Hiking Smart: Packing for the West Coast Trail

To better help you be prepared for hiking the West Coast Trail, we’ve put a list together of things you need to bring. Starting with your pack, you’re going to want a pack that’s made of sturdy construction and good materials. You’re going to want a well-padded shoulder strap and waist band. For women, the ideal weight to carry is ¼ of your body weight and for men it’s a 1/3 of your body weight. Anything over that and you might want to reconsider what you’re bringing along with you. I’ve done this now 19 times, that’s 116 days over 1000 miles on the trail. I have never had a blister. For your footwear, you’re going to want a sturdy pair of boots. Preferably something that goes above the ankle to provide better support. You need to have boots that you’ve worn before you’ve gotten out here. Boots that are comfortable on your feet and sturdy enough to support your ankles. When you buy your pair of boots, buy a good pair and take 2 hours to buy them. Try on ½ dozen pairs. Walk around the store… Something else a lot of hikers like to use out of here and what I think is a really good idea is to have a good set of hiking poles. It’s great for crossing creeks, they help you gain your balance in there, the rocks are often algae covered and very slippery. It also helps you get through the mud pits because you don’t see what’s in the mud, you don’t know how deep it is, you don’t know if there’s something solid down there you could step on. So the poles are invaluable for that—for feeling your way through. Make sure you have a full rain suit for hiking the West Coast Trail. We get rain here any time of the year and lots of it. You could be out here for days in the rain. I hope you’re not but you could be. You’re also going to want to bring some warm gloves and a warm hat. It’s important to have a warm, dry and lightweight tent that has a waterproof fly. Options for sleeping—you’re going to want to bring a synthetic sleeping bag. Down sleeping bags can stay wet if they get wet. Synthetic sleeping bags will dry quicker. And you might also want to pack it in a plastic bag in order to reduce the chances of it getting wet. Once your tent and sleeping bag and everything’s set up for night, you’re going to want to cook some food. There’s creeks on a lot of the campgrounds, along the West Coast Trail. From those creeks you should always boil your water, or filter it or use iodine tablets, some kind of purification system. For cooking, you’re going to want to bring lightweight equipment, that includes a back country stove and some pots. Ideally you don’t want to bring all the pots in your collection. You might want to think about how many people you’re bringing and how big the meals you’re going to be making. And maybe just simplify it by bringing 1 pot for food and 1 pot for water, or even if you might be able to get away with 1 pot for the group. For food, you’re going to want to pack light weight and high energy food. We recommend freeze dried options, a lot of energy bars, and items that don’t have a lot of packaging. An option you can do is to remove some of the items from their packaging before heading out on the trail and wrapping them up in Ziploc. Some other stuff hopefully you’re not going to have to pull out of your backpack but you should have with you is you should have a really good first aid kit, something that will treat bee stings, will treat blisters, will treat small cuts. All the kinds of things you could think you’ll find out here. Have some sunscreen, a little tube of sunscreen. Make sure you’ve got several tensure bandages in there if you need them or if someone else you meet on the trail needs them. On the West Coast Trail, you can see in any day, you could see lots of bald eagles, you could see whales off shore, you can see river otters running up and down the beaches. Cougar, bear, wolf also frequent the area. You’ll likely only see sign of those animals. For hiking in cougar, bear and wolf country, the best thing you can do is manage the food around your campsite and anything that might have any kind of smell or attract wildlife that be make them curious. It could be your deodorant or your toothpaste. So think about all the things that are scented that you need to manage at night. Make sure all your food is put away in bear lockers that we have provided on the trail. If there’s no lockers available or they’re full, which sometimes happens in the middle of the summer in July and August, you can also hang your food. You’re going to need 15 metres of rope and a some kind of bag you can gather everything in, anything that has a scent—your pots, your pans, all your food, anything you’ve cooked and eaten with, soap, toothpaste, all that stuff gets put in a bag and you’ll hang it. It’s important to remember everything you bring on the West Coast Trail you need to take out with you. So bring something like a heavy duty garbage bag or a large ziplock bag that you can put all your waste in and you take it all out when you leave. Some items you don’t want to bring on the trail includes canned food. Water’s available along the length of the trail. Again, please bring dehydrated foods. Already mixed juices. Juice crystals are a great option instead of bringing the weight of juice. Heavy fresh vegetables, like onions or potatoes, are definitely not recommended as well. Again, those things can be found dehydrated. Large heavy cooking utensils. Again, go with the light-weight pot set. And finally, stay away from bringing anything cotton, especially large towels. Camp towels are available and are definitely light weight. Here are a few items that are available at the trail head information centres. We have a West Coast Trail trail map that is produced by Parks Canada and covers kilometre by kilometre the trail. It also includes information on backcountry etiquette, public safety messaging and history of the West Coast Trail. You’ll also get a tide chart which provides the tides for the week you will be hiking, as well as a West Coast Trail safety information sheet which is information that explains to you how to contact emergency personnel in an emergency. Yeah, don’t wear cotton. It will never dry. Pack light. I would say wear gators. Get good gators cause it’s really muddy. And I was wearing beige pants to start off with, which is not a good plan. Bringing our spam cans probably wasn’t a good idea… The things I’ve been happiest about being prepared for have been having the right boots that somebody really helped me pick out, an expert, and having trekking poles has been essential. Start to love ladders and mud and sweat. And be friendly to people because we met some amazing people on this trail.

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