This is for everyone out there who has a plane ticket to Japan in their hand and is wondering “what on earth do I do now?”
In many ways heading to Japan for your first ski or snowboard trip is pretty much exactly like heading to your local mountain or favorite backcountry zone, with the caveat being you can’t turn around easily if you forget something important. So our first piece of advice that helps us pack whether it’s our annual visit to The Blanket Glacier Chalet in Revelstoke or a long weekend spent up at Mt. Hood is: Start packing as early as you can, don’t wait until the night before a long trip!
Next piece of advice that should be taken as a precursor to that aforementioned first piece of advice is: Make a list and check it one hundred times. We’re serious! It can seem mundane and tedious but for your first trip you’ll want to be dialed in at 100%, never has the age old adage of “better safe than sorry” rang truer (or should we say: Trewer)
This isn’t a complete list, but it’s a good start for any skiers or snowboarders heading to Japow. We present: the top 7 essential must-bring items for any Japow trip!
1. Prepare Your Quiver!
For skiers we recommend just a single set up. If you're already touring in and around your locale it's as simple as your favorite all time powder getting skis and a pair of AT bindings. Check out David's ON3P planks paired with these Dynafit Beast AT bindings.
Snowboarders on the other hand, we recommend the following: your favorite powder hunting board and a split-board set up if you're trying to get after the Hakuba or Hokkaido backcountry. It's not entirely necessary if you plan to stick to resorts on your trip, but having a split will allow you to access some incredible side and backcountry if the weather clears up! You won't regret the views, and clear days in Japan are few and far between.
We've been testing out the Elevated Surfcraft RTH Split-board we designed in collaboration with Aaron Lebowitz, shaper and founder of Elevated. We rode the solid version of this board in Japan last year and it's absolutely a no brainer to bring along as a split board. Ample float in it's wide nose, a mellow taper and slightly wider waist width makes this deck a powder hound. Equipped to split, take the hawk to new heights and watch it soar in steep or mellow powder.
All of Aarons boards are built in extremely limited quantities, so get yours before they are gone!
For our all purpose, all mountain powder slayer we opted to bring along the United Shapes Cadet
Back in 2014 United Shapes released The Cadet as their first board, and years later it's even better than the first mark (which we did ride in all it's stiff aggressively cambered glory) way back when. A snappy ride and available as a mid wide in a 159cm, this board will skate, side hit, seek and destroy blower and hot pow, and lay perfect carves down. All essential ingredients to a good run while hot lapping with your buds in a Japanese ski area.
2. Bring a good pair of goggles! And a bunch of extra lenses.
We recommend the Smith Optics Squad or Squad XL for those of you with bigger faces. Buy what you can stateside, it can be a pain and generally more expensive for you to shop overseas. Spare lenses are a must! You never know when a foggy or faulty lens can ruin a tour or incredible pow day. Bring a dark lens along with a few low light options like yellow or clear.
3. Get a good pack if you're going for the backcountry.
This is a good time to upgrade your current pack setup, but also will help with your carry on luggage when you fly over to Japan. We went for the 36 L Dakine Poacher Airbag compatible pack. More space for snacks, ample storage for camera gear and backcountry essentials as well.
4. Vert Snowshoes are a must for bootpacking.
Verts rule, that's the truth. What's a Vert? A stiff heavy duty non articulating piece of plastic that's a part of any seasoned Japow goers gear closet. These snowshoes are designed to go uphill and we relied on them heavily for setting bootpacks into zones where the snow is too deep to skin through or approach any other way. With Verts you can set the pack for your less prepared friends and they'll be buying all the beers at the end of the day. Skiers don't fret, here's an option for ski boots!
5. Get yourself some good Apre Snowboots.
If you're traveling by RV or hopping from pension houses to hotels you'll want something better than your Vans slip ons for you nightly outings and daily commute on the snowy and icey streets of the North Island! We back the Standard Snow Boot by Vans.
6. Never leave your house with a multi tool. Our's never leave our backpacks.
There's not much else to say, in general its a pain to ask for screw drivers and allen keys when you're on the hill and it's even worse when you're in a foreign country. Always have a tool on you or in your pack that's specfic for your board or ski set up. We roll with this handy tool made by Spark R&D or this multi tool by Crank Bros.
7. YOU BETTER BRING BIBS!
Why? Well in classic Japow fashion you're likely to buried chest deep in blower 90% of every turn. Just so happens we make the best in the biz. Checkout our touring capable Capow Bib and our award winning Trewth Bib. Ladies, give our Chariot Bib a gander and you won't ever look back.
We hope this list of essentials help you in your quest, be it for Japow or bottomless powder anywhere! We're still in Japan waiting for the next cycle, if you don't follow us already give us a look on Instagram and tag along as we search high and and low for deep snow on the north island!