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West Coast Trail: Boots made for walkin'

trail proven boots
trail proven boots
photo by Bob Bannon

The right choice of boots when hiking the West Coast Trail may be the single most important decision any would-be backpacker makes. First, you will want to have your own boots, not borrowed ones. Much of the equipment required to outfit a group is available through friends or in Calgary, through the outdoor activities rental department at the University of Calgary. Boots are a different kettle of fish and the hiker needs to buy them early in the training process and buy them properly. Rarely will you find the right footwear for this trail in your area shopping mall. Since boots are the single most important item that you will need, go to a highly reputable source of hiking gear and find an employee who knows the West Coast Trail. If you are in Calgary, try Mountain Equipment Co-Op or Camper's Village and be sure to speak to someone who has actually backpacked the WCT.

They need to be fitted by someone who knows what they are doing and can accommodate some specific requirements for hiking in a rain forest. You will wear two pairs of socks, a light, possibly nylon, liner sock and a pair of proper heavy duty hiking socks. Since you now know that, be sure that you bring both pairs when trying on boots. You will be carrying almost 50 pounds of supplies on your back and your boots must contribute a solid platform, so leather is the best choice. You might hear other pieces of advice from the uninitiated, but the experienced hiker will opt for over-the-ankle leather boots. Yes, they will require breaking in and that is why it is so important to buy them at least 3 months prior to the hike and to wear them in your training program. People may look at you a little weird in the local parks and stairways when you wear heavy duty boots like this, but just tell them where you are hiking and they will probably express awe and understanding. Frankly, this point is far too important to sacrifice safety and comfort for looks, which is why most of the mall stores will not work out too well when shopping.

You might consider boots with GoreTex linings; they worked very well for your humble scribe. Carry an extra pair of laces, even if the boots are brand new and do not be afraid to get them scuffed, wet and muddy before leaving for Vancouver Island. In terms of price, you will find a variety but do not be surprised to spend something in the $225.00 and higher area and when you are half way through the trail, you won't care how much they cost or worse, how much you saved, if your feet are sore.

This situation with having proper footwear is doubly important for the 50+ hiker who is going to use this experience as a way to challenge him or herself, especially if, like the writer you are not already a very experienced backpacker. Not to worry, you will be incredibly experienced by the time you complete the seven day West Coast Trail. If you want to learn a bit more about the experience of two middle aged hikers who experienced this adventure of lifetime, take a look here.