Cambodia’s Best Motorbike Trips | 3 Incredible Adventures in the Kingdom of Wonder

Man sits on rock overlooking hills and cloud on Bokor Mountain

With a majority of the country unexplored by travellers, hopping on a motorbike is the perfect way to access the parts of Cambodia many people miss. From hidden temples and green rice fields to incredible smoky sunsets and abandoned hill stations, you won’t want to miss these rides.

Unfortunately a number of Cambodia’s roads are either heavily trafficked or heavily potholed. That said, if you’re willing to go the extra mile, there are three motorbike journeys in the country you should miss only at your own peril.

With the expansion of tourism, it’s easy (and cheap) to rent a motorbike in any of these locations. I’ve always been a lucky passenger on these trips, as I have yet to master the art of riding a bike myself. If you aren’t comfortable renting your own bike and going at it solo, drop me a line in the comments below and I can recommend someone in the area as a driver.

Now, it’s time to motorbike Cambodia!

Girl wearing backpack looks out at sunset in Mondulkiri

Motorbike Cambodia's Hidden Temples

Siem Reap Town to Beng Mealea, Siem Reap Province

Distance: ~140km roundtrip

This full day temple outing is worth the layer of dust you’ll end up covered in. You’ll be rewarded with solo adventuring at some of Angkor Wat’s most incredible outlying hidden temples. Leaving the tourist mania of Siem Reap town, you’ll soon be surrounded by the real charm of Siem Reap province. Pass by tiny roadside towns selling fresh fruit, admire the green rice fields stretching as far as the eye can see, and take in the country’s signature red dusty roads. 
 

Start your day of adventuring early in the morning to avoid the midday heat. First up on the temple tour is tiny Banteay Ampil, 35km east of Siem Reap town. When I visited in 2018, the only road access was a tiny dirt single track that was often too muddy/washed out to use in the rainy season. I know there were plans to build a larger road in this area so it may be a different journey to get there when you visit. Ask a local in the area before you rent a motorbike and head out here. 

Once you arrive, you should have tiny Banteay Ampil to yourself. This temple is located outside of the Angkor Wat complex and apart from a few boards propped haphazardly to hold up stray stones, the temple is beautifully unrestored. The trees entangling the crumbling stones are incredible. It’s easily my favourite temple in Cambodia for these reasons.

Banteay Ampil

Carry on from Banteay Ampil another 30km in the direction of Beng Mealea. You’ll past rice fields and school children biking the dirt roads to get to class. Beng Mealea is where your big exploration off the bike continues. If you avoid the big tour buses, you’ll usually only see a handful of other people at this temple and you can largely explore it in solitude. It can take around 2-3 hours if you allow yourself to get lost in Beng Mealea’s beautiful dark corridors. Watch out for snakes!

It used to cost just $5 to visit Beng Mealea, however as of 2020 the temple is now included in the regular Angkor Wat admission fee and you will need a full pass. Check out this site before you visit for the latest information on tickets.

Hop on your bike for the long road home, making sure to stop for a coconut and some mangosteens or rambutans at one of the roadside markets to keep your sugar levels up for your motorbike ride home. 

Renting a bike: Expect to pay $10 for a basic bike or more for a dirt bike rental in Siem Reap town. 

Lady walks along path in hidden temples of Siem Reap

Sunset Hills Motorbike Ride

Sen Monorom to Andong Sne, Mondulkiri Province

Distance: 40km roundtrip

Winding through Cambodia’s wild eastern province of Mondulkiri, the 20km road from capital Sen Monorom to Andong Sne is freshly paved, largely devoid of traffic, and, simply put, stunning. You’ll pass by pine forests and hills that turn golden as the sun sets. It’s nothing short of magical, but this road is also bittersweet.

It used to have far more forest coverage than it does today. In spite of the fact that the majority of Mondulkiri province is designated as protected area, illegal logging in the area is strikingly evident. It’s part of what makes this drive so powerful. It’s a reminder of the fragility of our planet and our responsibility to do better as humans. 

Take a pit stop at “Build Love” Hill for a sunset view, and then carry on back to Sen Monorom town for dinner. It’s not a long day on the bike, but it’s a beautiful sunset ride.

Mondulkiri road at sunset

For the more adventurous, add on a trip to Bousra Waterfall earlier in the day (80km roundtrip from Sen Monorom). This road was under construction when I visited and made for a bumpy ride. I would easily say it was still worth it to see the stunning waterfalls waiting there.

Renting a bike: You can rent a motorbike in town for around 5-7 USD per day.

Tales from the Banana Trail

Cambodia's Misty Mountain Motorbike Ride

Bokor Mountain, Kampot Province

Distance: 80-100km roundtrip

If you’re craving an escape from Cambodia’s heat, Bokor is your dream motorbike destination. Base yourself in the relaxed haven of Kampot town and rent a motorbike to head to Bokor Mountain for the day. Once you enter the park, a recently repaved road awaits and it makes for a lovely snaking drive up to the top of the mountain surrounded by trees on either side. Once you get above the clouds, you’ll see a large Buddha which makes for a good pit stop to stretch those driving legs. 

Man sits on rock overlooking hills and cloud on Bokor Mountain

Carrying onwards, you’ll pass swan paddle boats on the mountain’s lake, a seemingly out of place casino, and an old church. If you’re into ghost stories and time travel, stop at the old hill station for a quaint high tea experience in the often deserted old building. Alternatively, bring a picnic from one of the great restaurants in Kampot, and stop at Popokvil Waterfall to eat your lunch at the waterfall (which is at its most impressive during rainy season).

Head back down the winding road into Kampot town for a dinner at one of the town’s amazing restaurants.

Renting a bike: A full day costs $5-7 USD at any guesthouse in Kampot. 

