After nine months of working, hustling and dreaming the New Zealand/Australia trip was upon us! We had worked for the past 9 months in my hometown of Leavenworth, Washington to save enough to get us to Australia where we plan on working and living for up to a year (what up working holiday visa!)

Our flights left Wenatchee, Washington at 12 on December 29. Wenatchee-LA-Rarotonga-Auckland-Christchuch.

We planned on ringing in the New Year in Rarotonga, a small island in the South Pacific where I worked for four months right after college, then flying to New Zealand for two months before starting our working holiday in Australia.

Thanks to some expert preplanning we got a rocking deal on a van rental in NZ- for two months it would put us back $1000 each. The van came with a bed, bedding, cookware, burners, water jugs, etc. Additionally, we could just land and head straight to the rental agency to pick it up and be on the road! I contemplated buying a cheap car and then trying to sell it but that would have put us back about a week on either end of the trip to find a good car and sell it for a good price. Figured we could loose a little to gain more travel freedom.

After NZ we plan to buy a van and live out of it full time in Australia, after living in Penny for 3 years on and off I knew exactly the things I wanted to bring to make it a little more comfortable.

So here it goes- the NZ Van Packing List.

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Everyone that knows me knows I love to cook, I especially enjoy camp cooking because I feel that it is a test of how good I can make something on a portable stove with wind and rain as my nemesis’s!
The biggest thing that we brought for cooking was our own cookware, seasoning, and a good knife.

Pots and Pans

  • Having our own pots allowed us to know what we were getting into. So often when camping with cheap pots things burn and get stuck and cleaning them is a nightmare. We brought our GSI Pots/Pan nesting set and an MSR pot. All of these things are non stick so a good wipe is often all they get at the end of a big meal. They also double as our backpacking pots because they are super light weight.

  • I live and die by my GSI collapsable drip coffee maker. I legitimately use this in our house when I’m not in the van. It weighs nothing, cleans super easy, and makes a damn good cup of coffee.

A Good Knife

  • We brought our MSR knife and a Swiss Army Knife that had a can opener, cork screw, and various other tools. It reduces space (a can opener is huge) and is easy to throw in a carry on.

  • We also brought a simple knife sharpener- glamping-esc but it really allows us to keep all of our knives sharp.


  • I will self admit that this was the most ridiculous thing we brought. Whole foods (of course it had to be at whole foods) sells the best seasonings in these little resealable bags. They are a van lifers dream and when I saw them I knew we had to them to the Southern Hemisphere.

  • Seasonings are a cheap and easy way to add a ton of life to a dish. Something as inexpensive as pasta with a can of tomato sauce can be made into soemthing special with exotic seasonings.

  • While this took up a ton of space and was kind of heavy we’ve already used it a ton and while I woudln’t bring as many again having nice inexpenisve seasoning at my fingertips is awesome.



  • If you live in your car you know that you have to have a few things that set the mood and make it feel like home. For me that’s lighting, candles, and essential oil. I know I know- basic. But it really makes a huge difference.

  • Lights- These twinkle lights (below) are the thing I get asked about the most. I’ve run through about 5 different twinkle lights before I found these and these are the best. They are powered by USB, so you can plug them into your cigarette lighter or your rechargeable battery pack (also linked below)

  • A mat- again this was ridiculous to bring, but these mats make getting in and out of the van really nice, they double as a beach mat, yoga mat, or rope mat for climbing.

  • Candles- when we traveled in SE Asia I swore I would never travel again without a nice candle. They provide light and when all else fails a scent that covers up whatever needs to be covered up.


  • A rechargeable USB battery- We brought two of these and I use them every single day. They recharge the ipad, phones, headlamps- and they last forever. I highly recommend grabbing two of these. Also I saw these were on super sale on Cyber Monday on Amazon, not sure if that will happen year after year but if you can put that on your radar could be a good way to save some dollars.

  • A Power Inverter- I never had one of these in my old van because I had a battery set up, but since we got the cheapest van we could find in NZ we don’t have any way to charge our electronics. I bought this a skotsch on a whim but man it works! Camera batteries, multiple iphones, even our computers- this thing has not disappointed. Also price is right for our imperative it has been for this trip.

  • Patagonia Collapsable Bag- I bought these at the Patagonia Outlet and they have been my ride or die all summer long. You can use them for everything, they are super durable and they collapse down to nothing. Laundry, groceries, climbing bag, random clothes tote- I love these bags and the options they provide.

  • Travel Yoga Mat- I teach yoga a ton when I’m stationary and having a mat that comes with me everywhere has been amazing. This mat is light weight, super tacky, and cleans easily. I actually bought it in SE Asia and have never regretted carting this thing all over the world.


  • I won’t go into super detail about everything I brought because I detest lists like 5 pairs of underpants and 2 bra’s. We all know those things but I will detail things that I’ve worn every day thus far and things that make dressing on the road easy and comfortable.

  • Leggings- Of course leggings make the list. I brought two pairs- one black and one dark green. For long drive days you can’t beat leggings.

  • Fjallraven Trekker Leggings- These are by far the best hiking pants I’ve ever owned. The butt pad, and knee pads make scrambling super easy and they are warm yet breathable.

  • A Big Ole Scarf- I bought mine at Madewell on sale before a left, but a big scarf helps you look chic while covering up your 5 days of travelling clothes.

  • Quick Dry Underwear- BRING 5! Just kidding, but I do always pack way more underwear than I think I need and I always end up needing it. When laundry is few and far between and you are in the land of wet ones you’ll be happy to be able to wash your underwear and have it dry quickly.

  • Salomon Trail Running Shoes - Man, shoes. The debate I had about weather to bring traditional hiking boots was long and arduous but in the end I decided to bring this trail runner. It allows me to go for runs in cities, while providing the traction I need on long hiking trips. This shoe coupled with a light weight trail gaiter makes for a pretty ideal weight/travel combo.


Camp Gear

  • We opted to bring all of our camping gear so we could go backpacking as much as we liked. I’ve gone backpacking all of my life so when it came to checking our gear we were pretty cut throat and wanted to make sure we brought only high quality gear.

  • Tent- MSR Mutha Hubba- The space verses weight ratio on this tent is ridiculous. It’s huge for two people and provides a ton of living space.

  • Sleeping Bag- Condor Tandem -Feathered Friends- The best sleeping bag in the world. I never thought I would be all about a tandem bag but man is it practical. Unzip it and buy the ground cloth and you have a double sleeping bag. Only once person has to carry a bag and you get to utilize the body warmth of your partner. This bag weighs nothing and lives up to everything Feathered Friends represents.

  • Therma Rest Camp Chair- I bought this for Charlie as a gift (after his climbing buddy had one) and after I used it once backpacking I knew I had to have one myself. It makes camp life so much more manageable when you have a place to rest your back.

  • Stove- GSI- I got caught once not have a 4 season stove in the backcountry and when you can’t melt snow for water because it’s to cold and your fuel is freezing - you won’t make that mistake twice. This stove is light weight, durable, and super easy to travel with.

The things that I detail here are not all the things we brought (which is kinda terrifying in retrospect). We checked two large rolling bags and had huge carry ons. While we brought a lot of stuff there isn’t a lot I would have left at home. We were able to “move in” to our van rental within in an hour and have it totally set up as if we were at home. Organization and constant cleaning has left our little Spaceship rental feeling like home. We are in NZ for another month then off to Australia for a year!