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West Coast Trail Gear Questions
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Nacho Libre
(FamilyGuy) - F

Locale: Up there
West Coast Trail Gear Questions on 08/12/2009 23:19:54 MDT Print View

Once you add food and 1-2L of water I think you will have a tough time keeping your pack weight under 30 pounds but I could be wrong. To your specific questions:

Treking Poles - Take two. On the beach and the tidal shelf, two are key to strong stroke. In the muddy sections where you might hold onto a branch or something, one is ideal - just attach the second one through your compression straps.

Mattress - I used a NeoAir this past May on the WCT and it worked fine. Suitably warm.

Gators - I would go for a shorty gaiter - no need for knee high ones. Just trying to keep the sand and mud out of your boots / shoes.

Boots - My hiking buddy used the Fugitives without issue. I prefer a trail runner, however and had good results with Montrail Hardrocks.

Rain Pants - Something like the Marmot PreCip - yes, should be just fine.

Umbrella - Something light and strong- no need if you have a decent rain jacket. Unless it is raining and you want to cook underneath it but frankly, I would bring a smallish tarp for that.

Dan Durston
(dandydan) - M

Locale: Cascadia
Re: Gear List on 08/13/2009 00:52:30 MDT Print View


You might wanna leave some stuff behind to save weight. For example:

- a 1 lbs first aid kit seems excessive
- a 12oz compression sack is heavy. Leave it behind

Dan Durston
(dandydan) - M

Locale: Cascadia
Fall Hiking on 08/13/2009 00:55:44 MDT Print View

I'm still debating between the WCT and JDF trails for this fall. What I like about the JDF trail is:

- We can take our dog (my wife really wants this)
- No reservation fees (how much are camping fees?)
- Doesn't close in September

What I'm unsure about is how wise it will be to do the JDF trail in mid-late October. My work is closed in late October so I wouldn't need to take time off if I go then.

Do you think the third week of October is likely to be too cold though? My setup is an Ultra 20, NeoAir and MSR Carbon Reflex 2 tent. Is there anything else about October I should know? Rainy? Windy?

Edited by dandydan on 08/13/2009 13:28:02 MDT.

Mike W
(skopeo) - F

Locale: British Columbia
JDF in the fall on 08/13/2009 11:24:25 MDT Print View

People hike the Juan de Fuca trail all year round so October isn't a problem. It will obviously be colder but temps will be above 0C (32 F) and could be well above this if you hit it right.

Things to consider at that time of year are mid-day high tides (there are some beach cut-offs to plan around so get a tide table). High winds will be fine if you pick a sheltered site (don't set up on the beach). There are sites set back into the trees that provide reasonable shelter from the wind. Be prepared for slow travel if it's raining.

If it rains it will be much less fun as the trails get really muddy, the log crossings and boardwalks get REALLY slippery and the firewood is soaked. I think the best thing about beach camping are the fires.

Back-country camping is $5/person/night. That includes parking if you are leaving a car at a trailhead. Be aware that if you do leave a car at a trailhead there is a high vandalism rate in this area... I've been lucky on my trips so far but I have seen damaged cars in the lots.

I'd recommend starting at the China Beach trailhead and walking to Botanical Beach. Allow some time to explore Botanical Beach at the end of your hike and try to hit it on a low tide.

If you want your wife to enjoy the trip don't plan on doing too many miles/day (Vancouver Island coastal trails can wear you out pretty quickly). The best camping is the beach camping IMO so spend a night at Bear Beach, Chin Beach and Sombrio Beach. Most people that I see that do double this distance over this section of the trail are pretty miserable when they reach camp.

After Sombrio Beach there isn't any beach camping if you are heading west (to Botanical). This section of trail is less interesting in my opinion so do it last and then if you decide to bail you will have at least done the beach sections.

Edited by skopeo on 08/13/2009 11:25:59 MDT.

Dan Durston
(dandydan) - M

Locale: Cascadia
JDF on 08/13/2009 13:42:43 MDT Print View


Thanks a LOT for your advice. I really appreciate it. It sounds like this will work out well (barring non-stop rain). I will keep those camp site recommendations in mind as I continue to research this.

