As I sat here, looking for inspiration to write the day hiking feature for this issue of Outdoor Adventure Canada, I was transported back to some of my first long day trips. One of these was a long hike that took us up a very steep trail to a wonderful lookout. The day was one of the hottest of the summer and I noticed that there were people on the trail who were ill prepared, one couple did not even have water. This made me aware that not all of us think ahead when it comes to packing for a day hike or geocaching adventure.
Water is the number one essential! To avoid becoming dehydrated which can happen easily, especially in hot weather. I recommend ½ litre for every hour. Of course, this will vary depending on your personal needs, the temperature and the difficulty of the trail. Be sure to take sturdy water bottles such as Nalgene or Camelbak. They are better for the environment than non-reusable bottles and won’t leak if the lid is on securely. I like to use two smaller water bottles. A water filter or purification drops are a good idea if you are going on a long hike and will need to refill your bottles.
Layer clothing when hiking in the shoulder seasons and in winter. A waterproof breathable outer shell is great for wind and rain. Polar fleece makes a nice layer over your inner layer of regular clothing. Wear a long sleeved shirt under the fleece in cooler weather and in warmer conditions a t-shirt. In the summer, pack the outer shell or a poncho in case of rain, even if the forecast is good.
Good footwear is crucial. For most hikes a high quality, sturdy walking or running shoe or cross-trainer will suffice, however in rugged or rocky areas you may want to consider a shoe or boot specifically designed for hiking. You might even a want a light backpacking boot if the terrain is particulary rough and difficult. Hiking socks are important. These help prevent blisters and tend to keep your feet more comfortable than an everyday sport sock. There are many types of hiking socks that will aid in wicking moisture away from your skin. If you are prone to blistering a liner sock may be a good solution. Bring an extra pair of socks and and perhaps even spare laces.
Other essentials may include a map and compass or a GPS, and first aid kit. Mine has bandages, moleskin, Compeed™ (for blisters), electrolyte replacement crystals and ibuprofen or tylenol. A flashlight or headlamp, bandana and a pocketknife are useful as well. Sunscreen is a necessity and you will want bug repellant or netted bug clothing in late spring when the mosquitoes and black flies are biting voraciously. If you own a cellular phone, take it with you in case of an emergency.
Your body needs fuel so food is an important part of your day hiking essentials. If hiking in cold weather you may want to bring a backpacking stove for a hot drink or hot lunch. If you don’t want to carry a stove think about filling a thermal bottle with your favorite hot beverage before you leave home. Your only limit is your imagination when it comes to lunch, not matter what the season. If the weather is very hot and perishables are on the menu just use a cooler bag and ice packs. I like those ones that you can refreeze. You may need eating utensils such as a mug, plate and spoon depending on what you decide to eat. Bring snacks to keep your energy levels up during the day. Things such as GORP (good old raisins and peanuts), fresh or dried fruit, veggie sticks, jerky, homemade energy bars or granola bars are all good choices.
Put all of this in a good quality daypack. Something with a hip belt and is more comfortable and I like having an outer pocket or two. I keep my full water bottle and outer shell at the top of the pack where I can access them easily.
Someone once said, “take only photographs and leave only footprints“, so remember your camera. It is a good idea to place it in a dry bag or waterproof camera bag when you aren’t taking a photo especially if there is inclement weather in the forecast. Don’t forget to bring an extra set of batteries. If it is wintery out, keep those spare batteries in an interior coat pocket—it can keep them from being drained because of the cold.
I don’t always use every item in my pack but for the one or two times when I have needed them, I am thankful for the little extras I pack. There is a certain peace of mind in being prepared for the unexpected. Packing properly for a day hike you will make your excursion more enjoyable.
The The West Coast Trail (WCT) in British Columbia offers challenge, rugged beauty and adventure. Part of the Pacific Rim National Park Reserve of Canada, the WCT it is a spectacular 77 kilometers of deserted beaches and lush coastal rainforest. A portion of the trail was originally a telegraph route from the 1890s and around the turn of the century the WCT was instrumental in the rescue of shipwrecked mariners. The waters off the trail have been dubbed the “Graveyard of the Pacific”, with more than 240 shipwrecks.
Considered to be an extremely challenging trail, the 25,640 hectare strip stretches southeast of Barkley Sound between Port Renfrew and Bramfield, along the coast of Vancouver Island. The trail also passes through land that has been maintained by First Nations for 4000 years. The Quu’as West Trail Group includes wardens from native Indian tribes specifically Pacheedaht, Huu-ay-aht and Ditidaht First Nations. Quu’as works with the wardens of Pacific Rim National Park Reserve to patrol the region. In 1970 lobbying, by groups such as the Sierra Club, brought about park protection and trail improvements which were continued throughout that decade.
The journey will take from 5 to 8 days to complete. Because bad weather could cause delays it is recommended that you carry extra supplies. A very damp area, the WCT has an average annual rainfall of 300 centimetres. The most precipitation is during May and June but frequent rain is not unusual throughout the summer. Excessive rain can cause flooding and delays at swollen river crossings. Cable cars and ladders are in place at the numerous river crossings and crevasses. Camping close to rivers and estuaries should be avoided due to the dangers of flooding. Because of the dampness you may encounter heavy morning fog. Fog is more frequent in July and August.
The West Coast Trail contains some of the largest old growth trees in Canada, such as the Hemlock, Spruce and Western Red Cedar, which are towering and ancient trees. The rainforest floor is covered with thick undergrowth and fallen trees can become treacherously slippery after heavy rains, which sometimes may last a week. The coastal rainforest is another world explored on this trek, but there is a potential for danger. Bears and cougars inhabit this area so great care must be taken.
The beach sections of the trail have rugged coastline and sea stacks. There is also a “Hole in the Wall” which is a sandstone arch that has been formed by the eroding action of the waves. Waterfalls and tidal pools add to the beauty of this area, but be aware of the tide times as the high tides can pose a real danger if you are at a tidal pool or river estuary. An unwary hiker can easily be washed from the coastal rocks into the sea, with the beach sections from the Gordon River access being particularly hazardous. Tidal schedules are available from the park. You can expect to see wildlife such as sea lions, birds and tidal pools teeming with aquatic life.
This arduous journey is rewarded by the variety of breathtaking scenery, abundant wildlife and the satisfaction that comes from completion of the trek.
Notes: The WCT is open from May 1st to September 30th. Reservations for the trail are recommended between June 15th and September 15th. Without a reservation you may have to wait a few days on a waiting list. During the shoulder season reservations are not necessary.
The cost for a single permit is $127.50 plus a $24.50 reservation fee and there are quotas. Your fee pays directly for protecting and managing the trail. There are also two ferry fees. One is for the Nitinat Narrows and the other for the Gordon River. You must state whether you will begin your hike at the Gordon River or Pachena Bay and each hiker must complete a 30 minute orientation outlining the trail’s challenges. A waterproof tent with a fly is a must and sleeping bags should have synthetic fill due to the dampness of the area. Waterproof/breathable rainwear is also a necessity.