Field Mag may receive a minor commission from purchases made via affiliate links.
When we think of Japanese clothing brands, images of Uniqlo’s no-frills offerings or streetwear giants like A Bathing Ape often come to mind. Maybe Kapital or Beams if you're into style. But for those with an interest in the outdoors, the list of impressive brands that align both with the country's beautiful natural landscapes and the megacities like Tokyo is impressive.
Because here’s the thing about outdoors gear in Japan—city folks love these brands just as much as the nature nerds do. Japan is full of juxtapositions with ancient temples amidst modern skyscrapers. It’s no wonder that these retailers create gear that effortlessly merges the urban landscape with the great outdoors, a movement that has, unsurprisingly, gained plenty of traction in the U.S. over the past decade (ahem, gorpcore).
And with Japan's increased investment in building long trails for thru-hiking—like the Michinoku Coastal Trail, which we hiked this past September—local opportunities for taking this design-driven gear to the trail are only growing.
In Japan, there’s a growing surge of niche brands that are embracing this philosophy on a more intimate scale, too. While no longer considered quite niche, larger companies like Goldwin and Nanamica have masterfully blended city chic with techwear functionality, crafting clothing that excels both on bustling city streets and winding forest trails.
But there are plenty more outdoor brands in Japan not to sleep on. Some of these brands focus exclusively on top-notch gear like tents and sleeping bags, while others are more focused on seamlessly blending techwear with outdoor culture. Each one is unique, and each one is worth putting on your radar (and perhaps buying a plane ticket for). So read on to learn all about the 13 Japanese outdoor brands you need to know.
13 Japanese Outdoor Brands You Should Know
The best known name in Japanese outdoor gear must be Snow Peak. And for good reason. Founded in Niigata in the 1950s as a humble climbing equipment manufacturer, Snow Peak is now a household name across Asia—even publicly traded on the Tokyo Stock Exchange. With thousands of SKUs covering camping tents, furniture, ultralight titanium products, design-driven apparel, and more, it's no surprise in recent years the brand has set its sights on the North American market, going so far as to expand its Portland, Oregon HQ with an impressive flagship store complete with Takibi restaurant and nearby "campfield" for hosting community campout events. A second brick-and-mortar store in Williamsburg, Brooklyn and the 2023 launch of both east and west coast Snow Peak Way community campout events further signals the brand's commitment to introducing the Japanese vision for an outdoor lifestyle to North American market is one to watch out for.
Take a peek into any enthusiast of design-driven outdoor gear and you might just find an item or two from Japan's second best known outdoor outfitter, Montbell. A bit less premium but still reliable—like an LL Bean meats Coleman, but better quality—Montbell is another juggernaut in Japan's outdoor brand space, founded in 1975. Best known for its minimalist down jackets and brightly colored hiking apparel, Montbell—like many Japanese brands—seems to be make thousands of products spanning every outdoor category, from hiking, backpacking, and camping to cycling, climbing, running, and of course, everyday life. Though their North American footprint is still relatively small (their only NA physical retail shop is in Denver, Colorado and their US website is limited), the brand has a cult following for its affordable, stylish gear and reliable equipment.
Founded in 2011 by Akira and Yumiko Natsume and based in Kamakura, Japan, Yamatomichi is quickly becoming one of the more popular small outdoor brands. In Japanese, yamatomichi translates to “mountain and roads” and their products reflect this idea. Yamatomichi crafts gear that caters to all hikers all over the spectrum, but much of their offering is created with the ultralight hiking philosophy in mind, meaning every detail is there for a reason. On any of the many hikes in Japan you're bound to come across someone sporting their five-pocket shorts or one of their hard-to-miss backpacks. The folks at Yamatomichi thrive on fostering the hiking community in Japan, uniting like minds and sharing passion through a variety of community hikes and outdoor gatherings.
AtelierBlueBottle was started in 2013 by designer couple Kei and Rina Tsujioka. With previous experience designing products for bigger retailers, they both soon grew disillusioned with the lack of creativity that came with creating products for mass retail and decided to launch their own operation. Their triangular “mountain neverland” logo and their unique backpack designs make them hard to miss when hiking around Japan, though the gear, ranging from backpacks to clothing, can be hard to get your hands on since it sells out in the blink of an eye. The materials and design are carefully thought over and you can read (in Japanese) about the process of how each piece is made on Tsujioka’s blog.
Nanga is a Japanese brand that's established a small footprint outside of Japan through collaborative endeavors with the likes of Gramicci, Danner, and Adsum that might have caught your eye. An annual deluge of collaboration requests isn’t just happenstance—it’s a testament to Nanga’s expertise in down insulation. Renowned for their initial production of sleeping bags, Nanga traces its roots back to the 1940s, when the brand was the brainchild of Akira Yokata. With their unwavering commitment to quality, they now aim to redefine the frontiers of incorporating down into a diverse spectrum of items from sleeping bags to jackets to shirts for real outdoor use and also time in town. (They even make down phone covers.)