My work is closed for 5 weeks starting mid-October (I work in Whistler) so I will allot enough time to make this trip an enjoyable pace for my wife. She hasn't done anything longer than 20kms so I've got to make sure this is a good experience for her.

Tim Quirk
(chicagoblue) - F
contd on 08/13/2009 15:15:28 MDT Print View

I'm bringing the compression bag because it's waterproof and my backpack is not, thought I do plan to pick up a pack cover.

The first aid kit isn't particularly large physically and as this will be my first trip in awhile I'd feel remiss to leave it behind.

As to the trecking poles, I'm still not sure which kind I want. Can anyone point me to a good set?

I was going to take the umbrella because I'd read several trip reports that highly recommended it.

A couple other things.

1. Do people typically stop to cook lunch on the trail, or is lunch more of a energy bars and snacks affair?

2. Will the footprint for my tent or a simple tarp be a better option?

Edited by chicagoblue on 08/13/2009 15:31:05 MDT.

Sean Walashek
(caraz) - F

Locale: bay area
tim, use a trash compactor bag on 08/13/2009 15:28:21 MDT Print View

f you are resolute on making this trip happen then you will enjoy yourself regardless. If you are open to advice, I offer mine.
Mike C will tell you sooner than me that a trash compactor bag is a light, waterproof solution for waterproofing the entire contents of your pack, and cheap. Leave the pack cover at home/ or do not buy.
If you have money to spend on boots/a sleeping pad etc. I would argue to change what you are looking at.
I own the powermatics; I like them when I am going to be doing a lot of cross country day hiking and places with very unstable ground. I can't recommend them for a backpacking trip. They are also over $200 so a really big investment.
The neoair is a great pad but also expensive at over $100.

If I were in your shoes and knew what I knew now, and what I had, I would spend my money differently. I would look to buying a lighter shelter on the cheap. A tarp and bug net are light and easy to deal with.
This equinox tarp offers a ton of coverage at a low weight. You could combine it with granite gears the haven for a large, ventilated, bug free dry zone. Also you would save about 3 pounds of weight.

If you can get your pack under 30 pounds fully loaded you should be able to use trail runners, unless of course you have pre-existing ankle problems. They are lighter, more comfortable, and cheaper than the heavy boots.
While not as light or new as the neoair the big agnes insulated air core, or poe ether thermo 6 are also great, comfortable, relatively light and more affordable alternatives often found on sale.
As for trekking poles, you can find some amazing poles in the over $100 range from gossamer gear or tigoat. If you are looking to spend less though you can get decently light pairs from rei outlet for around $50.
As for cooking lunch on the trail, it depends on the group and people, there is no right or wrong way to do it. I will say however, if you are planning on using a stove at lunch a white gas stove will take more time and effort to prime and prep, maybe often leading to it not being used at all!
As for the first aid kit, if it makes you more comfortable than bring it. Having the knowledge to use its contents is the least you owe yourself though if you are going to be carrying it on your back for miles. You may find that its contents are redundant and you could get away with some band aids, ibuprofen, Benadryl, and leukotape.

The golite reed pants are the standard round these parts for rain bottoms.
If you are going to have an umbrella you should be able to leave the rain jacket at home and instead bring a wind jacket, much lighter, and more flexible for most situations.

If four people are going you should be able to split up gear among all of you. You don't each need your own tent/stove/first aid kit/etc. This advice comes from not just me but the countless others who have learned what I have. The lighter you can make your pack the more enjoyable your hiking will be. You should not sacrifice anything in terms of comfort by making these changes.

Edited by caraz on 08/13/2009 16:17:17 MDT.

Dan Durston
(dandydan) - M

Locale: Cascadia
Re: contd on 08/13/2009 22:28:01 MDT Print View


At 12oz your compression bag is an awfully heavy solution for waterproofing. As mentioned a garbage bag will work for about 90% less weight. If you really want a waterproof sack, MEC has some new really light dry sacks for cheap. I bought my 7L dry sack for $8 and it weighs 1.4oz. Since the roll top is most of the weight you could likely get a larger sized one (I use a small quilt) for around 2oz and $12.

