West Coast Trail Gear Recommendations

With this post, I am going to go through everything that I think someone should have in their pack for hiking the WCT. At some points, I will provide recommendations for specific brands and models of gear that I think stand above the competition.

I hiked the West Coast Trail (WCT) in July of 2018. Before starting the trail, I did a ton of research on gear that I would need for the trail. My goal was to be comfortable but also have a pack weight of around 30 lbs or less (and succeeded). The WCT is unique in that it is a coastal trail, in the middle of a rainforest. It is often wet and you move from hiking muddy forest trail to open sandy beaches. It is easy to pack your fears and bring everything but the kitchen sink. Take it from me, you can have a 30 lbs pack and be extremely comfortable, it just takes some planning and careful consideration.

Here is a link to the lighterpack gear list for the specific gear that I brought on the trail:
https://lighterpack.com/r/dnfx52

Let’s get into it.


Shelter

Tent
  • Choose something light yet durable.
  • A 2-person tent is the most versatile and what most people go with.
  • I’d aim to be under 2kg for a 2-person tent.
  • Something that is nice, but not essential is being able to set up the fly without the inside of the tent. This is particularly useful when it is raining. For some tents, you will need the footprint to be able to do this.
  • Footprints are no necessary for the WCT. You are mostly camping on sand!
  • You’re next to the water, so condensation can be an issue. A lot of mesh and double walled tents help with this.
  • Here’s a Youtube review of the tent I used on the trail, the Marmot Tungsten UL 2P (https://youtu.be/0E_lsNIQAvc).
Tents at Thrasher Cove Campsite
Stakes
  • Bring decent stakes that are a good length.
  • Even with good stakes, I still put rocks on top of them to help hold them into the sand.
Tarp – optional
  • A tarp is not required, but can be a much needed refuge when it is raining a lot on the trail.
  • A 10×10 ft tarp would be perfect.

Justin’s Recommendation: LiteOutdoors Silnylon Tarp & Guylines/Tensioners


Sleeping

Sleeping Bag
  • It is fairly warm on the WCT. All of the men in my group had 0 C sleeping bags and all the women had -7 C and everyone was comfortable.
  • While down would be lighter and more compressible, synthetic is recommended for the WCT as it will keep you warm even if it gets a little damp and will dry quicker.

Justin’s Recommendation: MEC Synthetic 0 Degree Bag

Sleeping Pad
  • Similar to the sleeping bag, the sleeping pad does not need to be overly warm.
  • I used a 3.3 R-value pad and was great. > 2 R-value is probably ideal as the sand might suck some heat out of you.
  • Air inflatable is better than self-inflate as they are lighter.
Pillow – optional
  • I love sleeping with a pillow and find the extra weight to be worth it for a good night’s rest. An inflatable one is ideal.

Justin’s Recommendation: Trekology Pillow


Hydration

Purification
  • There are two good options for purifying water on the trail: purification tabs and a membrane filter.
  • The Sawyer Squeeze is the dominant membrane filter on the market and the system I used for the trail. Combined with the CNOC Vecto water bladder below, the system has been described as “life changing” and “best thing ever”. With the filter, you can drink water immediately. I would usually drink half a litre at the stream and then fill my 2 1-litre bottles. The Sawyer is compatible with any 28 mm water bottle or container.
  • Purification tabs are lighter and easier, but have a 30min waiting period before you can consume the water. This can make timing water refills difficult.

Justin’s Recommendation: Sawyer Squeeze

Bladder
  • It is nice to have a bit of extra water capacity and a water bladder can help with that.
  • In particular, the CNOC Vecto water bladder works extremely well with the sawyer squeeze filter.

Justin’s Recommendation: CNOC Vecto 2.0

Water bottles
  • Don’t bring nalgenes! They are so heavy and unnecessary.
  • I recommend plastic water bottles. I personally used the 1-litre smartwater bottles with the sport caps on them.
  • Bring extra caps for your water bottles, you might lose them!

Kitchen

Pots and Pans
  • 1 L of pot space per person should suffice for re-hydrating and cooking meals. If you only need the pot for boiling water to put into a pouch, you could get by with much less.
  • Bringing an entire kitchen is unnecessary

Justin’s Recommendation: Evernew Pasta Pot (medium)

Bowls and Plates
  • Get a set that nests within the pot. I find just bringing a bowl is enough for meals.
Stove
  • You are at sea level, so the heavy duty white gas and multi-fuel stoves are unnecessary. The MSR pocket rocket or an equivalent small stove works perfectly.

Justin’s Recommendation: MSR Pocket Rocket Deluxe

Utensils
  • Bring a spoon. That’s all you need for eating and it can be used to stir and serve food.
Fuel
  • We used about 100 g of fuel per person with a lot of wasted fuel and inefficiencies.
Breakfast at Bonilla Point

Footwear and Stuff

Boots
  • Boots vs trail runner. I spent a lot of time looking into this and ended up taking boots, with no regrets.  A pair of waterproof boots will deal with the mud and water much easier than trail runners.
  • Even after 7 days of hot sunny weather and then the same weather on my trip, there was still tons of mud everywhere. Two of my crew wore trail runners and did okay, but still had wet and muddy feet for some of the trip.
  • People in boots had no complaints.
Trekking Poles
  • Absolutely necessary for when you are hopping through mud puddles on sunk logs and roots.
  • I would have taken several spills into mud if it weren’t for trekking poles.

