Top 10 things to pack for a day walk or hike

Department of Conservation —  15/04/2019

This is a guest blog by Ashlyn Oswalt. Ashlyn is an American expat who’s been living in New Zealand for a year. She’s a keen tramper and has noticed that not all visitors to New Zealand are properly equipped when they head into the outdoors. Safety first is her key message and to make sure people are properly prepared, she’s put together the following list of must haves for a walk.

1. Water bottle

Water on the trail can be unpredictable, so it’s best to avoid relying on natural sources for drinking water. Packing a water bottle, no matter how short the walk is, means you’ll be prepared for whatever comes your way. I always carry at least 1-2 litres.


Handy tip – take a bottle that keeps water cold!


2. Camera

The old saying goes, “take only photos and leave only footprints,” and taking a camera gives you a great opportunity to leave no trace on the trail.

3. Snacks

No matter how short of a walk I go on, I pack plenty of quality, high energy snacks. Hunger can strike at any moment and I want to be prepared, as there’s nothing worse than not being able to enjoy a hike because of hunger pains. I typically pack a few pieces of fruit and small energy bars.

Lunch box.jpg

Top tip – pack your fruit in a lunch box so they don’t slip down into the bottom of your pack.


4. Merino layer

New Zealand can easily experience four seasons in a day, so being prepared for every one of them is essential for a day walk. Merino layers are a perfect natural fibre to keep you warm during cold spells and wick sweat away from your skin in the heat. In colder regions, layer up clothing to keep your body heat from escaping.

5. Rain jacket

Finding a quality rain jacket that packs down small is perfect to throw into your daypack. Showers can hit at any time and shielding yourself from the wet and wind chill will keep you comfortable.

6. Sunblock

New Zealand sun burns bright and can leave walkers sunburned within a matter of minutes. Be prepared by packing sunblock that will protect you from the sun’s rays.


Starting the Bealey Spur Track. 📷: Ashlyn Oswalt


7. Topographic map

Checking the DOC website, maps, and having a map of the trail uploaded onto your phone are great first steps for finding your way, but cell phone reception is often very unreliable on the trail. Having a topographic map not only allows you to work through lost cell phone reception, but prepares you for elevation gains, river crossings, or rugged trails.


Walking along the Mt Isobel track. 📷: Ashlyn Oswalt


8. Hat (sun or beanie)

No matter the weather, a hat is an appropriate item to carry along. In the summer, a large hat that shades your face can help protect against sunburn and fight off glare. A beanie in cooler temperatures can help keep you warm.

 9. Extra socks

New Zealand’s day walks often include – expected or unexpected – river crossings. While fun, these can leave feet soaking wet and cause blisters and discomfort. Always pack one extra pair of high-top merino wool socks for your adventure.  

10. Daypack

Essential for carrying all of the above, a quality daypack can be the difference between an enjoyable walk and a disastrous one. Find one that has many pockets, and a spot for a water bladder if you prefer to carry your water that way.


The walk always pays off with views like this at Rakia! 📷: Ashlyn Oswalt


Additionally you should consider taking these items with you:

  • A fully charged mobile phone (although not all areas have reception so you may want to consider other forms of communication)
  • Any medicines you might need e.g. antihistamines, asthma medication
  • A rubbish bag should you need to carry out your rubbish
  • A torch and spare batteries – just in case you take longer than intended
  • A whistle in case you’re split up or need help

As well as these key things – stay safe by:

  • Telling someone where you are going
  • Choose a walk that suits your abilities and then stick together
  • Check the weather
  • Be prepared to turn back if the conditions change for the worst



It’s easy to get ready for a Day Hike. Make sure you dress and pack for the weather, terrain, and the time you’ll be out. Visit DOC’s website for a full gear list.

4 responses to Top 10 things to pack for a day walk or hike

    Kārên Rayner 18/05/2019 at 10:46 am

    Always let someone know where you are intending to walk. Try to walk with someone. And in your bum bag keep a first aid kit ( know how to use it). If alone keep a locator beacon in there too.

    Just been with someone who didn’t do these things. Went for a 1 1/2 hour walk. Fell down a cliff. Knocked her self out. Was stuck in bush for 3 nights.


    I day hike with a group of women every Tuesday. Accidents happen.I would recommend a small first aid kit, a headlamp and some one in the group should have a small locator beacon.Even on day trips these items have been life saving. Rose Marlborough

    Andy McEwan 17/05/2019 at 1:56 pm

    I NEVER go into the bush without a survival blanket, or two, (the small reflectorized type that is in a packet about the size of a cellphone)…they weigh nothing,are foldable and don’t get crushed.They have saved my bacon a few times when caught out overnight and twice I’ve used them on injured/hypothermic people.


    That’s very good advice as an old possum and deer hunter I spent many years in the bush. It’s the little things that can save your life.