We Camped in New Zealand Using Only Supplies From The Supermarket

Kate Minzner is a student at the Chapman University and is an ISA Featured Blogger. She is studying abroad with ISA in Wellington, New Zealand

Was it worth it?

Meet my friends Jino and Eleanor.

They’re both total goofballs, and we get along really well. All of us have a pretty great sense of adventure, so when we found ourselves studying in New Zealand together, it made sense that we’d want to spend our Easter break on a South Island camping trip.

What we don’t have is a disposable income. All of us are broke college students who are too economical to actually buy a legitimate tent. But that didn’t stop me. A scout is thrifty. For our trip, I proposed we just get all our supplies from the local Target-equivalent, Warehouse. This is the story of how that went, meant to be a guide (and perhaps a warning) for any other adventurous campers.

Day 0: It Begins

What do you do when you don’t want to buy a tent? We decided to get 2 pieces of heavy-duty tarp and some twine. We also found lightweight stakes, some propane (I had already owned a camping stove), some first aid supplies, and plenty of canned food and instant noodles. With all our supplies, our bill ended up being $104, which we split between the three of us. We were living the high life. Who needs REI when you have college ingenuity?

(It’s important to note that another way we saved money was by getting a cheap car rental. New Zealand companies like Apex and Jucy have affordable options for drivers under the age of 21.)

Day 1: The Downpour

We began our journey to beautiful Milford Sound, belting out Carly Rae Jepsen along the way. We arrived at our DOC campsite (another money-saver, national parks will cost you a maximum of $15 a night) and began setting up what we thought was a good enough shelter.

We spent the day exploring Milford Sound. Then the clouds rolled in.

We found ourselves struggling to light a fire in the drizzling rain, and then struggling to prepare a proper meal with the camp stove. We had forgotten to purchase a can opener. We had one headlamp between the 3 of us. Eventually we each just ate some instant noodles and went to bed.

I woke up at 2am to the sound of thunder and found myself lying in about half an inch of water.

“Hey Kate?” Eleanor asked.


“I think we should go sleep in the car.”

Day 2: The Walk of Shame

In the morning, we packed up our tarps and twine and started the long, but incredibly enjoyable, drive to Boundary Creek in Wanaka. Our girl Carly Rae and some falafel sandwiches had put us back in high spirits. On the way, we passed by the Queenstown Warehouse.

“Do you think we should…?” Jino trailed off. Silently and shamefully, I turned into the parking lot. We decided to get heavier-duty rope, better food, and a big box of dry firewood.

When we pulled into the campsite, there were already plenty of happy campers around us. We spent a lot more time analysing the best way to hang our tarp, how stake it down, anything to keep it from blowing away at night. When we cuddled up under the stars that night, we may have been cold, but we felt as though we had learned something important.

Day 3: Development.

After hiking all day in Wanaka and cooking some mean macaroni over the camp stove, we made some modifications to our tent. We placed the open end against a wall of firewood that had been piled among the trees, giving us some shelter from the wind. This night sticks out in my memory, because it was the one day where I felt truly proud of everything Jino, Eleanor, and I had accomplished.

The moral of the story is, we had no idea what we were doing. But that’s what made it fun! We were very careful to always have a backup plan if something went wrong (sleep in the car if it rains, use our phone lights if our headlamps go missing), so we knew we were never in danger of being anything more than slightly uncomfortable. By the end of the trip, that Carly Rae Jepsen song “Run Away With Me” had a new meaning for me, because it reminded me of everything I had learned and everything I had become.

Eleanor says she would describe the trip as magical. Jino would probably call it interesting. I’d call it just right.

Oh, we also never got around to using this firewood, so hmu if you wanna buy some birch planks.


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