Justin’s Recommendation: Cascade Mountain Tech Cork and Carbon Fibre (from Costco)

Gaiters – optional
  • For the really muddy sections of the trail, gaiters are super helpful.
  • If the weather is looking nice, you may want to consider leaving the gaiters at home as the trail is manageable with waterproof boots. Gaiters will keep some mud off your legs but are also very warm and extra weight when not using them.
  • I had good weather on my trip and wore the gaiters for ~20% of the time, but really didn’t need to.

Justin’s Recommendation: Outdoor Research Verglas Men’s & Women’s

Camp shoes – optional
  • Don’t bring anything heavy but if you have a light pair of sandals, camp shoes can be nice to air your feet out when in camp.

Clothing

In general, I think people bring way too much clothing on the trip. If things are wet, they are going to be wet and having more clothing just increased how much sopping stuff you have in your pack. If things are dry, then maybe you have an opportunity to bathe and wash your clothes. I bathed and washed some clothes every day – I managed to avoid stinking too badly all trip. Depending on the weather, this may not be an option though and you should just embrace the stink. An extra shirt or socks will not help you. Bring the minimum to stay warm.

  • 2 – Socks
  • 2 – Underwear
  • 1 – Shorts
  • 1 – Pants (optional)
  • 1 – Hiking shirt
  • 1 – Camp shirt
  • 1 – Hat
  • 1 – Rain Jacket
  • 1 – Rain Pants (optional)
  • 1 – Long pants
  • 1 – Long-sleeved shirt
  • 1 – Insulated jacket
Thom (left) and I (right) ready to go

Safety

Satellite communicator – optional
  • I had a Garmin Inreach on the trail and it was great for providing updates to my family.
  • I also highly recommend it over the Spot or PLB devices due to the ability to 2-way communicate. 2-way communication is actually essential on the WCT because an SOS may not be the best option while on the trail.
  • For situations that were not life and death, I set up a non-emergency protocol with my family. This is a system I got parks buy-in on as it is efficient and allows for an appropriate rescue response:
    1. Message check-in contact that there is a non-emergency issue (like someone sprained an ankle and cannot continue or is giving up). Describe the situation to the contact. Make sure to include Lat/Long in your message.
    2. Contact will call Parks Canada emergency # and describe the situation. Contact will forward the InReach message email to Parks Canada.
    3. Parks Canada will try to make contact with the InReach while keeping your Contact on the line.
  • If there is an emergency, press the SOS button.

Justin’s Recommendation: Garmin Inreach Mini

First aid kit
  • I brought a pretty basic first aid kit that consisted of tapes, drugs, and cut treatment items.
  • I also included a light-weight CPR facemask.
Headlamp
  • I do not think I used my headlamp once on the trip, so I would avoid something super heavy duty.
  • We were in bed before sundown pretty much every night.
  • Still good to have just-in-case.

Justin’s Recommendation: Nitecore Nu25


Hygiene

While you should embrace being stinky, that doesn’t mean you should become a complete animal. Bring toilet paper (not the whole roll) and your everyday toiletries (toothbrush, toothpaste, floss). Soap is essential as washing your hands after #2 is the only way to truly clean your hands – hand sanitizer just doesn’t cut it for poop.

Shower at Tsusiat Falls

Miscellaneous

I think this is where people can end up bringing the kitchen sink. Keep it simple and essential. Have a big enough battery to keep your electronics (e.g. cell phone, head lamp, watch, etc.) charged and some lip chap, sunscreen, and sunglasses for sun protection. A small multitool like swiss army classic is great and lightweight. You don’t need a giant leatherman, hatchets, saws, etc.

A couple of optional items are a rope and a sit pad. A rope is great to have to hang wet gear on at the end of the day. A sit pad is really nice to cushion and insulate when sitting on logs or rocks. The sit pad was especially nice when sitting on wet logs and was one of my favourite pieces of gear.


Pack

  • Pack should be one of the last things you buy because how much other stuff you have dictates how big of a pack you need.
  • Minimum 50 L, depending on how good at packing you are
  • If you don’t have a pack already, try on a bunch at the store. Make sure to put 20-30 lbs in the pack (stores have weight bags) and walk around the store for awhile.
  • Once you get the pack home, pack all your gear into it and make sure everything fits.
  • Go on a couple of practice hikes with your pack and gear inside it.
  • You should have a rain cover or line your pack with a trash compactor bag. I prefer the trash compactor bag because it is lighter and less annoying.
Sean (right), Thom (centre), and I (left)
Dry bags
  • Dry bags are really nice to ensure your stuff stays dry while on the trail, but it is really easy to get carried away.
  • I recommend having 3 dry bags: food (20L), clothing (5-10L), and sleeping bag/pillow (10L).
  • I kept my tent fly and inner in two seperate 5L silnylon stuff sacks, which allowed for storing a wet fly on the outside of my pack.

Food

  • I stored each days food in a freezer bag and then stacked the food in reverse in my 20L food bag.
  • I have another post on food.

Hi guys. Justin here. I hiked the West Coast Trail on Vancouver Island, Canada in the summer of 2018. It was an amazing trip with ups and downs (but mostly ups). Hopefully, with some of these blog posts, I can help people have as an amazing of a trip as I did by taking some of the questions and stress out of planning.

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