For the trekking poles, borrow some from MEC. They lend these out for trips. I'm not sure if it costs anything or not, but it'll be way cheaper than buying. Divert your hard earned funds elsewhere unless you are sure you want to buy them because you'll be using them a lot in the future.

Umbrella? If your rain jacket has a hood (or if you have a rain hat) I wouldn't bother. I've never used one but they seem unncessary if you have a rain jacket and you can't use your trekking poles. It also just seems like a hassle to hold.

Regarding lunch, I typically cook a hot lunch. Usually it's a few Sidekicks that I can make in 10 min or so. I don't use dehydrated food because it's too slow for a meal on the trail. Snack bars work good too....kinda depends what pace you are on. Make sure your cook gear is handy if you are cooking.

The footprint for your tent is likely the better choice since it will fit better, secure in place easier and likely be lighter than a tarp unless you are buying a nice tarp. Don't bring a heavy blue/orange tarp from the hardware store. If your tent is in good shape you may not need the footprint.

As a general recommendation, don't buy crappy gear. If you don't have enough money for everything then don't buy everything. Just buy one or two good items and make sure you do your research so you don't find something way better in 2 months. As suggested, a lightweight shelter is a good spot to start.

Probably the most important thing for you is not to bring stuff you don't need. Yesterday I found a copy of my gear list from about 6 months ago (I'm pretty new to this too) and my gear weighed 16lbs. Today it weighs 11.3lbs and I've only shaved off about 2-3lbs with new gear. The other 2-3lbs is just stuff I've left behind. Bring one pot, no spare clothes but socks, underwear, rain gear and insulating jacket. Don't bring 2 pots. Don't bring a bowl (eat from pot), Don't bring a knife (these can be really heavy) etc.

When you think about each item individually then it's easy to think 'oh yeah this is worth the little bit of extra weight', but when that kind of decision is multiplied across all your gear you wind up with a heavy pack.

One good (cheap) spot to save some weight is with your water bottles. 1L nalgene bottles weight about 170g (6oz) and you can get 1L platypus 'platybottles' that weigh under 1oz and cost about $6. If you replace two 1L nalgenes you'll have saved 2/3 of a pound.

Edited by dandydan on 08/13/2009 22:31:47 MDT.

Dan Durston
(dandydan) - M

Locale: Cascadia
MEC on 08/13/2009 23:54:16 MDT Print View


If you are going to spend some money, the MEC Merlin -3 C bag is a great way to go. You can replace that 3lbs bag with one that weighs just 1.5lbs (690g, 24oz) and compresses way smaller. It's a sweet deal at $220.

Mike W
(skopeo) - F

Locale: British Columbia
West Coast Trail Gear Questions on 08/14/2009 00:43:50 MDT Print View

I wouldn't recommend doing the Mary Poppins thing, leave the umbrella at home and take a good rain jacket. As FamilyGuy said regarding poles, you will need both hands on your poles unless you are hanging onto a root or branch. I know a few people have carried them on the WCT but my bet is that an umbrella will ride in your pack most of the trip.

Take a silnylon tarp to use as a ground sheet and if it's pouring with rain use it as a tarp and go without a ground sheet. Your tent has a pretty solid floor so you don't really need the groundsheet anyway. I use a 5X8 siltarp (Integral Designs) that probably weighs less than your tent footprint. The siltarp can be used as a groundsheet if the weather is nice and can be set up quickly if you need to hide from the rain. You'll be thankful for the tarp if it pours.

I put my clothes and my sleeping bag in Outdoor Research Ultralight Dry Sacks (one for clothes and one for my sleeping bag). Two of the light weight dry sacks will be about a quarter of the weight of your compression sack. We do get torrential rains here on the West Coast of Vancouver Island so you need to ensure that your gear will stay dry. I gave up on the trash bag thing years ago, it just didn't work well for me.

