Originally a life-saving route for shipwreck survivors, the West Coast Trail is today a highly sought-after hiking destination and we will talk about West Coast Trail preparation. Arguably one of Canada’s most iconic hiking trails, the WCT is a 75km journey along the Vancouver Island coastline. Both breathtaking and challenging, it’s a popular path, attracting more than 6,000 hikers a year, the busiest months being June through August.
If you plan to hike on the WCT, you might be wondering what to bring. Read on to find out what you should pack and some vital information you’ll need to know before making the journey.
WCT Is Not for Novices
A note of caution is in order. This is not a trail to take lightly. Many who start strong fail to complete the journey, choosing instead to board the ferry at Nitinat Narrows about halfway through.
Also, estimates show that 80-100 people are evacuated from the West Coast trial every season, primarily due to various accidents, slips, and falls on the rugged terrain. Other reasons include a lack of fitness and experience and poor gear choices.
And rescue is only sometimes quick or easy. The terrain is located in isolated areas subject to quickly changing weather conditions like rain, fog, and wind. Parks Canada notes that rescue may take at least 24 hours.
If you’re a novice hiker not used to carrying a full backpack (which can weigh anywhere between 20-40lbs) or suffer from recurring knee, back, or ankle injuries, this trail may not be for you.
Parks Canada notes that WCT is for hikers who are prepared, experienced, and able to wait if conditions warrant it.
Proceed with caution.
What to Pack West Coast Trail Preparation
If you’re ready for the challenge, then let’s start packing for West Coast Trail preparation.
The WCT is generally very wet and muddy and cool, too. This is true even in summer when the average temperature reaches just 14° Celsius.
Although July through August has the least rainfall, pack a rain jacket and ensure its breathable so you don’t get too hot. A rain jacket is a must-have item if your journey will be in May, June, and September. Periods of heavy rain and flooding are standard during this time.
Also, waterproof hiking boots and wool socks would be excellent choices to ensure your feet are comfortable and dry. There are many hiking boots available for men and women.
One of the most highly recommended for men is the Salomon Quest 4 Gore-Tex. Offering comfort and fit for adventures on demanding trails will provide the traction you need for slippery conditions.
For women, try to check out the La Sportiva Ultra Raptor II Mid GTX. Many reviewers rave about the boot being rugged, lightweight, and comfortable while fit to take on technical and challenging routes.
It would help if you also tried out gaiters. Gaiters strap over your boots and protect your feet against the elements (i.e., rocks, roots, and things like mud). It’s a nice added layer of protection.
For West Coast Trail preparation Sandals or water shoes might be a good choice for you or your kids. There are cable cars to cross the water sometimes, but you can only sometimes rely on them because they aren’t always operating. So, you should get some water shoes or sandals. It’s better than going barefoot. You might risk slipping.
You’ll want a comfortable backpack that isn’t heavy. It’s a long trek, after all. The bag should also have a built-in rain cover. Try out the Gregory Stout brand. It’s a good backpack; it’s lightweight, significant, and comfy, and you can fit all your essentials comfortably.
Be sure to pack light. Follow these tips below if you need some pointers.
- You only need a few clothes and underwear. 2 shirts, 2 pants, and 2 shorts are a good guideline. You should go with quick-drying clothes for your hike.
- Don’t bring anything that’s not necessary (chairs, etc.).
- Share the gear with your group. You might only need one first aid kit.
- And make sure your oversized items are lightweight (sleeping bags, tents, backpacks, etc.). You want to avoid ending up with a 60lb bag! This aligns with Parks Canada’s recommendation that your pack should be around 15-20% of your body weight.
- Think carefully and plan what you will bring for food for the week or longer you’ll be out on the trails.
Food and Nutrition
Pack high-calorie, lightweight foods like trail mix, energy bars, and freeze-dried meals. Ensure you have enough provisions for an extra day, just in case. It’s also a good idea to carry a compact fishing kit; the trail offers several freshwater fishing opportunities.
Tents and Sleeping Bags
Consider rolling out your sleeping bag or a tent when you’re ready to sleep. Packing just a sleeping bag may not be wise for the rainy season. If you’re on a budget and want to go with a tent, try some of these from our budget-friendly list. And if you’re unsure what size tent you need, try this guide to help you determine what’s best for you. Probably the best advice for this particular trail is to go with a freestanding tent. That means it can hold up without being staked to the ground. This kind of tent makes the most sense for the terrain.
