What to Bring on the West Coast Trail
If you ask ten different hikers what to bring on the West Coast Trail, you'll get ten different answers. Packing for a hiking trip is as personal as each individual. Some people can't go without deodorant while others insist on bringing beer, in bottles no less.
When hiking the West Coast Trail, prepare for any emergency first before packing any luxuries. Lack of proper equipment for the trail & weather conditions can quickly ruin a trip and possibly lead to injuries or worse.
The trail is closed in the wet winter months and in the summer and autumn, the air can be dry and hot. But the unpredictable weather from the Pacific Ocean can still bring in strong winds and heavy rain at any time. Unfortunately, you only have enough room in your backpack to prepare for all possible conditions.
YOUR CHALLENGE - To stuff your pack with enough food, clothing, camping equipment and emergency supplies while not weighing you down. Depending on your age, physical condition and hiking experience, your backpack should be between 1/4 and 1/3 of your bodyweight.
Absolute Necessities for Your Backpack
- Water Bottle - We can't live without water.
- Water Purifier - Bring either filter or chlorine tablets just in case you can't boil water.
- Backpack - A waterproof one would be good but not necessary if you line it first with a heavy-duty garbage bag.
- Tent - A two or three person tent is lightweight and small. Include a water-proof fly on the front to make getting & out cleaner.
- Sleeping Bag - A synthetic-filled one won't retain moisture. Select one with a rating down to 0 C (32 F).
- Air-mattress - A thin, inflatable one will cushion your back from rocks & tree-roots.
- Repair Kit - patches & nylon thread for fixing the tent, backpack & sleeping gear.
- Knife - Will come in handy for all purposes including eating.
- Flash Light - A head-lamp is preferable so you'll have two free hands.
- Fire-Starter Kit - Flint, water-proof matches, lighter, tea-candles. Candles provide a continuous flame that will help ignite damp wood.
- Map, Tide-Table & Compass - These will help keep you going in the right direction.
- Watch - You'll only need this for scheduling your beach walks at low tide, otherwise, time has forgotten about the West Coast Trail.
- First Aid Kit - Just in case an accident happens. Make sure to include blister treatments.
- Sunscreen & Insect Repellant - These can always come in handy.
- Toiletries - Make sure to keep your toothpaste with your food otherwise the smell can attract rodents & bears.
- Small Towel - For wiping your feet, face & hands.
- Rope - At least 10 meters of rope would come in handy for hanging food-bags, tarps or emergencies.
- Plastic Bags - Necessary for putting wet items in your backpack without soaking your fresh supplies.
What to Wear
- Boots - Make sure to wear them before hitting the trail. Waterproof them just before the start of the trip.
- Socks - Bring comfortable socks, at least 1 pair for each day.
- Gaiters - These are necessary for keeping dirt & mud from entering the top of the boot. Especially handy for the sandy beach portions.
- Hat - Wear your favourite hat but it will probably get soaked. Bring one that will keep its shape to provide shade & protection of your face.
- Wind Pants - In autumn, this was the only pair of pants I brought. It protected me from the wind & rain. A guy in my party wore jeans and he made out just fine even though he got soaked.
- Shorts - Necessary when crossing the creeks.
- Shirts - Select breathable material to remain comfortable. Reuse shirts for more than one day. Everyone in your party will be going without a shower for a week... you're all going to stink no matter what.
- Underwear - Stay comfortable down under.
- Fleece Sweater - Fleece is breathable and doesn't absorb as much water as heavy cotton sweat-shirts.
- Rain Coat - Absolutely necessary. Rain pants are also needed if you're not already wearing wind-pants.
- Sandals - Needed for crossing streams. Your feet will LOVE them around camp.
- Sunglasses - It can get REAL bright along the beach.
What to Cook With
- Water Bottle - Store extra water to cook with.
- Stove & Fuel - Cooking with campfires is hard. Bring a one-burner stove for convenience.
- Two Pots - One for boiling water and the other for making your food.
- Cup - Bring a plastic or enamel one that can't break.
- Bowl - It's smaller than a plate and is easier to hold with cold hands.
- Utensils - A fork, spoon & knife are needed. Bring metal ones for use over the flame.
- Plastic Bags - Used to hold clean or wet cutlery & cooking utensils.
- Biodegradable Soap & Washcloth - Used for cleaning up.
What to Eat
You have to be creative to make sure that you carry enough of food to provide plenty of nutrients yet not weigh your backpack down too much. Since you'll be expending lots of energy on the trail, you'll need carbohydrates & high-energy foods.
STRONG RECOMMENDATION - If you're going to bring expensive powdered meals, make sure you can digest them first in the comfort of your own home. There may not be a pit-toilet available on the trail when you need one!
Plan on doing group meals so one person doesn't have to come up with 7 or 8 days of planning.
Bring more food than what you think is necessary just in case you're held up on the trail for an extra day or two.
Nice to Carry
- Hiking Pole - No matter your age, an adjustable pole helps keep you balanced.
- Tarp - These can come in handy for added protection from the wind & rain.
- Day Pack - Not necessary if you'll be backpacking non-stop.
- Gloves - They come in handy on cold mornings and when traversing the ladders.
- Cell Phone - There is cell phone service through the American providers across the Juan de Fuca Strait along the Olympic Peninsula (CDMA from Sprint & Verizon), GSM/UMTS from AT&T & T-Mobile). Roaming charges are expensive. There is no coverage from Canadian operators.
- Camera - Bring one that can withstand high humidity or at least waterproof protection from the elements.
- Binoculars - These are nice to have along the coast where the birds may be out on a reef.
View Hiking the West Coast Trail on Vancouver Island in a larger map
Determining what to bring on the West Coast TrailM/span> is easy. The hard part is making it all fit in your backpack and carrying it around for 75 kilometers.
Get more insider tips on Canadian Adventures at Scenic Travel Canada.