Man sits on waterfall near Kampot, Cambodia

Whatever you do, DON'T FORGET this

Unfortunately, when you’re riding motorbikes medical emergencies can happen and you want to be prepared! A friend of mine was medevaced to Bangkok from Cambodia and spent several weeks in the hospital there to the tune of $750,000. Fortunately, she had travel insurance! 

If you don’t already have travel insurance, check out World Nomads . Their coverage includes medical emergencies, luggage & gear and trip cancellation.  Hopefully, you never need to make a claim, but if you do you’ll be beyond happy you were prepared!

Disclaimer: Some of the links in this post are affiliate links. If you click one of the links and make a purchase we’ll earn a small commission at no cost to you. Just like the travel backpacks we build, we’re very particular . So any products or services we suggest, we test and use ourselves before making any recommendations or endorsements. 

Howe Sound Crest Trail – Your Guide to Hiking the HSCT

View from Magnesia Meadows on the Howe Sound Crest Trail

The Howe Sound Crest Trail (HSCT) offers the ambitious hiker a taste of the best of the incredible BC backcountry!  The 33 km HSCT crosses over and around some of the North Shore’s most iconic mountains including the Lions, James Peak, Mt. Harvey, and Brunswick Mountain. Along the way you’ll be inundated with stunning vistas of the coastal mountain range and Howe Sound. Frequent scrambles, mild exposure, and a few precarious sections with chains/ropes make the Howe Sound Crest Trail an ambitious 1-2 night backcountry trip (or an even more ambitious trail run) not for the faint of heart. To the ambitious hiker the rewards of this journey are unmatched by anything with this proximity to Vancouver. 

** Some of the links in this post may be affiliate links. If you click one of the links and make a purchase we’ll earn a small commission at no cost to you. We’re very particular about products and we only recommend products, services, or accommodation we trust and use ourselves.**

The Lions on the Howe Sound Crest Trail

How to get to the Howe Sound Crest Trail

The Howe Sound Crest Trail is typically done as a point-to-point hike from south to north starting from Cypress mountain near West Vancouver and finishing at Porteau cove. North to south navigation is also possible, but adds significant elevation gain to your hike.  

There is no Translink (public bus) available to Cypress mountain or Porteau cove, but Cypress Coach Lines does offer transportation to the Cypress provincial park during the summer months and into the middle of September. It may also be possible to take an Uber directly to Cypress mountain.  Either of these options still leaves you in need of a pickup, a way to drop your car in advance, or a hitchhike back from the end point at Porteau cove.

Later in the season, a multi vehicle solution or a generous friend willing to pick you up and drop you off is required. 

It is also possible to hike up the Baden Powell from Horseshoe Bay (public transit accessible) to begin your hike, but this will add an extra 9km and over 1000 meters of elevation gain to an already long and strenuous adventure. I did this. It was brutal.

Important considerations for the Howe Sound Crest Trail

Water: As the trail spends a lot of time meandering along ridges and on summits, water can be an issue on this hike. Come prepared by carrying at least 5L.

Dogs: There are several segments of the trail that your furry friend will not be able to negotiate. There have been several forced evacuations as a result of people trying, so leave your dog at home for this one.

Cell Reception: Good reception is available until Brunswick lake. After that, expect to lose it until the grueling final slog down the 5km of access road.

Backcountry Camping: Unlike hikes like the Rockwall Trail, you will not find outhouses, tent pads, or no bear caches on the Howe Sound Crest Trail.  You must come prepared with your trowel for digging a cathole, and a bear canister to store your food.

Bears: You’re in bear country. Make lots of noise, bring bear spray and a bear canister to store your food (as there are no hangs/boxes). Be extra noisy in the obvious areas overgrown with berries (I spooked a bear in the berry-laden meadow between David Peak and Magnesia Meadows).

Other information: Check BC Parks website for important updates on trail access or warnings.

Travelling from outside Canada? DO NOT FORGET THIS

If you’re traveling from outside Canada don’t forget to purchase comprehensive travel insurance that includes emergency evacuation!

World Nomads is the best choice for these types of adventure trips. Hopefully you never need to make a claim, but if you do you’ll be beyond happy you were prepared! I broke my collarbone  traveling a few years ago, which hurt enough! I can’t imagine how much worse it would have felt if I had to pay the $15,000 in medical bills out-of-pocket. 

View from the campsite at magnesia meadows
Photo Credit Stephen Evans

Camping spot recommendations for the Howe Sound Crest Trail

1 night on the trail: Magnesia Meadows

 A long first day brings to you this beautiful campsite situated in a gorgeous alpine meadow with an incredible sunset view of Mt. Harvey and out towards the Howe Sound and Sunshine Coast. Magnesia Meadows has a good consistent water source provided by a small tarn that is a close walk from the emergency shelter.

2 nights on the trail:

For night 1 find a spot with access to a tarn for water near Unnecessary Mountain or the East Lion. For night 2 camp on the beautiful shore of Brunswick lake.

How long will it take to hike the Howe Sound Crest Trail

To give you an approximate idea, here’s my rough timing for the Howe Sound Crest Trail done as 2 days and 1 night. Please note I added several hours and a lot of energy by hiking up the Baden Powell trail from Horseshoe Bay. If you go this route, I’d suggest taking the first possible morning bus to Horseshoe Bay to limit the potential of being forced to hike in the dark. As a baseline, I’d classify my pace on the faster side. Leave early on day one to avoid hiking in the dark, especially in the fall as the days grow shorter.

Horseshoe Bay to Cypress Mountain via Baden Powell Trail – 2.5 hrs

Cypress Mountain to Magnesia Meadows (with a couple quick stops and 30 minute lunch) – 9 hours

Magnesia Meadows to Highway 99 (including ascent up Brunswick Mountain, swim in Brunswick lake and lunch) – 7 hours

Hiking the Howe Sound Crest Trail:

From the parking lot at Cypress Mountain pass the lodge on the left hand side and head toward the main wooden sign post for the ski resort. You should see several sign posts indicating St. Marks summit and the Howe Sound Crest Trail.

