What to pack to travel to Hokkaido in winter? Excellent, smart question! Hokkaido will always have a special place in my memories: the week on this large island in northern Japan was my cool baptism in this country and gave me peace of mind and new friends.
I will always remember this week in Hokkaido for being the coldest week of my life so far, with daily snowfalls, Siberian wind, and temperatures well below zero! But lots of poetry too…
On a Monday evening in late January, I got there on the train from New Chitose airport to Sapporo. I saw nothing cause of the super heavy snowfall. I could feel the chill coming from automatic sliding doors at each stop, and my concern for the conditions of my stay started rising.
Luckily the fantastic staff at the almost too heated YuYu Guest House welcomed me with a glass of warm tea and cheerful smiles, and I started to relax and focus: I packed well, and I needed to wear the clothes I had in my luggage, and everything was going to be all right!
Here is how what I wore during these days between Sapporo and Hakodate:
- wool tights or thermal leggings
- thin thermal t-shirt
- thin sleeveless wool sweater
- technical hooded jacket
- waterproof thermal jacket by The North Face
- Ugg waterproof boots with snow soles
- sub-thermal gloves
- fleece gloves
- fleece earmuffs
In my luggage, whose starting point is always the one described in my post on how to pack light, I actually put several thermal t-shirts, that once rolled up and placed in my packing cubes, took up very little space. Same thing for the finest wool tights, the pair of leggings, and the wool sweaters, occupying the same space as a standard t-shirt.
The two hooded fleece jackets were a bit bulkier but rolled up one inside the other they got similar to a wool sweater.
The very bulky item was my precious Ugg snow boats and I, therefore, wore them during the flight. They are hot and extremely comfortable and safe, both on the snow and on the ice.
Mindful of the cold winter days spent outdoors when I worked at Disneyland Paris, I also packed some disposable warmers, both for hands and feet.
Once removed from the package, the hands’ warmers start working in a few seconds by simply shaking them once or twice. I placed them between the two gloves, and the heat lasted all day long, helping to warm my nose too by touching it from time to time …
The feet warmers are actually stickers, and once removed from the package, you need to warm them for a few minutes with your before sticking them to the socks at the center of the foot. The heat is almost excessive for the first hour, but then gets very pleasant and lasts easily 5/6 hours when walking in the snow. I guess longer on a dry floor.
I even used two hand warmers per day to keep my iPhone alive, as its battery is not expected to last more than a few minutes when temperatures get below zero. I then kept it in my jacket pocket between two warmers, and it never switched off!
I could spend whole days outdoor dressed like this, walking quietly to discover Sapporo, but also Otaru, Noboribetsu, and Hakodate, where the sea wind made it all the more humid and less pleasant.
Actually, this outfit proved to be perfect for exploring the northern Honshu and the central Alps. Still, mostly, these are clothes that allow you to travel to cold destinations fully enjoying your trip, and I’m seeing several tourists having problems. Japan; cause of the wrong clothing…
P.S. The Japanese term for the warmers is Hokaido, to be pronounced like Hokkaido. A coincidence? I do not think so 😉