Camping Gear in Japan
Camping gear can be expensive, especially if you're not sure how often you will use it, and lightweight gear for multi-day hiking is even more expensive. And unlike many western countries, name brand gear is often more expensive here. So what are your options? Well thankfully Amazon is becoming more popular in Japan which is helping increase competitive pressure, and there is now an abundance of cheap Chinese brands which are copying the design aspects of the more well known brands, but with a much cheaper manufacturing process. So let's review some of the best options for buying hiking and camping gear in Japan.
Note: the price for Amazon products is always the same, but using my affiliate links provides me a small 4% if you make any purchases. It also doesn't matter what product you buy so there is no bias in this review ;)
In store or online?
Should you skip the stores and go straight to Amazon? Depending on what you're buying, it's often advantageous to skip the stores, but if you have the time, then the best advice is to check both. Outdoor stores in Japan are typically quite expensive and rarely have discounts, but sometimes they have good sales, especially if your size is different to the average Japanese customer. Another good advantage of stores is that you can get an idea about the size, weight, and feel of certain products. It's great to show support to the local store owners, but if you're price sensitive, then comparing the prices on your phone while you're in the store is a good way to ensure you're not being overcharged. However, I must emphasise that you need to be respectful and subtle if you are doing this inside the store. And if you want to ask about price matching with Amazon, try to be as friendly as possible or politely ask them while making a purchase. They will usually say no, or will need to check with their manager.
So how do you decide which outdoor store to choose? Google maps is where you will find all this information - check the reviews, the locations, or the store websites, then decide which ones to visit in person.
There are two big advantages to buying products on Amazon instead of Japanese outdoor shops:
1. Price and variety. Even if the store prices are the same, Amazon will offer similar products under cheaper brand names. These won't be as good as the top shelf names, but the cost-to-benefit ratio is often better, and in many ways they live up to similar expectations.
2. Amazon have an incredible returns policy, which is the complete opposite to shops in Japan. Any products you buy can be easily returned and refunded within 30 days of purchase - this covers everything from faulty products, misleading descriptions, sizing issues, or if it simply didn't live up to your expectations. They will even arrange pickup from your address, just schedule the time with their online chat team.
Amazon have the easiest returns policy in Japan
Recommendations for Amazon products
So what are the best options for camping gear on Amazon?
The Best Affordable Tent Options
One Person Tents:
GeerTop Solo Tent - ¥12,000 - 900g.
An amazingly convenient and lightweight tent, there are no tent poles, it simply requires two long branches or standard hiking poles. I have used this for a whole season and it always performed well. The size and weight is amazing.
Naturehike CloudUp1 Tent - ¥13,000 - 1.6kg.
The Naturehike version of the GeerTop tent. I haven't used this one but I have used the 2-man version which is very good and easy to set up.
Two Person Tents:
Naturehike CloudUp2 Tent - ¥19,000 - 1.8kg.
Great quality for this price, very easy and intuitive to setup, perfect size for 2 people.
For the more premium brands such as North Face or Patagonia, Amazon is not a good choice. Your best bet is to head to a large outdoor store in your area, Google Maps is a good way to check out these options.
Three and four person tents?
I don't have experience with these so I'll leave it up to you to browse Amazon or your local camping store. For Amazon, the best way is to filter the results to show only the products above 4 star reviews and the tent size you're after, then you will need to check the item weight. Anything labelled "ultra" light will be the lightest weight in the brand's products range.
Although there are budget friendly options, a high quality sleeping bag is well worth spending extra money on. In fact, if there's one item you choose to invest in, it should be a good sleeping bag. A high quality down feather sleeping bag will easily last you more than ten years, it will be super light, nice a small, and keep you extra warm while maintaining breathability. With that being said, the cheaper sleeping bags with a synthetic blend are a good compromise between budget and quality. The biggest difference you'll find with these semi-synthetic sleeping bags is the size/weight to warmth ratio, but they will also be half the price.
Here's a decent option for a budget sleeping bag: Budget Sleeping Bag
This is a really good mid-range camping mattress: Mid-range Camping Mattress
Thermals & Socks
Thermal layers are essential for overnight hiking in the mountains. They are lightweight and very effective for keeping warm, they're especially useful for sleeping in. These are a good example, and like all Amazon products, if you have any issues with size or quality you can return them easily.
Next up is socks. For day hikes, special socks are not essential, despite what many passionate hikers will tell you. But for multi-day hikes you need socks that are designed for sport or hiking. Hiking socks tend to be expensive, so I've always opted simply for sport socks with anti-odour treatment. Specially designed socks, or wool socks, will have advantages such as warmth, reduced moisture retention and faster drying. Regarding blisters and comfort, sporty toe socks are great for this, simply wear them under your normal socks. I highly recommend these toe socks, they have made my hikes much more comfortable.
A good headlamp can be a lifesaver, or at the very least provide a much more enjoyable hiking and camping experience. They are also incredibly versatile, they can be useful during power outages, cycling at night, or simply stargazing with friends. The difference between a great headlamp and a cheap one is about $50, but the difference in quality is significant - plus if something goes wrong, such as a malfunction while hiking at night, then the consequences can be problematic. For these reasons I recommend buying a good quality headlamp, it's an investment that will last many years. In terms of quality vs price, there is nothing better than Black Diamond - they provide the best value headlamps on the market. They are not too expensive but well-built, reliable, and rechargeable. My two top recommendations are listed below, both available on Amazon.
Black Diamond - Storm 500-R - ¥8,500 - 100g.
The best BD have to offer in terms of value and versatility. You'll have heaps of battery life, a huge range of brightness, and a lot of features such as stealth mode to avoid bothering people.
Black Diamond - Spot 400-R - ¥7,200 - 73g.
A great option if you don't want all the power and extra features packed into the Storm, the spot is the perfect balance of a strong light and convenient functionality without a high price.
Black Diamond - Cosmo 350-R - ¥5,200 - 75g.
Save some money with a smaller battery and slightly lower power. Still waterproof and with dimming options, but no redlight stealth mode.
That concludes a short introduction to buying camping gear in Japan. There are so many rabbit holes that we could go down when talking about this topic, but to keep this short I've focused mainly on the most pertinent points. There are many blog articles online about choosing the type of gear that suits you best, so if you need more info, a quick google search will yield good results. If there's any extra tips, advice, or experiences you'd like to share, feel free to discuss them in the comments section below.