View from St Marks Summit near Cypress Mountain

Cypress Mountain to St. Marks Summit

You’re off! The first 6km of the Howe Sound Crest Trail meanders through the trees before making several switchbacks to the top of St. Marks summit. The first part of the trail is relatively uneventful and can be quite busy. St. Marks is a hugely popular day-hike and the throngs of running shoe, jean clad, hikers may leave you wondering if you’ve somehow gotten lost … fear not! Following St. Marks the crowds thin and the hike becomes a lot quieter.

Once you’ve reached the summit of St. Marks, follow the paths off to the left to find the best view spots and take a moment to savour your first great vista. You likely won’t have the view to yourself, but it’s gorgeous nonetheless and worthy of a snack stop (or lunch if you’e been really ambitious and come up the Baden Powell from Horseshoe Bay or are taking 2 nights to complete the trail).

Once you’ve savoured the views you’ll drop steeply down the backside of St. Marks before beginning the steep ascent up the appropriately named Mt. Unnecessary.

St. Marks to Mt. Unnecessary

While not the most technically challenging part of the trail, I found the ascent up Unnecessary to be the most mentally gruelling. It’s in the trees, your pack is at its heaviest (assuming you haven’t already eaten too much food) and the toll of descending St. Marks just to make an unnecessary up again (pun intended) is a touch taxing.  After making the slog up for a while, the trees begin to thin out and you’re granted an incredible view of the Howe Sound – the perfect antidote to unnecessary suffering!

The Lions from Unnecessary mountain

Unnecessary Mountain to the Lions

From the top of Unnecessary mountain you’ll make a scramble down a steep roped section before the grade eases briefly as you continue towards the base of the Lions. Keep your eyes peeled for a small detour trail to the right of the main Howe Sound Crest Trail that provides a potential water fill up spot should the need arise! There’s also a few spots in here to make camp if you’re planning a multi-nighter. From here, the trail begins to ascend steeply giving you a taste of the scrambling and challenges to come! Near the top of the ridge a stunning view awaits with huge cliffs dropping off around you! If you’re spending several nights on the trail and time is on your side the Lions provides the opportunity for a scramble and the chance to bag another summit on your epic Howe Sound Crest Trail adventure. Near the base of the Lions, the trail cuts down to the right and the more technical part begins!

The Lions to James Peak

After dropping down slightly the trail traverses a gully along which a series of rock ledges give you your first taste of some exposure. Following the traverse, you’ll ascend steeply to a beautiful spot before another brief descent and level off  to yet another beautiful viewpoint! From the viewpoint, you’ll descend steeply before entering a talus field. Mind your footing through the ankle twisters and keep your eyes peeled for the occasional orange trail marker indicating that you’re on the right path. Towards the left side of the field you’ll exit and begin a steep journey up James Peak. Once at the summit you’ll find a chain rope that can be used for support in crossing a thrilling ridge!  Once across, James peak opens up into a meadow – a great spot to stop and catch your breath!

Scaling the ropes accross James Peak
Photo Credit Stephen Evans

James Peak to David Peak to Magnesia Meadows:

When you’re ready to continue, look for orange markers or flags toward the left side and descending through the meadow. Avoid the false trails leading straight, they end abruptly in descents that would only work with a squirrel suit!

Once you’ve completed your descent through the meadow after James peak, you’ll come to a fork in the road. The left fork leads up and over David peak with a steep scramble through the bush and several roped sections. To the right, the trail circumnavigates David peak, losing significant elevation before forcing you to regain it. During my hike in September of 2019, the route left over David peak appeared to be the only option and was clearly marked as the main route. After ascending and steeply descending David peak the trail veers off to the left passing through a field of berry bushes and ascending towards Harvey pass. Make lots of noise in this area, as tons of ripe berries make this prime prime bear feeding territory late in the season. I spooked a black bear fattening himself up for hibernation on my hike. Once you’ve ascended through the berry-lane you’ll reach Harvey pass and almost immediately see the Magnesia Meadows emergency shelter. Magnesia Meadows is a stunning location to spend the night and the views of Mount Harvey and the Howe Sound are nothing short of spectacular! Set up camp, savour the sunset and rest well, the hardest part of the Howe Sound is now behind you!

View from Magnesia Meadows

Magnesia Meadows to Brunswick Mountain trail:

After packing up, continue past the emergency shelter before veering to the left and hiking through the trees and several meadows with a few views of Mt. Harvey. Around 2km in you’ll encounter a fork in the road for the Brunswick Mountain trail. If you’re up for it, dump your pack (remove your bear can or take food with you) and make the 30 minute scramble to bag yet another peak, not to mention some incredible views of the Howe Sound, Mt. Harvey, and the Coast mountain range.

Brunswick Mountain on the howe sound crest trail
Photo credit Stephen Evans

Brunswick Mountain to Brunswick lake:

When you’ve finished the detour up Brunswick mountain, continue along the trail crossing another meadow and a forested area with several tarns before descending to the sublime beauty of brunswick lake. Brunswick lake offers an incredible spot to camp if you continue a ways past the emergency shelter and take a right at the fork to the lakes south shore. It also provides a great spot for a refreshing dip to help cool those aching muscles and joints before continuing the bone crunching descent!  

Brunswick lake the perfect spot for a swim
Photos credit Stephen Evans

Brunswick Lake to Deeks Lake

After you’ve enjoyed some time relaxing at Brunswick lake follow the fork to the left and cross a small rock bridge (another great spot to swim). After descending further, you’ll reach a roped section that helps ease a slippery section by a waterfall. From here you’ll pass along meadows and rocky sections before descending and then eventually crossing a small stream. Eventually you’ll reach deeks lake and traverse the lake through beautiful trees and mossy grounds to the log jammed area and campsite at the opposite side.

