cat-food-can-stove.html or these: http://www.thesodacanstove.com/alcohol-stove/how-to-build.html and this pot stand: http://www.thesodacanstove.com/accessories/pot-support/

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