West Coast Trail Packing List
See full gallery

What To Pack For West Coast Trail – Essential Food & Equipment

Table of Contents

West Coast Trail is a beautiful but challenging hike. It spans a total of 75km along the west coast of Vancouver Island. Situated in the rain forest, the trail is often wet, slippery and muddy. As mentioned before, we had never done any multi-night backcountry hikes. The WCT was our first!

Aside from reserving our spots for the hike (yes, it is tough to get spots), our other challenge was to prepare and pack for the adventure! This post will guide you through our packing list.

Backcountry Camping Food

We had never packed for a multi-night back-country trip before – the West Coast Trail was our first. One of our major worries was packing sufficient food to ensure we got enough calories. We usually survive on snacks, a pre-prepared dinner, and oatmeal for breakfast for our regular over-night trips, but that would not cut it this time. We needed easy to pack food that was compact, simple to make, and didn’t not spoil.

Freeze-Dried Meals: Lunch & Dinner

For this trip, we started looking into freeze-dried food. We had never tried it before, but it seemed like a very portable solution, and what many hikers resort to.

After briefly looking on google for places that sold freeze-dried food, we found that MEC offered a variety of freeze-dried meals. After searching for a bit more, we found Costco offered emergency food kits, which are essentially the same freeze-dried meals but in bulk!

For a price of $169.99+tax CAD, we got the Mountain House Sampler Meal Assortment which came with 25 meal servings (UPDATE: Costco no longer offer this exact product). This was great! We got to try out a variety of meals at ~$6.80+tax CAD a serving or ~50 calorie/dollar (CAD). This was a much better deal than buying individual packs – we would definitely recommend this!

Most people know this about me – but just to clue you in – I love Costco. Everything Costco offers is 5 stars for me, haha. So for those serious hikers out there, Costco does offer freeze-dried meals in other bulk quantities: 7 day supply and 1 month supply! (UPDATE: this is no longer the case, many of the freeze-dried meals are sold out at Costco since the start of the pandemic)

Thoughts On Mountain House Freeze-Dried Meals

The meal assortment pack came with servings for breakfast, lunch, and dinner – so we tried them all! We found it to be quite decent for freeze-dried food.

Of course some meals were better than others, but this comes down to personal taste. Our favorite out of the assortment pack was “sweet and sour pork with rice” and “pasta primavera”. We were skeptical that freeze-dried sweet and sour pork with rice would taste any good, but we were pleasantly surprised.

The major thing we liked about these meals was that they were light, convenient, and quick to prepare. They don’t require dishes, are easy to pack and, don’t spoil (30 year shelf life!)

Our only complaint would be that some of the meals were on the saltier side, and that the portions aren’t quite enough. The lunch and dinner pouches came with 2 servings, but the calories of the servings ranged from 540 to 955 calories. We thought this was a bit low considering we plan to trek an average of 10 kilometers a day.

To add to the portion size, we added half a pack of instant noodles to the pouch when we prepared it. This worked great! We got more out of the each meal and the excess flavor balanced out better.

Breakfast For Camping

For breakfast, we brought instant Quaker oatmeal packs with extra oats to supplement our single serving freeze-dried breakfast pouches. We have always had oatmeal for breakfast on our overnight trips – it is just one of the simplest meals to pack and to prepare!

Hiking Snacks

In addition to our designated meals, we packed lots of snacks. We brought the following:

  • 500g Dried mango
  • 1kg Beef jerky
  • 4x Chewy Chocolate Granola Bar
  • 6x Taste of Nature Bar
  • 1x Kind Breakfast Bar
  • 6x Bagel (this was consumed as our breakfast and lunch for Day 1)

Food: Post WCT Reflection

Packing food was our biggest challenge for this trip simply because we had never done multi-night treks before. By the end of our trek on day 3, we had consumed all our food except for the one extra portion of freeze-dried food and a few granola bars.

Overall, we were very happy with how much food we had packed. It was just enough that we didn’t have to rely on the extra food we had brought as contingency. We even had enough left over jerky and dried mangos that we were able to snack on them at Pachena Bay while waiting for our bus.

As for our thoughts on freeze dried meals: We enjoyed the convenience of them, but if we had to hike the whole WCT, we would be sick of eating them! If we had to pack for another multi-night trek, we would have to do a little more research for ideas and food inspirations.