Deeks Lake
Photo credit Stephen Evans

Deeks Lake to Highway 99

From Deeks Lake you’ll descend and pass a small waterfall before continuing to descend uneventfully through the forest. From the boundary of the trail, you’ll slog the last 3.5km along a gravel road before shooting out near Porteau Road. Chuck off your pack, pat yourself on the back and drive down the road for a celebratory brew or post adventure feast in Squamish! 

Packing List for Backpacking the Howe Sound Crest Trail

Since I first wrote this post I’ve changed my gear setup quite a bit and moved towards a lightweight setup. Intense backpacking trips like the Howe Sound Crest Trail or the Rockwall Trail are a lot more enjoyable with less weight, letting you cover more distance with ease.

If you’re new to backpacking, don’t stress out about buying the latest and greatest equipment. Save money and use things you already own  or borrow things from a friend. Later, when you’ve gained more experience, modify your kit and change out gear as you get a better understanding of what creature comforts you can and can’t live without.

With this in mind, here’s some gear suggestions for taking this trip:

Essential Gear to Pack

Tent

The Big Agnes Copper Spur UL2’s unique blend of functionality, livability, weight and durability have earned high praise for several years! Big Agnes’s customer service is also second to none!  This tent and the Nemo Dagger OMSO were front runners for me when I upgraded my tent setup this year. 

Ultimately, I  prioritized weight and bought the Mountain Hardwear Strato UL2 over the MSR Freelite. I would have bought the MSR, but it was sold out. If you never backpack alone and don’t mind the extra weight most of these tents are also available in 3-person models.

Hiking Backpack

If you’re relatively new to backpacking and building out your kit slowly, there is nothing wrong with using a large size travel backpack with a decent suspension system and padded hipbelt or borrowing a pack from a friend. This gives you time to decide what features you need and whether or not backpacking (and the gear) is something you’re going to invest in.  When I first started backpacking, I used my Khmer Explorer Travel Set on the West Coast Trail and Sunshine Coast Trail which worked great despite my poor packing skills (don’t recommend backpacking with 55lbs…)!  

If you’ve begun dialing in your backpacking kit,  checkout the Gregory Focal or Women’s specific Facet which at ~2.5lbs provide a great compromise between barebones ultralight packs and the heavier feature laden packs. 

If you’re ready to go to an extreme level of gram counting and have eliminated all creature comforts check out the Hyperlite 3400 southwest. It’s 100% waterproof and constructed from ultra light dyneema fabric.

Sleeping Mat

I used to have terrible sleeps in the backcountry until I switched to the Therm-a-Rest . It’s incredibly lightweight, comfortable and packs down to the size of a Nalgene bottle. This is probably one of my favorite backpacking items! Try it out. You won’t regret it. Sleep well!

Backpacking Pillow

Yes, you can sleep with a pillow not made of bunched up clothes in the backcountry. Check out the Big Agnes Q-Core Deluxe Pillow, It packs down ultra small, weighs almost nothing and provides a new level of comfort after long days on the trail.

Sleeping Bag

I can’t speak highly enough of Patagonia’s sleeping bags I invested in one several years ago. It’s unbelievably lightweight and packs down small. I found the 30°F / -1°C to be perfect for most outings. Like all Patagonia products, it’s not cheap, but they stand behind their gear and the quality matches the price point. If you spend a lot of time in colder environments they also make a 20°F / -7°C version.  These bags are a very worthwhile splurge you won’t be disappointed in.

Water Purification

 I’m a huge fan of the Steripen. It’s light, portable and only takes minutes to purify a liter of water in a Nalgene. Press the button, place the pen in your bottle, and stir for a couple minutes. It’s like magic! Make sure to bring a few purification tablets as a backup should you run into any technical problems/dead battery with your Steripen.

Swiss Army Knife

Fixing gear, cutting food, a swiss army knife is your go to everything too for backpacking.

Stove & Fuel

Lightweight, convenient, and reliable, the MSR pocket rocket has been my go to backpacking stove for years.

Cookset

I love the GSI Halulite Microdualist II, Two-person cookset. It’s lightweight and I can fit my MSR pocket rocket and a fuel canister inside. If you don’t already have a stove consider the MSR PocketRocket Stove Kit for an all-inclusive solution.

Water Bottle

Nalgenes are always a backcountry favorite. If you’re cutting weight or looking for a way to save a buck, a simple smart water is the go-to for ultralight backpackers. I’ve recently moved to a hydration reservoir as it allows me to stay hydrated continuously without stopping to grab and open a bottle.

Extra Water storage

Extra water storage capacity makes cooking that much easier and camp life more enjoyable so make sure to invest in something like the MSR DromLite Bag V2. It’s also a must for a trip without reliable water sources like the Howe Sound Crest Trail (later in the year) where hauling more water may be essential.

First Aid Kit

From blisters, to scrapes, and cuts. A first aid kit is an essential item to have.  The pre-built kits from Adventure Medical Kits have served me well on many adventurers. At the end of your trip write down any items you used and replace them so they’re ready for your next adventure.

Trowel & Toilet Paper

The HSCT does not have any established outhouses, so you’ll  need  a trowel to dig a cathole when nature calls.  Followminimum impact camping principals and go at least 200m away from any established trails, campsites, or water (creeks, lakes, rivers etc.).  Pack your TP out, I know it’s gross, but just do it. 

Hiking Poles

I once had an ego and thought I didn’t need poles. Then I completed the Howe Sound Crest Trail and my knees screamed at me for the next week. My overweight pack and lack of poles were to blame. Poles are great for reducing the strain of long grueling descents and providing extra stability on exposed sections. Both these features you’ll experience on the Howe Sound Crest Trail, so do yourself a favor and get a pair of poles. For a reliable entry level option try these Black Diamond Poles or consider upgrading to the carbon fiber to save extra weight.

