West Coast Trail - post hike gear review

OCB

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I recently returned from hiking the West Coast Trail on Vancouver Island, BC. The trail is 75km and follows the coast, sometimes requiring hiking on the beach. It was a tough trip, but pretty amazing. We were scheduled to do the hike in 6 days, but day 5 was very rainy, so we decided to push through to get off the trail a day early. We hiked from south to north, starting at Port Renfrew and going to Pachena Bay. Below is a list of the gear that I brought with me, along with notes and comments.



Pack: ULA circuit (www.ula-equipment.com) This was a new pack for me, and I really liked it a lot. One of my main drivers on this trip was to keep weight down as much as practical (I don’t recover as quickly as I used to), and this was a great pack to that goal. It was lightweight, but still had the internal structure to give me the support I needed. The side pockets were big enough to fit my tent in one and two SmartWater bottles in the other. The pack seems pretty durable, and I didn’t have any issues during the trip.

Tent: Big Agnes Fly Creek UL1 At just over 2lbs, this tent is super lightweight. It is pretty easy to set up, and was big enough to fit me (6’2”)… but just barely. This is probably the only piece of gear I will swap out on future trips, but here are some pros can cons as I see them:

Pros:

· Lightweight, compact – I hiked with it in one of the side pockets on my pack

· Small footprint meant I could set up where other tents couldn’t

· Interior stayed dry during light/moderate rain

· Easy to set up with single pole system

· Freestanding

· The stakes they provide seem of good quality. However, I knew we were going to be camping on sand so I swapped them out for my MSR Groundhog stakes, which worked really well

Cons:

· Single door at the end was annoying. It meant that I had to crawl part way in, take my boots off, and then turn around in a tight space.

· The vestibule was on the small side – it barely fit my pack and boots

· You have to stake out the ‘foot box’ to use all of the footprint. I’m not sure if my bag would have gotten wet had I not staked out the foot box, but I never wanted to take the risk.



Sleeping bag: Sierra Designs down bag, 20°F rating. I’ve had this sleeping back for a very long time and I still like it. I’m guessing it’s heavier than more modern bags, but I couldn’t justifying buying a new bag when this one is still in great shape and it was the right bag for the expected temps (lows in the mid 30’s to upper 40’s°F). I put this bag in a Sea to Summit compression dry sack (below) and never had any moisture issues.

Sleeping pad: Big Agnes Air Core Ultra 20 x 78. In the past I’ve primarily used a Thermarest ‘self inflating’ style pad (the variety that ends up being about an inch in thickness), but as I’ve gotten older I was starting to end up with my back being in spasm in the morning. This pad was great. Yes, you have to inflate it, but that task usually only took a couple of minutes. I didn’t go with the insulated version of this pad primarily for weight savings, and I didn’t have any issues being cold. I don’t roll around a ton in my sleep, so rolling off the pad wasn’t an issue for me (some pads have ‘bumpers’ to help keep you contained). It is generally pretty easy to get this thing stowed away in the morning, though a few occasions it took me a little bit to get all of the air out of it.

Inflatable pillow: Klymit pillow X Overall, a decent pillow. It’s only 1.95oz and actually kept its shape, unlike the stuff sack full of clothes that I usually used as a pillow. The only thing I would have changed was to bring some sort of pillow case to make it a bit softer.

Stove: Soto Windmaster This stove screws onto pressurized IsoPro fuel canisters and comes with a four-leg pot support. I had previously used stoves with separate fuel bottles, but this system was a lot smaller and lighter than my MSR Whisperlite stove. The stove has an integrated piezo igniter and works great. It was fairly windy for most of the trip, and I never had any issues getting this stove lit and keeping it lit.

Pot: SnowPeak Hybrid Summit cookset I was only eating dehydrated meals on this trip, so I only needed a pot that could hold 2-2.5 cups of water. I had two potential pots to bring with me on this trip, and ended up bringing the SnowPeak pot (see additional post below) to save on weight. It worked just fine. I didn’t bother bringing the silicone cup that fits on the bottom of the pot because I wasn’t planning on making any hot drinks. The handles of the pot never got too hot to hold with my bare hands, so I didn’t use the silicone lid for anything other than a lid. The lid was the only negative about this set – on more than one occasion it slipped into the boiling water. It wasn’t really a big deal, just kind of annoying that I had to fish it out. Otherwise, no complaints. My stove and 110g fuel canister both fit into the pot, so that was handy.

Spoon: I used a long-handled plastic spoon from REI for mixing and eating my dehydrated meals. My friends all had shorter spoons and definitely suffered from spoon envy.

Water filter: MSR Sweetwater I’ve used this model of water purifier for over 20 years, and I’ve never had any issues with water-borne illnesses. Yes, it is bigger and heavier than the Sawyer filters or life straws, but the throughput and the fact that I can use it with pretty much any fresh water source makes me stick with it.

Water bottles: I just used SmartWater bottles on this trip. They are way lighter than my usual Nalgene bottles and were plenty durable. I brought a couple of extra caps with me in case I lost one, and drilled a hole in one cap and glued it onto the outlet hose of my water filter. That worked really well, and meant I could ditch the heavier adapters that come with the water filter.

