Equipment List for 23,000 km along Canada’s Great Trail

We are a couple days away from striking out onto the world’s longest recreation pathway – The Great Trail.  The key to the success of our hike, and the part we have most struggled with (the part everyone struggles with), is packing our bags. What to take?  What worked before?  What didn’t work?  What worked for the few others who have taken this trail on?  What is different given our ages now and experiences since?  We hope to take our packs for the entire length of the trail, and realistically we are only able to carry so much comfortably.  While this seems easy, the desire to stay comfortable hiking while also being prepared for a range of temperatures and weather types, being able to clean up, change at night, etc…..makes it a little bit of a challenge.

Given the range of choices we all face at this point, we thought we would share what is in our backpacks, perhaps serving as something useful for what others might carry.  Three things to remember here are: First, our bags differ according to our own interests and needs.  Second, please remember that not all that is listed went into our bags, one set of clothes and either our hiking shoes or sandals will be worn by us at any given time.  Third, on both previous treks such as the Bruce Trail, the East Coast Trail, or the Camino de Santiago – the Camino Frances across Spain and the GR65 / Via Podiensis across France and Camino Portuguese across Portugal – we took far less than we will this time.  Our larger packs on The Great Trail are a reflection of the demands of this pathway as well as our desire to photograph and stay in contact while hiking.

We fully recognize that the issue of equipment on long distance treks often quickly transforms into discussions regarding costs, weight, durability, and the ability to resupply.  All matters and concerns which are not easy to balance against one another.   The reality is that there are a lot of great companies which develop and produce wonderful and durable backpacking resources.  Over the years, experience and preferences for materials and companies which have never let us down have pushed us towards certain products over others.  Debates between which tent, backpack, tarp, binoculars, camera gear, etc.  all come down to discussions regarding preference, as well as balancing need, weight, cost, and priorities.  Certainly our desire to hike and encourage others requires us to be able to get online, post online, remain in communication with groups and schools regularly and to be able to post images daily significantly alters what we will be carrying as well as how much weight we need to trek with.

Tent

We will begin our hike with the Big Anges Copper Spur UL3 tent.  Although this would be considered a ridiculous luxury by many, we were happy with this choice on our hike along the East Coast Trail, Newfoundland. We originally tried the MSR Hubba Hubba NX 2-person tent on a shorter trip in Ontario, and although it proved lightweight, durable, and easy to handle, we found it too cramped to provide a comfortable home for us and our gear for 2-3 years.  While the Big Anges Copper Spur UL3 is slightly heavier, it allows us to fit some of our gear inside at night, and bend our legs without kicking each other while sleeping.  We considered this well worthwhile, and after it survived 90 kph winds, and being pitched in about 5 cm of water without flying away or letting in so much as a drop of water, we decided we have a winner.

Other tents which we have considered – sometimes for hours and days on end – include the MSR Hubba Mutha 3 person and the Zpacks Triplex – but the Zpacks we ordered had a mishap in the mail and was in so fit state to use.  Both of these will we revisit if and when we need to change our tent as our trek goes on.

Tarp

Although this would be considered another extravagance by some, we are also taking a lightweight Tarp with us. In Newfoundland this proved itself useful for several purposes – providing an extra layer of protection for the tent in driving wind and torrential rain, serving as a shelter during short cloud bursts and when pitching and taking down the tent, and providing a clean, dry surface to sit on when the ground was wet.

Sleeping Bags and Thermarests

Since it will take us more than one year to complete the Great Trail, we will have to switch between warmer, winter sleeping bags and lighter-weight summer bags.  Since we plan to begin in the spring, and temperatures in Newfoundland frequently dip down into the low teens as late as July, we will begin with our winter sleeping bags, which are Marmot Never Summer bags, rated to -18 C.  Although we were relatively happy with the performance of these bags on the East Coast Trail, they did leak down, leaving us and our clothes covered in tiny feathers every morning. Our summer sleeping backs are Outbound Trail-Lite bags, which are good to around 10 C.  We have used these on many trips, including our hikes across Spain and France, and been very happy with their performance so far.

