West Coast Trail Hiker Survey – 2019

Hello! In the fall of 2019, I surveyed people who had hiked the West Coast Trail in 2019. This was the first year of the survey, but I plan on making it an annual event! There is a lot of great information in the survey, from average age, average fitness level, to what type of footwear people wore. In total, over 150 people responded to the survey!

The data is a fairly small sample size, so take the results and my associated musings with a grain of salt. You always want to be looking at your trip choice with your personal experience and inclinations in mind.

Check out the end of the survey results for a way to sign-up and get notified when the 2020 WCT Survey goes live!

Let’s jump into it with the results!

Age

There were people from every age category who hiked the trail in 2019, with 40-49 year olds taking the biggest slice of the pie. The under 20 and over 70 crowd had little representation, which is expected for a hike like this. Many of you may be surprised at how many 50+ hikers hit the trail though!

Sex

65% of the survey respondents were female, which contradicts most assumptions of hiking and backpacking demographics. 

Forms response chart. Question title: Sex. Number of responses: 100 responses.

Country of residence

The vast majority of respondents were Canadian. There were about a dozen people from the US and a smattering from Europe and Asia.

Province of residence (if Canadian)

The British Columbians are really taking advantage of this awesome trail right in their backyard. Makes sense Alberta is #2 with all the hiking and hikers available to that province.

First multi-day hike?

This was a surprising one! 31% said that this was their first multi-day hike! I would have expected that there would have been more people who would have gone on at least one overnighter prior to the WCT to test out gear and make sure they have their systems in place. I highly recommend testing out gear before long trips! As I explain in this video on my YouTube channel – https://youtu.be/lNvz4kQL_Ds

Forms response chart. Question title: First multi-day hiking trip?. Number of responses: 160 responses.

Number of people in group

This one was also surprising. I would have thought there would be more larger groups. When I hiked the trail, it seemed like the majority of people were in groups of 4+. Maybe that is due to people making friends on the trail – it is a friendly trail!

Forms response chart. Question title: How many people were in your group?. Number of responses: 161 responses.

Days to complete trail

The number of days was as expected. While the WCT isn’t the most difficult trail out there, it is nice to take 6-7 days to take it all in and not be rushed!

Forms response chart. Question title: How many days did it take to complete the trail?. Number of responses: 158 responses.

Month of trip

July has historically been one of the drier months of the year on the WCT. It’s also prime vacation time, so it makes sense that it is the most popular. 

Forms response chart. Question title: What month did you hike in?. Number of responses: 161 responses.

Days of rain

The WCT is notorious for warnings about weather. When I was preparing for the trip, all I heard about was how wet it was going to be. 2019 hikers lucked out with the vast majority of people getting 2 or less days of rain. 30% of people didn’t get rained on at all! Crazy! But also take that into account when asking people for advice about the trail, the most recent crop of hikers got away with some great weather,

Forms response chart. Question title: How many days of rain did you get?. Number of responses: 162 responses.

Favourite campsite

Tsusiat Falls was the #1 campsite for everyone. Lucky for you, it’s also one of the campsites you’re most likely to stay at due to its placement on the trail. Hopefully you get some warm weather so you can bask in the waterfall and swim in the pool. It’s truly stunning.

Training

A lot of people upped their training game for the WCT. While the WCT isn’t a very difficult hike relative to others (especially if you take 6-7 days), it can get tough if you have a heavy pack and go into the hike with a low fitness level. Take a look at my blog post about how to train for the WCT.

Forms response chart. Question title: Did you train specifically for the WCT?. Number of responses: 160 responses.

Total pack weight

The stats around pack rate were eye opening. Out of all the respondents, 44.4% had a pack weight over 40 lbs! If there is one thing I can recommend that is going to improve your enjoyment of the trail, it is to get your pack weight as low as you can. Under 40 lbs is a good goal. A pack weight around 30-35 lbs, for 7 days, is very achievable without spending too much money. Check out my gear list video from when I hiked the trail. I had a pack weight of just over 30 lbs: YouTube Video on my WCT Gear List – https://youtu.be/qrPQTJecODE.

Down or synthetic bag/quilt

It gets stressed in a lot of places that you should use a synthetic bag on the WCT due to the moisture and rain. Based on these results, a lot of people went with a down bag. Considering it doesn’t get very cold on the WCT, this is probably a fine choice. This is one of the scenarios where it’s best just to use what you have. 

Bag/quilt temperature rating

As you can see, most people used a sleeping bag or quilt with a temperature rating between -10 and 0 degrees Celcius. Take these numbers with a grain of salt as I am assuming these are advertised temperature ratings. Companies advertise their temperature ratings differently, with some advertising comfort limits, some advertising lower limits, and some advertising survival limits. If you’re picking up a new sleeping bag or quilt, make sure you’re comparing apples to apples – I like to use comfort limit ratings as that will give me the best real world idea of how warm a bag/quilt is.

Footwear

As you can see, almost everyone wore boots. This is a personal preference, but boots are going to be the better choice for the majority of people.

Forms response chart. Question title: What footwear did you use?. Number of responses: 159 responses.

Trekking poles

Trekking poles are recommended by pretty much everyone and for good reason. They act as your pontoons on the trail when balancing on logs and traversing mud pools by hopping between emerged roots. Just bring them!

Forms response chart. Question title: Did you use hiking poles?. Number of responses: 161 responses.

Gaiters

If you’re wearing boots, you might as well have gaiters. Even if you’re not wearing boots, some ankle gaiters to keep mud and sand out of your shoes is recommended.

Forms response chart. Question title: Did you use gaiters?. Number of responses: 161 responses.

Favourite piece of gear

By far the favourite piece of gear was TREKKING POLES. Trekking poles were the favourite for 90% of respondents. Gaiters, footwear choice, and pack choice also received more than a few mentions.

Best advice for future hikers!

There was some great advice that past hikers wanted to pass on to future hikers! Here is some of that advice summarized:

  1. Get your pack weight down to as low as you can.
  2. Take your time and enjoy the trail.
  3. If you’re not in shape, make sure to train for the trail. Especially if you have a heavy pack.
  4. In-line with #1, don’t pack your fear. It’s easy to pack a bunch of gear for every eventuality, but be practical with what you’re packing.
  5. Bring hiking poles!
  6. Plan for the tides and try to beach walk as much as possible.

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