What to pack for New Zealand in winter

Hot pools, cosy cafes and snow top mountains, wintertime in New Zealand is incredible. And to make the most of it, it is best to come prepared, which means packing the right stuff.

No matter what is on your itinerary, there are some essentials that you are going to need.

Clothes for layering are a must.

Having a couple of options for a base layer, mid layer and outer layer will allow you to switch between them depending on what part of New Zealand you are visiting. The average winter temperature in the North Island is between 10-15 degrees (50-59 Fahrenheit), while the South Island sits at about 7-12 degrees (44-54 Fahrenheit) and can even drop down into the negatives.

Excellent base layers to pack are 1-2 singlets (tank tops), 1-2 polyester thermals/ merino shirts– if you don’t own any merino yet, New Zealand has some of the best merino products in the world, making for a very practical souvenir.

On top of that base, should ideally be your fleece jacket or long sleeve top. You are going to want to pack 4-5 tops, one of which one could be a blouse/ dress shirt just in case the occasion arises- but New Zealanders are very casual so no stress! Bringing 2-3 short sleeve shirts is also a good idea as it can still get reasonably warm during the day and alternatively can provide extra layers if needed.

Now for the outer layer, you are most certainly going to want to pack a raincoat, light windproof jacket and coat/ puffer jacket.  Don’t worry about packing an umbrella; they cause more stress than anything when the wind comes out (especially in the windy capital of Wellington).

Think practical. 

To keep your legs warm, packing two pairs of jeans and one pair of quick-dry pants (such as nylon pants) is all you need. Make sure your jeans are comfortable, as you don’t want some new skinny’s preventing you from enjoying a spontaneous short climb up one of Auckland’s many summits- such as Mount Hobson or One Tree Hill.

(Handy tip: packing cells will be a sanity saver when organising your clothes).

Swimsuits aren’t just for summer.

It may be winter, but you are still going to want to pack your swimsuit, or as you’ll soon learn the kiwi way of saying it “togs.”

Throughout your New Zealand travels, there’ll be countless opportunities to relax and soak, in places such as Queenstown’s Instagram famous Onsen Hot Pools (would recommend booking in advanced) or Rotorua’s free hot spring Kerosene Creek. And if hot water isn’t your thing, there are endless beaches and lakes- you might just have to brave the cold.

Stick to 3 pairs of shoes.

As tempting as it may be to bring all your shoes, pack three pairs max. Good walking shoes are a big yes! Even if you aren’t an avid hiker, you are going to want to be comfortable no matter where you are walking. Jandals (flip flops) are another essential as they are perfect to wear after swimming or when using communal showers at campsites.

If you are planning on spending more time in the city, boots/ boat shoes might be worth taking- as long as you are comfortable walking in them! This is perfect for casual exploring or a quick transformation into a nightlife look when paired with jeans and a blouse/ dress shirt.

Don’t underestimate the power of ‘the beanie.’

If your head is warm, you will stay warm. Which means bringing a beanie is a must! Plus, nowadays they seem to come in every colour of the rainbow, making for a trendy fashion accessory at the same time.

Can never go wrong with a little extra warmth.

Although you might be focused on “packing light”, don’t think about leaving behind a pair of gloves and a scarf. Even a simple stroll to Taupo’s Huka Falls could be ruined if your hands are freezing the entire time.

Thermal leggings are also perfect for providing an extra layer of warmth for your legs- but make sure to pack jeans that are baggier enough to fit leggings underneath.

And don’t forget about your poor toes. Make sure to pack thick socks!

Now that’s the essentials covered.

That’s pretty much all you need to remember when packing for winter in New Zealand. But do keep in mind that this country has a lot to offer, so there may be a few other packing essentials you’ll need depending on the type of activities you have planned.

Attention all hikers.

Swap those city boots for some hiking boots. You may also want to trade the scarf for a buff. Bring a day pack, but any other equipment such as walking poles can easily be hired.

Did someone say snow?

New Zealand has several ski fields such as Canterbury’s Mount Hutt or North Island’s Mount Ruapehu. But unless you are coming here solely to ski/ snowboard, definitely hire the gear.

Other essential bits and bobs.

Cold air in the wintertime means dry skin. So, lip balm and moisturiser will come in handy. Also with the sun setting around 5 pm in the winter months, having a small flashlight on hand is a smart idea.

Surprisingly, it can sometimes still get rather warm during the day, so bringing sunglasses and a peaked hat will protect you from New Zealand’s harsh rays (handy tip: wearing a cap when it is raining also keeps the water off your face).

And once you’ve touched down in New Zealand, sunblock and bug spray should be on the shopping list.

Oh, and don’t miss out on that Instagram photo.

Make sure you pack your iPhone, adapter, chargers, power bank and camera so you can fill up your camera roll with New Zealand’s beautiful scenery.

That’s it. You are now ready to pack your bags, escape the norm and experience the magic of a New Zealand winter.