Ultimate Female Packing List for the West Coast Trail

packing for the west coast trail

The following West Coast Trail packing list has been submitted by Kathleen Williams. See all packing list posts here.

The West Coast Trail (WCT) is a 75 km (47 mile) backpacking trail on the Pacific coast of Vancouver Island, in British Columbia, Canada. The waters off the coast are part of the ‘Graveyard of the Pacific’, and can be treacherous to navigate. The trail was cleared in 1907 as the Dominion Lifesaving Trail to guide shipwreck survivors to shelter and help from neighbouring First Nations or at lighthouses.

Today, the WCT is used by backpackers, as advancements in navigation technology have made shipwrecks rare. The trail is open from May 1st to September 30th each year, with limited access by reservation during peak season. The trail takes between four (very speedy) and seven (fairly leisurely) days to hike.

The WCT features approximately 70 ladders, 130 bridges and four cable cars. There are two points of entry, in the south at Gordon River, and in the North at Pachena Bay. There is almost no cell phone service along the trail, and evacuations in the event of injury are by boat or helicopter. Preparedness for this hike is essential.

Hikers need good gear, and enough food and water purification tablets to last up to a week. The weather on the trail can be unpredictable, from wind and rain (and mud) to sunshine and 25 degrees Celsius (77F). As well, parts of the trail are along the beach, so tides determine daily hiking schedules as parts of the trail are inaccessible at high tide.

Lily and Kathleen on the West Coast Trail
Lily and Kathleen on the West Coast Trail

My friend, Lily, and I hiked the West Coast Trail in early June 2014. We started at the Pachena Bay and planned for seven days of hiking with 4 km as our shortest day and 23 km as our longest. Our packing strategy was to pack less clothing in lieu of fresher (and heavier) foods.

Starting out our packs were 45lbs each and in our packs and on our bodies we carried:

Clothing

  • Short sleeve quickdry shirt
  • Long sleeve quickdry shirt (underarmor brand)
  • Fleece sweater
  • Fleece pants
  • Quick dry shorts
  • Rain pants
  • Rain jacket (Patagonia)
  • 2 pairs sock liners
  • 2 pairs wool socks
  • Hiking boots
  • Sandals
  • 3 pairs quickdry underwear
  • Sportsbra
  • Swimsuit
  • Sunglasses (Sunski’s – lightweight and polarized)
  • Toque
  • Gloves
  • Buff (used mostly for hair)
  • Rubber gloves (for gripping wooden ladders if they are muddy / wet)
  • Gaiters (great for keeping sand and mud out of boots)
Beach portion of the Trail
Beach portion of the Trail

Gear

(* indicates where split between two)

  • Osprey Atmos 65L pack (men’s packs work better on my frame)
  • Waterproof packcover
  • Source 2L water bladder
  • Water bottle
  • Hotcore sleeping bag – super compact and rated at -10C as I tend to get cold
  • Blue foam sleeping pad (In the future I’d invest in a Thermarest ProLite / XLite as this was bulky and had to be strapped to the outside of the bag)
  • 3 person tent with vestibules* (This was borrowed and I’ve since purchased a 2 person tent for future backpacking)
  • 20’ of rope and drysac for bear hangs (there are food lockers at most campsites)*
  • Headlamp
  • Trangia 25 Ultralight camp stove and cookset (Alcohol stove, a bit heavier than some models but very reliable)*
  • Spatula (for cooking)*
  • 2L Alcohol fuel (Methanol / denatured alcohol)*
  • Swiss Army Knife
  • Spork
  • Insulated mug/bowl
  • Dr. Bronners soap (for washing ourselves and our dishes)
  • Waterproof matches
  • Water purification tablets
  • 10′ Duct tape (wrapped around fuel bottle for repairs / flagging if needed)

Health & Beauty

Miscellaneous

  • Map
  • Tidetables (provided with park permit)
  • Pencil and paper
  • Playing cards
  • Alarm clock
  • Camera
  • $200 for trail fee and to use at the restaurants on the trail
  • Identification (drivers licenses to allow quick medical information access in case of injury)
Anchor from a shipwreck on the West Coast Trail
Anchor from a shipwreck on the West Coast Trail

Food

I like to eat well when I’m hiking and am willing to carry more weight in exchange for feeling highly satisfied with my food choices. If I did the trail again I would reduce weight for dinners by using a dehydrator and bring less food. We ended up feeding another hiker two meals and still had excess food when we left the trail. We ended up losing more than 10 lbs each of pack weight from the start to the end of our hike almost wholly food weight.

