The following items we consider essential gear for our Newfoundland hiking trip:
First of all, a backpack of course. We opted for ultralight ones, since every gram or ounce counts for a hike like this one. We first started to use Aarn backpacks for our hike from Land’s End to John O’Groats in 2010, and since that time they are our absolute favourites. You are much more balanced, and they are so much better for your shoulders and back. The ones we use for this trip are the Aarn Mountain Magic (one older model and a newer one).
Our trekking poles are older Leki-models, so you won’t be able to find the exact same ones as we’re using. They fold in three parts (so you can even put them in or on your backpack when you don’t need them) and some have cork handles for a more comfortable grip. In our opinion Leki poles are among the best trekking poles in the world.
Because accommodation is scarce and sometimes expensive along the T’Railway, we decided to bring a tent (a ultralight one, the Marmot Amp 3P). Of course we’ve also been staying in b&b’s, motels and hotels when available and affordable, but we think a tent is an essential item to bring.
In hindsight, this Marmot tent wasn’t the best choice, we probably would have been better off with a MSR Carbon Reflex ultralight tent. While the material the Marmot Amp 3P is made from is excellent, the tent has a construction error: when it is raining, water forms a little pool on the lower side of the inner tent (the part which isn’t covered by the outer tent anymore), and when this pool gets too big, it overflows and drips into the tent. We used our hiking poles to prevent this pool from overflowing, but we wouldn’t recommend bringing this tent on a trip like this.
You don’t bring a tent without also bringing sleeping pads and sleeping mats. Before we left, we spent quite some time choosing our sleeping pads, and in the end opted for the Sea to Summit Ultralight Regular. One of the things that helped us decide was this video. The R-value of this pad is 3.3, which basically means you can use it for temperatures down to around 0ºC. Its weight is 480g (16.9 oz). We hesitated for a long time between the Neolite and the Exped, but we found the Neolite too loud (we don’t want to wake up every time the other turns in his/her sleep), and the Exped somewhat less comfortable than the Sea to Summit.
Our sleeping bags are not cheap, but definitely warm and very comfortable: the down quilts of Enlightened Equipment. They are different from regular sleeping bags in that you don’t sleep in them, but under them. That makes sense, because in fact you don’t really need the insulation of a sleeping bag underneath you — your sleeping pad already provides this insulation. However, as you don’t sleep on the quilt, you do need to bring a sheet to cover your sleeping pad. (We brought silk ones, because of the comfort and weight.) The Enlightened Equipment quilts can be ordered to your own specifications. We chose the ones with Down Fill: 850, Down Treatment: Untreated Down, Temperature: 10°F (-12°C), Length: Regular – 6′, Width: Regular – 54″, Inside Fabric Colour: Charcoal 10D, Outside Fabric Options: Navy 10D.
Another item we think is essential, is a good water filter. Often the water from the Newfoundland ponds and rivers is fine to drink, but there is always the risk of beaver fever (giardiasis). That’s why we also bring our Katadyn Vario, which has a ceramic filter against microorganisms, as well as an active charcoal filter against chemicals and bad taste.
Stove and kettle
We brought our own Coleman stove, to boil water for coffee, tea, and freeze dried food or noodles. We bought ours years ago, so we don’t think the exact same one is still available, but it looks a lot like this MSR PocketRocket 2. You’ll need a kettle as well of course, something like our foldable X Pot. As we were not allowed to bring a matching propane/butane canister on the plane, we had to buy one in St. John’s, and we did so at the Outfitters in Waterstreet.
However, when we ran out of fuel after a couple of weeks, and we had to buy a new canister, we found out that they were very hard to get outside of St. John’s. At least, we were unable to find a shop that stocked them (see also this post). Luckily we ran across somebody who said we could use his Kelly Kettle, which only needs a few twigs to boil enough water for our drinks or a freeze dried meal. (And you don’t need to bring an extra kettle or X Pot either.) So we’d definitely recommend a Kelly Kettle now.
Bear bells and bear banger
In St. John’s we bought a bear banger, and two bear bells, to attach to our backpacks. Though it’s unlikely we’ll encounter a bear, it just made us feel a little bit more comfortable.
Cell phone / Spot Satellite Tracker
Everybody has a cell phone these days, but coverage in Newfoundland varies a lot from one area to another. For emergencies, you can decide to also bring a Spot Satellite Tracker (though we didn’t).