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Three weeks in New Zealand with 45L’s of gear

Malcolm Fontier, Pakt Founder & CEO 

Malcolm Fontier

As the founder of a travel bag company, there's no better way to kick off a new year than with an epic three week trip with my wife and favorite travel partner, Gabrielle.

We're both devout ‘no checked bag’ travelers (of course), and we have learned to pack very lightly over the years, so that part of travel planning is usually pretty easy for us. The challenge for our three week trip to New Zealand: we wanted to do a lot of outdoor activities, so we needed some additional footwear and gear – and that made packing light a little harder. 

We were able to stick to our one bag rule and found a way to carry everything we needed in our Travel Backpacks. 

Malcolm Fontier and wife Gabrielle Kennedy with the 5L& 3L Slings

The gear 

Malcolm’s Travel System  

Height: 6’0”/183cm 

The Everyday 5L Sling, Pakt Travel Backpack, and Water-proof pouch

45L Travel Backpack with a Waterproof Clip-in Pouch

  • The Waterproof Clip-in Pouch came in handy for impromptu swims in the beautiful rivers and lakes, then hitting the road immediately with wet suits.
  • I have size 13 shoes. The generous capacity of the 45L Travel Backpack was welcome when my mountain bike shoes took up two-thirds of one of the compartments.

5L Everyday Sling + Sport Strap

  • The 5L Sling is my dream bag for short hikes and walking around a city. When I'm hiking or biking, I'll attach the Sport Strap to keep it in place on my back.
  • Great for carrying my 24 oz water bottle and small essentials

A Camelbak Cloudwalker hydration backpack

I do a lot of biking and I was excited to try the legendary downhill mountain biking in New Zealand. For all-day, go-hard sports, I like to use a hydration bladder in a super lightweight backpack with a hip belt. Since Pakt doesn’t make anything in this category (yet) the Camelbak is a solid option.

Small toiletry bag

I like the materials and simplicity of this discontinued No Mess bag. I’m a serious toiletry minimalist (toothbrush, toothpaste, dental floss – done.) and my one complaint is that this bag is too big for my needs.


Gabrielle’s Travel system

Height: 5’6”/167 cm

The Everyday 3L Sling and Pakt Travel Backpack

35L Travel backpack

  • The 45L is a little too large for me, but the 35L Travel Backpack is comfortable and packs everything I need. I’ll use the detachable waist strap to offset the weight of a three-week packout.
  • Only travel with two pairs of shoes: 1 pair of hiking boots (which I wear on the plane) and a pair of stylish low top sneakers that can be dressed up or down.
  • Jazz up simple and minimalist outfits with small lightweight accessories that take up hardly any room, like necklaces and earrings.
  • Bring a sarong. It has so many uses! Scarf, beach blanket, towel.
  • I’m also a toiletry minimalist while traveling, and I’m not afraid to depend on whatever shampoo/conditioner that accompanies most every Airbnb or hotel room, which shaves some (in my opinion) unnecessary weight off my pack.

A 3L Sling

  • The Everyday 3L Sling in black is a nice understated accessory that can be dressed up but is also great in more outdoorsy settings.

+ a simple, no name urban backpack for longer days exploring a city


The Travel Backpack

Our one-bag packing strategy

  • You’re really packing for 5 days, not 21. We stayed in Airbnbs during our three week trip, so we knew we’d likely have access to laundry machines along the way.

  • We carry a small pack of dry laundry detergent so that if we ever run low on clean essentials before finding a washing machine, we can wash a few items in a hotel sink to keep us going.

  • For sports gear, decide what is mission-critical and rent the rest. Example, I would have preferred my own mountain biking helmet, but I was willing to use rentals. Proper fitting shoes are something I won’t skimp on for comfort and safety reasons, so I decided that was worth packing.


Road-testing notes

Anytime I travel with Pakt products I’m constantly looking for ways to improve them. Here’s a few of the new ideas for the Travel Backpack that I came back with from this trip:

  • The key leash in the admin pocket can get caught in the zipper, let’s stitch down the first inch or so of it near the zipper.
  • I like to clip a hat to the outside of the bag near the top, but I don’t like having it on a handle I grab often. Let’s try to add a loop.
  • Let’s test some different construction of the webbing that attaches the shoulder strap to the bag to reduce the possibility of the straps flipping upside down as you put it on.

We thoroughly test everything in the design studio, but there’s no substitute for real world, hard travel testing. If while you’re on the road you have ideas for improvements to your Pakt gear, let us know! Design is best when it’s collaborative. We’ll send you an updated version if a unique suggestion makes it into production.

New Zealand

New Zealand Itinerary and travel tips

We started in Auckland and did 2 days on Waiheke Island, then drove south to Rotorua where we did some mountain biking and rafting. From there we continued south to Wellington where we took a ferry to the south island. We spent a few days in the Nelson/Abel Tasman area before driving south on the west coast to Queenstown.The last leg of our trip was a  drive up the center of the south Island, past Mt Cook, with a stay in Tekapo before flying out of Christchurch.


  • The cities are clean and friendly, but pretty sleepy.
  • Waiheke Island was pretty, but a bit too wholesome and quiet for our taste, and might be better suited for quiet family vacations.
  • We had fun in Rotorua. Again, the town is nothing exciting, but we spent our time rafting and mountain biking. The redwood forests are stunning and not to be missed. We rafted with Rotorua Rafting. I’m not usually a fan of “groups and guides” but this was a particularly good one. The river is amazing and the outfitter runs a great operation.
  • Abel Tasman is beautiful. We did a long hike along the coast. It’s a well traveled path, so don’t expect solitude on that route, but there are a lot of other hikes in that area.
  • The wineries in the area around Tasman were beautiful and had great wine too. We did a full day e-bike tour of some beautiful country roads with a couple wine tastings mixed in.
  • The drive to the end of the road past Golden Bay to Wharariki Beach was pretty awesome. Stop in Tanaka and eat at The Mussel Inn along the way.
  • We really liked the little town of Okarito on the west coast, where we spent our time sea kayaking and hiking. Bring everything you need for your stay - there are ZERO stores there.
  • Queenstown is basically a tourist activity base, rather than a city. But, if you’re into the activities it offers, it’s a beautiful setting with plenty of things to do. The Shotover Jet boat was touristy but really fun! The downhill mountain biking serviced by the gondola was world class.
  • The small town of Glenorchy and the Routeburn hike there were both highlights.
  • We found this book near the end of our trip at an AirBnB. If we’d found it sooner we would have tried to fit in more backcountry huts. It looks like there are some pretty amazing ones all over the country. 

I hope some of this ends up being useful to you and your travels!