Headlamp

The Spot 350 is the way to go with 6 modes including the night vision saving red light! Red light mode takes a minute to get used to, but once you do it’s a total game changer trust me! The stars never looked so good! 

Bear Spray

When traveling in bear country, Bear Spray is a must. Make sure to remove the packaging and check the expiration date before heading out.

Bear Canister or Ursack * Don't Forget

Keeping your food safe from bears is an essential part of keeping you safe and being a responsible backpacker. The Howe Sound Crest Trail doesn’t offer any food storage so bring a bear canister to keep your food safe. They’re bulky, they’re annoying to pack, but they work well as stools and are far more convenient and effective than hanging your food. For several people go with the BV500 for solo adventures the BV450 works great.  To save weight Ursacks are also a great option, but they need to be tied to a tree and don’t prevent your food from being crushed and smashed by a hungry bear.

Don”t overlook safe food storage, as if a bear gets into your food it will need to be destroyed.  End of story. 

GPS, Compass & Map

Download the GAIA app for maps and gps. I always bring a traditional compass and map as well in the case of technical problems or dead batteries.

Luxury Items to Pack

These items are not necessary, but may be worth it depending on your weight priorities and the distance you plan to cover.

Backpacking Chair

After a long day on the trail there’s nothing better than finding a nice comfortable spot to rest your weary glutes. I’m a big fan of the Big Agnes Mica Basin Camp Chair. At just over 1kg, it’s light enough to justify bringing on slower/easier backpacking trips where weight isn’t as big of consideration or for trips where you’re taking day trips from an established base camp.

Hammock

If you’ve never strung up a hammock between two trees deep in the backcountry you’re missing out! Nothing beats getting horizontal with some great reading material in the pre-dinner hours or taking in an amazing sunset from your own outdoor couch.  The ENO Double Nest has room for two and at ½ kg  it’s hardly even a splurge to pack.  P.S don’t forget the straps to hang it.

Clothing & Accessories to Pack

Shell Jacket

An essential piece for wind, rain, snow. I’ve had great luck with an older version of the MEC Flash Cloud. Also check out the Patagonia Torrentshell  (or Womens version).

Sun Hat & Winter Hat/Toque

A ball cap or tilly hat keeps your face protected from the intense mountain sun. A toque is great for warming up during chilly mornings or evenings.  Here are a bunch of great options.

Sunglasses

Protect your eyes!

Rainpants

Mountain weather can change fast and rain pants are an absolute lifesaver to have in your backpacking kit. Many have the ability to quickly take them on and off without removing your shoes/boots allowing you to stay comfortable eveb if you get caught in a sudden downpour. Check out the Torrentshell in mens or womens.  

Zip Off Hiking Pants (1 - 2 Pair)

I never thought I’d see the day I embraced the zip-off pant. But hey, they’re really the best of both worlds for rapidly changing mountain environments and keeping warm in the evening when the temperature drops. Check out the Quandary Pant for a great option.

Puff Jacket

I’ve had the Patagonia Men’s Nano Puff® Hoody for years. It’s perfect multi-functional item for everyday, backpacking, and pretty much anything where you might need a bit of warmth. I’m still looking for an activity it doesn’t work for. They also make the Nano Puff in a women’s version.

Sun Hoodie

When I went backpacking in the Grand Canyon a few years back, I was shocked to see throngs of Arizona Trail thru-hikers wearing hoodies in the 40 C (100F) heat. Turns out they were onto something! A sun hoodie has been one of the best items I’ve added to my backpacking kit. They keep you burn free, are surprisingly cool, and let you get away with leaving the bottle of sunscreen at home. The Sahara Sun Hoodie (men’s/women’s) from REI has served me well or check out these ones from Outdoor Research (men’s / women’s).

Base Layer Top

These Capilene Cool shirts have worked well for me, but pretty much any quick-dry athletic top will work fine.

Base Layer Bottom

A merino bottom baselayer are perfect for warming up at night or during chilly mornings.

Underwear

Patagonia makes fantastic underwear with quality, durability, and comfort far exceeding lululemon, and saxx (I’ve tried both). You decide how many or how few you bring….  

They also make womens’ underwear, but I am unable to advise on fit, form, function or durability on this front… 

3 Pairs of Hiking Socks

Darn Tough Vermont makes the best hiking socks hands down. They’re guaranteed for life/replaced free of charge and they don’t stink. Really! I typically bring 3 pair. 1 pair for hiking, 1 pair to change into at camp, and a reserve to throw into the rotation as needed. 

Gloves

Thin, water resistance 3-season glove is typically perfect for cold mornings or windy summits. 

Camp Shoes

Crocs are back! Well for backpacking camp shoes they never left… They’re lightweight and ugly as ever. Many backpackers find them to be the perfect camp shoe for resting sore feat after a long day in boots/shoes.

Personally, I still hate them. I have an old pair of Tom’s which I occasionally bring. They are light and less bulky than Crocs. If going with a trail runner, I’ll often ditch the camp shoe altogether and just loosen my laces. Your call!  

Trail Runners or Hiking Boots

When I’m going lightweight I’ll wear trail runners. I’ve had great luck with the La Sportiva Bushido II. When I’m carrying more gear/weight or if there’s a chance of snow, I’ll wear a larger more traditional hiking boot, like the Scarpa Kailash.

Microspikes

Microspikes slip effortlessly over your boots and make walking on snow and ice a breeze.

Low Gaiter (season and condition dependent)

Low gaiters are perfect for keeping rocks, sand, and snow out of your boots and preventing blisters.

