Are you gearing up for a big New Zealand adventure in your van? There’s nothing better than the open road, a bed and kitchen on the go, and stunning kiwi scenery to enjoy. Regardless of if you have a jam-packed itinerary or just making it up as you go, one thing you don’t want to rush is packing your van correctly.
Even if you’re off for a few days, you do not want to forget to pack these top 10 van essentials.
New Zealand is notorious for its intense sun. The lack of an ozone layer means wearing sunscreen throughout the year is essential. Make sure to grab a bottle or two (SPF 50+ is best), and always lather up before heading outside. If you’re going for a swim or surfing in the ocean, make sure to use a reef-safe brand. Pop one in the glove box so you always know where one is.
While Aotearoa may lack snakes and poisonous spiders, it has the pesky sandfly. These tiny insects love to hang around all bodies of water, and they are particularly thirsty for your blood around dawn and dusk. However, in places like the West Coast, you’ll find them waiting for you outside your van doors at any time of day. Don’t forget to pack your sandfly spray and wear long-sleeved, light-colored clothing if you plan to be outside while they are around.
Local tip: if you get bit, do not itch, the bite will come back to haunt you for the days following.
The self-contained camping spots dotted around the country are the perfect place to rest for the night, although you won’t find any power in these locations. Staying close to nature as much as possible while cruising in your van makes for a more peaceful, calming experience. Make sure to bring a Goal Zero power pack to charge your devices on the go and continue your leisure van adventure.
Another item you don’t want to leave at home is a good blanket. A blanket for outdoor picnics, cuddling up with and watching the waves, or layer on the bed on those extra cold nights. Bring something with a pop of color or fun design to liven up the van, or add a bit of oompf and dreaminess to your photos. Bonus if it can double up as a scarf!
Your number five essential item is one for your devices. Before you leave home or from a decent wifi connection, download a few travel apps that will come in handy.
CamperMate is a must if you are finding campsites as you go. It will show you free camping locations, holiday parks, DOC sites, and more. The app has more amenities you may need on the road, like laundromats, public showers, dump stations, and water.
Roady, a new app designed for NZ travellers, is another excellent resource and includes attractions, viewpoints, and plenty of inspo for planning your road trip. Use it to find incredible places across the country.
New Zealand is known for its lack of phone signal, which allows you to immerse yourself in nature; however, you might need some direction to find your way. Download the area you’re traveling in on Google maps and save the offline map, which will still give you directions when you have no signal.
Before you get behind the wheel, check your gas bottle! This is essential for cooking your meals and heating your water; you don’t want to be stuck far from town with no gas.
Find gas bottles at shops like Mitre 10, but head’s up, it is always cheaper to fill up your bottle than swap it. Finding re-fill spots can be a challenge. Hop on your CamperMate app and search for LPG bottle filling to see if any are in your area.
Tiaki is a promise across New Zealand to care for the land and respect the land, and that goes for locals and foreigners visiting the two-island nation. One way to help create less waste is to pack reusable shopping bags, water bottles, metal straws, and Tupperware. Opt to fill your water bottles with drinking fountains or your sink rather than buying plastic ones in the shops. These little actions make a big impact.
As we discussed at the start, the sun is STRONG in New Zealand and your van will get hot if you aren’t in the shade. The awning on your van will be essential on those long, hot summer days and give you a bit of relief on the road. Otherwise, pack a brolly that you can bring along on your adventure.
Nobody likes climbing into a steaming hot campervan after a sweaty hike in the sun. You’ll be grateful for this little add-on! A sunshade for your windscreen will help keep your vehicle cooler.
Worst case, if you forget, chuck a towel or blanket across while exploring.
Unless you are lounging in your van all weekend long (and that’s ok if you are!), packing a few adventure items is key. Bring a small daypack to carry valuables, water, layers, and food. Don’t forget hiking boots, especially if you’re hitting the trails — your feet will thank you later. A torch is necessary, especially if you’re showing up at a campsite in the dark. Other things to think about: first aid kit, wool socks, slip-ons for walking around camp, and water sport items like paddleboards, kayaks, and surfboards.
The first thing you need for an epic New Zealand Road trip is your sense of adventure. A positive mindset and a laid-back attitude are the kiwi way of life. Enjoy the long, slow days in your van, fill up on Aotearoa’s beauty, and let your inner kid out on any adventure you choose. From extreme sports to leisure activities, New Zealand has it all.
All you need to do is hop in your van with these ten essential items and go!
Have we missed anything? Let us know your musts when packing for a New Zealand van trip!