Gear List – Cycling Japan

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This list reflects cycling in spring (April to June) from Kyushu to Hokkaido in 2019.


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  • Bike: Dawes Karakum low-step – I bought this bike just before the trip and fell in love with it. I only had one real problem and that was when a spoke on the back wheel broke in Hokkaido. My back brake pads were also worn out by this time so I had them changed as well. The seat pole did occasionally unscrew itself which was unnerving the first time it ended up in my hand, but I got used to screwing it back in. For the next trip, I’m thinking of changing the saddle to maybe a Brooks.
  • Tyres: Schwalbe Marathon Plus – not one puncture in 4,529km!
  • PumpTopeak morph mini pump with gauge – perfect size and does the job.
  • LightsCateye front light and rear helmet light and rear Cateye lights – my front cateye light was good enough for people to see me, but not good enough for me to be able to ride in the dark. On the odd occasion I did ride in the dark, I needed to use my Petzl headlamp too. I loved having the extra light on my helmet as well as a back light for the many tunnels, you can never have enough light in tunnels.
  • Tool kit bag: a Topeak tool kit saddle bag (filled with two inner tubes, Allen key set, puncture repair kit, cable ties, gorilla tape, spare batteries for the front and back lights).
  • Panniers: ortlieb back roller classic rear panniers – absolutely loved these panniers and they proved to be completely waterproof on numerous occasions.
  • Panniers rack packortlieb 31l rack pack that attaches to the rear panniers – this is a terrific system and very quick and easy to attach to the panniers. It comes in three different sizes but I think the 31l was perfect for me as it fit my tent and anything else I wanted to put in it.
  • Handlebar bag: ortlieb ultimate 6 handelbar bag – this is a great size handlebar bag that fit my Fujifilm camera and camera bag, as well as snacks, tissues, hand gel, wet wipes, map book etc. Also proved to be waterproof.
  • Handlebar accessories: mirror (purchased in Japan), Liv Catena Trip Computer (also purchased in Japan), iPhone mount, GoPro Clamp and bell.
  • Extra storagealpkit fuel pod 25 – this was great for keeping extra snacks in as well as my Anker battery for charging my phone on the go. There’s a small hole for the cable, but the only downside is it’s not waterproof so I couldn’t charge things when it was raining.
  • Bottle cagesZefal spring water bottle cages x3 – these are great and they fit all types of bottles.
  • Water bottles: 1l SIS water bottle – great size but it needs to be cleaned regularly when using electrolyte tablets as I found out the hard / gross way! And my Water-to-go 75cl bottle – although I never actually had to use a filter, it’s good to carry just in case.
  • Kickstand: FWE Kickstand – it fell off on the last day, just 500m from my hotel , but until then it was incredibly handy! (Evans have given me a free replacement as it was still under warranty.)
  • Lock: Bike lock – I wanted something lightweight, especially knowing how safe Japan is, but a cable so that I could always lock the bike around something. I found this cheap combination cable lock in London (and funnily enough the sales staff questioned my purchase until I told them it was for Japan – it wouldn’t last long in London!) In Japan, I asked one of the staff at a local bike shop if they thought the lock was good enough and they said it was as good as you could buy in Japan… oh to live in a country as safe as Japan!
  • Helmet


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  • Tent: Big Agnes Copper Spur UL1 – I took a freestanding tent as I had no idea what type of surfaces I would be pitching it on each night and this tent worked great.
  • Sleeping bag: Western Mountaineering SummerLite down sleeping bag – I made a mistake here because I have both the SummerLite (rated to 0 degrees celsius) and the Alpinlite (rated to -7 degrees celsius) but to save weight, I took the SummerLite with me and I was cold for the majority of the trip! This was a big lesson learnt, and I will always take my Alpinlite now unless it’s the height of summer! I pack my sleeping bag inside a waterproof compression bag. In Takaoka I bought a fleece liner for my sleeping bag by Coleman, it weighs 760g which is heavy but it kept me warm for the rest of the trip.
  • Sleeping mat: Women’s NeoAir Xlite, the same one I’ve had since the PCT.
  • Stove: Jetboil Minimo & 100g gas


