Use this packing guide to help you prep and plan for our WHOAx Japan Expedition! Our biggest piece of advice on trips with lots of moving around like this one, is to pack smart and pack light, and bring durable things you can layer and rewear. You’ll want light long sleeves and light jackets in the mornings and evenings, but be prepared, to de-layer in the afternoons when temperatures rise and when we’re in the cities where it’s humid. April and September can be warm with summer-like temperatures, so keep that in mind when deciding what to pack. As always, use your best judgment and discretion when deciding exactly what you want to bring (no one knows you better than you)!

At some points during the adventure, we will have a courier who will transport our larger items of luggage ahead of time to make the long-distance transfers by bus and train more relaxed (how lucky)! Each adventurer is allowed one piece of luggage to send with the courier (extra luggage can be sent at an additional charge). Note that the luggage sent by courier on some days when we’re on our Kumano Kodo trek will not rejoin us on the same day. This means that you will not have access to that luggage on those nights, and you should plan to carry your essential overnight items in your daypack on those days. As a general guide, we recommend you bring a small to medium size suitcase on wheels, as well as a 30L sized daypack to use on the trail and to carry your must-have essentials like rain layers, snacks and water.



Bring as much or as little of the following as you feel comfortable packing, but remember the key for this adventure is to pack light! All the Japanese inns where we will be staying at during the trekking portion provide soap, shampoo, towels, slippers, and cotton robes called Yukata. When staying in the Japanese style accommodation (Ryokan or Minshuku), it’s normal to wear your Yukata to eat dinner, relax in your room, and when walking around, even outdoors. This means you do not need extra clothing for the evening when we’re on the trekking portion of this adventure, and you really can travel light! Here’s what we recommend packing for our days on the trail:


The most important thing you’ll bring! Make sure they are Gore-Tex, have ankle support, and that you’ve broken them in well.

Hiking Pants

Make sure they’re comfortable, and made from strong and light materials that dry quickly.

Moisture wicking tops

Bring a few lightweight tops, both long and short sleeve, that you can layer and re-wear.

Waterproof Outer layer Jacket & Pants

A breathable, non insulated, waterproof and windproof layer that you can wear in the case of rain.

Hiking socks

Bring durable light-midweight wool socks. Liner socks are great to help prevent blisters too!


Make sure they don’t pinch, chafe or bind...even better if they’re the quick dry wicking kind!


The trail can be uneven and slippery, especially if it’s wet, so these will make trekking much more comfortable. Make sure you have tip protectors to preserve the ancient trail.


Bring one with a brim for sunny days, and a light beanie that will cover your ears in case it gets chilly.

Bandana or cloth handkerchief

A bandana ALWAYS comes in handy on adventures! You’ll especially want it in public restrooms, that often don’t have paper towels or air dryers in Japan.

30 L Daypack

You’ll need a lightweight hiking backpack to wear on the hikes and to carry your water, extra layers, snacks, etc… Something around 30 L is perfect. We recommend getting one that is compatible with a water bladder and hose, and has a built-in rain cover.

Water Bottle & Bladder

Staying hydrated is of the utmost importance! We highly recommend having a 1 L wide mouth, BPA free plastic water bottle or Nalgene, and a 3 L water bladder with a cap. (It’s the easiest way to carry and drink water while trekking!)

Sun + lipscreen

This is a must have for being outdoors all day, even on overcast days!

Polarized Sunglasses

Your eyes need protection from the sun too! Make sure they fit well and are UV-blocking.

toiletries & meds

Don’t forget the essentials like deodorant, lotion, lip balm, hair ties, hair brush, face wipes, tampons, contact solution, toothbrush, toothpaste etc… Common medications you might want to bring along include, pain relievers, anti-histamines and antidiarrheals. (NOTE: Do not bring cold/cough medicines that contain psuedoephedrine, as this is a banned substance in Japan. Certain medications/medical devices, like a CPAP machine, will require a certificate for import that must be obtained prior to travel. Please let us know if you have any questions about this.)


Especially if the weather is humid in the forests.


There are so many amazing photo ops! Compact cameras are best on the trail, and most smartphones these days are durable, and have great cameras. Make sure no matter what you choose to bring, that you have enough memory and chargers, and always pack your electronics in waterproof bags/cases! 


Let’s do our part to reduce plastic pollution around the world! We ask that when packing please only bring reusable bags like stuff sacks, dry bags, silicone bags, and/or packing cubes. We recommend bringing along several different shapes and sizes of these to help organize and separate dirty clothing, gear and toiletries. For waterproofing your phone/passport/money, we recommend using a dry pouch. Having a stash of brown paper lunch bags or sanitary bags is great for collecting and carrying out trash.


Extra Packing Tips and Notes

For the city portions of our expedition bring comfortable clothes and shoes for urban exploring. Like on the hike, layers will be your best friend during this adventure. A small-medium sized suitcase should be large enough to carry all of your additional city sightseeing clothing and souvenirs.

Bathing suits are not allowed in the public onsens (Japanese hot springs) or bathing houses, so be prepared for nude soaking! (Here are some other great tips for onsen etiquette and what to expect.) Hairdryers are provided in hotels and in some of the the public bathrooms in the Ryokan. If you’re planning on bringing appliances, please note that most North American appliances with 2 flat prongs can be used in Japan.


Tipping in JapaN

Tips are not customary in restaurants or hotels in Japan. Your GALs will suggest any exceptional occasion when a tip may be appropriate. At the end of the adventure, our local Japanese guide would gratefully accept a tip should you wish to make such a gesture, but this is entirely at your discretion.