What to pack for New Zealand in winter

Hot pools, cosy cafes, and snow-capped mountains, wintertime in New Zealand is incredible. To make the most of it however, you’ll have to come prepared. That means packing the right gear for the conditions. No matter what is on your itinerary, there are some essentials that you are going to need.

Here’s our list of essential items to pack for New Zealand in the winter.

Layering clothes is 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 Celsius (50-59 Fahrenheit), while the South Island sits at about 7-12 degrees Celsius (44-54 Fahrenheit). Keep in mind this is an average, and it’s not unusual for temperatures across the country to drop down below 0 degrees Celsius (32 Fahrenheit), especially overnight.

Base layer

Excellent base layers to pack are 1-2 singlets (tank tops) and 1-2 polyester thermals or merino wool shirts. If you don’t own any merino clothing yet, New Zealand has some of the best merino products in the world. Merino clothing makes for a very practical souvenir.

Mid layer

On top of that base should 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 or dress shirt just in case the occasion arises. New Zealanders are rather easy going people though, so don’t stress about looking too casual! Bringing 2-3 short sleeve shirts is also a good idea as it can still get reasonably warm during the day. Alternatively they can be used as extra base layers if needed.

Outer layer

For the outer layer, you are most certainly going to want to pack a raincoat, light windproof jacket, or coat/puffer jacket. The weather can turn quickly in New Zealand, so being able to chuck a waterproof layer on could save you from spending the rest of the day in moist misery.

Don’t worry about packing an umbrella; they cause more stress than they’re worth when the wind comes out (especially in the windy capital of Wellington). If you feel uncomfortable without one though, consider buying an NZ-made BLUNT umbrella. They’re designed to withstand the harshest winds, and come with a 5 year global warranty.

Warm legwear

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 pants are comfortable, as you don’t want a new pair of skinny jeans preventing you from enjoying a spontaneous climb up one of New Zealand’s many summits such as Tauranga’s Mount Maunganui or Auckland’s One Tree Hill.

Thermal leggings are also perfect for providing an extra layer of warmth for your legs. Just make sure to pack jeans that are baggier enough to fit leggings underneath. Don’t forget about your poor toes either! Make sure to pack thick socks.

Tip: packing cells will be a sanity saver when organising your clothes.

Three pairs of footwear

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’ll want to be comfortable no matter where you’re walking. Jandals (flip-flops) are another essential, and you’ll see Kiwis wearing them all year round. They’re perfect to wear to the hot pools, around campsites, or when using public showers.

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

Swimsuits aren’t just for summer

It may be winter, but you’re 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. Places such as Queenstown’s Instagram famous Onsen Hot Pools (recommend booking in advance) or Rotorua’s free hot spring Kerosene Creek are ‘must visit’ locations. Rotorua is famous for geothermal activity, and there are plenty of naturally-heated pools for you to enjoy. If you don’t mind braving the cold, there are also endless lakes and beaches to enjoy.

Winter accessories

We’ve covered the essential clothing items, but there’s a number of accessories that will add to your comfort when visiting New Zealand in the winter. They’ll also come in handy in any situations where your other items of clothing are unavailable due to them being washed, lost, or packed away at the time.

Headwear

Covering your head goes a long way to keeping your body warm, so bringing a warm hat to New Zealand is a must! There’s a huge variety in warm headgear nowadays and they seem to come in every colour of the rainbow. It’ll make for a trendy fashion accessory as well as a practical one. As well as a beanie, you’ll want to bring a sunhat. New Zealand has very harsh sun and you can get sunburnt here even in winter, especially if surrounded by snow.

Gloves & scarf

Although you might be focused on packing light, it’s worth considering packing 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.

Skincare

Cold air in the wintertime means dry skin. So, lip balm and moisturiser will come in handy. As mentioned earlier, you can get sunburnt in New Zealand even in winter. A good sunblock with an SPF of 30+ is essential. Bug spray/repellent is also a must-have for campers.

Get ready to make memories

I’m sure we don’t have to remind you, but New Zealand is packed full of amazing photo opportunities. Be sure to pack all the adapters, chargers, power banks, cameras, lenses, and memory cards you need.

That’s it! You’re now ready to pack your bags, escape the daily grind, and experience the magic of a New Zealand winter.