10 Backpacking Must Haves For New Zealand

Here’s a kick ass list for your trip through Aotearoa.

Tip #1: Don’t overpack, but make sure you don’t leave out these essentials.

Bike Rack & Helmet

Because of all the amazing walking and biking trails around New Zealand, you might want to consider getting yourself a bike, a helmet, and a bike lock to add to your list of camper van accessories. If you are on a tight budget, you don’t need to necessarily purchase a bike as there are many bike shops around, some with rentals for the day or week, or even for the month. Adding a bike rack to the mix (for a rental or your own bike) will also make it a lot easier for you to get around with your bike.


Warm Winter Jacket, Scarf & Hot Water Bottle

When you look at New Zealand on a globe, it is not located very far from the South Pole. This will probably explain why the further south you go in New Zealand, the colder it gets. While New Zealand has some nice warm summers in the North Island, the South Island tends to stay temperate. Even in the summer months it’s a good idea to have a warm winter jacket and a scarf on hand as the weather can fluctuate. Nights and early mornings can be pretty damn cold, even in the summer months. Another helpful item that you’ll be happy you packed is a good old fashioned hot water bottle. They are cheap as chips, easy to use, and will keep you warm all night long. The great thing is that you only need hot water to heat one up.


Jandals & Wellies

You might read these words and think to yourself, what language is this? What are these words? Once you learn these words, you will know them for life, especially after spending time in the land of the long white cloud.

New Zealand is a country of many contrasts, especially when it comes to the weather. As you will be trekking through all kinds of landscapes, extreme types of footwear will be needed. Forget the heels, you’re in New Zealand now… and what’s more, in a camper van! Jandals and Wellies are what you need. End of story.

What is this peculiar footwear I speak of? Jandals are Kiwi lingo used for flip flops or thongs (as they call them in Australia) – originally coming from the union of the two words: Japanese + Sandals. Wellies are rain boots or gumboots and a mainstay in New Zealand, especially on farms and whenever trekking around in the rain. You can’t live without these little beauties, no way! With jandals and wellies lying around the camper van, you’ll be ready for anything, whether stomping around a paddock with cows or barbecuing on the beach with friends, you’ll have it all covered.


GoPro or Wide Angle Lens

New Zealand is a country of adventure, so of course a camera made for adventure is a must! Whether you are biking around the countryside, jumping off a bridge, or hiking through steep glaciers, you are going to want to keep this experience alive at all costs.
Most of these adventures require the use of two hands and a lot of concentration, so getting your iPhone or Canon out when you are halfway down a crevice is not always going to be an option. With the GoPro (or any similar action camera) you can attach it to a helmet, a bike or surfboard, your wrist, or even a chest harness. The images will always be A+ in quality for both your photographs and videos, so you can’t go wrong with a purchase like that! FYI: if you are on a budget, even the earlier GoPro versions will deliver high quality images at a fraction of the price.

If you are working with a more controlled and sophisticated DSLR camera, such as a Canon or Nikon, you’ll want to capture New Zealand’s beauty in absolute clear cut technicolor, but you’ll also need to make sure you can fit the entire landscape into your shot. Enter: the wide angle lens. A wide angle lens will allow you to capture more in one shot, and if you are a vlogger or love a good selfie –but you don’t have arms as long as Lebron James’– you won’t be able to live without a wide angle. Be sure when you shop around for a wide angle that you don’t get one that is too wide, as this will slightly curve your landscapes and wildly distort your head. Another thing to think about before purchasing, is to make sure you choose the right attachment for the camera you have.


Picnic Blanket

Along with all the walks, treks and bike rides that you will do when exploring, there will also be many times when you will just want to sit and enjoy the moment… perhaps with a glass of wine or maybe a cheese and tomato sandwich from your lunchbox. Whether on a mountain top, at the beach or the campground, a picnic blanket will always be a happy find. Sometimes a picnic blanket can also be the beginning of a wonderful day or night of new friends. After all, a picnic blanket if big enough can sure attract a crowd on a sunny day under a summer sky. Kiwis are a friendly bunch, so don’t hesitate to invite a friendly face over to share a beer.


Wifi Finder

We all rely on our connectivity more than ever before, maybe even more so when traveling. So whether you are a digital nomad working on the road, or a backpacker uploading your pics to Instagram, make sure you figure out your wifi situation early on. After all, wifi withdrawals are no walk in the park, and no wifi when you have a deadline is a nightmare.

So where can you always find a wifi connection, anywhere in the world?
Simple. Two places: Starbucks and McDonalds. Other locations where you might want to seek out some free wifi include: public libraries, campgrounds, hostels, cafés and restaurants. That being said, cafés and restaurants don’t commonly offer wifi to their customers in New Zealand. Other locations you might want to go if you are desperate, would include hotel lobbies and even your local bungy or skydiving office.

Currently the city centres of Wellington, Auckland, Rotorua and Dunedin have free wifi, and more are jumping on board. There are also options for wifi enabling your camper van, so do ask your camper van owner for advice about wifi connection, or head to one of the local phone stores in town and they might be able to set you up before you start your trip.

Below are a few great websites to help you figure out ahead of time where you might want to head when you need a digital fix.


Board Games

With so many hours of driving, walking, and discovering all the nooks and crannies that New Zealand has to offer, you are surely going to want some down time every so often. Those are the moments when you just want to sit around the campfire with a hot cuppa and a toasted marshmallow on a stick. Those are the times when you just want to laze around in the camper van in a daydream, staring out over the rolling hills or crashing waves.

These are the relaxing times when a board game is a priceless accessory to have on board.

Pick your poison… whether it be Monopoly, Scrabble, Trivial Pursuit or Risk, board games are great to wind down after a big day of adventure.


An Appetite!

Kiwis LOVE their food. So when you come to New Zealand be prepared to loosen your belt. The meals are large and food is always available in large quantities wherever you go.

There is a lot of high quality produce, dairy, seafood and meat in New Zealand, but there is also a lot of great junk food to be had! Kiwis certainly know good treats! Some quintessential things to try are:

  • A typical Kiwi meat pie with tomato sauce. These are available everywhere, especially in dairies (corner stores) and bakeries, which are on almost every corner. Apparently at the chain restaurant Georgie Pie, you will find New Zealand’s best pies. They actually closed down a few years back, but reopen a few years later because of the extreme demand.
  • Ice Cream. New Zealanders are up there as one of the biggest ice cream eating countries in the world. Although their weather is not always suited to ice cream, they seem to love it in any weather. Hokey Pokey and Goody Goody Gumdrops are a must! You might also want to read another blog I wrote: New Zealand’s Best Ice Cream Stops
  • Rashuns and Biguns. Great camper van food. Cheese and bacon flavoured chips, and REALLY bursting with flavour. All dairies (corner stores), service stations and supermarkets will have these.
  • Mallowpuffs and Anzac Biscuits. The quintessential Kiwi cookies. Available everywhere. A must have.
  • L&P (aka Lemon & Paeroa). An iconic Kiwi soft drink, which has been around since the early 1900’s. L&P was originally created with mineral water from Paeroa. Also easily available everywhere.


A Torch & Army Knife

No matter which country you are in, a camper van is never a camper van without a torch (flashlight) and a Swiss Army Knife.

Camper vans have so many nooks and crannies, that sometimes a torch is desperately needed just to find things, especially at night when the lighting might not be the best, or when you need to head outside when nature-is-a-calling.

Then there’s the Swiss Army Knife. Well, that really goes without saying. There are always things to be tightened, loosened or fixed in a camper van.

What would you add to the list? Please let us know.


Written for Share A Camper


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