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July 2004
Issue 050

Special 50th Issue!

Run for the Hills

If you’re planning to escape the pressure cooker heat of the Kansai Summer into Japan’s greener and cooler heartland, you’ll need more than a case of happoshu. KS takes you on a trek to your local outdoor stuff store for a look at what’s on offer.

According to Lars Jensen, president of the Kansai International Outdoor Club, the choice out there is formidable, and there is no hard and fast rule for choosing equipment. Not surprisingly, size and weight are the most important factors, and beginners don’t need the most expensive, top-of-the-range gear — don’t splash out a fortune on unnecessary items.

The North Face is a trusted brand throughout the world, and although there isn’t any terrain as punishing as the Eiger in Kansai, the quality of their products means that you won’t have any complaints. Their two-man Tadpole 23 tent weighs in at a breezy 2.2kg, folding up to a compact 36 by 18cm, and is reasonably priced at ¥31,290. It is a stylish, slick design and with a sleeping area of 117cm by 221, shouldn’t be too cramped, although you may want to think carefully about your tent-mate. It is well ventilated and comes with an optional gear loft to keep your valuables out of the hands of the thieving simians endemic to these parts.

Your pack is one of the most important purchases you can make, and should be sturdy, comfortable and lightweight. Gregory, a company dedicated to lugging your goods around, have been making rucksacks and other luggage since 1965, so there’s a fair chance they know what they’re on about. The Z Pack and Adovent series are good bets, depending on your needs. They range in size (53 to 59 liters for the Z pack and 33 to 39 liters for the Adovent). They are lightweight, weighing in at around a kilo. The Z pack costs ¥24,990 and the smaller Adovent comes in at under ¥21,000. Gregory also makes smaller size packs for short trips, such as the Reactor, a 13 liter pack which retails for just over ¥10,000.

Wet Weather Gear
The rainy season may once again be behind us, but it’s best to be prepared, and rain jackets are important items. Mont Bell is an Osaka-based company, and thus has one of the more extensive showrooms in town. They’ll be able to hook you up with everything from those tiny carabiners to tents and canoes. They do a nice line in wet weather clothing, with some rather fetching matching jacket-and-pants combinations, such as the Storm Cruiser line, retailing from ¥27,000 to ¥33,000 depending on size. Naturally, it is made with Gore-Tex, meaning that your skin will be able to breathe in the humid Kansai air. Also worth checking out is their camouflage range, designed, it would seem, for the paranoid or those on the run. The Camouflage Watch Tencho, a combination one-man tent-cum-poncho, goes for only ¥7,665 and does away with all that packing up nonsense.

As you’ll no doubt be walking quite a lot, it stands to reason that you’ll want some comfy shoes. There is a huge choice here, but again comfort and weight are of utmost importance. Merrel are a trusted name in footwear, and their range is wide and varied, from sturdy sneakers for day trips to serious hiking boots. Look around and try on a number of different models before making your choice — blisters can ruin your trip and you want to be sure your shoes are going to stand up to the task, or you won’t be going anywhere.
Going it alone can be fun, heightening the sense of adventure, but organized trips are a great way to meet like-minded folk and perhaps find out a bit about the countryside, with the added bonus of on-hand expertise, although you’ll still probably have to put your own tent up!

Text: Euan Mckirdy


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