Packing is a very important part of enjoying the trail. In this article I share my West Coast Trail packing list and some tips that can help you to have a great hike! See our Complete Guide to the West Coast Trail for all details you can possibly need to plan, get to and hike this spectacular trail.
This is a amazing beach and forest hiking trail stretching over 75 kilometers of white sandy beaches and dense, alive indigenous forest on Vancouver Island in British Columbia, Canada. The trail is challenging and progress slow with obstacles including rain, pools of mud, ladders, bridges and cable cars adding to the your effort. The trek takes 6 or 7 days and you have to be completely self sufficient, so you have to pack and carry all clothes, food and gear that you will need for your time on the trail.
Two very important considerations when packing for the West Coast trail is pack weight and waterproofing. You will be carrying your backpack all day going up and down about 70 long ladders so you want to pack as light as possible. It will most likely rain on the trail, how much depends on season and a bit of luck. Wet clothes, food and equipment is not fun.
I used a similar packing list for the Juan de Fuca trail, also on Vancouver Island.
Spending sometime in the area while doing the WCT? Check out our Things to do in Vancouver and Things to do on Vancouver Island guides.
West Coast Trail Booking
Only 70 people can start the WCT each day from Gordon River, Pachena Bay and 20 Nitinaht Narrows together. In 2022 bookings opened on the 21st of January. The trail is very popular and some spots are booked months ahead so book as soon as possible. The West Coast Trail is only open from May 1 – Sept 30. Even though bookings start the second they open cancelations and random open spots do happen with a bit of luck. In 2020 I only booked about 2 weeks ahead, so keep an eye on the website! Make reservation and pay at Parks Canada Pacific Rim.
West Coast Trail Cost
Hiking the West Coast Trail cost me $CAD517 ($391) for the 6 day/5 in total.
- Registration – $CAD184 (payable upon registration)
- Break up West Coast Trail Overnight Use Fee: $127.50 and two ferry crossing fees, Gordon River: $16 and Nitinat Narrow: $16, reservation fee is $24.50
- Pacific Rim Park Permit – $CAD 39 payable at the orientation
- Food – $CAD17 per day pp – $102
- Transport – $CAD55 + $CAD110 = 165 – 20% discount = $CAD132
- Bear spray – $CAD50
- Stove Gas – $CAD10
Paper work to Pack
Not the most exciting, but the most important. Take a ziplock bag to keep paperwork dry.
- Pacific Rim Park Permit – paper will receive at registration
- Trail Permit – paper, required to get on the ferry
- West Coast Trail map – waterproof, receive at registration. This is a very important map that you will use a lot everyday.
- Tide table – tide table is very important for planning your route since some coastal areas are under water at high tide and you have to walk the forest trail. You receive a tide table at the beginning of the route, but I will recommend downloading the Tofino Tide Table.
- Cash – $32 ferry crossing take $25 for a crab and $8 for a beer it is worth it!
Complete Packing List
Backpack for WCT
A good backpack is important and can make your walk a lot more comfortable. Make sure it is a good fit, adjustable and the pack is light with multiple pockets and separate sections that you can easily access without unpacking everything.
What size Backpack for the West Coast Trail?
I will recommend that you do not take a pack any bigger than you need. If you have the space you will fill it and pack unnecessary stuff. Backpack sizes can be anything from a 50 – 75 L pack. For men generally a 60-70L pack and 50-60L for girls, work well.
A backpack rain cover is very important to keep your stuff dry on the West Coast Trail. If you do not have a cover and buy a separate one, buying one a bit oversize works well since it will cover your pack with attached tent and mattress if you carry it outside your pack.
If you are going to go backpacking on a regular basis I would recommend a top quality light pack Osprey Atmos AG65 the Deuter Aircontact Light is another top quality pack, for a more affordable option look at this extremely well rated 60L Trekking Pack.
For ladies, wanting to invest in a top quality backpack look at Deuter Aircontac Lite or Osprey Packs Renn for a budget option the Koshiyo Trekking pack is well rated.
There are plenty more excellent hikes around Vancouver, don’t miss our extensive guide to the Best Hikes in Vancouver.
Tent and Camping Gear for the West Coast Trail
Tent for WCT
You are going to sleep in a tent every night and it is likely that it will rain some nights, so it is important that the tent is waterproof and wind-resistant. The tent adds a lot of weight and size to your pack. Buy or borrow a tent as light, and easy to pitch as possible. We use an MSR Hubba Hubba NX – it’s very light (1,3kg), packs small, easy to pitch, waterproof, it’s shape is great for strong wind and it’s durable.
