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Gear Essentials for the Iconic West Coast Trail

Heading to Canada to do the West Coast Trail? Here are some items you can bring to maximize enjoyment.

By: Tanner Thompson + Save to a List

When I was working at an outdoors store on Vancouver Island I had numerous questions about the West Coast Trail and believe it or not people were considering going without some of these essential items. The West Coast Trail is unlike any trail in the world and special in its own way but can be very challenging if ill experienced or underprepared, but if you make sure to bring these pieces of gear you should be laughing!

1. Hiking Poles

Now, this may seem like a no-brainer, but I can't tell you how many times I've asked people if they were planning on bringing poles and the answer wasn't "of course". I think there is still a big debate around this one, but I would say they are the single more useful (and fairly inexpensive) piece of equipment you will utilize every day on the trail. The inconvenience of packing them to the side of your pack so you can climb a ladder every so often is drastically overshadowed by the advantages of having them with you. Think about it like this; without poles - 2x4. With poles - 4x4. Which would you rather have?

2. Waterproof Pack Cover

If you've got a waterproof coat, boots, pants etc. your way ahead of the game but it's easy to forget to get a waterproof pack cover. This is an area where you don't want to pinch pennies, or just grab any cover and not fit it properly. Make sure your bag is fully packed when you test out the cover to see if it fits because next thing you know your out on the trail with a pack cover that says it's the right amount of liters for your bag but weirdly enough it's too small and you have to MacGyver some system to keep the top half on while tying the bottom half to your pack (may or may not have happened to me). So get a cover, and test it out first.

3. Gloves

Now gloves are not an essential piece of equipment in your bag but can sure come in handy for a few sections of the West Coast Trail. There are countless ladders (someone probably counted how many there are though) and a few cable car crossings where you have to pull yourself across using the cable (if someone is on the other side they can help pull you across to lessening your workload). Gloves in these instances are a God send, saving your already beat up body from more unnecessary abuse. If you have extra room in your pack consider taking some gloves, even old biking gloves work, nothing fancy.

Don't bring a pan. (Found in our pack from a previous trip, wondering if it's still there?)


4. Water Filtration

The water purification tablets are still my personal favorite, even though they have a funny aftertaste, but the liquid ones supposedly do the same thing and have less if not any after taste at all (yet to try these). These options save you a lot of weight and space in your pack as opposed to a bigger water filtration system. Either way, you need something out on the trail and whatever you choose make sure you have enough tablets to get you through the trail and some. 

5. WaterProof Bags

Freezer bags work well to separate your clothes and to also keep them dry if in the unfortunate event your pack gets wet. You can buy waterproof dry bags at almost any outdoors store but they can get expensive if you're getting a lot. If you get only one dry bag make sure it's for your sleeping bag, this item should be top of mind on the things you shouldn't get wet out on the trail. You have extra socks, shirts, and can dry out your boots but your sleeping bag can be hellish to get dry and can be downright dangerous with falling temperatures are night. So yeah, get some waterproof bags...it's going to be wet...

6. First Aid Kit (Especially Blister Stuff)

If your boots or socks get wet you can be sure you're going to have a bad time, and with that bad time comes blisters. Heck, you'll get blisters even if you're dry. Make sure to pack enough Mole Skin for 4 people, you may use it all on yourself anyways. 

7. Base Camp Shoes

What I mean is shoes to wear around after you're done hiking for the day. Crocs even though ridiculous looking are very practical and can be fastened to the outside of a pack easily with a carabiner. If you don't have those and don't want to be seen buying them, flip flops work also. I would stay away from bringing an extra pair of shoes, just due to the weight factor your pack is going to be heavy as it is, there's no need to bring your favorite pair of Vans that you bring on every camping trip. 

8. Tide Chart & Trail Map

As per standard, you will get a tide chart when you start the West Coast Trail that highlights high and low tide on the trail. I believe it is waterproofed already but it's a good idea to keep it in a place where it won't get wet just in case. This is your lifeline to know when you can continue beach hiking or when you have to hop back on the trail. Many people have gotten stuck when the tide rose suddenly and have been forced to trudge back to the trail with wet boots and have even died because of misreading the tidal chart. There are some sections that require you to start almost immediately when the tide starts going out in order to make it safely to the next part of the trail.  Now, most of the beach hiking is optional and the same route goes through the trees, but anyone who's done this trail knows that beach hiking is a breeze when compared to some of the forested sections, so if you do take the sandy route make sure to check the tide first. 

9. Gaiters

I don't know if people would consider gaiters an essential item to pick up if you don't have them already, but you're going to be walking through mud, and water, and dirt, and rocks and you don't want any of that stuff in your boots. Just think about all the stuff that could get inside your boots... go on think about it... now think about how you would feel if those things were inside your boots (seaweed, mud, bears... ok not bears). Probably don't want that stuff in there. I think I've made my point.

Now I am assuming you have got a good waterproof coat, boots, and well-fitted pack. If not go back to your local outdoor store and get those items first that is essential gear. Other things to consider would be sunscreen, bug spray, bear spray, multitool, camp towel, chap stick, headlamp, rope, and any camera gear with batteries you may need to last you 7 days. The West Coast Trail is a wet one, so think about that first when buying gear, will it keep me dry or will this suck if it gets wet?, and what do I need to do to stop it from getting wet? Remember these gear options and hopefully, your time on the world famous West Coast Trail will be an enjoyable one. 

Oh yeah, we brought a can of SPAM and it was glorious. Sizzle, Pork, And Mmm.

We want to acknowledge and thank the past, present, and future generations of all Native Nations and Indigenous Peoples whose ancestral lands we travel, explore, and play on. Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures and follow local regulations. Please explore responsibly!

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