Most people heading to New Zealand are there for the exact things that make packing tricky; adventure activities and exploring dramatic landscapes. Catering to the elements whilst maintaining a sense of style can be a difficult balance. Throw in winter coats that take up half your suitcase and you’ve got a real packing conundrum! When I explored South Island New Zealand last year I kept warmth and comfort at the front of my mind, whilst hanging on to my favourite winter trends. I found a selection of pieces that catered to anything the weather gods threw at me but I could also wear out to dinner. Today I’m sharing that packing list to help you find on-trend pieces that will go the distance too.
WINTER PACKING LIST
Winter in New Zealand is a much longer season than you may be used to. Daytime temperatures drop under 20 degrees celsius as early as early as March and don’t hit that mark again until December. For this reason, I’m breaking my packing list into only two seasons instead of the traditional four. When we visited in September the snowfall was huge and much colder than our June visit the previous year. So don’t be fooled by the thought of spring!
When deciding what to pack it’s important to consider:
- Will you be hitting the ski slopes?
- Are you heading to remote locations like Milford Sound or Franz Josef Glacier?
- Will you have a vehicle to retreat to if the weather turns nasty? Or are you relying on tours/public transport?
If you answered yes to either of the first two questions you will need to add a snow jacket, and waterproof shoes/boots to your list. I didn’t wear waterproof pants but hired them for snowboarding and took a pair of loose pants to layer over thermals. If you have your own vehicle like we did, you’ll be able to get out of sticky situations pretty quickly. If you are at the mercy of a tour group I’d pack waterproof pants for any downpours you might get stuck in.
MY PACKING LIST
My first rule of thumb is to pack for only a week and then repeat those outfits (in different combos) by doing a wash once a week. I’ve based my list on everything I packed for a 2-week stay. My second rule is to only take pieces that go with three other pieces in your suitcase. That means only taking a top if it goes with three of the bottoms you’ve packed. I know this sounds hard but it will ensure that you can literally get dressed in the dark and everything will match :)
- 2 x casual tees.
- 2 x knits.
- Cropped boyfriend Jeans.
- Casual jacket for layering.
- Runners (preferably waterproof).
- 3/4 sleeve formal top.
- Dark slim jeans.
- Giant warm coat.
- Ankle boots.
- 2 sets of thermals (because you will wear these most days).
- Outdoor pants for over thermals (or snow pants).
- Relaxed, full-coverage jeans for layering.
- Snow jacket.
- Rain jacket for when its wet but steamy, e.g. hiking.
- Snow boots and long socks.
- Ski gloves.
- 2 beanies (so you can alternate on long trips).
- 2 scarves (1 cosy and 1 for nights out).
- Woolen gloves.
I’ve divided these pieces up so that you can see their main use but honestly they are interchangeable between most scenarios.
An anorak is the perfect outer layer, being roomy enough to cover knitwear and often spray proof.
SHOP THE PACKING LIST
Below is a visual board of the three outfit types I pack for New Zealand. Each of these items are in my packing list and some are duplicated to make up a week’s worth of outfits. You can see how every top can be worn with every bottom and each coat can layer on top.
From Left to right.
Top: Trenery anorak, Witchery tee, Country Road jeans, Witchery scarf, Country Road sneakers.
Middle: Trenery coat, Witchery jeans and turtleneck, Country Road gloves, Tony Bianco boots.
Bottom: Roxy snow jacket, Witchery knit, Kathmandu pants, Skandia snow boots, Witchery beanie.
SHOULDER SEASON PACKING LIST
I’ve had a request from one of my Instagram followers, Julie, to include packing tips for late April. For me, it sits right on that awkward cusp of Autumn and Winter in New Zealand. Snow fall at this time is minimal and certainly the major ski fields wouldn’t be open yet. For that reason I would make the following changes:
- Ditch the snow jacket and ski gloves.
- Swap the snow boots for other closed-in shoes. You’ve already got runners on the list so perhaps some flats?
- Only take one pair of adventure pants, making sure you can fit thermals underneath them.
- Just take one pair of thermals for cold nights.
- Cut the beanies and scarves down to one of each (unless you have an extra long trip).
On both of my trips to New Zealand I’ve been surprised by just how cold it can get and how vastly the weather can change from town to town. That’s why I’ve based my packing list around cohesive layers. By packing items in the same colour scheme that all fit underneath each other you will take the stress out of outfit planning each day. And that means more time for exploring! If you have any questions about packing for specific activities or locations please leave me your comments below.