Toothbrush & Toothpaste

Duck Tape ( for repairs and blisters)

Food

Everyone has different takes and caloric requirements, so I’m not going to tell you exactly what to bring. I generally avoid the just add water meals you find at REI or MEC. They’re overpriced and often don’t rehydrate as you’d like. I usually head to the grocery store and search for things like lentil rice, ramen, or plant-based mac & cheese. They’re basically just add/boil quickly meals.. Always rebag/repack this type of food. As there is no reason to carry unnecessary packaging on the trail. I’m also a big fan of the Patagonia provisions soups and chilis

If you’re looking for incredible dehydrated food check out Food for the Sole. Their salads are some of the best add water food I’ve had in the backcountry. 

Final thoughts on hiking the Howe Sound Crest Trail

The Howe Sound Crest Trail offers an incredible backcountry experience to properly prepared adventurers. If you have questions drop me a note in the comments below and I’ll do my best to help you out! Happy hiking friend! 

More adventures you might enjoy

View along the Rockwall Trail towards Floe Lake.

Rockwall Trail | The Ultimate Guide to Hiking the Rockwall

The Rockwall Trail is one of the Canadian Rockies’ premier backpacking trips. For 55km you’ll be treated to a seemingly unending supply of sublime Rocky Mountain scenery. Here’s how to make it happen with must-read tips for getting a permit and beating the crowds.

Solo Travel | 10 Must Visit Destinations for Independent Travel

Best Places for Solo Travel

As great as a travel companion can be, sometimes it’s hard to find the perfect one. Other times, your normal travel companion is busy with work, her boyfriend/girlfriend, or she just has a different country on her bucket list. Whatever your reason may be for hitting the road alone, here are the top ten best places for solo travel in my books. 

1. Cambodia for temple exploration, beach days, and history

Having lived here, I may be a bit biased, but Cambodia is one of my favourite countries for solo travel. Cambodian people are so warm that you never really feel like you’re on your own. It also has enough of a traveller circuit that it’s easy to choose activities or places to stay where you can meet people you really click with.

Bayon Temple in Cambodia's Siem Reap

What to do in Cambodia:

Start off by exploring the temples of Angkor Wat while you base yourself in the town of Siem Reap. If you’re into adventuring and going at it alone, rent a bike and get your exercise sweating your way through these 12th century ruins. Alternatively, sign up with one of the hostel tours to get a feel for the temples and meet some other wannabe Indiana Jones travellers along the way. From Siem Reap, don’t miss out on Cambodia’s capital Phnom Penh to learn about the country’s difficult history in the 1970s through a visit its jarring museums, S21 and the Killing Fields. There are plenty of great cafes and restaurants in the city that were made for solo travellers just like you! Then get your water fix by heading down to the islands off of Sihanoukville for some serious beach time and partying, or to the riverside haven of Kampot for kayaking and great coffee. If you’re looking for further trip ideas, check out the 50 best things to do in Cambodia for some more inspiration. 

Safety in Cambodia:

Safety isn’t a major concern in Cambodia, however, phone and bag snatchings are increasingly common, particularly in Phnom Penh. Wear a backpack with both straps on, keep your phone hidden when you’re walking on the street, and just be generally aware of what’s going on around you.

2. Myanmar for solo sunsets, getting off the beaten path, and meeting new friends

Myanmar was my first big solo trip, which could be why it ranks so high in my books. The country is a happy medium of being more removed from the well-worn Banana Pancake Trail but still visited enough that you can easily meet a lot of new friends, particularly a number of other solo travellers. People tend to travel around Myanmar in a loop. This means you’ll often meet people who are travelling the same direction as you, allowing you to have your independence with some familiarity along the way. Myanmar has some pretty incredible temples and off-the-beaten-path adventures to experience either solo or with new travel friends. 

Myanmar Bagan

What to do in Myanmar:

Head to the most famous place in Myanmar, Bagan, where you can rent out an e-bike (solo or with a group from your hostel) to explore over 2,000 temples and pagodas. You can also hop in some shared transport to visit the nearby Mount Popa, a monastery perched on top of an extinct volcano with 777 stairs to climb and maybe even more monkeys to get past. From Bagan you can head to Hsipaw or Kalaw that act as starting points for multi-day treks to see Myanmar’s countryside and rest your head in homestays along the way. Treks are also a great way to meet new travel friends. And if you’re craving a bit of reflective solo time? You can visit places like the enchanting Shwedagon Pagoda in Yangon or Mandalay’s U Bein Bridge where flocks of people congregate every sunrise and sunset. Both are magical places to explore solo, although you’re likely to get invited to join a local family for a snack at both.

Safety in Myanmar:

Personal safety isn’t an issue in Myanmar. However, do inform yourself on what’s going on in the country. There are grave human rights atrocities happening in Myanmar currently. Do your research to educate yourself on the ethics of travelling to Myanmar and make an informed decision for yourself on whether or not to visit. This article from BBC provides a good basis for assessing if your trip passes the human rights test. 

3. Colombia for mesmerizing cities, nightlife, and nature

Colombia might not be one you expected to see on this list, but once again the people make this place wonderful for solo travel. I unfortunately don’t speak a lick of Spanish, which made travelling solo in Colombia a bit harder than travelling in Myanmar or Cambodia where English is more frequently spoken. However, the people were so lovely and it’s a relatively easy country to navigate even with limited knowledge of Spanish. It also boasts the most incredible cities I’ve ever been to and one of my favourite treks.

Cartagena Colombia Buildings

What to do in Colombia:

Colombia has something for every solo traveller. Bogota’s amazing street art scene, cafes and cobblestone streets are captivating and the perfect place for a solo traveller to wander around. Heading up north, stop at Salento in the Cocora Valley to see the country’s famous national tree the Quindío wax palm, then head up to cool Medellin. Take Medellin’s incredible free walking tour, head up the city’s gondola, and enjoy the nightlife. Then visit and wander the bright streets of storybook Cartagena. Finally, get your nature fix in Tayrona National Park on the beaches or test your endurance on the Lost City Trek. The gruelling 4-6 day jungle trek is sure to help you bond with the other travellers in your group – even if it is about just how badly your clothes smell by the end.

