Whenever I told people I would go camping in Japan, most of them looked surprised. Camping in Japan, is that even possible they would ask. Well, yes, it’s very much possible! In fact, it’s quite popular among Japanese people and there are many campsites in the country. We camped at Miyajima island, on Hokkaido and in the Japanese Alps, you can read more about our adventures in my other posts!
For Frank and myself it was the first time we went camping while backpacking. We went camping before in Europe, but always with a car so we never had to carry around all our camping gear on our back before.
In order to make our camping trip in Japan as comfortable as possible we thought long and hard about our packing list. In the end, this is what we took with us.
Camping in Japan: the perfect packing list
• Tent: we bought a Redwood Outdoor tent from the Vrijbuiter, a well-known camping store in the Netherlands. With 3,6 kg this wasn’t the lightest tent on sale, but we paid only €170 for the Ficus while 1 kg lighter tent was €200 more expensive. One day maybe…
Nevertheless, we are still very happy with this tent. It’s easily big enough for 2 people, has storage space in the front for our big packs and is easy to set up.
• Therm-a-Rest NeoAir Mattress: this wasn’t a cheap item but I am very happy we invested in these mattresses. The matress weights just 540 grams and packs up into a 22 x 12 x 12 cm roll. Most important: it’s comfortable!
In general, I hate sleeping on air mattresses because they are squeaky, bouncy and cold. But not this one, in fact, it’s said to keep you warm even if the outside temperature is -30 degrees Celsius.
Why anyone would go camping in that weather is beyond me, but theoretically I have the perfect mattress for it ?. I was terribly cold the first night we went camping on Hokkaido but that wasn’t because of my mattress…
• Sleeping bag: I am still looking for the perfect sleeping bag… I want it to be lightweight and small, but it has to be warm enough as well. I currently have this one from Bever Sport (a Dutch outdoor shop) but in the freezing temperatures of Hokkaido it wasn’t warm enough.
• Lightweight hammer: you may find this a funny item, but believe me, I was very happy I brought it with me to Japan! There was no way I would have been able to properly pitch the tent without this hammer, the ground was solid rock.
Okay, that may be a slight exaggeration, but it was difficult to put the pins in, even with a hammer. And with the strong winds blowing from the lakes we camped beside I wanted to be sure our tent was properly pegged.
• Thin plastic ground sheet: we bought one of these in the Netherlands but after a very rainy night at Miyajima we threw that one out. It took us ages to find something similar in Japan, eventually we bought two blue plastic sheets at a 100¥ store. The point of a ground sheet is to provide a bit of extra protection against rain and mud, it helps to keep your tent clean(er) and dry(er).
• Aluminium insulation sleep mat: this one is optional but I am happy we brought this with us. This sleep map does take up a bit of space but weights next to nothing. We didn’t need it for extra isolation from the cold ground but mostly used it to cover the windows when we slept in our car on Hokkaido.
• Travel pillow: I love my travel pillow because I can mold it into any shape I like. I always make sure to carry this in my handluggage and use it on planes, buses, trains and even to support my lower back when driving a car.
Bags & Stuff
You can read more details about this gear in long-term trip packing list.
Absolute essentials for Japan
• Icepeak jacket: I usually take this lightweight and windproof jacket with me on my travels. It’s perfect for countries like Japan, New Zealand and European countries where evenings can be quite cold, even in summer. It also protect against light rain but for heavy downpours you really need a proper poncho.
• Hiking pants: I know these are not very fashionable, but hiking pants are very practical. I did a lot of hiking on my Japan trip and these pants are lightweight, comfortable and dry really quick.
• Thermal underwear: the first night on Hokkaido, Japan was terrible, I was absolutely freezing. So the next day I bought a thermal set which I didn’t take off for 3 consecutive days and nights. A bit crazy maybe, but it kept me warm in the arctic winds of the northernmost island of the country of the rising sun.
• Merino hiking shirt: merino clothes are not cheap but in my opinion they are worth every penny. I wear my merino shirt all the time when we go hiking, it keeps me warm and dry even when I am sweating my %^&* off.
Other clothing items
• 1 zipper hoodie
• 1 fleece sweater
• 2 short-sleeved t-shirts
• 1 hiking shirt
• 3 vest tops
• 1 strap top
• 1 pair of skinny jeans
• 1 pair of cotton pants
• 1 pair of shorts
• 1 skirt
• 5 pair of hiking socks
• 2 bras and enough underwear
• Rain poncho
• Lowa Lady Light GTX: very comfortable B grade hiking shoes, perfect for the hikes I did in Japan, some on demanding terrain (like Mount Yakedake!).
• Teva Tirra: I wear these sandals all the time, not very fashionable but soooo comfy and they give proper foot support. Perfect for walking around Tokyo, Kyoto and Hiroshima.
• Hand sanitizer (though Japan is the cleanest country in the world and you actually don’t need this…)
• Motion sickness pills
• Re-hydration sachets
• Betadine antiseptic
I didn’t use any of these things but it’s good to carry them with you anyway. There have been occasions where I needed an item from my medicine kit, though luckily neither of us has ever been seriously injured while traveling.
• Debit card
• Credit card
• International drivers licence (1949 Geneva Convention model, read more about this in my driving on Hokkaido post.) VERY IMPORTANT IF YOU WANT TO RENT A CAR IN JAPAN!!!
Alright, that’s all! Keep in mind we traveled as a couple, I kindly let my husband carry the tent while I carried the groundsheet and aluminum insulation mats. This kept both our big backpacks to a reasonable size and weight (both below 15kg).