What NOT to Bring on the West Coast Trail

You see some funny things on the trail, some can be categorized as “luxury items”, some brought due to lack of experience, and others are just funny. I’m going to lay out the things NOT to bring on the West Coast Trail (WCT). All of these items I have seen while backpacking or heard about from a friend. This list isn’t meant to be preachy. It is more to get you thinking on what kind of gear is necessary for your trip (and what might be illegal). Feel free to bring 100 cans of tuna if it will make you happy on the trip, because it really is about getting out there and enjoying yourself!

Cotton

There is a reason for the saying “cotton kills”. While cotton can be great at keeping you cool, it will also be cause problems if it is wet and cold out (which it often is on the WCT). Quick dry fabrics like polyester and wicking fabrics like wool/polyester are your best bets on the trail.

Axe/ Saw

There is a lot of driftwood at each of the WCT campsites. While a saw or axe may help make a raging fire, I found it is easy enough to get by breaking sticks/logs with my feet. It is also fairly easy to find smaller pieces of wood. Save the weight and leave the axe and saw at home.

Big Knife/ Multitool

This item might be controversial because a lot of people really enjoy their big knife or multitool. While a smaller Leatherman PS4 might be worth it for the minor weight, a 300+ gram knife or multitool is not needed on the trail. Any repairs or cutting you need to do can easy be done with a smaller tool like the PS4 or a Swiss Army Classic. That being said, I’m not going to tell someone with a big knife what to do!

Firearms

Firearms are illegal to have on the trail. If you are really worried about bears, bring bear spray. If you are worried about people, I can assure you that everyone is super friendly and out to enjoy this beautiful trail just like you!

Drone

Drones are another illegal item. Parks Canada has banned the recreational use of drones in all National Parks, including the park the WCT is in.

Canned Food

While not illegal, I highly discourage you from bringing canned food! Canned food is extremely heavy. Take a look at my food post for recommendations on planning food for the WCT.

Fresh Fruit/ Vegetables

It may be tempting to bring apples or potatoes for the trail, but these items are unnecessarily heavy. Dehydrated options exist and are your best bet for saving your back from the weight of fresh fruit and vegetables.

“Packing Your Fears”

This is a phrase used in the backpacking community to describe an item that is packed “just in case” or to address an imagined problem. Often, packing your fears takes the form of bringing too much food, extra clothes, redundant repair and first aid kits, etc. While it is good to be prepared, it’s important to be aware of the conditions you’ll be backpacking in and plan accordingly (e.g. you don’t need an ice axe on the WCT just in case it snows in July). This becomes more important in groups – one tent pole repair kit may be enough for your group instead of each person bringing one. Bringing an extra days worth of food “just in case” is probably not needed either.

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