Safety in Colombia:

I had one unfortunate taxi scare when I was alone in Colombia and overall I did have to be much more on guard as a female traveller than I did in most other countries I had previously travelled to, save maybe India. But as long as you’re smart, Colombia isn’t as dangerous as you would be led to believe. Be careful, keep your valuables at your hostel in a safe where possible, and make smart choices. You can’t prevent everything bad that could happen, but you can take steps to protect yourself. 

4. Peru for geographic diversity, mountain treks, and amazing food

The diversity that Peru offers may be unmatched by any other country on this list. Peru is home to the Andes mountains, lush Amazon rainforest and incredible Colca canyon. Beyond geographic diversity, the country is also full of ancient civilizations and history to discover. From lost cities to mysterious lines carved in the desert, and cuisine unlike anywhere in the world, Peru should only be missed at your own peril. It’s also incredibly easy to navigate the country as a solo traveller.

Corillera Blanca mountains in Peru

What to do in Peru:

If time allows, spend a week surfing and beaching at Mancora. Then trek the lesser known parts of Peru by basing yourself in Huaraz, located in the breathtaking heights of the Andes. From here you can take a multi-day trek through the Santa Cruz Valley or Cordillera Huayhuash. Move south and experience the chaos of Lima and its delicious (and numerous!) Michelin-Star restaurants (for the flashpackers in the crowd). From Lima, head south to experience the famous sand boarding in Ica or the moonscape of Paracas. You can also take a day trip to the incredible Islas Ballestas, often referred to as the poor man’s Galapagos. From there it’s south to Nazca for a nausea-inducing flight over the mysterious Nazca lines, famous geoglyphs that stretch hundreds of kilometers wide. Continue southward by bus to Arequipa and walk along the gorgeous colonial gem known as the white city before heading to Colca Canyon where the fortunate may catch a glimpse of the giant Andean condor. Once you’ve had your fill of canyon country, head to the bustling city of Cuzco to experience Peru’s cultural juxtaposition first hand. Spanish colonial buildings mesh with ancient Inca walls in a dizzying array of cultural fusion. Next head to the unmissable Machu Picchu via the Inca Trail, Salkantay, or Lares treks, or take the train. If you’re a solo traveller looking for something more off the beaten path, venture to the other less famous lost city of the Inca’s, Choquequirao. Once you’ve drank your fill of the Cuzco region, catch a flight to Iquitos the jumping off point of the Amazon or head to Lake Titicaca. 

Safety in Peru:

Peru is generally very safe to travel in, but exercise caution and avoid walking alone late at night in Lima, Cuzco or on the beaches of Mancora. 

Wherever you go, DON'T FORGET this

When you travel things can and often do, go wrong.  Hopefully, it’s something small that makes for a good story in the end.  Regardless, you need to be prepared for the worst! A friend of mine was medevaced to Bangkok from Cambodia and spent several weeks in the hospital there to the tune of $750,000. Fortunately, she had travel insurance! 

Check out World Nomads for comprehensive adventure travel coverage. Their coverage includes medical emergencies, luggage & gear and trip cancellation.  Hopefully, you never need to make a claim, but if you do you’ll be beyond happy you were prepared!

5. Vietnam for mountains, motorbike rides, and tailored clothes

Vietnam is one of my repeat favourites for solo trips. When I was based in Cambodia I loved sneaking in a weekend away by myself to Ho Chi Minh City for amazing Vietnamese food, awesome coffee shops and the stimulating buzz of a big and increasingly modern city. Vietnam is equally amazing for longer trips, spending a full month going from South to North, or vice versa. Perhaps even more evident in Vietnam than Myanmar, because everyone heads either South or North, it’s easy to adopt travel friends going the same route as you. This makes Vietnam one of the easiest countries to make friends on the road if you’re travelling solo.

Motorbike Ha Giang

What to do in Vietnam:

Even scratching the surface of what Vietnam has to offer is hard to put into one paragraph. Starting in the motorbike chaos of Ho Chi Minh City, visit the War Remnants Museum and indulge in some incredible food across the city. Then head north to the “honeymoon capital” of Vietnam in Dalat, which contrary to its name, is actually really nice for solo travellers. Dalat is full of adventure activities like canyoning and mountain biking, not to mention great Vietnamese coffee shops. Carrying on north you can stop at the beaches of Mui Ne and Nha Trang, then visit the charming (albeit touristic) town of Hoi An to have any clothes you would like tailor made for an affordable price. Travel further north to visit charming Hanoi with its quaint egg coffee shops and water puppet shows. Then take in Ninh Binh or Halong Bay’s iconic limestone formations. If you don’t mind some colder weather, head up north to Sapa to do some trekking or go further afield to Ha Giang’s motorbike loop (where you can rent a bike on your own or get behind an experienced driver) and the impressive border waterfalls in Cao Bang province. All of these places have great group tour options or are perfect for solo exploration.

Safety in Vietnam:

Vietnam is another place I always feel really safe in travelling as a solo female. Again, watch for bag and phone snatchings, especially in Ho Chi Minh City. 

6. Thailand for beach parties, diving, and cooking courses

If you’re looking for a great first solo trip, Thailand is probably at the top of the list. The beaches are incredible, the cities (Bangkok in particular) are a whirlwind, the people are friendly, the food is to die for, and the culture is fascinating. While you might be forced to share a large portion of the backpacker trail with hundreds of other tank top-clad backpackers, there are plenty of off-the-beaten-path spots to be discovered. 