Good tents in the middle price range to consider are MSR Elixir, Marmot Crane Creek, they are all spacious, waterproof, relatively light and easy to pitch.
Sleeping Gear for WCT
Sleeping bag – it does not get very cold on the West Coast Trail, so a below zero down sleeping bag is not required. I have used both a light 10C sleeping bag and a down 0C in this park hiking in September. The down was more comfortable, but the smaller, lighter 10C bag was OK sleeping in a fleece and warm pants. Light small sleeping bag
Sleeping pad/mattress is very important for comfortabe sleeping We recommend inflatable camping pad – lighter and packs smaller than a foam sleeping pad (they work fine though).
Pillow – I always rolled some clothes for a pillow until I took an inflatable pillow, now I pack this every time!
I usually put my sleeping bag inside a plastic bag if it rains a lot and my backpack gets water inside.
Camping stove – a light, camping stove is super important for the WCT. I boiled water at least twice a day, in the morning for porridge and coffee and in the evenings for a hot meal (and coffee). The stoves are not very expensive and in our experience they are reliable. We have two compact stoves that we have been used to cook 100s of meals camping and hiking for years and they are both still alive and working great. Buy a stove with Piezo Ignition to be able to light it without matches or lighter (in case you lose or forget them). Modern stoves weigh almost nothing and they pack very small. Make sure you buy a stove with the appropriate fitting for the gas cannisters you will be using.
Cooking Gear – we use the pots for cooking and eating, no plates, two pots work well, for coffee we just boil water in the smaller pot, saving some gas.
Take pots with lids you can use them as plates, Remember utensils! cup/mug, spork/fork, and spoon. This is quite a nice cooking set, we have been using the same pots for many years, they are great. For top quality you just can not beat MSR – MSR PocketRocket Deluxe Ultralight Camping and Backpacking Stove Kit. Several hikers swear by this Jetboil SUMO cooking system for quick cooking and fuel efficiency.
Water Filtration Device for West Coast Trail
It is recommended that drinking water is boiled, treated or filtered before drinking. You have different purification options. There are many water sources on the trail. I used a Lifestraw filter bottle, very easy, just fill the bottle from a stream and drink the water through the straw with a built in filter. We also had an MSR filtration pump, works well, but hard work to filter the water. Gravitation filter bags is another good option taking a bit of time, but you filter 10L of water at a time. This is a nice filter to share, some groups had one and stopped once or twice a day to filter water for everybody’s bottle. It is easy and light and small to pack. Chlorine tablets are easy to use, this is cheaper but tastes terrible.
Hiking Boots for the West Coast Trail
You will mostly likely be doing some hiking in rain and mud on the West Coast Trail I will recommend you hike in waterproof hiking boots with gaters. Low cut shoes are not ideal with mud and water and hiking in wet shoes is not great I love my Salomon X Ultra Prime boots, they are gortex, light and stay dry!
For ladies – Alya hikes in a beautiful pair of Ladies Salomon X Ultra boots that she loves.
Clothes to Pack for the West Coast Trail
Waterproof Jacket – A good waterproof, windproof and breathable jacket is super important for the West Coast Trail. The Marmot mens Precip Light-weight Waterproof Rain Jacket is an excellent option with great features like Waterproof/Breathable NanoPro fabric construction, taped seems and pit zips to keep you dry and well ventilated. Ladies Model Marmot ladies Precip Light-weight Waterproof Jacket.
Trekking pants – for men this light fast dry Columbia hiking pants is good. Ladies we recommend packing these Columbia hiking pants and yoga stretch pants. Alya hikes in both, but she prefers wearing her yoga pants – they stretch easy and are more comfortable.
Hiking shirts – Avoid wearing cotton, you will get wet and cold sweating under your jacket. Alya prefers hiking in breathable, moisture wicking, quik dry T-shirts, such as this ladies long sleeve running shirt and one ladies short sleeve T-shirt. I hike in long-sleeved Columbia hiking shirts, they do not absorb water so dry quickly, it is also great for sun protection. I also pack some quick dry moisture wicking gym t-shirts.
Sport bras – they are great for hiking and outdoors, Alya says that she prefers sport bras over normal bras.
Underwear – take about 2 or 3 pairs (wash on the road)
Merino wool socks – we only hike in merino wool socks, makes a big difference, especially for long hikes. Unreal how much less they smell than even the fanciest synthetic socks. Merino wool socks; don’t absorb odors, protect your feet, dry quick and very durable. Darn Tough Merino Wool Socks are very good they’re famous for great foot support and blister protection. Ladies Darn Tough Ladies Merino Wool Socks; colorful and funky.
Cap/hat – a must have in the mountains for sun protection. A quick dry sports cap or wide brim hat.
