How to Backpack the Best Two Months in New Zealand

It's impossible to see the best of any country in just two months, but here's a breakdown of how we did it:

 

Car Camping

There are lots of ways to get around New Zealand, but we decided a rental car would be the best way for us to see some of the more remote attractions. Simply put: it's the easiest way to do it. We each had a 70L backpack to fill with out essentials. Check out their contents here!

Bringing trustworthy camping gear will take your trip to the next level. New Zealand is decked out with TONS of campgrounds in the most stunning landscapes you'll come across. It's well worth the extra few pounds to be able to pitch a tent at the base of Mount Cook.

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Best Things We Brought

Camping gear to sleep under the stars.

Small luggage locks to secure our belongings in hostel lockers - they provide the safes, but you'll have to rent a lock if you don't bring your own!

Tarp/sitting blanket for a quick picnic. Doubles as a groundcloth for your tent!

Rain jacket because rain.

Hiking boots so you can climb those peaks.

External battery pack for your electronics, especially while camping.

Solar lanterns for easy lighting anywhere!

Fixed wide angle lens for landscape photography - MJ's personal favorite.

Mini bluetooth speaker to broadcast your tunes in the hostel kitchens.

Navigation app (maps.me) to get around the country. You'll thank us later.

Camping app (CamperMate) to find the best campgrounds that fit your budget.

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Best Things to Do for Free

Hiking Nelson Lakes

Stargazing in the Makenzie Dark Sky Reserve

Swimming in the Blue Pools

Drive up to the Remarkables Ski Area

Coromandel's Hot Water Beach + Cathedral Cove

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Best Experiences to Splurge On

*Renting a car!!!!!!! (JUCY)

Marlborough Wine Tour

Banquet Tour at Hobbiton (for all those hungry hobbits out there)

Marine mammal tours in Kaikoura

Cruise in the Fiordland National Park

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Best Instagram-Worthy Spots

Ocean murals of Napier

East Coast Highway of the North Island

Castle Hill (a.k.a. Weathertop)

The Mermaid Pools in Matapouri

Wai-O-Tapu geothermal area

Key Summit Alpine Loops in the Fiordlands

#LoveTaupo

Paradise Road

Farmlands of Southern Waikato

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Best Cities to Hit

Queenstown

Wellington

Napier

Wanaka

Kaikoura

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Best Restaurants & Bars

Kaiaua Fisheries in Kaiaua

Emporium Bar & Eatery in Napier

Rata in Queenstown

Capital Nomads Bar in Wellington

Fitzpatrick’s Irish Pub in Wanaka

Lakefront pub place in Wanaka 

Cowboy’s in Queenstown

Surreal in Queenstown

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Best Hostels

Crash Palace in Rotorua

Bad Jelly Backpackers in Kaikoura

Tailor-Made Backpackers in Tekapo

BASE Hostels in Wanaka and Queenstown

On the Beach Backpackers in Hahei

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Things We Didn’t Get To, but Wish We Did

Tongariro Alpine Crossing

Lake Wharakemoana

West Coast of the South Island

Abel Tasman Coastal Track

Routeburn Track (Key Summit Trail was a great substitute though!)

Another night in Wellington

Skydiving above the Remarkables

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Things to Remember in New Zealand

Drive on the left side of the road!!!!!

It’s not customary to tip, but 10% is appreciated for exceptional service.

Leave No Trace. Our wild lands are worth protecting.

You probably won't see a kiwi, but give it a shot!

Always ask DOC officers for recommendations, but take it with a grain of salt. KNOW YOUR OWN CAPABILITIES!!!!!!
Book huts and campsites way in advance during peak season - everyone else knows how beautiful it is too!!!!

Be prepared for weather that’s worse than you anticipate. Always.

 

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Love It or Leave It

Well, we’re not quite sure if we figured it out, but here’s what we’ve got:

Solving the Climate Crisis

What does New Zealand, Australia, Southeast Asia, India, the Mediterranean, and Northern Europe all have in common? Not their climates. 

