Here's a hastily-written email trip report, for your enjoyment. Despite the first paragraph, the Sunshine Coast Trail is a backpacker's mecca; if you want to try a rainforest hike I would highly recommend it! Shoot me an email if you'd like to save half an hour finding the start of Tony's Trail; I'd be glad to pass on this knowledge. :)
You can check out the trail here if you're interested:
The first day was spent tramping through the coastal rainforest in an icy drizzle, looking for an overgrown trail using an out-of-date guidebook, and getting torn up by thorns. Fortunately we found a logging road that eventually intersected with the trail, and despite everyone but me taking a tumble we managed to get to camp in one (wet) piece.
Despite walking quite a few backcountry miles to get there, the camp was in a car-accessible provincial campground called Inland Lake. A Conservation Officer (like a Ranger/warden) came by, and we expected him to collect fees. Instead he "forgot" the camping fee with a wink, and fetched us a mountain of dry wood from his private stash. We had a big dinner next to a big fire and that drove the dampness out and cheered us all up. Walking first through wet ferns all day left me looking and feeling like I'd been dipped in ice water up to the chest!
It happened to be the birthday of each of the girls on the trip, so I applied a little old-school BPL kung fu and baked up a chocolate cake in my AGG 2-quart plus AGG 3-cup set. It was a perfect end to the day, and we all immediately retired to get some much-needed rest. Now came the important part of the trip: the acid test of my new (2006?) TarpTent Squall 2.
Having read Ron Moak's primer on lightweight tents, I knew the drill: pitch it as high as practical, leave the beak open if possible, and leave the bug netting open if possible. The first pitch was a disaster: the ground was ever-so-slightly off-level and the painter's plastic groundsheet became a skating rink. I couldn't even kneel on it to spread it out without sliding off to the side! Note to self: look into Tyvek.
The second pitch was good: perfectly flat ground, not as elevated as I would have liked, but on absorbent peaty soil so I wasn't worried about it pooling. We crawled inside and my girlfriend raised an eyebrow right away: leave it wide open? Are you serious? Yes I was, and that's what we did.
The conditions were foggy, humid, in the 35-40 degree range, with intermittent rainstorms all night. This is probably the worst type of condition for single-wall shelters, but to my surprise we fared better than okay. I kept waking up to check for condensation, double check the pitch, and scan for bruins (yes the open front felt really weird...) but to my surprise there wasn't a single drop of condensation all night. Not even a sheen -- the inside of the tent remained bone-dry. I had succeeded at summer rainforest "tarp" camping on my very first attempt. (Yes I know it's very cush for a tarp, but hey...)
We were traveling with heavyweight backpackers, and they didn't fare as well. Their North Face tent vents very poorly, and I estimated that it had gained 3-4lbs by the time they packed it up. (i.e. it weighed 10lbs on the second day; yikes!) It rained condensation on them inside, and the urethane-coated fly soaked up rainwater all night. Fortunately, the next four days were composed of brilliant sunshine and the trip went swimmingly. (As trips tend to do when they're in the glorious sunshine of July day after day...)
On the last day I had an adventure with the better part of a pound of butane: my Brunton Crux canister stove managed to punch the Lindal valve right out of the Primus 16-oz canister, and when I unscrewed the stove I got a geyser of butane about 10 feet from the campfire I'd thankfully just extinguished. It's the second Primus 1lb canister I've had valve trouble with, and the last one I will ever buy or sit within 10 yards of.
(By the way, I brought that much butane because it was a luxury trip to try to entice my girlfriend into backpacking. It worked too well: we got back Wednesday and she wanted to go again on Saturday! I baked cornbread, made lentil stew from scratch, simmered dumplings, and of course baked a birthday cake. Success!)
If you're interested, here are some gear highlights:
Shelter and sleep system:
~Tarptent Squall, no floor -- awesome, perfect, amazing, and probably going in the closet after the first snow in September which is about what I expected. Should have brought a Tyvek groundsheet, but the performance was fantastic.
~Brunton Crux -- always performs immaculately, fried bannock, baked cornbread and cake, and simmered soups and stews to perfection
~AGG 2-quart and 3-cup pots -- no lids
~Ikea frying pan with the sides cut off, 4oz, as lid for AGG pots and frying pan. (Holding bannock in one of the pictures) Only weighs 2.5oz more than the stock AGG lid, and does so much more.
~LMF Sporks -- the best sporks known to humankind
~Home-made windscreen -- hastily invented 30 minutes before we left, worked flawlessly, and bumped my efficiency through the roof. Pretty ghetto and rough-looking though
~Cilogear 60L Worksack -- my pack of choice for every adventure. Left the frame in as I was carrying most of our stuff, but I didn't need it.
~GoLite Pinnacle -- with RidgeRest rolled up inside as frame. Fits my girlfriend, and is shockingly comfortable. I loved the rolltop closure and the compacktor system. Not as versatile as my CiloGear pack, but I still secretly wish it fit me!
I would recommend the SCT to absolutely anyone. It was ideal for me: incredible rainforest, not a soul around, and barely used so it was not worn down to the rocks or hard packed in the least. On the contrary, it was like walking on spongecakes the whole way! It was easy to navigate due to a devoted local trail crew who places and replaces markers in the spring, and there are even a couple of cabins along the way! For a lightweight/UL person, the whole 111 miles could be done end-to-end in 5 days. Section-hiking it is just as beautiful, and may afford a bit of time to take in the local culture as well which is unique and magically laid-back.
PS Thanks again to Dennis Jordan and Jim Colten for sending me the Tarptent and Pinnacle respectively. Those items made the trip!
PPS I spent almost 4 hours spreadsheeting our food, then weighing every ingredient for every meal to make sure we'd have enough but not too much. I gave us 4250 calories per day with plenty of fats, and it was perfect. We had about 1 days' worth of reserve calories by the end, which is exactly what I wanted.