For our East Coast Trail hike we tried out a set of thermarests that were produced for the military and and had a thermal rating of R4.  They were much lighter than any commercially available R4 thermarests, and they seemed to be durable and relatively comfortable. However for the Great Trail we have switched to the Klymit Insulated Static V Lite because of its smaller size and lower weight.

Backpacks

Sean’s backpack is a trusty Gregory Whitney 95 which he has used for many years.  It has proved to be a durable, comfortable, and good-sized pack so far, although occasionally he complains of a squeaking sound in the back straps.  While my backpack is a new women’s Osprey Xena 85, which I tried out for the first time on the Camino Portuguese and then the East Coast Trail.  So far I have really liked it, although I haven’t quite figured out how to adjust it perfectly yet. But then again life wouldn’t be fun without a few challenges.

Stove

Deciding which stove to take has been difficult for us.  For years we relied on our MSR Whisper Light stove, which we know and love.  However, we suspect that locating MSR fuel on the trail might be difficult, requiring us to carry (and then later dispose of) multiple canisters. As an alternative we tried the Bushbox XL Combination Kit, which can be run using wood or liquid fuel.   We found this stove to be compact, easy to use, durable, and complete with a soot-containing envelope.  However, it weighs 1.5 lbs, and we never quite got the hang of it, especially in windy conditions, when we really struggled to keep water boiling for 10 min.  Our final option, which we tested out on the East Coast Trail, was the Ohuhu Portable Stainless Steel Wood Burning Camping Stove. This stove is ¾ of a pound, collapses into a small stuff sack, and cost just $20.00. We used it successfully on the East Coast Trail, relying on a combination of wood and Fondue Fuel from Canadian Tire, so this will probably be our choice when we begin our hike across Canada.

Pots, cups and cutlery

Currently we have a 1000 mL G4Free pot and lid that came in a set of 4 with a smaller pot and lid. We took both pots with us on the East Coast Trail, but never used the smaller one, so we will leave it behind on our trek across the country.  The design of the pot allows us to use the lid as a bowl.   We have two Toaks 400 mL cups, which are light weight, with foldable handles.  We were relatively happy with these, although they were very hot when first filled, and then cooled off very quickly thereafter.  For cutlery we will take just 2 spoons from our Titanium Utility Cutlery Set, Extra Strong, Lightweight, Professional grade, and one Swiss Army Knife, complete with a can opener.

Water Filtration

Over the years we have come to rely on and love our MSR MiniWorks EX.  It never failed us, we never got sick and it worked like a charm.  This time around however, we have begun to find that space – rather than weight – is our problem.  This makes means upon review the MSR MiniWorks is huge in our backpacks.  As such, and not without huge debate we turned to the much smaller Sawyer Squeeze.  We will each be carrying one of these on SmartWater bottles as we trek.  Though it is worth noting that at the first sign of any problems – our MSR is already boxed and waiting to be shipped to us.

Clothes

At school and in the Scouts we were taught to Expect the Unexpected and to always Be Prepared, however these two noble sentiments become overwhelming when trying to plan for a 2-3 year long trek across thousands of kilometers ranging from the North Atlantic in Newfoundland, to summers in Southwestern Ontario, to the fall in Prairies, and winter in the Rocky Mountains – let alone when you add in canoe trips in Lake Superior and north wards to the Arctic Circle.

In general we have simplified things and will likely rely on resupply packages throughout the years to change our equipment from summer to winter and back again when needed.  Beyond this we will travel with 2-3 sets of clothing – 1 for hiking, 1 for night and 1 extra in case of wet weather or for presentations in classrooms. This clothing comprises a range of rain gear, hiking shorts, hiking pants, under garments, and socks. At home you go to the closet each day and there are a range of clothes.  Each day you can pick and choose according to the weather, how you feel, or the occasion.  At home we never given much thought to which materials dry the quickest, hold up to constant physical wear, or which don’t show as much dirt as you might get on you over the 1-2 weeks in between really good washings.  Once you start looking at long distance hiking all of this inbuilt ignorance is challenged, especially when you consider that different types of clothes add more and more weight to your pack.  As such, while carrying 3 sets of clothing doesn’t sound like a lot of options to wear over the course of three years, this amount of clothing makes us luxurious in the long distance hiker perspective of things.

