Oh boy..The gear. If you haven’t already gathered and tested your gear, this may come as quite overwhelming. Do not fret! We’ll go over the gear you’ll need for this epic hike and I will share what we took on our adventure in 2017.
Where to begin!?
First off, lets start with the big 4 (sleeping bag, tent, pack and sleeping pad) These items are the heaviest items you will carry and will require the most amount of research before you commit to buy/upgrade.
Sleeping bags are a very personal choice, some sleep warmer than others. The West Coast Trail can get chilly at night, so a sleeping bag with a comfort rating of 0 degrees would be the sweet spot I would suggest for this trip. Then you must decide, synthetic or down?
- Lightest warm to weight ratio
- Extremely compressible
- Many varieties to choose from
- New tech such as Hydrophobic Down resists water and maintains warmth keeping abilities
- Can be expensive for higher fill power
- Will loose heat trapping if it becomes wet
- Ethics (Many companies are using responsibly sourced down as standard)
- Cleaning can be more delicate
- Cheaper than down
- Will stay warm even when wet
- New technology has given higher end synthetics better compressibility
- Cleaning is much easier in the washer
- Is heavier than Down
- Even the best synthetics cannot compress as well as a good down bag
- Warmth to weight ratios will not be as great with synthetics
So, with those key points in mind, which one do you pick? I personally prefer down for its warmth to weight ratio, it is very compressible and with the hydrophobic treated down, I am less worried about wet weather.
Moving on to your sleeping pad. This item should be purchased with considerable research. Even a warm sleeping bag will not do you well if you have a sleeping pad that does not offer enough insulation from the ground.
When you sleep, you compress the down/synthetic filling that you’re laying on in your sleeping bag and eliminate it’s ability to trap heat and keep you warm from underneath. With a well insulated sleeping pad, that heat loss from your body does not transfer into the ground and begin to make you cold. Sleeping pad insulation is rated in R value. These are a manufacture rating system that describes the products ability to keep you warm. For the West Coast Trail, I recommend an R value sleeping pad between 2.4 (for regular sleepers) and 3.2(for cold sleepers) Having a good sleeping pad with an appropriate sleeping bag will ensure you will have a comfortable nights sleep after a long day of hiking!
In the end, I used my old Alpkit Pipedream 600, A down sleeping bag that was a bit overkill. Lora used a Vargo Venom 400 down sleeping bag that kept her warm throughout the entire journey. If I had to do it again, I would probably go with something like this MEC DRACO 0C DOWN BAG
Ah my favourite, the place you sleep and call home for several days. But which one to pick? there are so many to choose from, so lets narrow it down to the two different styles of tents you can purchase. Free standing and Non-free standing (There are more variety, but lets keep it simple)
Free standing tents:
For most people, you will want a tent that is completely free standing. What does that mean? Well it is a tent that will stand freely on its own with poles and does not require tension from guy-lines to maintain its structure. These tents can be set up nearly anywhere and are a very popular choice for many backpackers.
Non free standing tents:
So why would you want to pick a tent that isn’t free standing? Weight savings! Non free standing tents have fewer tent poles (some have none) and thus reduces the weight of the tent itself. This can be a great advantage if you want to reduce the overall weight you want to carry, but the downside is you will be limited on how to pitch your tent.
For the West Coast Trail specifically, I recommend a free standing tent. You will be camping several nights on beaches and trying to securely tie down a tent on sand is a nightmare. It will be up to you to decide if you need a 1 person or 2.
Here are my choices:
These tents offer great lightweight options for keeping your pack as light as possible. We specifically used the MEC Spark 2 for the trip and it was fantastic. Other tents we saw on the trail were the ones mentioned and the folks also quite enjoyed them.
ALWAYS BUY YOUR PACK LAST! There, I wanted to get that out of the way. Get all your gear dialed in first, all the purchases done and then get your pack. Why? Well you want to make sure everything fits right? You also want to make sure your pack isn’t too big. Extra space means you are more likely to carry more things you do not need.
Shop around MEC and try many different packs on. One pack may fit well for me, but not for you. Osprey, Gregory and MEC all offer great choices with good warranties. I personally liked the Osprey line, as they come full featured and are designed to carry loads comfortably for long distances. Some key things to look out for in a good pack:
- Fully adjustable top pouch (or brain as some call it) Avoid ones that are sewn to the main body and look for ones with fully adjustable straps
- Integrated rain cover (not critical, try using a trash compactor bag as a liner)
- thick, cushioned hip belt. Since most of the weight of your pack will rest on your hips, you will want this to be comfy
- wide shoulder straps. Skinny thin ones will dig into your shoulders over time, very VERY painful.
- Load adjusting straps. Located at the top and sometimes belt of bag, great for moving the load closer or futher from you, depending on terrain
So those are the basics. I will post a new blog on the smaller items that one may consider when evening out their gear selection.