Joel and I are preparing for a challenging, 51 km, three-day hike of Cape Chignecto. Cape Chignecto is a Provincial Park in Nova Scotia, with over 50 km of wilderness trails along the beautiful Bay of Fundy.
This will surely be the hardest hiking challenging I have faced yet. I’ve done plenty of overnight hikes, but never more than two days.
What’s great about this hike is that it’s a full loop, meaning that you don’t have to worry about ferrying cars around. It’s also nice because it’s a Provincial Park, with more facilities available than most wilderness hikes. I’ve also heard it’s stunning, with amazing coastal views almost the whole way around.
When you’re on longer hikes like this, you really rely on your gear, so having the right stuff with you is important. I thought I’d give you a preview of what we’ll be taking with us, in case you are curious what to take with you on a 3-day hike in the woods.
We use the MSR Hubba Hubba NX 2-person tent. It’s ultralightweight, coming in at under 4 lbs. It packs up pretty small, which is great when you have only so much room in your pack. We like that it has two doors on either side, so you don’t have to climb over the other person if you have to get up in the night. You’ll want to get the footprint also. It adds minimal weight but is really important for keeping you cozy and dry inside the tent. We’ve been backpacking with this tent in the rain a couple times and have had no problems staying dry. We love it.
Sleeping Pad and Bag
A sleeping pad is a must to create a barrier between you and the ground and keep you warm and dry. We use Static V full-sized lightweight inflatable pads. They weigh only 514 grams and because they are inflatable, pack down pretty well. They blow-up pretty easy with just a few breaths (apparently 12, see below). For a sleeping bag, I use The North Face Furnace 20/-7. This bag is down filled and doesn’t pack up as tightly as some other sleeping bags but I tend to get pretty cold at night so I like the extra warmth this bag provides. Make sure you have a compression sack for these bags, so that you can squish them down to their smallest size in your pack.
The only stove we use in the backcountry is the Jetboil MiniMo. These things are awesome. They boil water is a matter of seconds and they’re super compact and light. While you can cook food directly in the stove using the simmer option, we tend to use it just to boil water which we then add to dehydrated foods. As for cookware, I use the Woods individual enamel set. I don’t take the plate into the backcountry, just the cup (for morning tea) and the bowl (for morning oatmeal). Evening meals we usually eat out of the bag (more on that later). To eat with, you’re going to need a spork. What’s a spork you ask? It’s a utensil with a fork on one side and a spoon on the other. Titanium sporks are amazing because they’re pretty much indestructible but they are very expensive. The plastic ones work fine, just don’t put too much weight on them or they’ll snap.
Water is life, on the trail. I use a Platypus Hoser 2.0 L hydration system. These are great because they slide right into a slot designed in your backpack, with an attached hose that threads up through so that you can have hands-free access to water at all times. Now, obviously on a 3-day hike, 2 L of water isn’t going to be enough. For that, we use a Sawyer Water Filtration System, with water we collect on the trail. It weighs next to nothing but is one of the most vital pieces of gear we carry in the backcountry.
Ah, food. Food is tricky on the trail. You want enough food to keep you moving, but not too much that it will weigh you down. It’s a little extra tough for me because I can’t eat gluten so I have to come up with easy-to-prepare, gluten free options. As I said before, we use a JetBoil stove, so we usually eat food on the trail that we can just add hot water to, like dehydrated camp meals, or noodles. For my money, I really like the AlpineAire camp meals, especially the rice-based ones. They are pretty delicious and the gluten free ones are well marked, which takes the danger and guesswork out for me. These meals act as their own bowl also, minimizing clean-up. They are expensive but oh, so worth it. For breakfast, we eat quick-and-easy oatmeal. We snack a lot along the way on trail mix, dried fruit, KIND Bars, beef jerky, etc. We’re also going to take along a couple bagels prepared with peanut butter and Nutella – drool – for quick lunches. What we don’t want to take is anything in heavy cans or that requires a lot of preparation. For us, at the end of a long day of hiking, you want something good, quick and easy.
Clothing is another tricky one. It’s sometimes hard to know exactly what you’ll need. Even if the weather doesn’t call for it, we always bring a lightweight rain jacket. You want clothes that are light and dry quickly, so synthetic materials and wicking layers are great. I’m bringing along two pairs of light cushion hiking socks (I like Darn Tough), underwear (obvi), light hiking pants and a sweater for cooler nights, two light t-shirts and a long sleeve wicking layer. That’s it. I’ll strap a hat to the back of my backpack but I don’t usually wear it hiking. We’ll surely be ripe when we get out of the woods three days later but when every gram you’re carrying counts, you have to take only what’s necessary. Keep in mind that you always want to hang your food in a bear hang away from camp at night. You don’t want visitors in the backcountry.
Other Necessary Items
There are numerous other small items we take with us that are pretty important to a successful trip. A small First Aid kit, paracord rope, fire starter (cotton ball slathered in petroleum jelly), a hatchet and knife, a tarp, bug spray, sunscreen, antibacterial wipes for cleaning, a garbage bag, toilet paper (obvi), head lamp and hiking poles. We also take waterproof pack covers for when it rains, because your pack may be water-resistant but everything inside it will eventually get soaked and putting on wet clothes sucks.
Luxury items are those things you don’t need to survive, but you really want to bring. I bring a Eureka! inflatable pillow, for instance. It’s really light and doesn’t take up much space in my pack but really increases my ability to sleep comfortably. I also take along a tripod and my DSLR, huge luxury items but I can’t help it, I’m a photographer at heart and I don’t want to miss a shot. We also take a Luci Inflatable Solar Lantern, which is a bit of a luxury item but more a necessity. It’s super light, doesn’t need batteries, packs down really small and is great to have around the campsite at night. We think every camper needs one.
All these items will go in my Osprey Ariel 55. It is by no means the biggest pack available in women’s sizes but it works well for two or three day trips. A good fitting pack is absolutely essential on backpacking trips. A good fitting pack can make 30 lbs feel like nothing. What I like about my Osprey pack is that the torso is adjustable, making for a better fit, it has spacer mesh at your back to promote air flow, a separate compartment for your sleeping bag (for easy access) and lots of other pockets and compartments for all your little stuff. Lots of other companies make great packs, though. Joel really like Gregory packs, and has a Zulu 65. I would just encourage you to try a lot on before you buy, it’s really important to get that good fit.
So, there you have it. Most of what we’re taking with us on our hiking trek of Cape Chignecto. Most of these items are available at MEC, or your local Scout and/or trail shop. If you follow me on Instagram (link on sidebar), I’ll be adding stories of our adventure for as long as I have cell phone service. Wish us luck!