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What Clothes to Pack to Travel in New Zealand


How to dress to backpack around New Zealand.

Well, we don’t want to tell anyone how they should dress but… some clothes are just more practical than others. Especially in New Zealand where the weather changes so much that it’s said to have “four seasons in a day”. Plus, you will find yourself in a lot of different situations while on a working holiday in New Zealand, such as taking long journeys, having a job interview, and doing some crazy activities. So with all that in mind, we have put this list together of what clothes to pack to travel in New Zealand.

See more about the changing weather here: Seasons and Climate in New Zealand. Plus, a complete guide to packing in The Ultimate Packing List for an Extended Trip in New Zealand.

What to pack for backpacking in New Zealand

This guide is a mix of what to wear in certain situations around New Zealand and what people will make you wear (see “For doing crazy activities”). Here’s what to wear…

  • for a long plane, bus or car journey in New Zealand.
  • for a job interview.
  • for a hiking trip.
  • far a city tour.
  • for doing crazy activities.
  • for sleeping in.
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There are going to be quite a few situations where you will be travelling for a long time, whether it’s taking a flight to and from New Zealand or a long bus journey.

Comfort is key! Wearing some loose fitting clothes, while squished on a bus or an economy seat, might be more comfortable than in skinny jeans and a corset… Try sweatpants, shorts or leggings with a cosy t-shirt and hoody.

In short, you will need…
  • 1 pair of leggings/sweatpant
  • 1 pair of shorts (for warmer days)
  • 1 comfortable T-shirt
  • 1 comfortable sweater/hoody
  • 1 pair of comfortable shoes


For a job interview

First impressions go a long way in job interviews. Even when handing out CVs or first presenting yourself to a potential employer, you don’t want to come across as a scruff.

Think about what the employees wear in that specific company. Take hospitality, for example, workers usually wear smart black and white clothes. Or if you are working as a receptionist or high-end retail assistant, try the classic pencil skirt/black trousers and shirt combo. For more tips on job finding in New Zealand, head to this page.

Reflect the colours of the work uniform, so your potential employer can imagine you working for them – get all psychological on them.

If in doubt, your outfit should be somewhere between smart casual and smart. What’s more, this approach also works for nights out in New Zealand cities. Choose an outfit that works for interviews and going out and you will be killing it at packing light!

In short, you will need…
  • 1 smart pair of pants/skirt
  • 1 shirt/smart top
  • 1 pair of conservative shoes (nothing too flashy)


For hiking and outdoors activities

Thermals! For the love of God, wear thermals. You don’t feel the weather change more than when you are on a hiking trip all day or several days on a Great Walk. One minute it can be sunshine, when the next it can be pouring down with rain and you’re freezing your ass off. Thermals as base layers are designed to keep you toasty when cold yet allow you to cool off when warm. Remember a waterproof coat and an extra warm layer and light layer. Avoid cotton – it does nothing for you.

On your bottom half, try light-weight pants that are fast drying. Or shorts with exercise leggings so you can whip off the leggings if it gets too hot. Wear some sturdy walking sneakers or boots.

In short, you will need…
  • 1 thermal underlayer (top)
  • 1 thermal underlayer (pants)
  • 1 waterproof and windproof jacket
  • 1 pair of woolen socks
  • 1 warm jacket
  • 1 pair of hiking pants
  • 1 pair of hiking shorts
  • 1 light top
  • 1 pair of sturdy hiking shoes
  • 1 day pack (use as your carry-on)


For city tours

The weather can change just as often in a city than on the mountains. The wind in Wellington blows all kinds of elements through the city, and Auckland has a lot of spontaneous rainfall. If you are out all day in the city, take an extra layer with you, such as a raincoat or a hoody. The dog in the picture knows how it’s done.

In short, you will need…
  • That waterproof clothing and jacket you packed for hiking (see above)
  • That day pack for hiking (see above)
  • Those casual shoes you packed for comfort (see above)
  • 1 casual top
  • 1 pair of casual pants


For doing activities

Any activity that requires specialised clothing in New Zealand will be included in your tour or available to hire. This way, you don’t have to carry bulky clothing around with you. That being said, there are a lot of water activities in New Zealand with requires you to have some swimwear!

In short, you will need…
  • Swimwear
  • Towel


For sleeping

When staying in a hostel and sharing a room, it is always good etiquette to sleep in some clothes, such as PJs, vest, some sweatpants, a onesie, etc. Plus, if you are thinking of camping or staying in a campervan, you will want some warm clothes for sleeping. Nights can get pretty cold in New Zealand.

In short, you will need…
  • A t-shirt
  • PJ pants/sweatpants to sleep in
  • 1 extra thermal layer (for sleeping in the cold)

day pack Checklist

Backpackers take many day trips during their time in New Zealand. See our standard daypack checklist to make sure you haven’t forgotten anything.

  • Sunscreen
  • Insect repellent
  • Umbrella and/or waterproof mac
  • Water
  • Snacks
  • Phone
  • Camera
  • Sunglasses
  • ID / Passport if buying alcohol
  • Money and/or bank card
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