Kendo equipment consists of swords (shinai and bokken/bokuto), a uniform (dogi) and armor (bogu).
First, the shinai, is made up of four bamboo staves and leather. It is used for full contact sparring practice. Second, the bokken or bokuto, is a solid wood sword made of oak or another suitable hardwood. The bokken is used for basics and forms practice (kata).
The uniform or dogi consists of woven cotton top called a keikogi and pleated skirt-like trousers called a hakama.
The armor or bogu consists of four pieces: the helmet (men), the body protector (do), the gloves (kote), and the hip and groin protector (tare). Modern Kendo armor design is fashioned after the Oyoroi of the samurai class of feudal Japan.
A shinai consists of four lengths of polished bamboo (take) which fit together. These strips are held together with a leather cover (sakigawa) which serves as the point (kensen).The shinai comes in two different materials: bamboo and carbon fibre. The latter lasts longer but is more expensive and requires a certain amount of care. Therefore a bamboo shinai is recommended both for the beginner and expert. The shinai come usually in two different sizes: 38 and 39 for adults. The International Kendo Federation rules prescribe a maximum length of 120 cm (size 39) and a minimum weight of 500 g for a male kendoka over 19 years old. For a female kendoka the minimum weight is 420 g (excluding the weight of tsuba).
A brand new shinai also needs some attention before use and looking-after during its life. If properly treated a shinai can last quite a long time. When a new shinai is purchased the edges are too sharp and therefore must be sanded down with common sand paper. Many fencers maintain the natural humidity of the bamboo by periodically applying a coating of oil to the dry canes. Life can also be extended by storing your shinai in a humid place.
Maintenance of your shinai should happen after every practice. Depending on humidity, you should be oiling your shinai at least once a week. Here is an excellent page that shows how to properly maintain your shinai.
The bokuto or bokken is a hard wooden replica of a samurai sword, the katana. Often it comes with its companion kodachi, which represents the short sword. The bokuto is 1.05 m long and weighs on average 500 grams. Nowadays it is only used to perform kata. It can come in several types of wood and prices. For a beginner, a standard bokken made of red or white oak (most common wood for bokken construction) is more than sufficient.
The kendo uniform consists of two parts: the keikogi and the hakama.
Keikogi & Hakama
The keikogi is a jacket made of cotton material. The keikogi should be loose-fitting, so that it offers no confinement about the shoulder area. Sleeves should be long enough to cover the elbows. The keikogi is the first item to be worn. The hakama is a divided skirt which allows freedom of leg movement for the student. It also aids in concealing the foot movements from an opponent. After putting on the keikogi, one then steps into the hakama. holding the front section (the part without the stiff board, koshi-ita). and wraps the two long tapes back at waist height, bringing them back round to the front, and securing them with a bow at the back. A small white plastic plate should be tucked into this bow and the two shorter tapes are then tied at the front and the ends tucked away. The hakama should not be so long that it drags on the floor, causing one to trip.
Here is an excellent page on how to fold your hakama.
Kendo armor consists of four pieces: the helmet (men), body protector (do), gauntlets (kote), and the hip/groin protector (tare).
The men (helmet) is a face mask, worn over the head with chin and forehead resting on their respectivc padded rests. The men is secured in position with a pair of himo. The tenugui (cotton towel) is tied around the head, with the men worn over top of it. It provides some extra cushioning, as well as keeping hair and perspiration off the brow.
The do (chest protector) is held over the chest, and the long right cord is bought over the left shoulder and knotted to the left mune-chikawa (loop). The left cord crosses to the right in a similar fashion. Slip knots should be used as these are easy to untie.
The kote are a pair of padded gloves. The left is put on first and taken off last. To put them on or remove them, use the sleeve area (tsutsu). Tugging at the hand portion weakens it.
The tare (thigh protector) is the first piece to be put on. It is wrapped around the waist with the three odare (front flaps) facing out and the tare-obi (waist sash) in line with the top of the hakama. The waki-himo (cords) are passed around the waist and tied securely in front under the large centre flap.