To solve this problem, we have set up a very particular solution - with the help of our loved ones back home (thanks moms!). Aside from what we brought on flight NZ 5 (pictured below), we additionally packed three more boxes of clothes/gear to be shipped to locations along our path. First, a box of tropical wear will be shipped to us for muggy Southeast Asia. Second, a box of dresses and sandals will be shipped to us for the sunny Mediterranean. Lastly, a box of sweaters and socks will be shipped to us for wintry northern Europe. With each box, we will swap out what will no longer be needed for the next leg of the trip — i.e. that Patagonia nano puff will not be needed in Southeast Asia. 

But until those swaps happen, enjoy a peak into our 70L packs:

Kim’s magenta Gregory Amber 70L (left) & MJ’s Egyptian blue Gregory Deva 70L (right).

Kim’s magenta Gregory Amber 70L (left) & MJ’s Egyptian blue Gregory Deva 70L (right).

 

The Overflow Part

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Kim:

  • Lo & Sons camera bag

  • Lewis N Clark day pack - compacts down into teeny pouch

  • Generic black purse

  • Nat Geo baseball cap

MJ:

  • Osprey Talon 33L day pack

  • Generic grey purse

  • New York Yankees baseball cap - to rep the home state

 

The Gear Part

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Kim:

  • First Aid Kit - ace bandages, neosporin, band-aids, aquaphor, various meds, dramamine so as MJ does not puke on boats, etc.

  • Outdoor Master ground tarp

  • Screen cleaner rag

  • Camping utensils

  • Luggage scale - we’re looking at you, budget flights

  • Black Diamond headlamp

  • Build & Fitness pack towel

  • Collapsable coffee mug

  • Collapsable water bottle

  • Sea to Summit UltraLight sleeping mat

  • Bandanas x2

  • Sleeping bag in a Sea to Summit stuff sac

  • Cocoon Mummy Liner (silk)

  • Eno double hammock and straps

  • MAPS!

MJ:

 

The Please-Don't-Steal-These Part

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Kim:

  • BUBM electronics organizer - assorted cords and accessories

  • Nintendo DS - Pokemon is a religion for me (see toiletries below)

  • Bose bluetooth noise-cancelling headphones - f*ck you airplane turbines

  • GoPro Hero 4 with underwater housing unit and float accessory

  • iPhone camera attachment

  • Canon EOS Rebel T2i

  • Canon EFS 18-55mm lens

  • Canon EFS 18-200mm lens

  • Apple earbuds x2

  • MPOW rugged portable speaker

  • Divoom portable speaker - yes, we need two

  • Skyroam - useful portable wifi and service generator (look it up if you’re interested)

  • RAV Power iSmart battery pack

  • Matador camera case

  • Assorted chargers and car charger

  • Universal outlet converter

  • Flexible tripod

  • Apple MacBook Pro

  • iPhone 6S

MJ:

  • Bose noise-cancelling headphones - thank you Mama Walker

  • POWERADD solar battery pack

  • MatadorUp camera case

  • Altura padded camera lens case

  • Canon EFS 55-250mm lens

  • Canon EFS 24mm "pancake" lens

  • Canon EOS 80D - represented by the empty space

  • Commander hand strap for camera

  • TIMEX Expedition analog watch

  • NZ outlet converter

  • Apple earbuds

  • Extra camera battery and charger

  • A/V camera battery car charger - we are road tripping after all

  • FitBit Flex 2 - ask me about it, I will rave for hours

  • Port converter - honestly Apple, you’re getting on my nerves

  • ZOOP dive computer

  • GoPro Hero 4 with underwater housing unit

  • Phone charger - sticker on it to distinguish my own from the 50 other ones in a hostel

  • Micro SD card reader

  • Extra SD card

  • SD card reader

  • iPhone 6S

  • Seagate external hard drive - I’m taking A LOT of photos

  • Apple MacBook 12” in gold - I know, it’s super cute :)

 

The Bulky Part

Fun fact: Kim & MJ are the same size shoe… HOW CONVENIENT.

Fun fact: Kim & MJ are the same size shoe… HOW CONVENIENT.

