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Me Testing Out The Frigid Waters In The Sea Of Okhotsk

What to Pack for Japan in Winter

I made a winter trip to Hokkaido – Japan’s most northerly main island. Before I left I was warned by the group that invited me to be prepared for chilly temperatures. They obviously don’t live in Calgary where chilly takes on quite a different meaning. Still I needed to put some thought into what to pack for Japan.

Hokkaido, which is at the same latitude as Toronto, is famous for its spectacular mountain scenery, volcanoes, natural hot springs and ski areas. I am told that the average temperature in Sapporo in January is -3.6 °C and I suspect that’s a moist rather than a dry cold which is always more penetrating, but still it’s not the -25°C temperatures we sometimes get for a few weeks every winter. With that in mind here’s what to pack for Japan in winter – appreciating that it can be rainy, snowy, cold and sunny.

Updated April 2020. This post includes some affiliate links. If you make a purchase via one of these links, I may receive a small commission at no extra cost to you. 

I’d be happy to spend the whole day snowshoeing with a backdrop like this

What to pack in Japan with winter activities and hot springs in mind

Over the eight days I’ll be in Japan I have to pack for drift ice walking, downhill skiing, fat tire biking and snowshoeing – not to mention visits to onsens or hot springs, the Akan International Crane Centre and nightly dinners.

My goal is to take carry-on only so almost every piece I take will have to have multiple uses.

  • Enough winter socks and underwear for a week
  • One scarf
  • One buff – great for keeping the wind off your neck
  • One winter hat
  • One pair of gloves like these Summit G5 from North Face that feature a built-in overmitt; one pair of warm mitts
  • What to Pack for Japan in Winter
    Buff, scarf, hat, mitts and and North Face gloves that have the option of added wind protection option
  • One pair of snow boots that I can wear on the plane
  • One pair walking shoes
  • One pair of flip flops (for padding around hotels)
 These Santana boots are lightweight but warm enough to take with me
These Santana boots are lightweight but warm enough to take with me
Varg pants are perfect for cold, snowy days
Varg pants are perfect for cold, snowy days
  • One pair of black leggings
  • Two pairs of comfortable pants for walking with one pair to be used for everyday wear and one pair for on the plane or in a relaxed setting like the Levita pant from Arcteryx
The Varg pants will work well for outdoor activities while the Arcteryx ones are perfect for casual evenings
  • One Goretex raincoat – that can be also be used as a base layer 
  • One warm coat that can be worn under the raincoat
What to Pack for Japan in Winter
One warm coat and one windproof raincoat that can be worn over the warm one
  • One set of sleepwear
  • One fleece top with a hood like this one I love from Varg made from recycled wool
What to Pack for Japan in Winter
Super comfortable pieces (my new faves) from Varg and Arcteryx that are perfect for casual wear in the winter – at home and overseas
  • Two – three long-sleeved wicking shirts 
  • One short sleeved shirt (I’ll bring one of my Icebreakers)
  • One bathing suit (though they don’t seem to wear them in onsens)
  • Toiletries and makeup
What to Pack for Japan in Winter
Miscellaneous items that will come in handy on my trip to Japan
  • One pair of sunglasses (I’m a huge fan of Maui Jim)
  • A book or two, notebook, computer, phone, chargers
  • One GoPro 
  • Camera and lenses with a battery charger
  • Water bottle
  • A few bars in case of travel delays

After I’m back from Japan I’ll make any adjustments I deem necessary in the blog from my on-the-ground experience but I think I have enough clothes both to stay warm and to cover all the planned activities.

Further reading on things to do in Japan

Click on the photo to bookmark to your Pinterest board.

What to pack for Japan in winter

Thank you to Sporting Life for making this post possible.



Leigh McAdam

Leigh McAdam is a Calgary based writer, author, photographer and social media enthusiast with over 61,000 followers. Her blog: HikeBikeTravel is frequently cited as one of the top travel and outdoor adventure blogs in Canada.

Author of Discover Canada: 100 Inspiring Outdoor Adventures
Co-author of 125 Nature Hot Spots in Alberta

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