Tim Quirk
(chicagoblue) - F
Thanks on 08/14/2009 11:32:08 MDT Print View

My sister ordered the sleeping bags online for us, and I'm not entirely confident I'm going to like it. If I don't I'll just return it and get the Merlin as we'll be in Vancouver (I'm coming from Chicago) for several days before the trip.

I picked up that Siltarp and a Platypus bladder on your recommendations, so thank you for that. My sister up in Vancouver is going to look into getting the poles from MEC so that should be a nice savings, as any hiking I'd do out where I am not would probably not require them.

I do have slightly suspect ankles from playing a lot of soccer so I think I will go with a higher ankled boot, and I'm leaning towards the lightest of the three Asolo's (FSN 95) It feels more like a stiff shoe than a true boot, and I'm hoping that will be a decent compromise, as I was able to get them for $100.

I have a basic Iso butane/propane primus stove now, but we're thinking of upgrading to something like the jetboil system. Any thoughts on that product? Is one stove enough for 4 people or would 2 be better (We are planning on a full 7 days on the trail)?

Foodwise, I'm a vegetarian, as are 3 of the 4 of us, so we're looking to go with something like a kit from Packlite Foods. Any thoughts on their products?

Finally, I'm considering grabbing a pair of mountain biking gloves, as I've used them a lot in the past for general things and found them to work well. Are gloves a good idea on this trail?

Thanks again for all the insight.

Sean Walashek
(caraz) - F

Locale: bay area
yep on 08/14/2009 14:28:06 MDT Print View

The jetboil is really designed as a personal cook system. Depending on what you guys will be eating it really cant do to much more than heat water. I'm veg also and am really impressed with mary janes boil in a bag stuff. You can buy it in bulk with time permitting to save money and get enough for all your group. Its tasty and organic. One jetboil seems like it wouldn't be able to keep up with 4 hungry guys, unless you took turns eating and went through a lot of gas. For what its worth, a white gas stove like the msr dragonfly or whisperlite to name a few, and large 2l pot might be a better bet for group cooking for a week, thats 24 dinners + hot brekfasts + coffee/tea. Gloves are always a good thing.

Dan Durston
(dandydan) - M

Locale: Cascadia
Merlin on 08/28/2009 04:48:11 MDT Print View

Just a heads up on the MEC Merlin bag. My wife and I bought one for her about 2 weeks ago. We bought the -10 Merlin which in size small. It's listed on the website at 980g but in store the sign said it was 940g. That made it seem like a no brainer over the Western Mountaineering bag which was only slightly lighter (900g) and a lot more money. When I got it home it ended up weighing a surprising 1045g....that's 65-95g (2-3 oz) more than claimed....not cool. I might have returned it but we used it for a trip immediately after we left the store and I didn't weigh it until after this trip.

Dan Durston
(dandydan) - M

Locale: Cascadia
Juan de Fuca on 09/11/2009 01:15:39 MDT Print View

I'm starting to plan this JDF trip. Looks like it's going to be October 12th - 16th or so.

As per Mike's recommendations, I'm planning to spend nights (in this order) at:
1) Bear Beach (9kms)
2) Chin Beach (21kms)
3) Sombrio Beach (27kms)
4) Little Kuitshe (33kms)
5) Payzant (40kms)
6) My bed! (47kms + drive home)

I think this will be a pretty relaxing pace, which is what I'm going for since my wife it is along and we'll both be having a lot more fun if she's not struggling. I am a bit worried about day 2 because it's 11kms and rated the most difficult section of the trail, but I guess that'll have to do. It's only day 2, so we should be fresh still.

Is this pace too slow? 6 or 7kms a day doesn't seem like much but maybe the trail conditions really slow you down.

Regarding keeping warm, we both have Montbell Down Inner Parka's coming in the mail and thin fleece pants plus rain gear and baselayers of course. Will these parka's keep us warm in mid October? I'm not sure what the climate is like along the ocean at this time of year since I'm new to the West Coast. I guess I should check out some climate normals data.

