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Kumano Kodo Hiking

I went on a solo hike of the Kumano Kodo in Japan. Some things that might help in packing for your trip. Here’s my Kumano Kodo solo hike packing list:

  • Pack for the weather: On the three days I wore short and shirt, long pants and sweater and all possible combinations of these. The first day was extremely hot, the second day was rainy and hot so I was constantly struggling to keep dry while not overheating and the last day was extremely windy on top the hills so I had to constantly take my sweater of and off. In other words: think carefully what kind of clothing you will need.
  • Pack light (1): Really think hard and well on what you’ll take with you. If you don’t need it, please don’t. You’ll regret dragging and extra empty bottle, sweater, pants or camera that you don’t need (as I did);
  • Pack light (2): Depending on your plans, try to leave as much gear behind as possible. I dropped a large suitcase with my non-hiking clothes and other stuff at the luggage storage at Shin-Osaka station on my way to Tanabe and picked it up on the way back. This proved to be a smart but expensive move (420¥ per day per piece of luggage). Next time, I will drop it at the hotel I will stay after my hike or send it via postal service (I have heard it is quite cheap to send large items).
  • Decent walking shoes: Quite some parts of the trail consist of old roads and steps built with large rocks. They tend to be extremely slippery uphill but especially downhill. You’ll probably slip several times with your sturdy hiking shoes, you’re definitely going to slip with your fancy sneakers or running shoes;
  • Walking stick: No need to buy one, as on most of the trailheads you will find buckets with walking sticks you can use (how cool is that?!). I normally hate walking sticks, but I was extremely happy I got one from the owner of the ryokan in Nonaka Sanso. It proved of extreme value in the last two days.
  • Camelbak: You don’t need to have a Camelbak (or similar system) but it makes life so much easier. You can drink on-the-go and don’t have to get a bottle out of your bag everytime you want to drink.
  • Backup food: I brought some extra power bars, power gels and some sausage-based Dutch snacks. They’re all in my belly. Nuff said.
  • Extra battery pack for your phone.
  • Charging cables/adapters for Japanese power sockets.
  • Cash money: you will be travelling through small villages that not always have ATMs. Be sure to pack enough cash money to pay for the bus (they’re surprisingly pricey imho), to buy extra water or other fluids (stock pieces of 10¥ and 100¥ as most bottles/cans cost 130-160¥)
  • An extra pair of shoes: depending on your stay, you might want to go out (for example, to go to the Yunomine Onsen). It s*cks to do this in your hiking shoes, so you might want to bring an extra pair. I brought my Teva sandals.
  • Route maps: you can find routemaps on the site of the local tourism office in Tanabe and can get printed ones at many different points before and during your hike (tourism offices, trailheads, ryokans). I personally downloaded pdfs of the routes on my phone (and used them actually quite often);
  • Depending on the day; food and water: Not every village you will pass has a supermarket and/or a supermarket that is open on the moment you’re there. Example: if you’re walking from Ukegawa to Koguchi and are in Hongu the day before, it might be smart to buy some lunch/extra food in Hongu, as Ukegawa has a pretty small and limited supermarket. Even more, not every village you pass has a vending machine to stock water. Example: the first 14 kilometer of the Tsugizakura-oji to Hongu stretch have no single vending machine, so be sure to stock water the day before.

Things you don’t need to pack (not on my Kumano Kodo solo hike packing list):

  • Toothbrush and toothpaste (depending on where you sleep): in all ryokans I stayed, they supplied a pre-packed set of toothbrush and toothpaste.
  • Towels: as above.
  • Slippers: as above.

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