Whether you’re casually perusing ultralight gear options for an upcoming backpacking adventure, or meticulously planning an epic thru-hike complete with detailed spreadsheets, there are any number of stellar cottage gear companies to check out … including in Japan!
Here are 9 ultralight-focused, passion-driven, and trail-tested small brands that hail from the island country in the Pacific.
This cottage company was founded in 2011 by hiking husband and wife team Akira and Yumiko Natsume. Based in Kamakura, Yamatomichi’s small team focuses on creating gear that works especially well in the mountains of Japan.
Akira and Yumiko began with a single pack (the ONE) and sleeping pad (UL Pad 15). More than a decade later, Yamatomichi has now established a R&D laboratory, which in addition to lightweight packs, creates a wide selection of hiking apparel for all seasons. They also repair used gear.
If you’re looking for a cottage backpacking brand to support, it doesn’t get any smaller than the one-man show at Ridge Mountain Gear. Working out of a house in Zushi City, Kanagawa Prefecture, on a single sewing machine, RMG crafts packs and apparel.
Whether you need a few pack accessories, are a merino wool devotee, or love the idea of a unique kit to accompany you on trail, with RMG you’ll be getting intentionally designed, quality products.
Mikikurota Architects use a unique lens to design their ultralight backpacking shelters. Founders Shinpei Miki and Michiko Kuroda say it best, “By combining extraordinary experiences such as hiking, nature, and art with everyday living spaces, we aim to create ‘fresh architecture’ where calmness and surprise coexist.”
Japan’s Locus Gear is fully equipped to help hikers find the right shelter for their next adventure. Whether you prefer a dome tent or a trekking pole-supported shelter, Locus Gear has an option for you. Also available: mesh inserts to keep bugs at bay, vestibules for grungy gear, ultralight accessories, functional apparel, and even a bivy.
If you’re chasing a base weight under 10 pounds and have an affinity for minimalism, KS Ultralight may be for you. Designed specifically for ultralight trekkers, KS packs are customizable and can include features such as: accessible pockets, a wide padded hip belt, straps to attach a foam sleeping pad as a back cushion, and more. For those of you frustrated in your search for the right pack fit, KS also offers 5 different pack sizes.
Freelight, proudly made in Japan, offers a wide range of lightweight backpacking gear, from shelters and packs to ultralight accessories. Among their offerings are three unique alcohol stove options, putting the power in your hands to decide the features most important to you — do you care more about ease of use, added features for specific conditions, or fuel efficiency on long-distance treks?
Check out their website to peruse their full selection.
Winter may be coming, but never fear! Teton Bros has the clothing layers you need, no matter the conditions. Whether your schtick is ultralight hiking, trail running, or winter spots, there’s something for everyone among their enormous selection of apparel. Check out the super rad Teton Bros running skirt.
Based in Tokyo, Ogawand is on a mission to pair you with your perfect pack. Featuring designs ranging from ultralight to feature-heavy — and plenty of optional accessories to boot — Ogawand it seems has imagined every pack preference possible among hikers. Not in the market for a new home-away-from-home? Check out their ultralight accessories to see if there’s something your kit can’t live without.
When Hajime Yamamoto started trying to craft a better burner to combat Japan’s frigid -40℉ winters, back in the 1970s, he was on the verge of a major invention — a burner that took seconds, not minutes, to preheat.
Decades of making top-rated stoves later, Soto Outdoors is on a journey to heat up the global market with durable options for your ultralight kitchen. Soto stoves produce a blue flame that can be trusted in extreme cold and chilling winds.
Did you know?
There's also a company called Moonlight Gear that’s basically the GGG of Japan!!! Recognize any products?
Have you used any of these Japanese cottage gear brands, or found something from this article you can’t wait to try out? Share in a comment below!