What is backpacking?

The first thought that comes into one’s mind is a student taking a gap year away from their studies and then heading off to different countries to experience different cultures. In Canada backpacking has a different meaning. This is when people set off into the wilderness often along trails and enjoy camping. Camping can take many forms from sites offering amazing facilities to those area s where the facilities are basic

Some people prefer dispersed camping. Dispersed camping is camping outside of a designated camp site. This really gives the hiker the isolated wilderness experience. Vancouver Island gives hikers the opportunities to sample wilderness through walks of varying degrees of difficulty. These can range from small parties exploring the certain trails over a week, to those who are guided on one-day adventures. When hiking in the wilderness it is imperative that the hikers take notice of the advice given by the authorities. The National Parks on Vancouver Island are well managed and operate in order to maintain the beauty of the area and also to take care of those who wish to visit the area.

The West Coast Trail

The location of the West Coast Trail

Perhaps the most demanding trail on the Island is the West Coast Trail which is within the Pacific Rim National Park Reserve. The trail is 75 kilometers long and takes between 6 to 8 days to complete taking in magnificent scenery. The problem of being in such breathtaking wilderness are the dangers that go with being there. The remoteness of the area means that it can take a long time for people to be rescued, or attended to. There are only three access points to the trail. The northern end at Pachena Bay, the southern end at the Gordon River, and the mid-point at Nitnaht.

This area is subject to heavy rainfall and as well as soaking walkers, there are other hazards that need to be considered. Raging rivers and slippery underfoot conditions can make it a dangerous scenario. The park is only open for the summer months from May 1st until September 30th to avoid extreme weather but the wilderness summers never guarantees ideal climatic conditions. In order to hike in the area every walker needs a permit and if people are going to camp an induction course has to be completed before they can start their journey. The park gives the campers advice on what to pack if they are to attempt to walk this arduous trail. The advice appears to be two-fold. Firstly, how to look after the park, and secondly how to look after themselves.

Camping on the beach. Take it all away

Trail etiquette is comprehensively covered with a “pack in and pack out” policy. Whatever the hikers bring onto the trail they are expected to take away. Cooking is only permitted on light weight stoves and fires are only permitted on the beach. There is water available along the trail in the form of rivers and creeks but is best collected up stream.  Food must be brought with the hiker as consumption of clams, muscles and oysters is prohibited. All hikers are encouraged to stay away from bears and cougars. The contents of the rucksack is essential for the trek. Firstly, sturdy boots, warm clothing and waterproofs are essential. The weight of the packed sack should not exceed 35% of the hiker’s body weight as the trail is so physically demanding, and the contents should include tent, phone, stove, sleeping bag and matches amongst many other items.

The national parks on Vancouver Island give an amazing opportunity for people to see the area in its full splendor. However, it is clear that much management is needed in order to protect man from the environment and this spectacular wilderness from man.


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