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 raincoverSpring: 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 – ***2019 UPDATE – Kumano Kodo guidebook now available
- 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.
HI Kat, brilliantly put together, even the most harden Pilgrim will gain something from your assembled items. Gortex hiking shoes. For the first time I was talked into these. Never again, I can feel blisters forming.
Q. What is your remedy when your are developing a hot spot on the ball of your foot, you know it will become a blister in a few days.
Do you use a moisture cream on the foot?
I actually haven’t had any blisters since the desert on the PCT (from the sand) and that could be because I’ve found shoes that finally fit, the Brooks Cascadias or because of the Darn Tough merino socks. I haven’t used a cream but if I did feel a hotspot I would put a bandaid on straight away and then if it filled up I would use the threading technique where you leave a piece of thread in overnight to let it wick out. Injinji liner socks work well under your hiking socks too depending on where you’re getting the blisters. I hope your hike is blister-free 🙂
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Thanks for this! I’ve been following how you’ve gone through all the trails and was wondering about that. I originally did Shikoku because I thought doing the entire Kumano Kodo network was a bit too much of a deep dive since I’d never even camped alone. I guess I’ll be following your footsteps yet again. 😀
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I took my camping gear with me but because of the world heritage status it was just too difficult to try and find somewhere to camp and the few campsites that are there are more for car camping not hikers. So I didn’t get to camp but I did get to stay in some terrific accommodation and eat delicious meals everyday!
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Hi Kat, is tent camping good for Shikoku Ohenro? I am going in fall so key question after reading Kumano blogs. Thanks Peter
Camping is quite easy on the Shikoku route as there are many shelters you can camp under (if you have a free-standing tent) or temple carparks etc. If you don’t want the extra weight of a tent you could also just take a mat and sleeping bag and use the shelters or find free accommodation You can pick up a list of free/cheap accom from temple 1 – there’s a list on my blog but it’s a bit old now. Enjoy Shikoku!
Thank you for tent info on Shikoku– I bought a free standing one as you suggested. I had one other question about whether you brought a laptop for posting your trip or not. I figured I could use a water proof camera and my iPhone and portable keyboard . What do you think?
I usually just blog from my phone using the WordPress app, it saves carrying extra weight 🙂
Thank you Kat, I will do that for Shikoku and skip the laptop.
One last question on pack size for Shikoku. I just bought a lightweight 45 Litre + 5 Litre. What size did you take on that trip when you went? I am packing a tent too.
I took a Lowe Alpine 33-40l pack. I recently rewrote my gear list for that walk with how I would pack differently, I would take a lot less than I did!It’s on the blog under gear lists.
Excellent! I will check the gear list again. Cheers! Peter
Hi Kat, I am off to Shikoku next week and I got a Mobal SIM card that runs on SoftBank Network. One question, did you find SoftBank Network good service on the Island? Did any else you know use Mobal products and the Japanese Phone number they include? Kindest Regards, Peter
I’ve not heard of Mobal but Softbank’s coverage was fine – I only used it for the odd phone call (my package didn’t include data so I used free wifi sporadically when I found it at convenience stores).
Have a wonderful time!
I think you have your gear list spot on. Mind you have had lots of practise. It’s a fabulous aid to anyone wanting to do the trail. Will you make an album of the Kumano Kodo? I’d love to see it. Your blog has been excellent. Where next? Jean x
Thanks Jean, heading back there in October and will try to make an album after compiling the spring and autumn photos 🙂
Thanks for writing this article, it’s super helpful! I’m preparing for a trip in autumn. On guidebooks, yes there is one now, by Kat Davis (published by Cicerone). I saw it on Amazon but it was out of stock in the UK, so I ended up getting one from ebay.
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That’s me 🙂 You can also buy the book direct from Cicerone. Have a wonderful time!