What to pack for the Milford Track

My friend and I recently traveled to the South Island of New Zealand to tackle one of the nine Great Walks scattered throughout the country: the Milford Track. It was an absolutely incredible experience. One that I would (and have) recommend(ed) to everyone.

Weather-wise, we were lucky. It didn’t rain once in the 4 days we were on the Milford Track. Several rangers mentioned that you could count on two hands the number of times that has happened in history. This obviously comes with the trade off that we probably didn’t get to see the hundreds of waterfalls that pop up in the case of rain, but even without, it was one of the most incredible multi-day treks I’ve experienced. Read more about it in my post titled Milford Track: The World’s Finest Walk.

The one thing I wish I would have researched a bit more before heading out on the track is what to pack. This was not my first backpacking trip, so I had a pretty decent idea, but it was the first time that I backpacked while staying in huts with kitchens along the way (versus a tent).

An important thing to note is that we went as independent walkers versus participants in the guided tour by Ultimate Hikes. The amenities – thus what to pack – are very different between the two.

Milford Track Packing List: Essentials and Recommendations

Carrying and Camping

Backpack
Seems obvious enough, but there was a girl on our hike who had a canvas tote in one hand and a sleeping bag in the other. Bring a backpack. My personal favorite is the Gregory Deva. You probably only need a 60L for this one.

Rain Fly
One of the great things about Gregory packs is that they come with a rain fly, but many don’t. If you fall in the category of backpacks without a rain fly, I would strongly urge you to purchase one. They sell them at REI for between $20 – 30.

Sleeping bag
You’re going to want a light-weight sleeping bag if you don’t already have one. Nemo Rave 30 is highly rated, lightweight (2lb 11oz) and is super comfortable.

Pillow
This one is pretty straight-forward, but if you’re looking for recommendations, I’m a huge fan of the Therm-a-Rest Compressible pillow. It rolls down pretty small, leaving space in your pack for other things, and it’s very comfortable, which is hard to find in a camping pillow.

Water filtration system
You will absolutely need a water filtration system as the water in the huts is not potable without boiling or filtration. I highly, highly recommend the GRAYL Ultralight Water Purifier [+ Filter] Bottle. It’s highly rated from a filtration perspective, and it’s easy to use.

Added bonus: you can drink directly from it. As you’re hiking, scoop up some water from a stream, filter, and you’re on your way. Several people on our hike took photos so that they could buy one when they returned home. Buy one. You’ll thank me.

Hiking poles
A very practical item to bring given the excessive descent on day 3 – these will save about 40% of the shock to your knees. Not insignificant. I’m a fan of the Black Diamond Trail Pro shock absorbing poles, but if you’re going to look for something else, just try to make sure you choose metal locks for staying power.

Making and Eating Food

The huts have gas and cooktops available, so you shouldn’t need to pack gas canisters or other methods of heat – unless you plan on eating hot meals for lunch. That said, you will want to make sure you have a way to cook and eat your meals. That said, plan to bring matches or a lighter in case the igniter doesn’t work.

Cook set
If you plan wisely, you can cover all of the following without one consolidated cook set. My personal favorite is the GSI Outdoors – Halulite Microdualist Cookset for Two but any stackable set will do.

  • Cooking receptacle (pot)
  • Bowl
  • Cup
  • Utensils

Food
Plan to bring the following at a minimum to get you through the duration of the track:

  • Breakfasts (2)
  • Lunches (3)
  • Dinner (2)
  • Snacks to eat along the way (trail mix, jerky, sour gummy worms, etc.)

You know how much you want to eat on a given day, so take your own personal habits into account and pack accordingly:

There is no bad weather, only bad clothing

Some people want to wear the same thing every day, some want to pack something new for each day. Do what makes you feel good, but don’t bring less than the following:

  • Rain coat
  • Down jacket – I’m obsessed with this 32 degrees packable down jacket
  • Thick wool trekking socks – ideally 3 pairs + what you’re wearing
  • Long sleeve base layer
  • Short sleeve shirt or tank top – ideally 2 or more
  • Hiking pants
  • Moisture-wicking underwear
  • (optional) swim suit for those magical swimming holes – and for bathing in the river

Miscellaneous Items

First aid kit
Don’t skip this one. You’ll definitely want to have band-aids or mole skin for blisters. Or an anti-histamine for those devil sand flies.

Insect repellant
Speaking of sand flies, I underestimated how vicious they would be. Don’t make my mistake. Wear insect repellent with Deet. Make sure any mesh is covered. Spray your feet when you take your shoes off. Trust me on this one.

Headlamp
While you might not plan on night hiking, I imagine you will plan on using the restroom. For that, you’re going to need a headlamp. The Black Diamond Spot 325 Headlamp is the one I use.

Water bottle or Camelbak Bladder
If you take my recommendation on the water filtration system above, then you might be covered. I would still recommend bringing a Camelbak bladder for your pack to make sure you’re not at risk of running out of water.

Quick dry towel
You’re going to want a quick dry towel if you plan on getting into the river at any point. And the Youphoria Outdoors microfiber quick dry travel towel is the best one out there – at least that I’ve come across. It comes in 3 different sizes, so you can decide how much drying power you need.

Playing cards (or something to do)
Each day, you’ll reach camp around 3 or 4 in the afternoon, which leaves a lot of time to kill in the evenings. Plan for that. Bring cards, a journal, a book. Something to keep you entertained. My favorite part about having cards on hand was the opportunity to meet others through a friendly card game.

Trash bag
Nothing fancy. A plastic bag from the grocery store will do just fine. Just make sure you have somewhere to store your trash. What you pack in, you must pack out.

Ear plugs
The bunks are very, very quiet. And I mean that in the sense that you can hear everything. Snores, heavy breathing, creaking floors when people get up to go to the bathroom. Ear plugs were a sleep saver.

Battery pack / energy bank
This is something that I did not bring but wished that I would have. If you’re using your phone for taking photos, tracking on AllTrails, reading, etc. you’ll want to make sure you bring a battery pack and charger along. Wall charging outlets are not an option here.

I hope this has proven helpful. And I hope that you have the most amazing tramp on the Milford Track. It truly is one of the most beautiful places in the world.

Let's discuss!