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Gearlists and Packing Tips: Hiking in New Zealand

What Should I Pack for Hiking in New Zealand?

We all approach the task of packing for an adventure differently. Some people will eagerly anticipate this ‘job’ and will start laying out their gear weeks in advance. They're the organized ones who know the sales staff at the local outdoor shops by name. They will probably agonize over which sleeping bag to buy based on its performance to weight ratio. They will spend hours mulling over which order to pack their stuff, so that it's convenient to retrieve yet also well balanced. They could even go as far as colour matching everything, so it's easy on the eye. The lists will get systematically ticked off and labels may even be sewn here and there so there won't be any awkward moments of confusion down the track.

If this is you, the team here at ‘Active HQ’, who have all fielded plenty of pre-trip phone calls and emails, have got preparing for a hiking mission down to a science. Check out our lists below for every hiking occasion:

Comprehensive gearlists and packing tips for hiking in New Zealand

1. You're charging up Ben Lomond, a favourite day hike near Queenstown. View our Packing List for a Day Hike.
2. Summer is upon us and it's time to tackle the Abel Tasman Coastal Track. View our Packing List for a Great Walk.
3. Easter is around the corner! And with that comes a well-earned long weekend. View our Packing list for a Multi-Day tramp in the backcountry.

(If you’re joining us for an Active Adventures New Zealand trip, you’ll get a comprehensive trip-specific gear list upon booking.)

There is no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing.

The weather in New Zealand can be variable, and so when hiking, you need to make sure you're carrying the appropriate clothing. A layering system is best, where you can add or remove layers depending on the conditions at the time. Most seasoned New Zealand hikers will always be carrying a waterproof shell/Gore-Tex rain jacket or similar, even if the sun is shining when you set off, and several layers of merino wool clothing. Merino wool is a breathable and eco-friendly natural fiber that doesn’t retain odour, keeps you warm even when wet, and also wicks moisture away from your skin to keep you more comfortable while you hike. It’s no wonder most Kiwis (and all those sheep!) wear merino wool outdoors.

On some of the "scenic" walks you might see people wearing all manner of shoes on their feet, but all too-often people are caught out using inadequate footwear, and we would recommend always using a closed shoe – no sandals or flip-flops! On day hikes, some people are comfortable wearing trail-running or "approach" shoes, but for longer trails, a proper leather or fabric/Gore-Tex hiking boot is required.

10 easy steps to help you pack for a multi-day hiking trip:

So you're taking on your first multi-day hiking mission – ever? In the last 5 years? Or since you were at school? Well, you may be a little rusty, or you may just want to know how the experts do it! We all have a special packing system that helps us navigate our way around our backpacks easily and effortlessly, always able to find those snacks when the mood is running low, or to easily grab a water bottle, but if you're new to this or you're out of practice then this guide is for you.

  1. GEAR LIST - First up, you're going to need a gear list, a space to lay out your stuff and patience to run around trying to find everything.
  2. LINE YOUR PACK - If you're going to be trekking outdoors, and let's assume we all are because if you're not getting outside then clearly something is wrong, then you need to be prepared for the fact that it may rain. Therefore, the first thing you need to do is ensure your pack is lined to protect your spare clothes and other bits and bobs from getting wet – no one wants wet gear, plus it makes your pack heavier. You can use anything from a dry bag down to a normal plastic bag if the budget is tight. Heavy duty garbage bags are also a good bet.
  3. STAY ORGANISED - Not only do these inner bags help protect from the rain, but they also help keep everything in your pack organised – another key to packing!
  4. BULKY ITEMS IN FIRST - Once your pack is lined, group everything heavy or bulky together – sleeping bag and tent if you're taking them, your spare clothes and undies, socks, down jacket (not your waterproof – keep that for the top) and camping cooker. Any of these heavy things, shove them in first. The middle of you is your most stable bit, and the bottom of your pack will be sitting round your waist, so heavy stuff goes in first. Top tip – get out all the clothes you think you need, half it, and then put them in your bag leaving the other half behind. Think lightweight, quick drying, non-cotton clothing. It's the best for hiking.
  5. FOOD - Next up, food – if you're carrying your food, then it needs to go in the middle above the bulky items. Don't carry tins or anything heavy, because you'll regret it after about 30 minutes. You can do without it! Think about buying some dehydrated camping meals as they are very light and they'll taste great in the outdoors (not so much if you cook them up at home – this is the magic of the wilderness at work). You need high calorie light weight food to fuel your body. Always take chocolate for pudding. This is my advice. Ignore at your peril.
  6. WATERPROOF – now is time to chuck in your waterproofs – pants and jackets if it's cold. They need to be near the top so you can easily grab them out in case of a shower, or torrential downpour, without having to get everything else out at the same time. There's nothing more refreshing than a shower – and it can be fun to be out in it, as long as you're prepared!
  7. SNACKS, CAMERA AND WATER – All in the top and side pockets for easy access! You need to eat plenty of snacks on your way – trail mix made up of nuts, chocolate and dried fruit is perfect. As are things like Mars and Snickers bars – and these are great in an emergency too so keep a couple separate just in case. Another old favourite are boiled sweets to keep your spirits up at the end of the day, and jelly beans are yummy too. Make sure you can get to your camera often to capture the memories of your trip, and water either in a bladder or bottle should always be easily accessible. Drinking little and often is the key.
  8. FIRST AID KIT – be prepared! The roof of your pack is a perfect place to keep your first aid kit. You'll need a good compact kit with plasters, blister kit, bandage, scissors, painkillers, sling and antiseptic cream.
  9. AT THE TOP – you should be well packed now, so fold the waterproof lining over the top of your gear, or do up your dry bags, and close your pack up tight.
  10. LOOKING GOOD - When you're packed up, straps pulled tight and adjustments made, it should look nice! It should look well packed; with nothing hanging off or sticking out and the straps should all be fastened and tucked in. Once it's looking nice, you're ready to haul it onto your back and begin your hiking adventure.

