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The Best Packing List For An Epic Camping Road Trip In New Zealand

camping gear essential road trip mountain

A road trip is definitely the best way of exploring New Zealand. With its incredible snow-capped mountains, lush forest and turquoise lakes, Aotearoa is surely one of the most beautiful countries to visit by car or campervan. Traveling the open road is a liberating feeling everyone should experience, and having reliable equipment and gear to support you through your journey can really make a difference. Your car becomes your home and your items become your sole belongings. So make the most out of your New Zealand road trip with my tips and road trip essentials list.

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Tips to plan the perfect camping road trip in New Zealand

Planning a road trip can be difficult, especially if you’ve never done it before. Here a few tips to help you plan the road trip of your dreams.

Decide on your destination and choose a route

The first thing to do is to choose your destination. Once you know where you’re going you can choose your route. Most people choose to follow the scenic route, as it is obviously a lot more beautiful than driving on the highway. New Zealand’s roads are almost all scenic, to be honest, and they have two lanes.

I recommend using Google Maps to plan your road trip. You can easily calculate the driving time between destinations with this app, which will make it a lot easier to plan your stops and estimate the distances. You will also be able to see the main towns on your route, so you know where you can buy snacks and refuel.

Once I’m on the road, I use Maps.me. It’s an app that works offline, so you don’t need to have the internet to see where you are and where you’re going which is very useful when you get lost or take the wrong turn. If you plan on using this app, you will need to download the map of New Zealand before you leave. The map will be stored in the app, and then you can use it offline and see the roads, towns, and attractions.

Check your car before you leave

This is probably one of the most important things to do before you go, especially if you’re planning a long road trip of a few weeks/months. Take your car to the garage and have it checked. Make sure you have a spare tire, and jack, and have your oil changed if needed.

Book your campsites

If you’re traveling in high season, I recommend you book some of your campsites before you go. In New Zealand, most you’ll find campsites in the most beautiful regions of the country. They are managed by the Department of Conservation (DOC). You can also choose to stay in holiday parks. In summer, campsites can get full really quickly and it can be difficult to find a spot. If you don’t want to book, showing up early (before 5pm) will give you more chances to find a spot for the night especially if you’re planning to stay in a free camp. If you travel in low season, no need to book in advance, you can be more spontaneous. Robin and I did our New Zealand road trip in winter and didn’t book any camps in advance. We were basically alone every night and could enjoy beautiful and quiet nights under the stars. How romantic!

Make a road trip playlist

No road trip is complete without a great playlist! You can find made-up playlists on Youtube or Spotify but you can also make your own. Actually, it’s better to make more than one (especially if you’re going for weeks) or you will quickly get sick of listening to the same songs over and over again. Try to make at least 3 playlists in 3 different music styles. The perfect playlist should be a mix of new and old, with plenty of references to the open road of course.

Stop frequently

It’s very important to stop frequently on a road trip. Driving for a long time is really tiring, so try to stop every 2 or 3 hours. If you’re tired, stop on the side of the road and take a nap or ask another passenger to drive. 

Be spontaneous

Sometimes things don’t go as planned, so keep an open mind and go with the flow. You also need to be open to detours. You will probably drive by interesting or scenic places, so allow some extra time in your schedule. When we visited New Zealand, we stopped a lot more than we expected simply because in some places the scenery was so stunning, you just want to stop and enjoy!

Now that you know how to plan the perfect road trip, let’s have a look at what you will need to take for your camping road trip to New Zealand.

The best packing list for an epic camping road trip in New Zealand

For Your Car

car essentials road trip New Zealand

  • Spare tire, jack, and pump

Make sure you have a good spare tire, your jack, and pump.

  • Extra fluids

Refill before you go, and take extra fluids with you.

Camping Necessities

camping necessities amazon

  • Tent with rain cover

We made the mistake of buying a tent that didn’t have a rain cover, and when it rained a lot, the water would just go through and make small puddles in the tent. It’s definitely not cool, so it’s better to have a rain cover for your tent even if you think it’s not going to rain.

  • Camping mat

Self-inflating camping mats are very comfortable, and they take little space. They can easily be folded back into their carrying bag after use. If you need even more comfort, you can buy an air mattress but they take more space.

  • Sleeping bags

Four season sleeping bags are pretty good. The most important is to have one that is lightweight and waterproof. Trust me, you don’t want your sleeping bag to get wet.

  • Camp pillows

Essential for a good night sleep in the great outdoors. Like the mats, camp pillows are inflatable and take little space.

  • Camping table

Some campings don’t have table and chairs, so I recommend carrying your own if you’ve got space in your car. 

  • Camping chairs

 Don’t you dream of drinking beer around a nice fire in your own camping chair? If you do, bring your own chairs!

  • Cooler box

They take very little space and are a must-have on any road trip. They are ideal to carry your snacks and water.

  • Torch lamp and headlamp

Another thing you can’t go camping without. You’ll definitely need a torch lamp to cook in the evening. You might be thinking you could use the flashlight of your phone, but you could also drop it in the pit toilet and never see it again.

  • Camping bin

You almost always have to take your rubbish with you especially when camping in national parks so don’t forget this one.