Most of our clothes are made out of Merino wool – or as we refer to it – the magical merino sheep.  Merino wool clothing resists taking on smells, cleans easily, and dries super quick – making it perfect for long distance hikers!   Because of this clothes we took on the Camino de Santiago, the GR65, Camino Portuguese and more recently the East Coast Trail, and which we intend to take on our hike across Canada include several merino wool shirts.

Electronics:

Beyond our food, water, shelter and clothing – in order to blog, photograph, and track our progress we also need to include rather heavy electronics equipment in our backpacks as well as the ability to recharge such resources.

With this decision, we deviate from most lightweight and long distance hikers who strive constantly to reduce the weight of their packs.  However given that we are hiking to raise awareness about Birding, the need to protect important birding areas throughout the nation, and to encourage people to get outside and reconnect with nature – we need to be able to stay in touch.  In order to do that, to promote our ideas, to post on our experiences, and to thank those who are helping us along the way – we need to take some electronic devices with us and be able to keep then charged en route.  Ironically then after months of reducing our back weights it is with electronics that we are adding dead weight back in. Sean’s pack in particular has an additional 15-20 lbs in these resources alone.

Mapping and Connectivity

We have spent a year mapping, planning and Google walking the trail to get to know it better.  To be able to plan resupply boxes, where we can buy supplies, and were we can camp along the way.  However while hiking we hope to utilize the Trans Canada Trail / Great Trail App, which after being unavailable for some of 2018 now seems to be beautifully up and running!  In addition en route we will likely also alternate between the All Trails App and Google Maps.

To ease the concerns of our parents while we are on yet another long distance hike we will be tracking ourselves and reporting in daily on our Garmin in Reach Explorer+. The Garmin also provides us the option of reviewing maps on it and providing us with emergency assistance if we have any unforeseen difficulties.

Food, Supplies, and Resupplying along the Way

In terms of food we usually carry between 10-15 lbs each in our backpacks.  This means we have enough on resupply days to get us 6-7 days on the trail without any support.  Ideally we like to ensure that we have at least 2 days extra of food on us in case of emergencies or getting held up in an area without supplies.

Our main source of resupplying ourselves will be at the various stores, shops, etc along the way.  Which means we have spent the last few months figuring out where we need to get supplies and where we will be unable to get supplies.  In addition to this my parents are great and will likely also be sending along packages periodically with Canada Post Flex Delivery which will give us a few treats and help us change our equipment as seasons demand.

Sonya’s Bag – Osprey Xena 85

 – Big Anges Copper Spur UL3, with fly and groundsheet

– Sea to Summit Pack cover

– 2 merino wool short sleeve shirts

– 2 merino wool long sleeve shirts

– 1 logo – Come Walk With Us – presentation shirt

** This number of shirts is excessive – realistically you only need 2 or 3, but I vary between staying warm, cooling off, or trying to keep the sun off me to prevent getting burnt **

– 2 pairs of merino wool leggings

– 2 Columbia hiking skirts / skorts

– 1 pair Prada hiking pants

– 1 swimsuit

– 1 fleece sweater

– 1 sun hat

– 1 hiking merino wool buff

– 1 pair of mittens

– 3 pairs of hiking socks – merino wool

– 3 exofficio underwear

– 2 exofficio bras

– 1 Sea to Summit Food Container – Medium

– North Face Rain Jacket

– Columbia Rain Pants

– Eddie Bauer Down Jacket – packable

– 1 backpack rain jacket / cover – Sea to Summit Ultra-sil Packcover Large 70-95L

– Keen hiking boots

– Keen hiking sandals

** I decided to sleep in a Merino shirt and leggings – so no night clothes were brought **

– headlamp (for early morning departures)

