packing list: 3 weeks in New Zealand

one of the most stressful things about planning our trip to New Zealand was figuring out what to pack. our three week itinerary covered both north and south islands, we planned to both camp and stay in nice hotels, and would visit everything from mountains to the beach. oh, and we had a day-long layover in Seoul where it was freezing winter weather.

we visited during february - which is summer in New Zealand - and the expected range of temperatures was from lows of 50F at night to highs of 85F in the day [10C to 30C.] the actual range of temperatures we experienced was closer to 35F to 80F [or 0C to 25C.] it was chilly in the shade and hot in the sun, warm while hiking and cold when the breeze blew down from the snowy mountains. the wind also flattened our tent and was at one point accompanied by a torrential downpour. I think it's safe to say: you will need to be prepared for all kinds of climate in New Zealand.

even with unforeseen weather issues and some changes in travel plans, my packing got me through. I think I did a pretty decent job in my planning. the key was picking things that could mix and match and layer, and be worn for a variety of activities. thankfully we were able to do laundry twice during our trip: on days 6-8 and days 17-19. [that really helped as well!] below is a list of what I brought, followed by a few notes and suggestions.

tops + dresses

1 grey zip-up sweatshirt
1 cream/coral light crewneck sweater
1 tan long cardigan
4 short sleeve tshirts
2 tank tops
2 long sleeve tshirts
1 sleeveless button down
1 striped 3/4 sleeve shirt
1 grey long sleeve tshirt
1 short sleeve striped dress
1 printed tube dress [doubles as skirt]
1 pajama shirt


1 pair jeans
1 pair jean shorts
2 pairs light pattern pants
1 pair pink running shorts
1 pair capri leggings
1 pair long yoga leggings
1 pair running tights
1 pair printed pajama shorts

undies + others

1 striped scarf
3 pairs athletic socks
1 pair fuzzy socks
4 bras + 1 sports bra
10 pairs undies
1 swimsuit


1 pair flip flops*
1 pair TOMS
1 pair running shoes


waterproof shell
lightweight jacket
knit hat

a note on shoes: I only wanted to bring one pair of sandals, so I opted for a pair which can be dressed up but are still super comfortable. the only problem they don't slip on and have fabric straps. I ended up wearing my TOMS for midnight camping restroom runs and into the showers. if I went back [and was still camping] I'd bring another pair of easy on/off flops that were shower safe.

a note on outerwear: despite everyone's advice that I bring my raincoat, I somehow left it behind. my waterproof shell is decently warm, through it was necessary for me to purchase a fleece for layering in Queenstown due to the weather going down below freezing. I think a light rain jacket and a heavier coat to layer under would have worked just as well. the hat and running tights were KEY in staying warm while camping.

a note in general: I probably could have made it work with one less pair of pants but decided to err on the side of more since we went up to 10 days between laundry availability. I also adjusted the shirts on this list to reflect what I should have brought. I actually packed 3 tanks, and 1 long sleeve when I really needed more warmth and could have gotten by with fewer light layers. I DID wear everything that came with me though.

one last thing: don't forget your sunglasses and sunscreen. the sun is powerful down there, and sunscreen is pricey. [and so was mascara for some reason?] obviously bring your camera and other things you consider travel essentials, but sun protection is a MUST.

hopefully this list will help if you're planning a summer trip to New Zealand - I know I was pretty lost when I started searching for packing advice. [shout out to Amanda and Shane for their help!] it seemed like most people stick to one island or area, and do either all active outdoor activities or none at all. so this list reflects a balance of everything. definitely bring warmer gear for winter, or adjust this list according to your planned activities, but this should be a good starting place. if you have any questions feel free to ask below.

happy travels!

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