What to pack for Hokkaido?

, by Ayaka

Excited for your trip to Hokkaido, but are unsure about what to bring? This blog post shares tips on what to pack for Hokkaido, plus local insight and advice to help you prepare for your adventure travel to Hokkaido.

A group of hikers smile and pose for the camera. They are standing around a post marking the summit of Mt Asahidake. A fluffy white cloud fills the sky behind them.

Konnichiwa! This is Ayaka from Adventure Hokkaido, writing to you from the midst of the Hokkaido mountains.

I grew up right here exploring the outdoors and in this article would like to share an insider’s knowledge of the seasons and what you need to bring to enjoy your visit to Hokkaido.

Whether you want to come in the warm summer days for hiking, spend your time in the winter in the snow, or you are looking to take a leisurely trip in the spring or autumn colours, here’s everything you need to help you work out what to pack for Hokkaido.

Here is my recommended packing list and top tips for visiting Hokkaido in any season, so you can be perfectly prepared for your adventure trip here!

What to pack for Hokkaido? (All Seasons)

Hokkaido has four distinct seasons, but this list will be useful for any adventure traveller who is taking a trip to the island. Using this as a basis and altering it to fit the season you are aiming for will help you pack better and prepare for your trip!

Hokkaido Packing List – Clothing

  • Windproof jacket – an easy layer to take on and off, it packs down small, and is definitely one of those “better to have it than not” items.

  • Waterproof jacket – a GORE-TEX or similar fabric under a different name, that is waterproof and breathable. They will keep you warm under cold showers when a shelter isn’t available!

  • Good sturdy shoes – Depending on the activities you will be doing, you may prefer hiking shoes, but no matter what make sure they are comfortable enough for walking or cycling around in all day.

  • A pair of light sandals – I often use flip flops inside inns, instead of using slippers provided, as they all look identical and hard to remember which were mine after a relaxing soak in onsen.

  • Active wear shirts – they’re easy to clean, light to carry and pack, and current styles are often suitable for both outdoor adventures and going out.

  • Fleece – Hokkaido can be hot during the day in the summer but still chilly at night, and having a light fleece can be useful no matter the time of year. In autumn and spring, you can use it as an outer layer, and in winter it can be a useful mid layer under a heavier winter coat.

  • Hiking pants – Generally they are light-weight, so they are easy to pack and wash if necessary. Many that are made now are even stylish enough to wear besides when doing outdoor activities!

  • Travel pants – for when you feel like going out

  • Cardigan – easy for layering and pulling on if there’s a chill

  • Arm and/or leg covers – great for protection from the sun and insects besides being useful for keeping warm!

  • Underwear made of quick-dry fabrics – I find easy enough to hand wash and dry overnight, whereas cottons can be a hassle to wash and dry.

  • Mid- or heavy- weight merino wool socks – These are useful for multi-day hiking trips in all seasons, plus you will be grateful you have them when you have to take your boots off in Japanese buildings. They don’t smell as bad as the other ones!

  • Microfiber towel – most accommodations will have towels available, but having your own is useful for if you want to visit any outdoor hot springs or do any sports where you might get wet.

  • Sunglasses – useful all-year round

  • Hat, beanie, gloves and neck warmer- the type you bring should be based on what season you travel on, but generally will be useful anytime if you are planning on visiting the mountains in Hokkaido. A neck tube of a lighter fabric has been a craze for me lately, as I can put it up to my nose and use it as a mask in the outdoors.

  • A folding umbrella – handy item to bundle in your travel bag, when you don’t want to put your wet rain jacket on.

Hokkaido Packing List – Toiletries

  • Personal medications – better to be prepared! However, before bringing any medication be sure to double-check on Japan’s Ministry of Health website if what you want to bring is allowed into the country; Japan is strict about certain types of drugs, some of which are relatively common in other countries but outlawed here.

  • Sunscreen, at least SPF-30. Always protect your skin, even on overcast days!

  • Lip balm – sunburn or windburn on your lips is miserable, so be sure to have some lip cream for when you are outdoors.

  • Shampoos, toothpaste, anything else you prefer of your own country. While some foreign brands are available, many are not, so if you have a strong preference bring along.

Hokkaido Packing List – Electronics

  • Your phone – sim cards and overseas options are available for many phones now, and if that fails, there will be wifi available in numerous locations. However, for those who are worried about staying connected, a pocket wifi or a travel SIM are great options and often can be picked up at the airport.

  • Portable battery for your phone

  • Your camera – the wildlife and scenery is beautiful, so be sure to be ready when those sights happen! Always I take a spare battery and a spare memory card, as I’m one of those who can’t help but take loads of photos of everything I find beautiful!

  • GoPro or waterproof protection for your photo taking devices, if you want it for any sports you might participate in. A Hakuba dry-cushion pouch has been a safe house for my camera while hiking, trekking, and even kayaking on a rough sea.

  • Adapter, charger, or power converter if necessary- Japan uses a two-prong plug without a grounding pin.

Hokkaido Packing Tips

  • A good comfortable backpack – useful for outdoor activities, as well as when you don’t want to bring all of your luggage on a day outing. Make sure that it has a rain cover if you think you may be walking in rain.

  • Dry sacks – they are great for keeping the contents of your bag organised and dry.