– first aid kit – Band-Aids, moleskin, Tylenol, Advil

– Marmot Winter sleeping bag for the beginning and Atlantic provinces (will be changed out with seasons)

– 1 SIGG water bottle – 1 litre

– 1 pair of hiking polls – Komperdell with Cork handles

– overnight bag including deodorant, razor, hair brush, tooth brush,  travel tampons, nail clippers, lip balm, and sun screen

– East Coast Sibley’s Bird Guide

– Garmin InReach

– G4Free camp pot set (pot and lid)

– Ohuhu Portable Stainless Steel Wood Burning Camping Stove

– Zpacks stuff sack – as our food bag to hang

– Klymit Insulated Static V Lite

– Canister of bear spray

– small day bag – Osprey Ultralight stuff pack

– phone

Sean’s Bag – Gregory Whitney 95

– 2 MEC Merino wool shirts, short sleeve

– 1 Icebreaker Merino wool shirt, long sleeve

– 2 pair hiking shorts

– 1 pair of hiking pants

– 3 pairs of merino wool hiking socks – Wigwam

– 2 pairs of hiking liner socks – Wigwam

– 3 pair of exofficio underwear

– 1 Tesla leggings

– 1 fleece sweater

– 1 North Face Rain Jacket

– 1 North Face Rain Pants

– Patagonia Down Jacket – packable

– 1 backpack rain jacket / cover – Sea to Summit Ultra-sil Packcover Large 70-95L

– 1 pair of Keen hiking sandals

– 1 pair of Merral Moab hiking shoes

– 1 baseball cap

– 1 sunglasses

– 1 Merino wool hiking buff

– overnight bag, including tooth brush, toothpaste, camp soap, tweezers, lip balm, deodorant, razor

– 1 Sea to Summit Food Container

– Sea to Summit Pack cover

– 1 SIGG water bottle

– 2 Sawyer Squeeze Water filters

– 1 Day bag – Sea to Summit 18 L

– Camera

– Camera Battery recharger, phone recharger

– Marmot Winter sleeping bag for the beginning and Atlantic provinces (will be changed out with seasons)

– Klymit Insulated Static V Lite

– Canister of bear spray

– day bag – Sea to Summit Ultra-Sil Nano Daypack

In addition, we also each carry 3 water proof stuff sacks to put our clothes, electronics, and journals into while in our bags to keep them separate and dry. In addition to which we of course carried food which will vary from location to location, and distance between purchase sites.

 

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Comments 3

  • Kelly McDonald : May 29th

    Sounds like an incredible adventure. Not sure if you’ve been following Melanie Vogel who has been on the trail continuously for the past two years. The stove may be an issue as fire bans have become a almost permanent summer feature in the west and apply to wood and alcohol burning stoves (anything you can’t shut off). The burning of deadfall is also prohibited in most Provincial and National Parks

    Reply
    • Randy : May 29th

      I totally agree with Kelly you people should not be allowed to go hiking! Your equptment list shows that you are ill prepared and stupid. As Kelly points out your cooking arrangements are illegal and I hope that someone has called the provincial police to have you stopped and charged.

      Besides which so many people have already done this trail there is no point to hiking it. It isn’t even a real trail. If you want to explore Newfoundland try something real like the East Coast Trail rather than “The Great Trail” which is more of a “Great Lie”

      I hope someone stops you from hiking.

      Reply
  • Arlene (EverReady AT 2015) : May 30th

    Sonya, this will be a great adventure and as with any long distance hikes, you will be adjusting your gear choices depending on weather, location, etc, and experience. For your stove you might have to go back to gaz cans due to fire bans and if so, I recommend the Pocket Rocket. It served me well on the Appalachian Trail. I noted you are bringing a swimsuit which you really do not need. Most of the time you will the only 2 people at the beach or stream or you can just swim in your underwear. For rain, I found using a poncho better than using a rain jacket. The poncho allows for more venting than a jacket, even with pit vents. I found you ended up sweating so much in the jacket that you were as wet in and out. A Poncho ( check the ZPacks Poncho) worked really well. Good luck!

    Reply

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