This list reflects Spring (April/May) and Autumn (October) after walking the routes in both seasons in 2017.
Starting from the bottom up…
- Shoes – Brooks Cascadias v11, non-goretex. Since hiking the PCT in 2015 these shoes have been my favourite hiking shoes and I prefer non-goretex as they dry quicker and breathe better. The Nakahechi trail is predominantly moss-covered stones and tree roots so good ankle support is a must. This is the first hike that I wished I had worn boots even though I’m not a fan.
Spring: Instead of boots, I wore these shoes with the ankle brace that I had to wear after my ankle operation last year.
Autumn: Again, I wore my Brooks with ankle braces but would recommend boots or shoes with very good ankle support.
- Sandals – not necessary for this trip, in all Japanese accommodation you are given slippers to wear indoors and if I was walking around in the evening, I put my Brooks back on.
- Socks x 3 – Darn Tough merino socks, two for hiking in and one pair for sleeping in.
- Hiking pants – Quechua lightweight and quick-drying hiking pants – Since the PCT I’ve been hiking in a skirt but I’m glad I used pants on this trip in both spring and autumn because of the many snakes I saw each day. Even in warm weather I would highly recommend trousers or shorts with long gaiters to give you some added protection against a snake bite.
- Knee braces – for my dodgy knees (both feeling a bit worn out!) – If you have dodgy ankles or knees then definitely take braces with you as the Nakahechi and Kohechi both have sections with steep ascents and descents and many slippery moss-covered stone paths. While you can buy braces in Japan, I’d recommend bringing them with you so you know you have the right size
- Hiking shirt x2 – Rab Aerial long sleeve (I wore one and washed it daily and slept in the other one)
- Underpants x 2 – Exofficio
- Sports bra – Patagonia
- Buff – I took it but never needed it as the temperature was much warmer than I was expecting both in spring and autumn.
- Fleece / down jacket –
Spring: I took both and ended up leaving my fleece at the starting point hotel and just taking my down jacket for the odd cool evening but hardly ever wore it.
Autumn: I took both again, expecting the temperatures to be cooler in October but never wore my fleece. I wore my down jacket in the evenings and was glad I had it in Koyasan where the night-time temperatures were lower.
- Rain gear – TrekMates Poncho – This is quite a large poncho and is great for walking on roads but not so good for narrow trails as I found out when it got snagged a few times on rogue tree branches.
Spring: It only rained a couple of times and the poncho worked well (other than a few snags) and I didn’t need a rain-cover for my pack.
Autumn: It rained 18 out of 23 days with an unseasonal typhoon (the largest in 60 years) and torrential downpours. My poncho wasn’t enough to protect my pack in this amount of rain so I ended up buying a pack-cover. I was drenched at the end of each day but luckily the temperature was still warm and my clothes and (non-goretex) shoes were able to dry overnight. (I still prefer a poncho in this weather rather than a jacket and pants combination as it was too hot for goretex layers).
- Hat – I’m still using my Prana truckers hat that I wore on the PCT, it’s the only hat I’ve found big enough to cover my nose!
- Sunglasses – Dirty Dog Kee Kee – Polarized
BACKPACK & ACCESSORIES
- Backpack – Gossamer Gear Mariposa
- Backpack raincover
Spring: I didn’t take one because I took a poncho and luckily I only had a few days of light rain and my pack stayed dry.
Autumn: I bought one along the way and in combination with my poncho, my pack didn’t get wet even in the torrential rain we experienced.
- Backpack liner – Gossamer Gear Clear Waterproof Pack Liners – these are cheap, see through and last ages
- Dry bags – inside pack to compartmentalise gear
- A bear bell – I carry a bell I picked up from a temple on the Shikoku 88 Temple Pilgrimage and attach it to my backpack when I’m in areas there could be bears (Kohechi / Iseji / Koyasan / Choishimichi). Various types of bells can be bought from camping stores in Japan and it’s recommended to carry one in areas with bears or even to scare away wild boars.
- Guidebook – There currently isn’t one (watch this space!) so I used maps from the Tanabe Tourist Office (English for the Nakahechi & Kohechi, Japanese only for the Iseji and Ohechi)
- Ziplock bags – for keeping things like passport/pilgrim’s passport etc dry and good for packing out rubbish as well as leftover food
- Water bottle – I took a Lifeventure 1 litre water bottle and filled up at the accommodation each day. There are a few vending machines along the Nakahechi so I was able to replenish fluids at each one. On the Kohechi I also made sure to have a 2l plastic bottle (from the supermarket) so I could carry 3l each day as there are very limited services on this trail.
- Hiking poles – Pacer Poles
- Headlamp – Petzl Tikka 2 – this is handy as a ‘just-in-case-item’ as you don’t want to get caught out on any of these trails after dark.
- Alarm Clock – use phone/watch
- Clothes Line – I have the lifeventure pegless clothes line and it is the most used item I own!
- Towel – Ultralight Packtowel – In most accommodation you are given a small towel that you can take as a souvenir and if not, then you can usually purchase one. I only needed to use my towel on a couple of occasions but it’s light enough that I don’t mind carrying it
- Ear plugs – Many Minshuku’s have paper thin walls (literally) as do most temples in Koyasan so if you’re a light sleeper then ear plugs might come in handy
- Eye mask – Useful for the Minshuku’s with paper thin walls and hall lights left on all night and also for the temples in Koyasan
- Foldable daypack – Sea to summit Ultra Sil 20l pack – this is a bit of a luxury item but at 68 grams, it’s worth it and I use it in the evenings
- Sleeping Bag & Mat – Didn’t need to take these because I was staying in accommodation. There aren’t enough campgrounds to make it worthwhile taking camping gear and you’re not allowed to camp outside of the campgrounds due to it being a World Heritage area
- Camera – I used a Canon EOS 60
- Phone with headphones – I used my iPhone as a second camera and to listen to music
- Garmin 62s GPS
- Chargers – for camera & phone
- Spare batteries – AAA for headlamp (not so necessary on this trip) and AA batteries for GPS
- Adaptor plug for Japan – same as USA & Canada
TOILETRIES & FIRST AID
- Shampoo & soap – Not needed as all accommodation offers shampoo and soap, some public onsens don’t provide shampoo and soap but often if this is the case your accommodation will give you a basket to take their shampoo and soap with you
- Multi-purpose Soap – most accommodation allow you to use their washing machine and soap for free (cold wash), and either don’t have dryers or will charge to use the dryer. My clothes are quick-drying so I would use a washing machine every few days then let them air dry overnight and didn’t need to take my own soap
- Toothbrush & toothpaste – I think every accommodation I stayed at provided disposable toothbrushes but I took my own and my own toothpaste so I never needed to use the disposables. I would recommend taking your own to cut down on the plastic waste and big name brands of western toothpastes aren’t easily available in Japan
- Toilet paper / tissues – the toilets that were along the trails were all generally very well stocked with toilet paper and running water (with one or two exceptions) but it’s always good to have a spare pack of tissues just in case. Please carry out all your waste, a spare ziplock is good for this
- FirstAid Kit – bandaids, needle and thread, antiseptic cream, sunscreen, lip balm, scissors, tweezers, antibacterial hand gel – NOTE: Japan has strict zero-tolerance drug laws including some cold/flu/allergy/sinus medicines and painkillers with codeine so check with the Japanese Embassy in your country before bringing any of these items in.