Kim:

  • Mime et Moi black leather sandals with two pairs of heel attachments - because I couldn’t bring just one pair of heels..

  • Columbia lightweight rain jacket

  • Timberland boots

  • Pink Tevas - we don’t have to talk about how cute they are, but we can

  • Croc sandals (they’re cool, okay)

  • Patagonia fleece - SUCH a classic

MJ:

 

The Hard Part

Socks, underwear, and bras not pictured. Obviously we brought them. And yes, they’re sexy. Sometimes they match. We’re on the road, but we’re still single.

Socks, underwear, and bras not pictured. Obviously we brought them. And yes, they’re sexy. Sometimes they match. We’re on the road, but we’re still single.

Kim:

  • Sun hat

  • Black v-neck wool sweater

  • Patagonia hat - it’s MJ’s. She loves Patagonia. Ask her about it.

  • Gloves

  • Long-sleeve base layers x2

  • Short sleeve purple dress

  • Romper

  • T-shirts x6

  • Tank tops x3

  • Encircled multi-way infinity scarf

  • Black leggings x2

  • Blue jeans

  • Bikinis x2 - BEACH PICS

  • Rash guard - for diving

  • Shorts x5

MJ:

  • Black Patagonia mid-layer

  • Black cardigan

  • I <3 Pizza hat - shoutout to Picasso in Stowe, VT

  • Gloves

  • Grey infinity scarf - RIP American Apparel

  • Belts x3

  • Rash guard

  • Long-sleeve base layers x2 - one of them is Patagonia…

  • Tank tops x3

  • Lace bodysuit

  • T-shits x10

  • Dresses x3

  • Romper

  • Bikinis x2

  • Patagonia shorts x4 - I honestly didn’t mean to do that

  • Jean shorts x2

  • Blue jeans

  • Joggers

 

The Fun Part

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Kim:

  • Toiletries - just what you’d expect

  • Pokemon face masks - I told you it was a religion

  • Inflatable neck pillow and eye mask

  • Mini plastic bags - I have a sand collection, it’s really cool

  • Mystical Fire color packs x2 - keepin’ it colorful

  • Waterproof phone bag thing

  • iPhone powered fan - #selfie game strong

  • Mini spray bottle with peppermint oil - spiders hate it, and that’s what matters here.

  • Twist ties and locks

  • Sunnies

  • Sunblock and tattoo guard

  • Journal - thanks Sarah

  • Harry Potter playing cards - I’m a Slytherin. My patronus is a hummingbird, since you asked

  • Kindle

  • Flask - thanks Dave

  • Pencils n pens

  • Business cards - gotta work bitch

  • Snazzy hair clips x2

  • Mase & a taser - fuck with me.

MJ:

  • Sunglasses with croakies

  • Gold switchblade with roses on it - definition of a badass babe

  • Inflatable neck pillow that I forgot to use on the 12hr flight

  • Extra Ziploc bags

  • Journal

  • Doorstop

  • Purell

  • Waterproof phone bag thing

  • Leatherman Juice CS4 - literally the best thing I’ve ever owned

  • Aquatabs

  • DIY travel candle and matches

  • Pen

  • Sudoku book - I’m not a grandma, I just like to stay sharp

  • Polaroids from home <3

  • BANANAGRAMS

  • Kindle

  • Makeup bag with 50 shades of lipstick

  • Toiletries - just what you’d expect

  • Mase & a taser - fuck with me.

 

Oh, and paracord. The blue thing running down the middle.

 

The Thoughts Part

We’re guessing here. This is not a science. We had limited space, and this is how we filled it. Yeah, it’s pretty heavy - around 42.5 lbs each to be exact. But right now, we can’t imagine getting rid of any of it. Maybe we’ll change our minds after carrying them up a few mountains. We’ll keep you posted.

*           *          *

“What is the weirdest thing you brought with you?”

Kim: Pokemon face masks and Mystical Fire color packs.

MJ: BANAGRAMS.

 

 

Fun fact: between the two backpacks, we brought a whopping 17 Patagonia items. SPONSOR US PLEASE. #girlswhoexplore