When hiking, it is best to be prepared for every situation. Whether you are hiking for one afternoon or for three full days, you never know what might happen and what you might need. To help you learn the packing essentials for your future hikes, here are the items I always take with me.

Layers of Clothing

This might seem obvious, but you never know what will happen with Oceanic weather. It could be the sunniest, hottest day of the year in New Zealand and then start raining an hour later without warning. Be sure to bring a rain jacket, sturdy hiking shoes, layers for warmth, as well as a hat, a pair of gloves and a scarf. Being prepared for the changing weather is the first step to get ready for a hike.

Layered up and ready for an adventure | Michelle Kozminski, Stonehill College
Layered up and ready for an adventure | Michelle Kozminski, Stonehill College

Water Bottle

A water bottle is something I carry around with me all the time. It is essential for hiking no matter how little or far the distance. I prefer to bring a durable but lightweight water bottle. Since it’s more important to have a full water bottle than a light backpack, I constantly keep an eye out for places along the trail to refill my water bottle.


Think fruit, power bars, cheese, bread, sandwiches and trail mix. When I pack for a hike, I always bring more food than I think I will need. I also try to pack a lot of small portions instead of one large portion because it’s easier to store and is more convenient to eat my food over time.

Cape Reinga - Te Paki Coastal Track
Cape Reinga – Te Paki Coastal Track

First Aid Kit

A small first aid kit is the one item I always bring with me while hiking although I hope I’ll never have to use it. Before I go on any hike, I make sure to check that it is fully stocked and has everything from bandages to pain killers.

Sun Protection

The ozone is right above you in New Zealand and the risk of skin related diseases is higher than in other parts of the world. Remember to pack sunscreen, a hat and sunglasses. It’s important to keep yourself protected from all known types of sun exposure.

Key Summit Alpine Walk - Fiordland National Park
Key Summit Alpine Walk – Fiordland National Park

Helpful Tools

A small multi-tool or picnic knife is good for cutting bread or fruit and for repairing any equipment. Tape or rope will come in handy to store things or patch up a tear. A whistle is always a smart thing to have on hand for safety and are often built into hiking backpacks and jackets.

Franz Josef Glacier Walk - Westland Tai Poutini National Park
Franz Josef Glacier Walk – Westland Tai Poutini National Park

Fire Starter

I carry a small pack of matches inside a waterproof bag no matter how long my hiking trip is going to be. Carrying a lighter and lighter fluid is helpful if you know you are camping and having a fire at night, but they do add weight to your bag.


I have a small flashlight and extra batteries in my backpack at all times. It is an added precaution even though I normally use my phone’s flashlight.


When hiking, I usually take a compass and two maps, one of the greater hiking area and one that shows the trail I’m following. I am a person who usually likes to wander and casually follow the signs when I pass them by. However, in case of emergencies, my map will help me figure out where I am.

Abel Tasman National Park
Abel Tasman National Park

Fun and Games

My backpack is pretty full by the time I put in all the necessary and emergency items but it is always worth bringing my camera. Even though it adds an extra five pounds, I love taking pictures. A deck of cards and a frisbee are less thought of items for hikes, but I find that when I take a break, these toys are fun to play with with friends and are often the most enjoyed part of the trip.

Kayla Quinn is a TEAN Alum and a student at Carnegie Mellon University. She studied abroad with TEAN in Wellington, New Zealand.