How necessary are gators really? Am I a fool for not having them?

My base weight is about 11 lbs and my wife's is 8lbs (cuz I carry all the shared gear). On top of that there is going to be a lot of food weight (6 days x 2 people x 1.75 lbs/day = 21 lbs). I'll probably hit the trail with 30lbs and give her a few pounds of food and the fuel so she's around 13 lbs or so. It's all about making sure she's happy because if she's happy then we're all happy.

Mike W
(skopeo) - F

Locale: British Columbia
Juan de Fuca Trail on 09/13/2009 20:55:37 MDT Print View

Dan -

I don't wear gators on that trail but I have long legs and a light pack (and trekking poles!) so hopping around on the sticks and rocks to avoid the mud holes isn't a problem for me.

Your parkas should be good for warmth assuming a normal weather pattern during your trip.

Remember to watch the tide tables, it looks like the tides will be high in the early afternoon in October so you might want to start early each day.

The only extra mileage I might suggest is to skip one of the forest campsites. I've camped in both and after a short day on the trail, there isn't much to see/do in these sites. Little Kuitshe is a bit gloomy IMHO but you can get to a rocky point and watch the water so that's OK. Payzant has no beach access at all but is a nicer campsite than Kuitshe.

If you are looking to peal off some extra Km's I'd skip over Kuitshe and camp at Payzant but that will make for a long day. Get an early start on the last day and get to Botanical Beach before the high tide (it's worth spending some time at Botanical on the low tide).

Don't worry about the trail rating on the first few sections, the trail is actually pretty good. The higher difficulty ratings for these sections of trail are because of the ups and downs (lots of mini-canyons that start to add up to some significant elevation gains and losses over the course of a day). Just take it slow and steady and you will both really enjoy the trip.

Dan Durston
(dandydan) - M

Locale: Cascadia
More JDF Questions on 09/23/2009 13:30:54 MDT Print View

Mike (or anyone),

How is the water supply along this trail? I imagine there are creeks/rivers with freshwater quite frequently along the trail? And do all campsites have a supply of fresh water?

Mike W
(skopeo) - F

Locale: British Columbia
Water Sources... on 09/24/2009 13:33:41 MDT Print View

The upside of all the "ups and downs" of the JDF is that there is a creek at the bottom of each one. There are water sources at each camping area as well.

Dan Durston
(dandydan) - M

Locale: Cascadia
Water on 09/24/2009 18:38:01 MDT Print View


My plan is to start off with 1L of water each. Once we are below 1/2 litre each, we'll consolidate the water into one platyBottle and get fill the other PlatyBottle with new water, so it can start treating with the chlorine pills.

Is 1 litre each of water capacity too little? I have more platyBottles that I could take, but we aren't hiking that long or hard and since there is water at the campsites I don't see the need to load up with 2-3 litres each.

Are there fishing opportunities at any of the campsites? I'm thinking freshwater fishing, not out of the ocean since I don't have the license or knowledge for that. I'd love to bring my rod and catch a trout or something or dinner but I don't want to lug another pound along if there won't be ample opportunity to use it.

Greg Mihalik
(greg23) - M

Locale: Colorado
Re: Water on 09/24/2009 19:54:32 MDT Print View

I assume by "chlorine pills" you mean "chlorine dioxide". If not, it's something you should look into. There isn't any free chlorine, it's the oxygen component that does the work, and it wins the taste test hands down. MicroPur is one brand.

Dan Durston
(dandydan) - M

Locale: Cascadia
AquaTabs on 09/25/2009 00:25:12 MDT Print View

The stuff I got is called AquaTabs. I picked it up at MEC. Here's what their website says about it:

"Each AQUATABS® tablet contains a measured dose of Sodium Dichloroisocyanurate, commonly referred to as NaDCC. When added to water AQUATABS® dissolve to release a measured dose of hypochlorous acid (free available chlorine) that is universally recognized as a safe and effective water disinfectant."

Is this the same idea as MicroPur? Or will be these less effective? Or more foul tasting?