The form follows function ethos is at the heart of and wander, with a big focus on form. Founded in 2011 by Keita Ikeuchi and Mihoko Mori, two former designers at legendary fashion label Issey Miyake, the unique brand blends a distinct eye for fashion with an unwavering passion for the outdoors, creating an aesthetic that’s equally high-tech and visually impressive. The company doesn't shy away from collaborations either—recent partnerships include work with brands like Barbour, Paraboot, and tent manufacturer Muraco Designs.
A veteran of previously mentioned Yamatomichi, Yusuke Kurosawa is a designer who has since ventured forth to craft his own narrative with Ridge Mountain Gear. Drawing from four years of expertise, Kurosawa set to blur the line between mountain attire and urban wear. The journey began in Zushi, Kanagawa, where Kurosawa did all the sewing by himself. Recently, he's started enlisting help via collaborations with sewing ateliers and pattern makers across Japan. Crafting everything from shirts to backpacks, Ridge Mountain Gear is quickly catching up to Yamatomichi to become a go-to brand for hikers in Japan.
The epitome of a garage brand, Jindaiji Mountain Works (JMM) is the brainchild of Mitsuteru Ozaki, affectionately known as Jackie Boy Slim. Ozaki took the leap in creating the brand at age 39, turning away from the dead end company job he previously held. The hallmark of JMM and the contribution to the Japan hiker community that put him on peoples’ radar is the Hillbilly Pot, an ultra lightweight cooker that opts for aluminum instead of the pricier titanium. The cookware exemplifies a quality that Ozaki often shows in his items: simplicity. Other items that Ozaki produces include experimental Polartec Alpha Direct cardigans, colorful synthetic down kangaroo anoraks, and a variety of shelters and hammocks.
Teton Bros. was born in 2007 out of founder Noriyuki Suzuki’s profound connection with Grand Teton National Park. It was there that a decade of post-university experiences had an undeniable impact on him, and where the namesake of the company comes from. After spending time working for American ski brand SPYDER, Suzuki wound up carving his own niche in outdoor attire, laying the foundation for Teton Bros. The brand has a versatile selection for winter sports, hiking, running, and more—they even outfit Hokkaido ski patrols for field testing. Most of their gear has an “earth tone” allure, a wave that’s sweeping across Japan, and then there’s the brand's signature diagonal asymmetrical zipper, a detail that has become one of their hallmarks.
Locus Gear has made its mark as one of the ultimate choices for hikers seeking an ultralight advantage in tents and shelters. The brand was founded in 2009 by Jotaro Yoshida in Sagamihara, Kanagawa. For ultralight purists, Locus Gear is a revelation—every shelter can be personalized down to the smallest details, like zippers and guy line loops. From emerging materials like DCF eVent to the rugged resilience of Tyvek, Locus Gear’s offerings exemplify precision and innovation. Their pyramid tents, cast in earth tones, set a distinctive tone amidst Japan’s mountain encampments, standing out from the vibrant domes offered by industry giants like Montbell.
Trail Bum is another brand on the list with a diverse repertoire spanning jackets, backpacks, and tarps. Founded in 2015 by Tomoya Tsuchiya, Trail Bum finds its roots connected with his Tokyo-based outdoor heaven, Hiker’s Depot. Tsuchiya wanted a brand that was for people who were just as enthusiastic and immersed in the outdoors as he was, and takes inspiration from the long distance hikers of the U.S. Trail Bum's no-frills style doesn’t always have the bells and whistles that other gear on this list has, but it embodies a classic ultralight style and is pure function. Case in point: their recent collaboration with Nanga to create an ultra-warm down jacket for those cold early mornings before you get moving.
“Hiker Trash" is a moniker that resonates as a badge of honor within the history of long-trail hiking. It’s both a term of endearment and an acknowledgement of the wild unkempt allure that surrounds those who choose to tackle long-distance trails, especially in the U.S. Enter Ryosuke Kawato, an experienced hiker and one of the founders of this small Japanese outdoor brand. As a Triple Crown completer—someone who has thru-hiked the three most famous American long trails, the Pacific Crest Trail, Continental Divide Trail, and Appalachian Trail—he has experienced hiker trash culture firsthand. Partnering with sock company ROTORO, Kawato brings a touch of that trail spirit to Japan, weaving it into each pair of socks he produces. Think of them as a fashionable, Japanese alternative to something like Darn Tough.
Anyone who's a fan of the Snow Peak tents should have Sabbatical on their radar. Basically the antithesis of Locus Gear when it comes to weight, Sabbatical makes tents and tarps for those who want to appreciate the outdoors by car camping with many of the comforts of home. The brand was the vision of the outdoor gear importer A&F Corporation (the A and F being Akatsu and Fujita, the company's founders). The name itself is meant to encapsulate the brand’s essence—a call to “take a break from work and return to your original self” in the great outdoors. Sabbatical stands apart by embracing a design philosophy of functional beauty, quality, and rational price points. Their tents and tarps come in an earthy sandstone hue, a single colorway that effortlessly blends into any environment with nature as the backdrop.