Thailand Beaches and boats

What to do in Thailand:

Spend a few days getting acquainted with the chaos of Bangkok by visiting the iconic Grand Palace and Wat Pho, or take a backwaters boat cruise through the city’s remaining canals.  Party the night away along the backpacker ghetto of Khao San Road or get upmarket along the many nightclubs of Th Sukhumvit. Once you’ve had your fill of the big city, head north to Chiang Mai and the surrounding hill country for trekking, cooking courses, and waterfall adventures. If you’re craving some time in the sun, make your way south to experience Thailand’s islands, including our personal favourite Koh Lanta, and the plethora of diving, beaching, and (full, half, blue, etc.) moon partying that awaits. 

Safety in Thailand:

Thailand is an extremely safe country to travel solo in and few streets or areas are dangerous to walk through at any time of the day. Keep an eye on your cash and valuables for unwanted hands and read up on common scams before you go.  

7. Canada for mountains, water activities, and charming cities (Montreal)

Too often we forget about our own backyard. Particularly now as we become increasingly aware of the impact our flights have on the climate crisis, choosing trips close to home is a great option!  From charming cafes and top notch nightlife in Montreal, to the countless mountain and water adventures in the Canadian Rockies, Canada has something for every solo traveller. 

West Coast Trail Canada

What to do in Canada:

If you’re the type of solo traveller who loves a good cafe, museum, restaurant or cocktail bar, look no further than Montreal. Brimming with culture, this charming city is the perfect mix of North America and Europe. If you’re in the East anyways, pair this trip with a journey up to Toronto or maybe even down to New York City in the USA. If you prefer the wild outdoors, start in Vancouver or Calgary to visit the incredible Canadian Rockies. There are fantastic one day to multi-day hikes to get your fill of nature, not to mention kayak trips and whale-watching if you head over to Vancouver Island. 

Safety in Canada:

Canada is generally very safe and a great place to go as a solo female traveller. That being said, be aware of wildlife that may cross your path. If you’re planning to hit some hiking trails, try to group up with other travellers or locals and be sure to pack bear spray in case you meet a grizzly or black bear en route. 

8. Taiwan for street food, hot springs, and waterfalls

Taiwan is surprisingly underrated, particularly for solo travellers. The people here are unbelievably friendly and helpful, so even if you stop for a moment on the street I can guarantee someone will come up to you and ask if you need help. It’s also full of incredible nature, including some of the best hot springs around. 

taipei 101 from elephant mountain

What to do in Taiwan:

Taipei is a mecca for any solo traveller who loves sampling different street foods with markets galore. You can also easily get around the city by public transit to access the zoo, the city’s gondola, and its beautiful temples. Take a quick jaunt up Elephant Rock to see the sun set over Taipei 101 – while you may be a solo traveller, you certainly won’t be alone for this view. Taiwan is such a small country, that it’s easy to base yourself in Taipei and do plenty of day trips to the incredible Taroko Gorge, hot springs in Beitou, and beautiful waterfalls in Pingxi. Overall Taiwan is a great solo trip, whether you base yourself in Taipei or travel around the country. 

Safety in Taiwan:

Taiwan is another generally very safe option. I never had any issues here and would highly recommend Taiwan as a solo female traveller.

9. Indonesia for volcanoes, rice paddies and yoga

Indonesia is one of my favourites for diverse adventures on a solo trip. If you’re looking to do some serious solo relaxation time, you can head to Bali for all of the smoothie bowls, yoga classes, rice field walks and massages your heart desires. If you’re looking for a bit more of an adventure, travel over to one of the neighbouring islands for some rougher travel with lower tourist numbers.

Rice Fields in Bali Indonesia

What to do in Indonesia:

Indonesia, home to some 18,000 islands, has no shortage of travel options. Bali is obviously the most popular place to go, and if you’re getting your toes wet with solo travel, it might be a great starting point for you. Head to Ubud for yoga classes galore and smoothie bowls in the rice fields, visit the waterfalls up at Munduk, and maybe try a surf lesson in Kuta. If you’re looking to try a bit less polished of a trip, head to the island of Flores where you can see the amazing volcanic lakes of Mount Kelimutu. Flores also serves as the jumping off point to see the incredible Komodo dragons. If you’re more of a great apes fan, travel to the island of Sumatra where you can see Sumatran orangutans in their natural habitat from Bukit Lawang. Overall, the options are endless in Indonesia, and can suit any kind of solo traveller.

Safety in Indonesia:

With such a vast array of islands, all unique to themselves, it’s hard to put one safety rating on the entire country. Overall, Indonesia is a very safe place to go, and whenever I have visited solo I haven’t had any issues. However, do be mindful of the laws here and, again, use common sense.

10. Sri Lanka for train rides, spicy food, and beaches

Sri Lanka has continued to soar in popularity for travellers. With its magical train rides, incredible surf, and delicious spicy food, Sri Lanka is deservedly popular. It’s a slightly more relaxed place to travel than India, which makes it a good option for solo female travellers looking to get their feet wet exploring South Asia. 

Sri Lanka Train Ride

What to do in Sri Lanka:

After getting settled in and spending a day or two acquainting yourself with the country’s largest city, Colombo, venture inland via train to Kandy to experience the cultural heart of the country. From Kandy take the iconic train (yes, the one you’ve seen all over Instagram) further through stunning countryside and make the sacred pilgrimage up Adam’s Peak. Alternatively, spend several days exploring the tea country of Nuwara Eliya or Ella. If beaches are more your thing, head south for the best of Sri Lanka’s beaches. Be sure to experience the white sand of Talalla Bay and catch the waves at Weligama or Hiriketiya. To take a break a break from the sun, interrupt your beach days with a day trip to the old forte at Galle. If you have time, venture further afield to Sigiriya (Lion Rock), north to the cultural melting pot that is Jaffna, or east to the surfing mecca of Arugam Bay. 

Safety in Sri Lanka:

Sri Lanka is a safe country to travel in, but subject to cultural and religious clashes. Check security warnings before heading out. 

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