Heading out to walk or hike in New Zealand’s stunning landscapes? Whether you’re planning to trek through the rugged Southern Alps or explore the lush forests of Fiordland, being prepared is key to a great experience.

Here’s my straightforward guide on what to pack and how to stay safe, with tips.

I'm wearing my hiking boots for this longer more rugged walk
I'm wearing my hiking boots for this longer more rugged walk

What You’ll Need for Walking & Hiking in New Zealand

1. Sturdy Footwear

  • Choosing the Right Type: Durable, waterproof hiking boots are your best bet for most New Zealand hikes. They’ll keep your feet dry and provide support over rough terrain. For easier or shorter walks, a good pair of hiking shoes is fine, I’ve got a pair of Merrell’s and there’re great for short walks.
  • Getting a Good Fit: Make sure your boots or shoes fit well to prevent blisters. Wear them around a bit before your big hike to break them in. But take hiking plasters just in case.

2. Layered Clothing

  • Stay Dry and Comfortable: For a colder walk begin with a layer that works well with sweat, add a fleece or down jacket for warmth, and top it off with a waterproof jacket. The weather can flip on you fast, so being able to layer up or down is crucial.

3. Navigation Tools

  • Don’t Rely Solely on Tech: A physical map and compass are must-haves on long hikes, even if you have a GPS or a smartphone with GPS apps. Batteries die and gadgets can fail, especially in remote areas. Download maps onto your phone before you go.

4. Emergency Kit (only needed for long hikes)

  • Pack the Essentials: Your kit should include a basic first aid kit, an emergency shelter (like a lightweight bivvy sack), extra food and water, and a multi-tool with a fire starter. It’s all about being prepared for unexpected overnight stays or minor injuries.

5. Walking poles

  • Benefits of Using Poles: Walking poles can reduce the impact on your knees and legs, especially during long descents or when carrying a heavy pack. They also help with balance on uneven terrain.
  • Choosing Poles: Look for adjustable poles that can fit your height, with easy open close clips. Lightweight, collapsible poles are the best for packing and adjusting on the go.

This is my typical summer walking gear in New Zealand
This is my typical summer walking gear in New Zealand

Safety Tips from Local Hiking Experts

1. Weather Watch

  • The weather here can change in a heartbeat. Check forecasts before you head out and be prepared for everything, even if the sky looks clear. I’ve written a help article about weather conditions in New Zealand.

2. Let Someone Know Your Plans

3. Know the Terrain

  • Familiarize yourself with the terrain you’ll be walking through. For example, river crossings can be tricky and dangerous. Learn the proper techniques to cross safely. Choose the right walk for you.

4. Consider a Safety Briefing

  • If you’re not too confident about hiking on New Zealand’s Great Walks, a safety briefing can be really helpful. Local guides and visitor centers often offer these.
These are my hiking poles with easy clips for folding up
These are my hiking poles with easy clips for folding up

5. Respect the Environment

  • Keep to the paths, take your rubbish with you, and enjoy wildlife from a distance. It’s all about leaving no trace and keeping our great outdoors great.

With the right gear and a bit of prep, you’re all set to safely enjoy New Zealand’s awe-inspiring walks. From casual short walks to challenging mountain climbs, there’s something here for every hiker. Just remember, a little preparation goes a long way!

Walking sticks are very handy for steep steps in New Zealands bush
Walking sticks are very handy for steep steps in New Zealands bush

Essential Packing List for Longer Hikes in New Zealand

1. Backpack

  • Choose a durable, weather-resistant backpack with a capacity of 50-70 liters, depending on the length of your hike. Ensure it has a comfortable fit with adjustable straps and sufficient padding.

2. Tent and Sleeping Gear

  • Tent: Opt for a lightweight, waterproof tent that is easy to set up.
  • Sleeping Bag: A sleeping bag suitable for the lowest temperatures you might face. Down bags are warmer for their weight but perform poorly when wet, so consider synthetic fill if you expect damp conditions.
  • Sleeping Pad: An insulated pad not only provides comfort but also essential warmth from the ground.

3. Cooking Equipment

  • A compact, reliable stove, fuel, and a lightweight pot or pan are essentials. Don’t forget a lighter or matches (stored in a waterproof container) and a small washing kit to clean dishes. Some huts have these things but don’t rely on it.

4. Food and Water

  • Food: Pack high-energy, lightweight food such as freeze-dried meals, energy bars, nuts, and dried fruits. Plan meals and snacks for each day on the trail.
  • Water: Always start with at least two liters of water. Include a water filter or purification tablets for refilling from natural sources. You can’t drink out of our streams these days, it’s just not safe.

5. Clothing

  • Pack layers that can be easily adjusted to changing conditions, including:
    • A moisture-wicking base layer
    • An insulating fleece or down layer
    • A waterproof and breathable outer shell
  • Include a hat, gloves, and thermal underwear if expecting cold weather.
  • Pack extra socks and a change of clothes for sleeping.

6. Safety and Emergency Gear

  • First aid kit tailored to your group’s needs, including items for blisters, cuts, and strains.
  • Emergency shelter, such as a bivvy bag or emergency space blanket.
  • A whistle and a mirror for signaling in emergencies.
  • A headlamp and extra batteries.
  • Always carry a PLB (Personal Locator Beacon) for long hikes, just in case you get into trouble.

7. Sun Protection and Insect Repellent

  • Sunscreen, lip balm with SPF, sunglasses, and a wide-brimmed hat are crucial under the New Zealand sun.
  • Insect repellent and possibly a head net if you’re going to be in sandfly-prone areas in the South Island.

8. Personal Items and Extras

  • A small, lightweight microfibre towel, biodegradable soap, and basic toiletries.
  • Camera or smartphone for photos.
  • A book or a pack of cards for downtime entertainment.

Tips for Packing

  • Weight Distribution: Balance the weight in your backpack evenly to maintain comfort and reduce the risk of injury.
  • Leave No Trace: Carry all rubbish out with you, minimizing your impact on the environment.
  • Weather Awareness: Always check the weather forecast before your trip and be prepared for sudden changes.

Packing smartly and preparing for the unexpected will help make your long hiking trek in New Zealand both memorable and safe.

My hiking boots next to Alans
My hiking boots next to Alans

Why not check out my favourite walks in the North and South Islands, it’s a great place to start if you’re not sure what’s best for you.