What I Packed: Fly Fishing the New Zealand Backcountry
Welcome to What I Packed, our new Journal series designed to help you pack for your adventures by showing you what we brought on ours. Folks on the Huckberry team are always taking incredible trips, so with each installment of What I Packed, we’ll be taking a peek inside their travel bags to find out what makes these adventures possible. This time around, we’re following our product marketing manager, Mike Idell, on his recent month-long sabbatical to fly fish in New Zealand.
New Zealand is known by most for its beautiful, diverse terrain and otherworldly landscapes. And to those in the fly fishing world, it's also a mecca for sight fishing huge wild brown trout. It had been on the top of my bucket list for more than a decade, so when it came time for my sabbatical after four years at Huckberry, I knew it was time to pull the trigger. Two of my buddies and I got ourselves a campervan, accepted the fact that we were going to be eating an uncomfortable amount of dehydrated food, and set out for a month of hiking and fishing in the New Zealand backcountry in hopes of coming across some of these monster wild fish that were really only folklore to me at the time.
After spending a month in Middle Earth, I can say definitively that New Zealand really does have some of the best trout fishing on earth, which is not a bad cherry on top to the jungles, mountains, coastlines, and deserts all accessible within a single road trip. It’s so rugged and remote out there that you’re really only as good as your gear—so here’s a roundup of some of the make-or-break essentials that I thanked the Huckberry gods for while I was out there.
A day pack
This bag is the perfect size for everyday use. The contoured shape is meant to move with you, not get in the way, so you can barely feel it on your back when you’re active all day—even when it’s fully packed to the brim. It’s also got the perfect balance of rugged design and organization—smart pockets, but not too many—so you know where your important stuff is at all times.
SHOP THE EVERGOODS MPL 30
Living in a van for a month with two buddies, it was tough to keep things organized (to say the least). I kept my clean clothes in these Peak Design packing cubes throughout the trip, so they were organized and easy to find after coming back from fishing.
SHOP THE PEAK DESIGN MEDIUM PACKING CUBE
A durable, waterproof watch
I don’t think I took my watch off for the entire trip—a waterproof watch is a necessity when you’re wading in rivers up to your chest. This one is a great option that is a fully waterproof dive watch, built to take a beating and trusted by the military.
SHOP THE MARATHON SEARCH AND RESCUE MEDIUM DRIVER’S AUTOMATIC
I brought two pairs of shoes on this monthlong trip—both were Danner boots. They’re simply the only footwear I own that can hold up to the rugged terrain of New Zealand. I put 290 miles of hiking on these over 30 days, and they’re still in great shape.
SHOP THE DANNER MOUNTAIN 600 ENDUROWEAVE
A technical hoodie
Believe it or not, I wore this hoodie every day for 30 days straight—and I never got sick of it. This technical piece is made out of bamboo fabric, is super comfy, quick-drying, odor-proof, and protected me from the sun and sandflies while I spent my days out on the water.
SHOP THE FREE FLY LIGHTWEIGHT HOODY
Staring at the water all day, you need something to cut the glare, and polarized shades are the only thing that’ll get the job done. You need something that will let you see into the water to sight these browns. If you want to catch fish, your sunnies are just as important as a rod, reel, and flies.
SHOP THE VUARNET GLACIER XL
A Portable Powerbank
Power outlets are hard to come by when you’re in the backcountry every day, and it didn’t help that I forgot to get a New Zealand converter for all of my chargers... so this fast-charging powerbank saved me multiple times.
SHOP THE ECOFLOW RIVER RAPID - COMPACT PORTABLE POWERBANK
With so much hiking, you need shorts that’ll move with you and dry quickly. Pro-tip: bring a pair of running tights to wear underneath. Your legs will thank you when you’re protected from the thousands of sandflies all over you.
SHOP FREE FLY HYBRID SHORTS
Pro-tip: never run out. The fishing is very challenging in New Zealand, and it’s not uncommon to get skunked out there. Best to relax with a few beers after (or during) your day on the water. We tossed back a lot of brews from Garage Project—a local Wellington brewery—but any kind will do.
SHOP GARAGE PROJECT BREWS