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Ultralight Packing List for Japan

What's in my backpack - Japan trip
All the stuff going in my backpack (does not include clothes I'll be wearing, phone, watch, and camera).

For my first big adventure of 2011, I'm taking a 12-day Winter trip to Japan. I have two personal goals in mind, packing light and sticking to a budget.

First and foremost, I want to travel light. Really light. My packing list is almost finalized, and it's by far the smallest amount of stuff I've taken on an international trip.  

I've always thought of myself as being on the lighter side of the packing spectrum.

However, I've been noticing the minimalist travel bloggers around the interwebs, which has inspired me to challenge myself, at least for this trip.

To recap a few advantages to the “less is more” philosophy as it relates to international travel:

  • No need to check your backpack on flights.
  • Less physical stress from carrying the backpack.
  • Your backpack takes up less space on trains and buses.
  • If Couchsurfing, your stuff won't unintentionally take over your host's home (especially important in Japan where apartments are small).
  • It's easier to account for your belongings.

Here's a breakdown of my ultralight packing list for Japan:

Originally the board shorts were for the spas, but I was recently told the guys go “au natural.” I'm going to bring them anyway as they're lightweight.  

Even though it's Winter, I'm counting on several layers to keep me warm versus a heavy jacket.  I hope I don't regret that once I land in Tokyo!

As much as I'd like to leave the giant paperback guidebook at home, flipping pages still seem faster and easier than navigating an ebook.

Planning a trip? Go Backpacking recommends:


Saturday 28th of April 2012

I'm thinking of couchsurfing my way through Japan early next year and this looks like the way to go in terms of packing. How did it work out for you?


Sunday 29th of April 2012

It worked perfectly. It was Winter, so at times I wished I had a heavier layer of clothes, like a sweater, but overall it made getting around A LOT easier. Would definitely do it again.

southern cooking

Sunday 22nd of January 2012

Dave, this must have been a great trip! I can recommend a great, ultralight backpack for laptop folks. It's from a company called Go-Lite and I believe it's called the TraveLite.


Tuesday 22nd of February 2011

Dave, would you kindly share how your trip went in Japan? I'm planning a trip in April for 10 days and was curious to see what worked and what didn't. THanks.


Wednesday 23rd of February 2011

Hey Bobo, I'm going to write up my experience in greater depth some time in March, but since you don't have much time, I'll give a short version here.

Packing ultra light was awesome. Even though I was a bit cold without a heavy jacket, I wouldn't change a thing about the amount of clothes I brought for such a short trip.

- wear supportive sneakers -- I went for style over function and my feet were aching for it - i ended up buying Lonely Planet's Kindle guide, but barely used it -- tourism offices are at all major train stations with plenty of maps, and other info - Kindle is awesome, but I was so busy sightseeing I didn't read much except for the plane - I forgot to bring an AC converter - a cheap one cost me $5. their outlets only have 2 slots so I needed one for my laptop - I didn't bring the video camera, and didn't miss it - I didn't use my watch or headlamp, could've left them at home

Hope that helps


Monday 14th of February 2011

Kindle Lonely Planet eBooks' maps are don't allow you to zoom enough. However, the PDFs are very zoomable & usable. I'd recommend bringing a USB full of your PDFs so you can print up maps from Internet cafes when you want to shove them in your pocket when wandering; instead of whipping out your $ accessories.


Tuesday 15th of February 2011

Yea, I found the maps weren't useful or practical in Japan, but the rest of the ebook was fine and easy to navigate around. Instead, I relied on Japan's tourism offices located at all the major train stations. They always provided me with plenty of city maps (almost too many) and train schedules. Of course developing countries won't be so organized, but I still don't think I'll go back to the paper guidebooks at this point.


Sunday 6th of February 2011

Good job on the small packing and hope you're trip isn't to cold;) Can't help but thinking about what a breeze it would be to travel without all this tech, but it seems inevitable. Just gotta wait for things to get lighter and smaller.

On another note: Trying to get a hold of a Kindle while travelling. Any idea on how to do this? (amazon only and will be gone for another 5 months)

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