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What To Pack For Japan In Winter

What to Pack for Japan in Winter

In short order I am heading off on a trip to Hokkaido – Japan’s most northerly main island. I have been 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.

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’ve been having for the last few weeks.

What to Pack for Japan in Winter

We can expect scenes like this in Hokkaido – Photo credit: David McKelvey on Flickr

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.

Here’s what to pack for Japan in winter – appreciating that it can be rainy, snowy, cold and sunny – though not nearly to the degree we usually see in Alberta.

  • 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)
What to Pack for Japan in Winter

These Santana boots are lightweight but warm enough to take with me

  • One complete pair of long underwear
  • One pair warm outdoor pants like these insulated ones from Varg
What to Pack for Japan in Winter

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
  • What to Pack for Japan in Winter

    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 like this one
  • 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 like this one from Varg
  • 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 on sale right now
  • 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.

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 is a Calgary based writer, author, photographer and social media enthusiast with over 57,000 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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