Breakfasts:

  • Dried Fruit & nuts
  • Protein bars (6 each)
  • Pancakes and maple syrup (I pre-made a mix and brought a tiny vial with maple syrup. It was so luxurious)

Lunches:

  • Bagel with peanut butter and jam (3 days)
  • Rye bread with Baby Belle Cheese, smoked salmon and carrots (2 days)
  • Dehydrated hummus, bread and trail mix (1 day)
  • ½ Crab with baked potato ($20 at restaurant at Nitinat Narrows ferry crossing)

Dinners:

  • Couscous & bags of curry (3 days – not dehydrated, these were very heavy)
  • Instant noodles, sundried tomato, fresh dill and smoked salmon (1 day)
  • Parmesan Cheese, sundried tomato, pasta (2 days)

Trail Mix & Beverages:

  • Dried fruit & nuts
  • Hot chocolate
  • Chocolate
  • ¼ L of Cognac in wine bladder (it sprung a leak on the first day and we shared it at our campfire)
Kathleen weighing pack at end of West Coast Trail
Kathleen weighing pack at end of West Coast Trail

The hike was amazing and I recommend it to anyone who loves hiking. We lucked out and had a total of three hours of rain over the course of seven days which is almost unheard of. We saw lots of eagles, and pods of whales offshore twice. Other hikers on the trail were fantastic and most nights we had communal campfires and shared stories. I had wanted to hike the West Coast Trail for more than a decade and it exceeded my expectations.

More information about the West Coast Trail can be found on the Parks Canada website at: www.pc.gc.ca

About the Author: Kathleen set off from Vancouver, Canada to travel Central and South America in November 2014. She wants to learn Spanish, visit volcanos, sail, see the Nazca Lines, participate in a wine harvest and befriend a sloth, a turtle, and a llama during her adventures. Kathleen is blogging at Wandering Williams. She is travelling with Lily again who is blogging at LilVentures.

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Gear We Use

Organization

Packing Cubes – Organize your luggage with the lightweight, durable and compressible Eagle Creek Pack-It Specter Compression Cubes.


Backpacks + Daypacks

Pacsafe – Since they come with extra theft-resisting features, Pacsafe bags make you a more confident traveler. We especially love this bag.

Sea to Summit – Of all the Sea to Summit products, our most recommended is the fits-in-your-palm, super packable Ultra-Sil Daypack.


Personal Care

Nalgene Toiletry Bottles – These leak-free toiletry bottles and tubs come in all sizes – even super tiny, helping minimalists pack it all without bulk.

Turkish Towels – They’re thinner than most travel towels, and they actually cover your body! We can’t get enough of Turkish towels for travel.


Clothing

Speakeasy Supply Co. – They make the awesome hidden pocket infinity scarves that are perfect for stashing secret cash, lip balms, and passports.

Anatomie – Anatomie travel pants come with luxury prices, but they offer many benefits for travelers. See our review of the famous Skyler pants.

Travel Resources

Booking Airfare

Dollar Flight Club – Get flight deal alerts for your preferred departure airport. There is both a free and premium version (recommended for more sweet deals). Members save on average $500 USD per flight!

Skyscanner – Skyscanner is our preferred site for searching flights. They offer unbiased search results and are free from hidden fees. You can also book your hotels and rental cars.


Accommodation

Airbnb – Airbnb is the best place to book out apartments around the world. Sign up using this link to get $37 USD off your first stay booking + $14 USD towards an experience booking!

Booking.com – Search for hotels, hostels, and apartments using this one resource. Use it for flights, car rentals, and airport taxis as well.

Hostelworld – For hostels, Hostelworld remains our number one source for booking stays. Choose from straight up hostels, budget hotels and bed and breakfasts.

Trusted Housesitters – Save money on travel accommodation by becoming a housesitter. Housesitters often have extra duties, like caring for pets and gardens.

Reader Interactions

Comments

    • Kathleen says

      Hi Donna,
      I’m a bit behind on responding to your comment.
      I have ASOLO boots. I have somewhat weak ankles so they really help prevent twists and sprains. Also, they are very very waterproof, as long as water doesn’t go in over the top. I would highly recommend them. I also wear sport insoles inside so that my feet are as comfy as possible.
      Best,
      Kathleen

  1. Julie says

    Great notes about the WCT, glad to hear your tales. I begin hiking it in a week so am prepping gear and food now. Your lists were helpful!

  2. Marlies says

    I will be going to Canada for a year in november.
    I hope I can find someone that wants to hike with me and has experience because I have non!
    Thanks for the tips!

    Marlies aka Magnificent Escape

  3. Kathleen says

    Hi Marlies,

    I would recommend checking out Meetup.com to see what hiking and outdoor groups exist where you will be going. Meetup is a great way to meet new people with similar interests. Also, Mountain Equipment Coop (MEC) is a popular outdoor coop in Canada. They have courses occasionally about backcountry hiking, gear needs, etc. They also may have resources around finding hiking pals.

    Hope that helps you find the perfect hiking friend(s).

    Best,

    Kathleen

    • Kathleen says

      The pack weighed 45 lbs at the beginning of the trip.

      For me getting a pack that fit was a huge challenge – I’m 5’10” and wear a size 4 in most clothing. I only found two real options when I was originally buying a pack that were workable.

      I’m sure there are other packs out there that carry weight better. I’d love to hear what pack you would recommend for a higher weight ratio for others so that I can pass along the recommendation 🙂

  4. Mary says

    Hey! I run a little cold… what did you think of the sleeping bag? I have two: one is rated 15F (could bring a liner) and the other is rated -15F. Not sure which to bring!

  5. Mark says

    I read a few of your camera tips. Thanks! Any tips on how to keep your camera powered? USB charger doesn’t seem like an option for my Olympus EM10, so I’m just wondering if you just brought like 4 batteries. Cheers!

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