Essential Equipment

Below is a list of our camping and hiking gear that we brought. A good portion of the list is from our usual back-country camping gear. The only difference between our list for WCT and our usual back-country trips would be stuff we brought in preparation for rain.

Camping Essentials

  • Tent: We brought a 3 person tent (Kelty Circuit 3). We knew this was not the lightest option, but we chose the 3 person tent vs the 2 person tent so that we would have enough space to store our backpacks inside if it rained.
  • Sleeping bags: Nancy packed a -9C down sleeping bag in a 12L stuff sack and Chris packed a 0C down sleeping bag in a 8L stuff sack with a Thermolite Reactor Liner. We had read that synthetic filled bags were better because down bags lose warmth when wet. We only had down filled sleeping bags, so that was what we used. It turned out fine for us, but we were also very lucky with no rain.
  • Sleeping pads: Nancy packed the Therm-A-Rest Trail Lite Foam Pad and Chris packed the MEC Reactor 3.8 Pad.
  • Stove & Gas: We brought a compact and simple stove (MSR Pocket Rocket 2) with one 110-gram canister of MSR Isopro Fuel. The fuel canister, although small, offered plenty of fuel for boiling water. We only used half of the canister for our 3D2N trek.
  • Lighter: Don’t forget to bring a lighter, or waterproof matches! We brought a small lighter and packed matches as backup. We even brought fire starter in case we wanted a camp fire.
  • Cookware: We brought the minimalist titanium cookset from SnowPeak. We have used this on various occasions and it works great for boiling water. To cook anything else, you would need to bring some oil.
  • Cutlery: We brought a Titanium Spork and a Plastic Spork.
  • Soap We brought a small amount of campsuds in case we needed it for washing. We never ended up using it because we didn’t cook anything greasy. We only boiled water and had oatmeal.
  • Headlamps: Nancy packed a battery powered headlamp and Chris packed a USB rechargeable headlamp. We much prefer headlamps than hand held flashlights. We would recommend in getting a good headlamp.
  • Toiletries: This included toilet paper, a trowel, hand sanitizer, toothbrushes, floss, tooth paste and deodorant.
  • Rope/Bear proof food storage: We brought a bear resistant bag to store our food. Rope is also recommended for hanging food because the food cabinets provided at the campsites can fill up quickly. Rope can also be useful for hanging wet clothes.
  • Knife: We brought a small pocket knife but really never used it…

WCT Hiking Essential List

  • Boots: Both of us wore hiking shoes and packed an extra pair of hiking shoes in our bags just in case one got wet. Not many people did this, but they did pack an extra pair of lightweight shoes for camp/river crossing. In hind sight, it was probably a bit overkill bringing two pairs of hiking shoes, but we were ok with it. We didn’t want wet feet.
  • Poles: WCT can be muddy, slippery and uneven. We don’t usually hike with poles, but for this trek, we borrowed some. They definitely came in handy to give extra support while navigating some uneven terrain.
  • Gaiters: We thought gaiters were a must for this trail, so we bought some from Mec just for this hike! We were lucky the weather was nice and the trail was mostly dry. We would’ve been fine without them, but we still had them on. They were useful for keeping sand out of our shoes while hiking along the beach.
  • Water: We each brought our own water bladders. Nancy packed a 2L bladder and Chris packed a 3L. Along with the bladders, we always use a filter to clean the fresh water we collect. We also brought Aquatabs in case we aren’t able to boil questionable water. Throughout our trek, we found ourselves with sufficient access to water, never running our bags empty between refills. We only filtered water for our lunches from fresh water sources on the trail.
  • First-Aid Kit: Our kit is very basic and included band-aids, after-bite, polysporin, pain medication, disinfectant wipes, tape, an emergency blanket and two instant hand warmers.
  • Clothes: We each brought 3x shirts, 1x shorts, 1x pants, 3x socks and 2x underwear. Chris brought long johns for sleeping and I brought tights.
  • Layers: We both brought our down jackets for layering reasons. The beach can get quite chilly after sunset!
  • Rain wear: We both brought our Arcteryx shells. They work well in the rain and at night as wind breakers. Waterproof pants would have been ideal too.
  • Sun protection: Sunscreen is a must, there are lots of exposed sections where you will get lots of sun if the weather is nice. Hats and sunglasses are also recommended.
  • Cellphone: I had an Iphone SE and Chris had a LG G6. We both kept our phones mostly turned off to conserve battery until the last day. We didn’t get any signal anyway until 1hr from Pachena Bay.
  • Backpack with waterproof covers: I carried a Gregory Deva 60L bag and Chris carried a Deuter 60L bag. These bags were great, they have good support, hip belts, designated water bladder section, and were big enough for all our stuff.
  • Bear spray/Bell/Horn: Many hikers carry one of these bear deterrents. We did not bring any…the reason being that bear spray is a weapon and can do more harm than good if not used properly. Bear bells are annoying and potentially ineffective depending who you ask – so we substitute it with our chatter. Air horns are portable and safe but we forgot it in the car. Luckily, we did not have any bear encounters on the WCT, but a group of people an hour behind us saw a mother bear with two cubs. So, if you’re looking into this hike, there is a good chance you could see a bear, being mentally prepared and knowing what to do if you see one is best way to stay safe. They cover bear and cougar safety during the orientation, so be sure to pay attention!
  • Map: A waterproof map is issued to each hiker at the orientation session. The map features all the different points of interest. It outlines the trail and the location of different amenities. A PDF version of the map is available via Parks Canada website.
  • Tide chart: A tide chart is also issued at the orientation session. It is important to keep note which sections of the trail are impassible if the tide is high.
  • Whistle: I always bring a whistle with me on my adventures. I’ve never had to really use it, but it is a great tool to have for safety reasons.