You’ll want to take many photos of the gorgeous scenery and fantastic wildlife. But you’ll run out of battery before the trip ends. So, you’ll have to take a few external battery packs with you. Some great choices include the INIU Power Bank or the AsperX 2-Pack. Make sure your battery pack is compatible with your device.
Consider investing in a hiking pole like this one. With rugged terrain, it’s easy to lose your balance. A hiking pole can help you maintain your stability. Try getting a lightweight and foldable bar, though, because you need ladders to climb, and you don’t want to hold it.
Prepare for an Emergency
You’ll also need to make sure you have your emergency essentials. Cash might come to mind (if you decide to abandon the journey, you’ll need the money for the ferry or the bus), or bear spray might be good. But something absolutely essential is a satellite device.
You’ll not likely going to get a signal when you’re hiking the trail. So be sure to put your phone on airplane mode. That’ll prevent accidental charges and save your battery. And get yourself a satellite communication device like Stringo to send your location to friends and family so they know where you are. Plus, you might need it in case of an emergency.
The Ectaras for West Coast Trail Preparation
It’s hard to think of everything you might need. But some other items might include:
- Sun protection
- A repair kit just in case your tent gets a hole in it. Make sure you have some duct tape and a knife.
- A tide table so you know when the tides will rise and fall.
- Towles and dry bags
- Backpack covers
- Bathing Suits
- A reliable water filtration system.
- A map, compass, and a first-aid kit.
- Given the trail’s length, a lightweight cooking stove and utensils are recommended.
Mandatory Items for West Coast Trail Preparation
After everything we’ve considered, remember the mandatory items. Your WCT Overnight Use Permit Discovery Pass or daily parks pass is necessary while you’re out on your hike. Hikers will need to show it to a ranger if they request it. It’s also required to board the boat for the ferry crossing. It’s not waterproof, so make sure you Ziploc it.
How Long the Hike Takes
Okay, so we’ve got all the basics together and are ready to go. Now, how long will the hike take?
Generally, it’ll take 6-8 days to complete the trail. That means you’re getting in about 12km per day. The southern 22km part of the trail between Gordon River and Walbran Creek takes two days in and of itself because of the uneven ground and the slippery conditions on the trail and shorelines.
However, the trail is only sometimes completed in this timeframe. Depending on experience and weather conditions, some people can complete it in 5-6 days, others up to 9 days.
Indeed, it’s not just about how experienced or physically fit you are. The hiking conditions can seriously slow down your hiking speed. You might need more time to cross rivers and creeks in heavy rain or flooding.
Besides, the terrain is technical, with sections of rocks, mud holes, and wooden boardwalks that might be rotten; the sand might be deep, slowing your travel. Ladders are available in some places where cliffs are very steep. So, all of these conditions make it difficult to run through. In some sections, your hiking speed may slow to just 1km an hour.
Take your time and breathe. It’s not a race, after all.
Important Facts about West Coast Trail Preparation
Below are some essential facts you’ll need to know about reservations before making them.
- Remember that the trail is closed from October to April because of bad weather conditions like strong winds, high tides, and short days.
- Perm permits must be obtained in advance.
- Reservations open in January, but it isn’t easy to secure certain spots. Planning ahead is definitely a good idea.
- All you have to do to make a reservation is visit the Parks Canada website.
- Ensure you have all the info you need, like the preferred start date and some alternatives, including the preferred start location. You can hike northbound (starting at Gordon River) or southbound (starting at Pachena Bay hikers). Ensure you know the number of hikers, names, and your credit card info.
- The trail cuts through native reservations. Don’t wander off, and be respectful to those occupying the land.
Final Thoughts on West Coast Trail Preparation
If you’re a more experienced hiker, the WCT is definitely something you should visit. It’s a journey that you’ll remember for a lifetime. The gorgeous landscape and beauty will leave you without any regrets despite the path’s difficulties. It’s the challenge that makes it exciting. Just be sure you have the right gear. You’ll be sure to need it when the time comes.