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by David Thackray

So we flew into Queenstown for our trip and quickly realised there were quite a few items we should have brought but forgot and had to buy there (Queenstown is VERY expensive for a lot of common items you can get cheaper elsewhere)

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Packing:

Pack as light as possible (but be prepared for the cold!). Many layers of t-shirts, light pullovers and jumpers take up a lot less space than large coats and give you more options of how to dress to match the conditions or your days activities.

Pack a pair of flipflips/thongs/jandels. Most of the bathrooms at places we stayed were reasonably clean but there were one of two where you wouldn't want to touch the floor. It is also good to have something you can slip on easily in the dark if you need to go to the bathroom during the night without losing toes to frostbite.

Bring "Activewear". Even if doing 3 days hikes, mountain bike riding, triathlon training  etc isn't your thing. Skin tight clothing that breathes is really great for keeping you warm without sweating and takes up very little space. Trust me with some of the activities on offer you are going to be sweating, and your heart racing, without any exercise at all!

Plastic ponchos. Although we didn't have to use them (thanks to luckily glorious weather the whole trip) we always had them with us as they take up a tiny space and weigh next to nothing. They cost a couple of dollars each and you would pay a lot more than that to not walk home soaking wet and freezing if you got trapped in rain during on of the many amazing walks.

Bring a torch. Many of the free or cheap DOC (Dept of Conservation) campsites only have basic pit toilets and no lighting... not a great combination in the middle of the night. We used one of these from Bunnings which was perfect. It cost $7 and had both torch and area lighting, a hook to hang it in the van and a magnet to attach it outside the van when needed. Batteries included! 

A 12v USB charger. These can be very simple and cheap single USB sockets that plug into the 12v cigarette socket of the car or more advanced one like the one we bought from Narva that fit into the cup holder and had 3 USB sockets while still allowing a 12v cigarette plug to be used too. Remember that these sockets are only usable while driving so you will probably want to charge phones, speakers, kindles, cameras etc simultaneously. 

Make sure you have good walking shoes. NZ has incredible scenery and some of the most spectacular walks on the planet but you won't see it if your feet are aching and covered in blisters after day one because you are trying to do it in dress boots or shoes.

  near milford sound, new zealand

Rather than using suitcases pack your clothing into soft bags as these can fit more easily into the random shaped storage available to you inside the van (or like us you can unpack the clothing into the storage box and fit the bags into small hard to reach areas that you don't need to access often).

Pack plenty of underwear. While there are laundry facilities everywhere they can be expensive (we saw $12 for one load of self service wash and dry in one place) and you also don't want to be spending an hour or more waiting in a laundromat very often in your trip.

A lithium jump starter / power bank. Our campervan had a flat battery the 1st morning we woke up and the AA guy who came to give us a jump said that it was very common with all the campervan companies (especially the cheaper ones obviously). I had no wish to spend my time waiting around for the AA every couple of days or potentially missing booked activities etc because of a flat battery so I got one of these from Repco in Queenstown for $75. It turned out to be a life saver as not only did we get a flat battery 5x over the trip that it got running in seconds it also had a powerful torch on it and could charge our phones while the car engine was off (great if you don't drive for a day or two).

The radio in new Zealand is generally terrible, station reception usually only lasts for one song if you are lucky so definitely bring either a cord to connect your phone/ipod to the car stereo or a bluetooth speaker (which we did, our UE Boom, and were very happy as we could take music with us while picnicing etc).

iKegger near the remarkables range in new zealand

An iKegger. Obviously, this got a huge workout on our trip. An iKegger is an insulated beer growler with tapping system, and if you are still staring blankly at the screen I'll explain. A Growler is basically a large bottle for taking home tap beer from a brewery or bar (also called a Rigger in NZ). There are many types available, most commonly just a plastic bottle like a soft drink in NZ, and nearly any venue that serves beer will fill them more cheaply than a 6 pack from the supermarket (12-16NZD). It also means you aren't carting around all that rubbish and easily broken bottles plus takes up much less of your precious fridge space. The thing that made the iKegger even better was that it is also a thermos and keeps the beer frosty cold for up to 24 hours without taking up any room in our tiny 18L fridge (which was Marina's sauvignon blanc and milk for morning coffee and porridge territory). It meant we could fill it at any of the great craft beer venues we drove past during the day and it would still be cold that night or for lunch the next day.

A drone. Obviously this won't be on everyone's list ;-) We are lucky enough to own a Phantom 3 photography drone. These have come down in price hugely now due to the release of the Phantom 4 series of drones and the one we have can now be bought for about $800. This meant we had a robot camera crew to film us doing our thing from any angle we chose. Failing a drone make sure you have a decent camera (we just use our Sony Z2 and Z3 phones) and plenty of space on your memory cards as you will not be able to help takes a LOT of pictures.  

view from the drone, arrowtown, NZ

Board Games / Cards / Movies. Again we were incredibly lucky with the weather for our trip but it gets dark early and you will more than likely be in the van by 7-8pm each night. A great card game for 2 people that is easy to pick up but stays interesting is what we call Sh*thead the rules for which can be found here but to make the game go a bit quicker with 2 people deal 5 cards facedown and 5 more face up on top. The Jucy Cabana has a DVD player that has a USB and SD Memory Card slot if you want to bring a TV series or movies along for rainy days.

We should point out again that we were travelling in a Jucy Cabana(a small campervan built into a toyota estima or similar designed for 2 people, it only has 2 seatbelts, a double bed and basic kitchen utilities, obviously if you have a full sized campervan with shower toilet, full kitchen and 240v power your requirements will be different to ours)

Our Jucy Cabana in NZ South Island

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David Thackray
David Thackray



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