Good To Haves On WCT

  • Camera: I was torn on the decision of whether or not to bring my camera. Since the WCT is situated in a rain forest with lots of rain, it was risky to bring any electronic equipment… but at the same time, it would have been a shame not to have my camera there.. So, I brought it! No regrets there. We were lucky the weather was dry and beautiful.
  • Cash: Having some pocket cash is always a good idea. Especially if you plan to dine along the trail at the Crab Shack or purchase ferry tickets. The recommended amount by Parks Canada is $100 each.
  • Tarp: We did not pack a tarp. We were also lucky we didn’t get rain. A tarp may be a good idea if the forecast called for rain.
  • Lightweight chairs: Many campers brought some version of the Helinox Chair. Us? We didn’t own any, and didn’t want the additional weight on our backs. So, we made do with what we found .
  • Pillows: Chris always brings an inflatable pillow for camping. Unlike him, I resort to my packing cube filled with clothes as my pillow. It is definitely a more luxury item, not essential.
  • Toque/Neck Warmer, Gloves & Extra Socks: Having articles of clothing to keep the extremities warm ensures a good night sleep.
  • Microfiber towel(s): We brought two towels, one for drying our bodies if we went for a swim and the the other for drying the tent. We found that we always had to wait until the sun is up to dry the condensation between the tent fly and the tent. Instead of having to wait for the sun, or in case it was overcast, we could dry our tent quickly and pack up.
  • Alcohol: We brought a flask of scotch.
  • Book: Neither of us thought of bringing a book. It would’ve been nice to relax and read a book on the beach front.


Posts about West Coast Trail

Table of Contents


The Lions
The Iconic Peaks of Vancouver
Wedgemount Lake
Hike to a Glacier-Fed Lake
West Coast Trail
Day 3 - Michigan Creek to Pachena Bay
West Coast Trail
Day 2 - Tsusiat Falls to Michigan Creek
West Coast Trail
Day 1 - Nitinat Village to Tsusiat Falls
West Coast Trail Access
Getting to/from WCT
West Coast Trail Booking
WCT Trip Planning
Panorama Ridge
Overnight Hike in Garibaldi Provincial Park
Lower Myra Falls
A Must-See Waterfall in Strathcona
Elfin Lakes & Opal Cone
Overnight hike in Garibaldi Provincial Park
Mt. Harvey
One of the Best (Difficult) Hikes in Vancouver
Ladner Creek Trestle
Picturesque Train Bridge in Hope
Mount Gardner
Day Hike on Bowen Island
St. Mark's Summit
One of Vancouver's Best (Moderate) Hikes