Want help planning your hiking trip?

There are so many hiking trails in New Zealand and there's plenty more to hiking New Zealand than just the Milford Track. If you're not sure of your plans just yet, a good place to start is our brochure. With a full fold-out map of New Zealand, information on our hiking trips, as well as lots of cool photos, it's a great place to begin your research.


Or, if you want to have a chat with a local about your plans, feel free to give Miri, Fiona or Matty a call on 1 800 661 9073 (USA/Canada), 0808 234 7780 (UK) or +64 3 450 0414 (worldwide).

Trip Reviews

  •   4.53 out of 5 (from 4984 reviews)

    Trip of a Lifetime!

    I am still basking in the glow from this remarkable trip! I admit that I was a bit nervous at first as I was the oldest person in our group and not as fit (for hiking) as some in the group, so I worried about 'keeping up' on the hikes - especially the steeper climbs. Ben and Lauren were very reassuring and encouraging and I felt that I was able to 'hold my own'. In fact, while the hiking was probably the most challenging I've done in at least 7 years, it was the most rewarding/exhilarating part for me. I loved our group - a very positive, health-conscious and fun group of people from all walks of life. It was also wonderful that we were only 12 people - it helped to create a much more intimate and personal atmosphere. I felt we bonded together well - again, thanks to Ben and Lauren's great skills with ice-breaking, fun games, and ability to set and maintain a positive atmosphere from the beginning.
    From the moment we set off from the airport to the emotional farewells back at the airport at the end of the trip, this was a top notch adventure. Our transportation was comfortable, our accommodations were always different and unique and very comfortable - I loved that they weren't all in your standard hotel and that some of them were really off the beaten track. The food was amazing - from the snack basket in the van, loaded fresh every day with fruit and other snacks, to the amazing meals that Lauren and Ben created and the breakfasts and dinners that we had at various restaurants - there was a lot of variety, special dietary considerations were accounted for and there was lots of it!
    I did the kayak option and it was outstanding. The B&B and our hosts were wonderful (the hot tub at the end of the day was most appealing!) and our kayak guide, Nick was terrific - very accommodating, skilled and he made it all very interesting and fun!
    I cannot say enough about our incredible guides - Ben and Lauren - they truly moved the bar for me from a great trip to one that will go down in history for me as the trip of a lifetime. They were so knowledgeable about the island - I loved listening to the legends/folklore and learning more about the vegetation, birds, etc. Ben was a terrific driver - I always felt safe. Lauren was terrific with her cooking and meal presentations - meals looked fantastic and tasted even better! Both Ben and Lauren added those special touches from decorating the bus for the Christmas season, organizing our Secret Santa, making a fantastic Christmas morning breakfast, complete with Christmas crackers and special hats, managing extra logistics like re-booking the paragliding for us, setting up the helicopter tour, taking the time and effort to help reconnect people with items they had left behind either in our accommodations or on a hike/kayak. They even had the perfect music for when we went through the Homer Tunnel and down into Milford Sound - the combination of the music and the scenery was so moving it had several of us in tears! They really ensured that they got to know each person and took a genuine interest in each person. Their positive energy and enthusiasm was infectious. They took kindness and customer service to a new level! The scenery was breathtaking everywhere we went. It would be hard for me to say what the favourite part was or favourite view as the South Island is simply spectacular. I felt that the trip was organized in such a way that I really got a good feel and appreciation for the South Island. Truly New Zealand is one of the most beautiful places (both 'inside and out') that I have ever visited (and I've visited over 20 other countries around the world). I really loved the more laid-back way of life and the local people we met were so welcoming and kind. I would love to come back again and see the North Island but also re-visit the South Island!
    I highly recommend this trip and have already suggested it to a number of my friends. It really was transformational for me on so many levels! My heartfelt thanks to Ben and Lauren and everyone at Active Adventures!
    Sue Hazell Review Image
    – Ontario, Canada
    Rimu, January 2018
  •   4.70 out of 5 (from 266 reviews)