  • Water tank

We carried one in our car to have water to drink obviously, but also to do the dishes and sometimes wash when there were no showers around.

  • First aid kit

Because you never know what could happen, it’s better to always carry a first aid kit with you.

  • Backpack or suitcase

I prefer backpacks because they are smaller but a suitcase will do, you can just leave it in the car at all times.

  • Day backpack

There are all kinds of small backpacks out there. Look around the market and see what works best for you. For day hiking, I usually like to make sure the bag is about 20-30 liters, and that I can put my snacks and water in it and also all my valuables (phone, camera, wallet…).

  • Fast drying towel

I use a fast drying towel all the time when I travel, but it comes very handy when you camp. 

  • Water bottle with filter

If you go on a long hike, take a water bottle with filter, this way even if you run out of water you’ll still be able to take some from a river and drink it. The LifeStraw is a good option if you want something lightweight and quick to filter water with.

  • Healthy snacks

Bring your own snacks with you, it’s cheaper than buying them at a gas station. Nuts, seeds and dried fruits are super healthy and make a fantastic snack.

  • All-purpose tool

An all-purpose tool might be useful. If you’re like my boyfriend and break everything, a Leatherman will save your life.

  • Sunscreen

You’re going to be spending a lot of time outside, so wear sunscreen even if it’s not super sunny.

  • Bug spray

You will have weird encounters with many different bugs during your camping trip. We had ants in our tent at some point, so the bug spray was very handy. Also, sandflies will probably be your worst enemy.

  • Sunglasses

Nobody likes to be blinded by the sun.

READ: Top 10 New Zealand Campsites Under $15


electronics camping packing list new Zealand

  • Camera

You don’t want to forget all the beautiful moments you’re going to live on this camping road trip, so take a good camera to create wonderful memories.

  • Chargers

Don’t forget your chargers for your phone and camera, you’ll be able to charge them with a power bank. Or you can charge them directly from the car if you have a USB car charger.

  • Power bank

Well, there won’t be any power sockets in the bush that’s for sure. Don’t forget to charge your power bank before you get on the road.

  • Kindle or Book

No wifi in the forest means no Facebook so take a book or kindle to keep yourself entertained in the evening.

Cooking Equipment

cooking equipment road trip essentials

  • Plates, bowls, and cutlery

  • Cutting board

  • Tupperware

To keep your snacks or food when you go on a hike.

  • Vegetable peeler

  • Spatula

  • Can opener

  • Pots and pans

You’ll need a big pot to do the dishes in. One big pot and one pan are enough.

  • Strainer

  • Mugs

Hot tea in your own mug, how does that sound?

  • Portable mini burner and fuel

Very handy to cook a nice dinner in the evening. Make sure you buy enough fuel cans. 

Other Camping Supplies

camping supplies

  • Laundry detergent

  • Dishwashing liquid

  • Sponge

  • Tea towels

  • Lighter or matches

  • Paper towel


toiletries camping essentials

  • Wipes

Use wipes for quick, on the move cleanups. Wipes are super useful and make ideal travel companions.

  • Biodegradable soap

New Zealand’s nature is precious. Try to use biodegradable soap instead of normal soap.

  • Flip flops

Because when you use public showers you don’t want to put your feet where everyone else did.

  • Hand sanitizer

Hand sanitizer is considered as effective at killing germs as washing your hands with soap and water. So grab one before you go.

  • Lip Balm

You don’t want to end up with cracked lips.

  • Toilet rolls

Because there is no such thing as toilet paper in the woods.

READ: 5 Awesome Day Hikes On The South Island Of New Zealand


clothes camping gear boots scarf fleece

  • Walking shoes

Everyday walking shoes are a must-have for whenever you’re not hiking. Make sure they are comfy.

  • Fleece

I was wearing my fleece almost every day on our New Zealand road trip. Wear a light long sleeve shirt underneath.

  • Beanie

To keep your head warm when it gets colder at night or on top of the mountain you’re going to climb.

  • Scarf

I actually put my scarf around my shoulders when it gets cooler at night.

  • Hiking boots

Make sure to wear good hiking boots for your trail. Ideally, they should be light, waterproof and comfortable.

  • Warm socks

It’s important to keep your feet warm at all times. So a few pairs of warm socks are essential for your camping trip. 

  • Hiking pants

A nice lightweight, breathable pair of hiking pants is the best for a day hike.

  • Waterproof pants

We were always wearing waterproof pants when hiking in New Zealand, simply because if it starts raining a lot at least your legs will stay dry and the pants dry super quickly.

  • Rain jacket

If it looks like the weather is going to turn, bring a rain jacket or a poncho. They’re light to carry.

  • Swimsuit

I know you might be wondering why you’d bring a swimsuit on a road trip (especially if you’re road tripping in winter), but you actually might need one if you come across natural hot pools.

Road trips are the best way to see New Zealand and create wonderful long lasting memories. To make a great road trip even greater, make sure you have all these camping gear essentials. Are you planning a camping road trip to New Zealand? Let me know in the comments below!

>> Download a PDF version of this camping gear essentials checklist for free <<

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packing list for new zealand road trip

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