Bags and sacks: For my clothes and sleeping bag, I used Sea to Summit compression dry bags. They worked great, even when we got steady, heavy rain, and were pretty lightweight. For my food, rain gear, and odds n ends, I used Z packs dry bags. They aren’t cheap, but they are super lightweight, durable, and waterproof.

Medical kit: I went minimalist for this trip, only bringing Advil, bandaids, steristrips, moleskin, and a small pair of shears. I used the moleskin and Advil, but that was it.

Trowel: deuce of spades I think I went with the middle-sized trowel (the #2). This thing weighs next to nothing and was good at digging holes. I did put some hockey stick tape on the handle because the aluminum is so thin. I didn’t actually have to use it much, as every campsite had a composting outhouse.

Other odds and ends: storm whistle, ESEE Izula II knife, Nuun electrolyte tablets, 50ft of 1.5mm cord, Z packs backpack cover, rain jacket, rain pants, lighter, Anker power bank, Write in the Rain small notepad and Fischer pen, Petzl headlamp and extra AAA batteries, LEKI trekking poles, OR gaiters (which I didn’t really use), REI medium size travel towel (also didn’t get used as it was too cold to go swimming)

Things I forgot to bring: grocery bag for trash, sunscreen (bummed some from my friends), small amount of duct tape (wouldn’t have used it, though), ???

I'll update as I think of anything else, or in response to questions.
 

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OCB

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For my West Coast Trail trip, I decided to use a stove that works with compressed isobutene/propane canisters instead of my usual MSR whisperlite stove that uses a white gas fuel bottle. The burner plus gas canister represents a significant size and weight savings over my MSR setup.

Prior to my trip, I wanted to understand how much fuel I would likely need so that I could buy the appropriately sized canister. Additionally, I wanted to determine which of my two cooking pots would be best given the particulars of the trip. I would only be cooking for myself, and I would only boil enough water for dehydrated meals (max 2 cups at a time). The Olicamp pot has a higher capacity than the SnowPeak pot (~34 fl oz vs 28 fl oz), but it is also more than twice the weight of the SnowPeak pot (190g vs 85g). The Olicamp pot has ‘heat exchanger’ fins around the bottom, while the SnowPeak does not.

Materials:

SnowPeak Hybrid Summit cookset, Qty 1

Olicamp XTS hard anodized aluminum pot, Qty 1

Extech Instruments EX330 DMM with thermocouple input, Qty 1

K type thermocouple (8” rigid metal probe), Qty 1

Ring stand with 3 prong adjustable clamp, Qty, 1

Digital watch, Qty 1

Soto Windmaster burner, Qty 1

Coleman Isobutane/propane fuel canister, 250g size, Qty 1

Ozerti digital scale, ZK14-S (5100g limit) , Qty 1

Aluminum foil, ~6” x 6”, two layers thick

Measuring cup, 1C capacity

Procedure

The starting weight of the fuel canister was measured using the digital scale and recorded, along with the empty weights of the pots (without lids).

The ambient air temperature was measured using the Extech DMM and K-type thermocouple and recorded. Two cups of tap water were added to the SnowPeak pot, and the mass of the pot + water was measured and recorded.

The Soto burner was fitted onto the gas canister and placed on a stable surface (patio paver). The ring stand and clamp were positioned relative to the stove so that the thermocouple could be held in the water without touching the sides or bottom of the pot under test. The thermocouple was inserted through the center of the aluminum foil square – the foil served as a replacement lid for both pots. The SnowPeak pot was placed on the burner and the thermocouple was positioned so that the tip of the probe was in the center of the pot, in about half the depth of the water. The aluminum foil was then fitted to the top of the pot. The starting temperature of the water was measured and recorded, and then the burner was ignited following the manufacturer’s instructions. Temperature data was recorded every 15 seconds until the water reached a temperature of 200°F. When the water reached the specified temperature, the burner was immediately turned off. The set up was taken apart, and the burner removed from the gas canister. The mass of the canister was measured and recorded again, allowing the amount of fuel used to be calculated.

This process was repeated for the Olicamp stove, with the exception that the amount of water added to the pot was determined by the mass instead of volume alone. This was to ensure that the two pots contained the same amount of water – the digital scale being much more accurate/repeatable than the measuring cup.

Results

The SnowPeak pot used 8 grams of fuel and took 3:49 to get the water to 200°F. The Olicamp pot used 4 grams of fuel and took 2:07 to get the water to 200°F.

Based on these results, I calculated the estimated fuel I would need for the duration of my trip. The calculations included:

· An efficiency adjustment based on the theoretical vs. actual fuel used in this experiment

· A greater delta in starting and ending water temperatures (i.e. I expected the starting water temp to be lower than what I used and would need to bring it to 212°F)

· Figuring on 6 boils instead of 5 (in case we had to be on the trail for a day longer than expected)

· A safety factor of 1.5

Even with all of these elements factored in, the amount of fuel required to use the SnowPeak pot for the trip was less than the smallest capacity canister that I could buy. This meant that the choice of pots could be made solely on their respective weights, and the SnowPeak was the clear choice.

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Sierra Design sleeping bag were the ticket back in day based on my equipment bible from that time period The Complete Walker by Colin Fletcher. Always liked walker better than backpacker/hiker anyways. I have a what I believe is a 0 degree down bag I bought in 75/76. It still works well even with the old style big zipper and made in usa label. thanks for the AAR!
 
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