    Everything we hoped for and MORE.

    This was my first trip to New Zealand, and to the southern hemisphere. We had dreamed of this for many years, and it was so much more than we had even hoped for. So many memories and highlights: Morning alpine glow on Mt. Cook. Any day that it was sunny and you could see those amazing mountains. Turquoise alpine lakes. The day we spontaneously stopped at a deserted beach on the west coast, and saw Hector's dolphins frolicking. The picnic on the hill at Braemar's station. The nights at Braemar, the laughing and wine. Racheal (our guide) encouraging me and talking about growing up on a sheep farm while hiking up Key Pass. The stars at night - the Milky Way and upside down Orion! The mystical drive down to Milford Sound in the fog and light rain, and the clearing while on the boat. Going under a waterfall and just yelling in joy. The amazing, kind, funny and interesting people we met on our tour. If you are even thinking about it - go! You will not be disappointed.
    Jeannie Puglisi Review Image
    – Connecticut, United States
    Kiwi, April 2017
  •   4.60 out of 5 (from 1888 reviews)

    Beautiful, perfect trip!

    The Tui trip was a perfect way to see parts of New Zealand on a short time frame. I was concerned traveling by myself, and this trip was the perfect way to do it. Between the the most spectacular scenery, the knowledge of the guides, and the varied and incredible itinerary, this really was the trip of a lifetime for me.
    Rosie Stein Review Image
    – New York, United States
    Tui, March 2017
  •   4.60 out of 5 (from 1888 reviews)

    Guided Trips are the Way to Go!

    I had been wanting to hike in New Zealand for some time, and finally had enough time off. Trying to figure out the hut system, what to see and how to get around seemed a bit overwhelming. Even moreso since I was traveling solo. Active looked to be a great way to travel without having to stress about the planning, travel, etc. Though I had never traveled like this before, I saw the places I wanted to travel to, and others I would have likely not have found alone. Everyone on the trip was pleasant and easy to talk to, friendly and, like me had a great time. Our guides, Katie and Astrid, really made the trip with their upbeat attitudes, informative revelations on everything we saw, continual answering to our sometimes badgering questions and always being ready to help out.
    Henry Shenk Review Image
    – Louisiana, United States
    Tui, March 2018
  •   4.70 out of 5 (from 266 reviews)

    Yes: Adventure!

    Really enjoyed the natural wonders away from civilization and tourist traps. Our guides, Koru and Jess took outstanding care of us.
    Hank Nino Review Image
    – Oregon, United States
    Kiwi, March 2017



Why travel with Active Adventures?

Above all, we aim to be amazing hosts. We're proud of our kiwi roots, and our professional, warm and relaxed style of running trips around the world is unforgettable.

We're VERY picky about who we select to work in our team, and we have people from all over the world lining up to guide our trips. So we get to hire the absolute BEST in the business.

As soon as you get off the plane, we've got all the details of your vacation covered – top notch meals, comfortable transport & accommodation, amazing guides and INCREDIBLE service.

Whether you’re new to adventure travel, or you’ve never travelled in a group before, you’ll find yourself arriving home positively different from when you left.

With our small groups (no more than 14), you'll get to know our team, your fellow travellers, and have the flexibility and freedom to do as much (or as little!) as you like.

It's all about getting there under your own steam – on foot, in a sea kayak, or by bike. What better way is there to experience mind blowing scenery? If it's your first time, no worries – our expert guides have got you covered.

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