  • Reusable water bottle – all water from faucets in Japan is drinkable unless otherwise specified. Reduce your plastic usage and bring your own bottle!

  • Foldable shopping bag – for shopping at convenience stores or markets, when your hands happen to be full. There is a small mandatory charge between 3 yen to 5 yen for a plastic bag in Japan.

  • Copies of important documents. Although this isn’t exclusive to Japan, having copies of things like your passport, travel information, insurance, and any licenses you might need while travelling in a separate place from the genuine articles can be a real lifesaver if they are ever lost.

Another recommendation I have for all travellers – don’t overpack! You will come across many interesting things in Japan that you might want to take home, and there is access to anything that might become necessary or that could have been forgotten. Plus, it is always nice to have a light bag, right?

What to pack for Hokkaido in summer?

Although this won’t vary much from the general packing list, summer brings a few things you should be prepared for.

  • Bug spray – it’s summer, so that means bugs! Along with the normal range of insects, you also need to be on the lookout for horse flies and buyo, a type of biting black fly. Buyo will not always respond to normal bug spray, in which case mint oil is a guaranteed way to keep them away! I always carry mint oil, because I am so susceptible and reactive to them!

  • Outdoor sandals – it’s hot, so give your feet a breather and bring some sturdy sandals for when you’re not hiking! Plus, they are easy to get off and on when leaving and entering your accommodations.

  • Short sleeves and shorts for those hot days exploring

  • A wide brimmed hat – it is going to be sunny, so keep the sun off your face.

In addition to this, remember to bring any activity-related gear you might need that you don’t plan on renting.

Hokkaido packing summer cycling
Summer cycling in Hokkaido

On average, tech and sports gear is more expensive in Japan than in other countries (plus you might have difficulties finding your size if you are exceptionally tall), so bring what you need from home.

What to pack for Hokkaido in winter?

Winter will inevitably require the most preparation and luggage, since the cold here is legendary and travellers need to be prepared before they arrive. A good winter jacket is a must, preferably something wind and waterproof.

It snows a lot during the winter, and it will be better for the snow to brush off rather than melt on you and make you wet and chilly.

  • Thermal/warm base layers – Outside will be frigid, but indoors and public transportation is generally well heated. Being able to pull off layers is very useful to adapt to travelling indoors and out.

  • Winter snow boots – those that are well-insulated, with anti-slip soles if available, will be a lifesaver in Hokkaido winter. You can also purchase non-slip shoe cover (like cleats) here if you find your shoes too slippery to walk on icy roads.

  • Scarves – something lightweight that will block your face and neck from the wind can be a lifesaver, especially at night.

  • Gloves – you will never appreciate a pair of warm gloves more until you have been walking outdoors and can’t feel your fingertips anymore.

  • Winter hat or beanie – even for people with longer hair, a warm hat can keep your ears safe from the chill and you from getting a wind brain freeze.

  • Warm wool socks – they dry fast, are easy to clean, are warm, and are suitable for layering when your feet are extra cold.

There are some certainties in life like birth, taxes, and that winter in Hokkaido will be very cold. Layering will be the easiest way to keep warm, and it might save you some space by planning ahead.

What to pack for Hokkaido - Winter clothing
Packing the right winter gear for Hokkaido makes all the difference

You will also want to remove and put on layers to adjust from travelling in and out of heated buildings.  This is especially true if you are coming for winter sports, as you will be warm while moving and cold when taking breaks or waiting. Although it may be freezing outside, inside is always warm and welcoming. People who live in Hokkaido consider this omotenashi – the concept of earnestly taking care of guests!

Besides this, make sure to remember your sunscreen! Even in winter you can get sunburned from the light reflecting off the snow (something I have experienced more times than I care to admit!) However, I don’t recommend bringing things like handwarmers – they are very cheap in Japan and can be found at any convenience store!

What to pack for Hokkaido in spring & autumn

Spring and autumn in Hokkaido are the shoulder seasons, and we don’t usually see the highs and lows that the weather reaches in the winter and summer. However, it is not unusual to have snow remaining in the late spring and have surprise flurries in the autumn, so be sure to bring an outer layer that you can pull on in case of bad weather.

  • Rain wear – for those occasional storms

  • Clothes for layering, for chilly nights and warm days

Guide Kazu hiking at Kogen Numa in Daisetsuzan National Park, Hokkaido
Long sleeves are great for spring & autumn in Hokkaido

Leave your heavy winter clothes and your shorts at home- you probably won’t need them. This is an especially easy time to travel in Hokkaido, so take advantage of the gentle weather!

Get ready for your Adventure in Hokkaido

By being prepared, remembering your layers and sunscreen, and keeping in mind that you can find most things you will need in Japan if something comes up missing (though it is much easier to bring your own!) you are setting yourself up for a good time travelling in Hokkaido.

Here at Adventure Hokkaido we want to help you plan your own personalised trip through this incredible area of Japan, and we are waiting to help you find your perfect adventure.

Whether in spring, summer, autumn, or winter, we have various plans and tours to offer that will fit your Hokkaido dream trip, and can always help you plan something entirely new and unique to you. We will help you plan from start to finish, and can guide you on how to prepare and what to bring your trip so you can have your perfect trip.

We hope to see you soon!

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