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  • Shoes: Brooks Cascadias v11, non-goretex – I’ve never used SPD’s before and decided there wasn’t enough time to try to learn before this trip, so I cycled in my brooks which are the comfiest shoes I have and also meant I could go hiking if I wanted.
  • Sandals: I regrettably sent home my TEVA’s in the first week thinking my gear was too heavy, but you always need some kind of sandal / flip flop for hostels etc and for when your shoes are sopping wet. I bought a pair of sandals from the ¥100 store but always wished I’d kept my TEVA’s with me.
  • Socks x 3: Darn Tough merino socks, two for cycling in and one pair for sleeping in.
  • Knee braces: for my dodgy knees (both feeling a bit worn out!)
  • Underpants x 3: Exofficio
  • Bike pants: 3/4 length Odlo padded bike shorts x2 – one pair was enough so I sent the other pair home half-way through the trip. However in the first week, my calves were burnt to a crisp so I ended up buying some UV calf sleeves which I wore for the rest of the trip.
  • Sports bra x2: Patagonia
  • Top: Craghoppers nosilife hooded zip top – I chose this expecting lots of mosquitoes and having the hood meant my neck would be covered in the sun. It’s a few years old and I can’t find it on their website anymore so I can’t provide a link, sorry.
  • Gloves: Altura Progel 3 gloves – great except for the weird tan lines on my fingers! 😉
  • Buff: I’m glad I took it for the cold nights in the tent and in Hokkaido.
  • Down jacket: Mountain Hardware – I slept in this most nights because I only had my summer sleeping bag!
  • Waterproofs: Altura waterproof and night vision jacket – it wasn’t waterproof enough for Japan but I don’t think anything could be. And North Face hiking waterproof overtrousers – I had these lying around from hiking and they worked fine on the bike, I used a reflective leg band to keep my trousers from the chain.
  • 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: Sungod classics Polarized.
  • Sleepwear: Thermal top and bottoms, plus a beanie.
  • Spare clothes: one t-shirt and one pair of hiking trousers.


  • Dry bags: inside pack to compartmentalise gear.
  • Bear bell: I carried a bell I picked up from a temple on the Shikoku 88 Temple Pilgrimage and used it just once, around Hachimantai. I probably would’ve used it more if I’d been to Shiretoko in Hokkaido.
  • Guidebook: I used Mappuru touring guides for each region, they’re only in Japanese but I found them invaluable.
  • Ziplocks: for keeping things dry and good for packing out rubbish as well as leftover food.
  • 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 used this for the odd shower when camping and for the onsens.
  • Ear plugs: If you’re a light sleeper like me, ear plugs can help you get a longer night sleep when camping, especially as the birds started singing from around 3am!
  • Eye mask: Absolutely necessary when it gets light at 3am!
  • 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 for carrying shopping


  • Camera: I used a Fujifilm X-T2 with a 16-55mm lens
  • Phone with headphones: I used my iPhone as a second camera and to listen to music/podcasts
  • Video: GoPro
  • Headlamp: Petzl Tikka 2 – a must when camping
  • Battery pack: Anker E5 – for charging my phone, GoPro and GPS on the go
  • GPS: Garmin Oregon 750 – I didn’t have Japanese maps on this, but I used it to save my tracks
  • Chargers: for camera, phone, GoPro and GPS
  • Spare batteries: AAA for headlamp and AA batteries for GPS and bike lights
  • Adaptor plug for Japan: same as USA & Canada


  • Multi-purpose Soap: I used a small bottle of Lifeventure multi-purpose soap for shampoo, soap and washing my clothes
  • Toothbrush & toothpaste
  • Trowel, toilet paper, tissues and ziplock bags
  • FirstAid Kit: bandaids, needle and thread, antiseptic cream, sunscreen, lip balm, scissors, tweezers, antibacterial hand gel, painkillers, anti-inflammatories and anti-histamines – 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. 

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