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    FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)

What footwear is best for the West Coast Trail?

Almost everyone brings 2 pairs of footwear:

  • Dry footwear (e.g. boots)
  • Wet footwear (e.g. sandals or aqua shoes)

You want the best possible footwear you can get for the mud, rock, slippery boulders & logs. Be forewarned that it’s often impossible to keep leather boots dry. More than half the trail may be under water at any given time.

Most experts still recommend hiking boots. We do not. While modern boots are remarkably light & comfortable & a pair of good boots & gaiters makes you feel invincible in mud & shallow water, boots are still too much hassle. We leave our boots at home when we hike the WCT. We prefer to take 2 pairs of shoes, both of which can get wet and which will dry quickly.

Al Brawn (Soaring With the Eagles) feels that hikers with healthy ankles can get away with trail shoes (often called approach shoes). These dry quickly & provide better traction for most hikers.

Most hikers also bring Teva-style sandals or light running shoes to wade creeks & walk wet shelf. They are also good around camp. You may need to switch footwear several times / day.

One of our hikers swears by his 5-10 canyoneering shoes — high quality river walking shoes. He wore these almost exclusively on the Nootka & the West Coast Trail. (They do get smelly. Take some baking soda to absorb odour.)

special shoe used for hiking in water.
5-10 canyoneering shoes

Statistics reveal that a high percentage of hikers injured on the West Coast Trail were wearing light footwear – runners or light hiking boots. It’s a bit of a stretch to blame those injuries directly on the footwear, though.

You want to wear what fits you best & what works for you.

Test your footwear on at least one long hike before you get to the Coast. Don't be one of the unhappy campers blistered in the middle of the WCT.

Do I need rope(s)?

Most groups bring several strong ropes, 15 m. (yards) or more to be used for:

  • hanging food
  • comfort rope for skirting surge channels
  • emergencies

crossing surge channel with rope
Using a rope to help balance while skirting a surge channel.

In some spots on the WCT you may encounter ropes left behind by other hiking groups. Use those with caution. Test them first.

hiker using rope
Rope assistance at Sandstone Creek.

Do I need a water filter or purifier?

Some make a distinction between these two:

  • Water filter removes protozoa & most bacteria
  • Water purifier removes protozoa & bacteria and deactivates viruses

Viruses are too small to be filtered so purifiers add something to disinfect them.

On the WCT we recommend you take a good purifier. Water quality is dodgy & water access sometimes difficult. You must either filter, boil, use iodine or water purification tablets due to the risk of Beaver Fever (Giardia lamblia) and other nasties.

Make sure your purifier is well maintained. They need frequent cleaning on a hike like the WCT.

More tips on water safety.

What special food should I bring?

No special food is needed. But bring the lightest dehydrated meals possible. Packaging should be paper as much as possible.

Our advice is to prepare & reserve QUICK meals for stormy days. What meal do can you prepare in howling winds & horizontal rain? The time-consuming meals should be saved for better weather.

You can eat a lot of food on the West Coast Trail. Most hikers bring emergency food for one extra day. (You can always give it away if you have too much. It's nice to pass out samples of your dinner at the communal campfire.)

Double wrap everything in plastic bags. Never trust a single zip-lock — especially the SlideLoc type. They tend to break open on the Trail. Label your dehydrated baggies so you can identify what-is-what in the dark.

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This page last modified Friday, October 28, 2005