Make your backpack lighter … and even lighter

Tip 6: Make your backpack lighter. Every kilo/pound you take with you, you will also have to take up 10.000 meters of elevation and the entirety of the 1.200-kilometre-long trail. When in doubt, leave it out. You can buy almost anything you need on Shikoku.

Everything you need for the henro

During the henro, I had taken everything I needed for the route along with me. I had made a packing list ahead of time and had gone searching for the lightest possible versions of each item I was planning to bring. What pair of trousers was lighter? Those were packed. And together with my wife, Katja I went through each item: Did I really need it? If not, then the decision to leave it immediately followed. This process helped me slim down the weight of my backpack significantly.

Make your backpack lighter: be selective with heavy things

My heaviest items were an inflatable mat, bed sheet, fleece cover, and the backpack itself. In hindsight, I would probably have chosen (and will the next time) not to bring my inflatable mat. Even in most of the tsuyado there were futons available for use, no need for an extra piece of padding.

Bring a good backpack

I bought my backpack specifically for the purpose of this trip. I chose the Fjälräven Abisko Friluft with a volume of 35 litres because of its modularity and because of its comfort when wearing it. The backpack itself weighs 1550g. If you are hiking with about ten kilos on your back every day for six to eight hours, a comfortable backpack is essential. Because my backpack reached quite high, I could not wear the traditional rice-hat: it would collide with the top of my backpack. Quite a shame because I really wanted to emulate the traditional henro!

Continuously reducing weight: drinking while hiking

In my backpack I had a camel bag with a capacity of three litres water. I did my henro end of summer/ early spring and it was hot (30+ Celsius) and humid (90%+). In the morning it was filled to the brim with water and during the day I would sip from it until it was empty. In temple five a monk told me that it was very important to also maintain my mineral and salt levels. He advised me to at least supplement a third of the moisture with energy drinks. That is why I would usually have two bottles of Aquarius or Pocari Sweat in the side pockets of my backpack. If you want to save money on constantly buying new bottles, buy a two-litre bottle in a supermarket and pour it over into the smaller bottles you used before.

Brought too much? Make your backpack lighter and send it back

If it turns out that you forgot to bring something, you can always buy it later. In konbini, supermarkets, and pharmacies, you can buy almost anything. In the big cities (Tukoshima, Kochi, Matsuyama and Takamatsu), you can even supplement your outdoor equipment i.e. at Mont-bel. If you brought too much, which happens to most henro, then you can go through your stuff again after the ascent to temple 12 and put the surplus in holding in Tukoshima or send it back home. I am glad I did not have to do that.