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6 of the most Essential items on a New Zealand Campervan Road Trip

This is not a packing article - there is loads of information out there reminding you to bring layers of clothing and wool socks.  DEFINITELY bring those things.  This article, however, outlines the 6 most essential items from our 6 weeks traveling through both islands in a Wicked Campervan.


1. CamperMate App

Absolutely essential to download before you spin your first kilometer on the campervan tires. This is more useful than any LonelyPlanet guide and possibly as useful as our travel blog. This app (which works offline...make sure you download the map before you arrive) can show you the nearest free campsites, things to do, hiking trails, LOTR filming locations, petrol, fresh water, dump stations, and the all important free wifi. These are just SOME of the points of interest you can bring up among many others. As described, the app works offline, runs fast and snappy, constantly updated by users, and will make your trip cheaper, more action packed, and headache free.

2. Power Inverter

Works way better when its plugged into the van.

Works way better when its plugged into the van.

Inevitably, you are getting off the beaten path in New Zealand. Not suprisingly, there aren't a lot of options for electric when you get off that path either. You could try to steal a little power here and there like a sad little electric hobo, or you could just buy a quality inverter to have in your van

I lugged this heavy inverter with every step of the way since I left home 9 months ago-all so that I could be sure to have it for 6 weeks in New Zealand. I don't regret it at all.

Sure, I could have bought a converter once I arrived in New Zealand. This specific one is the best though. We can charge two USB items and two standard electric plug items at the same time.

That means in our van we'd be charging:

  • A laptop
  • A drone battery
  • An iphone
  • A Gopro

All off one cigarette lighter plug. Helps bring a little bit of civilization to the fiordlands.

3. SIM Card

"My precioussssss!  My preciousssss!" Wifi access in New Zealand is as precious (and scarce) as the One Ring itself. 

New Zealand campervan trips are all about losing yourself in the wilderness and natural beauty of the country. It may happen that you get a little too lost. Or you're van is dead and you need help. Or you just really, really need to post to Instagram and Kiwis aren't just handing out free wifi.  Get ready to pay, and pay big for even just a few MB of data (yes, MB, not GB).

It's wisest to pick up a SIM card for your cellphone before you take off. Certain companies offer tourist focused SIM cards but only at the airport. We found the best choice for us based on cost, data included, and coverage was the Vodafone Travel SIM (and purchased at Christchurch Airport)

For $49 NZD, we got:

  • 3GB 4G data
  • 200 minutes(Great to tell mom you love her or to call roadside assistance when you get stuck in the mud)
  • 200 Txts
*Vodafone worked best for us but may not be the best option for you. We aren't sponsored by Vodafone, have received no compensation from Vodafone, and have no personal stake in whether you purchase a SIM card or not. If you work for Vodafone and want to send us money, we would be glad to help arrange that. Please reach out.

4. Proper Water Pot

water pot new zealand

Yes- you could just boil water in a normal sauce pot and get by- You could also wear grocery bags around your feet as waterproof shoes.  Since you're going to be living in a van for a month, its time to drop that $10 and make life easy for yourself-you have no idea how much water you're going to be boiling.

Coffee in the morning? Boil Water

Mac and Cheese? Boil water

Instant Soup? Boil water

Mashed Potatoes? Boil water

This doesn't even account for the times where you'll be forced to boil stream water or the sketchy campsite "you can use this for drinking but do so at your own risk" water. Do yourself a favor and just get a nice water pot.

5. Water Containers (Lots of water containers)

Not to brag, but these are just some of the old water bottles we had in our van...

Not to brag, but these are just some of the old water bottles we had in our van...

A gas station in NZ will gladly sell you a 1.5L bottle of drinking water for $4.50 NZD. That’s crazy talk and one of the many reasons people complain about NZ being so expensive. On your first grocery store trip (Pak n' Save 4 Life) pick up some 4L plus bottles of drinking water for $2 that you can reuse for the rest of your trip.

Two of us carried 20 liters of water in the van and still managed to come close to running out between fill ups. Fresh drinking water gets hard to come by in the fiordlands. To get water in the more remote sites requires boiling stream water or chemically treating it; Both of these activities are a PITA and a waste of money.  

6. Small Bills and Change (Camp Fees and Laundry)

Arriving in New Zealand after 4 months in South East Asia meant that we could dust off our credit cards and finally start using them again. It was nice to not constantly be worried about carrying enough cash on you and just swiping for whatever was needed.

Just remember- Most DOC camps have NZD $6/person fees and these need to be paid cash to the deposit box. If you're a cheapskate and don't pay, great, you can skip this step. For the rest of us, be sure to carry cash for the honesty boxes as well as the laundry machines you'll inevitably have need of. Rest assured, park rangers to occasionally drop by to make sure that people are paying their fees-especially in the busy campgrounds of the fiordlands.