Pack a BUFF Multifunctional Headwear – protects your neck and face from sun burn, wind and weather. Get a funky one, mine is a South African flag, awesome for photos!
Gaiters – Waterproof Windproof Warm Shoes Covers fantastic thing to have on the West Coast trail to keep mud out of your shoes!
Sunglasses – bring sunglasses for hiking in the mountains with high UV protection and polarized lenses.
Hiking poles can be very helpful in mud and if you are wearing a heavy pack TrailBuddy Hiking Sticks strong, well rated, aluminum hiking poles. High end quality Black Diamond Trail Pro Shock Trekking Pole.
Microfibre towels light, quick dry, takes little space. Active Roots Microfiber Travel Towel
Travel wet wipes great for washing instead of shower if it is cold.
Packing Food on the West Coast Trail
I bought dehydrated meals at the MEC store in Vancouver. Light, delicious and filling. Worked great. Make sure you have enough gas, because without a stove you will have nothing to eat!
- Breakfast – 2 packs of instant oats, coffee
- Lunch – a protein bar (68 grams)
- Dinner – Dehydrated meals x4 – one meal is 2 servings, but is a good meal after a long day of trekking for one person. I took one pack of instant noodles and a can of tuna just for something different one evening.
I love and made espresso coffee twice a day with my trusty aeropress.
To boil water for coffee and prepare meals I carried a little gas stove and one 450 gram propane canister.
Electronics to Pack for the West Coast Trail
Try to take as little electronics as possible, can be a tragedy if your stuff gets wet. Since we write and film our adventures we are always a bit heavy on the electronic side.
I can almost not imagine hiking without my Garmin Fenix 5x GPS watch anymore. This amazing tools track all stats, it is excellent for navigation and for generating maps. All the maps and elevation profiles in our guide on the West Coast trail was generated with this watch. The latest model is the Garmin Fenix 7, the hiking mode is fantastic. We like the oxygen saturation measurement feature which is awesome to have when doing high altitude hikes that requires acclimatization. I use my watch everyday for either running, swimming or surfing.
The Garmin Fenix 6 Pro Premium Multisport GPS Watch, the previous model, has many of the same features with a better price tag.
The Garmin Instinct Rugged Outdoor Watch, is Garmin quality and accuracy and also has excellent features such as GPS 3-Axis Compass and Barometric Altimeter, but is a much more affordable watch.
Very important piece of electronic equipment, since there is no lights at campsites, you will have a very tough time without a headlamp. Make sure you pack new batteries. We have been using our Petzl’s for ages. The PETZL, TACTIKKA +RGB Stealth Headlamp is powerful 350 lumen lamp with a 5 year guarantee. Check out the Petzl – ACTIK CORE Headlamp if you want a rechargeable headlamp, powerful with 350 lumens. The Actik Core has several power modes, if you use it the headlamp must be charged after 2 hours, but using power saving modes you can get up to 180 hours on one charge!
There are some great photo opportunities on the trail with loads of animals and fantastic scenery.
The Canon G7x Camera is a great camera for photo and video.
Olympus Tough is an excellent waterproof, shockproof camera that takes great photos and video, it is made for this kind of action.
It is unreal what great quality photos and video you can get with the new Go Pro cameras. We use our Go Pro for vlogging. The stabilization when taking video is fantastic and the camera is great for wide angle photos. The only negative about the Go Pro is its low light performance and most of summit day is in the dark, so that is something to consider. Check out the new Go Pro Hero 10.
I always take my kindle hiking, awesome to read for a couple of minutes in the tent before falling asleep. The new Kindle Paperwhite has a backlight and is waterproof! Light, takes little space, perfect for trekking.
Your phone is also a great tool to pack for a camera, GPS, time table. , audiobooks. Check out the Samsung Galaxy S10; long battery life, good video stabilization, water resistant.
We always carry a power bank to charge all our electronics with. This Fos Power Bank is waterproof and shockproof.
Keep it toiletries to the minimum, mainly stuff for sun protection and keeping everything clean.
- Soap bar (cut bar in half or take small hotel soap).
- Hand Sanitizer, for snacking/eating.
- Baby wipes, works well to wash yourself in the tent. There are some swimming spots, but the water is freezing!
- Sunblock SPF50, water/sweat resistant, we love Banana Boat Sport Sunblock.
- Toothbrush and toothpaste (take almost finished toothpaste tube)
First Aid Kit
- pain killers paracetemol/aspirin/ibuprofen
- imodium for an upset stomach
- rehydrate hydration packs (isotonic drink powder) for when you are dehydrated and helps with cramping
- Plasters – for cuts or blisters