My favorite trail breakfasts – Backpacking food indulgences

There are mornings on the trail when you just want to boil water and then go. These recipes are not for those mornings. However, when we have the time to indulge a bit, these two meals really hit the spot. With the exception of the dehydrated eggs, all ingredients can be found in most grocery stores.

Behold the deliciousness!

Backpacking Breakfast Burrito
Breakfast burrito
Backpacking Biscuits and Gravy
Biscuits and gravy

Backpacking Biscuits and Gravy

Serves 2

Ingredients

1 package shelf-stable bacon (about 4 oz of salami works as well)

2-3 Tbs flour

2/3 C Powdered milk

2 English muffins

2-3 pepper packets

Hot sauce (optional)

Olive oil (sometimes needed)

At home:

Remove bacon from cardboard packaging. Measure flour and milk into separate plastic bags.

At camp:

Tear bacon or salami into small pieces. Cook until the fat has melted and the meat has some delicious crispy bits. Add in the flour and stir until all flour is coated in fat (If the meat you use is lean, you may need to add olive oil.) Stir for a minute or two, then add about a cup of water and the powdered milk. Stir to combine and bring to a boil. Continue boiling until the gravy thickens to desired consistency. Add pepper and hot sauce to taste.

We usually just tear the English muffins into bite-sized pieces and then layer muffin pieces and gravy in our larger pot, parfait-style. Alternatively, split each muffin in two pieces and top with gravy.

Backpacking Breakfast Burritos

Backpacking breakfast burrito ingredients
Breakfast burrito ingredients

Serves 2

8 oz per serving

530 calories per serving

1 package shelf-stable bacon

2/3 cup dried hashbrowns

5 Tbs Ova-easy eggs

Hot sauce/salsa/barbecue sauce (optional, but really tasty!)

At home:

Measure out egg crystals and hash browns into separate plastic bags. Be sure to write rehydrating/cooking instructions on a small card to include. Pack a measuring spoon to use when rehydrating the eggs! Remove cardboard packaging from bacon.

At camp:

This recipe works best if you have two pans.

Cover hash-browns with boiling water and set aside. The potatoes will need to sit for at 11 minutes to re-hydrate, so make sure to do this first!

Tear bacon strips in half (or whatever size fits your pan) and cook until crispy. Remove bacon from pan and set aside, leaving as much bacon grease in the pan as possible.

Backpacking Bacon!!!
Bacon!!!

Mix egg crystals and the appropriate amount of water (2 parts egg crystals to 3 parts water) in a small plastic bag until uniform. Scramble eggs in bacon grease (if you have enough grease, you can save some to crisp the hash-browns. We skip this step).

Backpacking scrambled eggs
Scrambled eggs

Check hash-browns to make sure the water has been absorbed. Heat through if they have gotten cold.

Backpacking breakfast Hashbrowns
Fluffy potatoes

Set out two wraps and layer each with half the potatoes, eggs, and bacon (or, realistically, whatever bacon is leftover from snacking). Top with a packet of salsa, hot sauce, or barbecue sauce (my favorite!). Fold burrito style and enjoy.

backpacking breakfast burrito
The acidity, heat, and sweetness of the sauce packet is essential here. I preferred bbq while hubs preferred salsa or hot sauce, but all three were delicious.

7 days of backpacking food-Prepping for a week in Olympic National Park

Rather than type out a long-winded introduction, let’s get straight to the food. This is what fueled us on a recent week-long backpacking trip in Olympic National Park – backpacking food for breakfast, lunch, dinner and two snacks per day for two people. I’m including weights and calorie counts where possible.

Backpacking Breakfasts:

Packed Breakfasts

  • Clif bars (Breakfast on the last morning is always bars of some sort so we can get on our way.)
  • Biscuits and gravy
  • Breakfast burritos (for 2 days) (8 oz/530 calories per serving)
  • Instant oatmeal (purchased and homemade, 3 days)

Backpacking Lunches:

Backpacking Lunches - Packed Lunches
I’m not especially creative when it comes to lunches. Simple and tasty is the way to go.
  • Trail PB & J (3 days)  (pita bread, squeezable apple sauce, and Justin’s nut butter singles)
  • Sausage/cheese/bread (4 days) (4 oz of summer sausage or salami, 4 Babybel cheese wheels, Wasa crackers or pita bread, and mustard)

Backpacking Dinners:

Backpacking Food - Packed Dinners

  • Sun-dried Tomato and Salami Mac N Cheese (4.8 oz/503 calories/serving)
  • Chicken and Vegetable Peanut Noodles* (5.3 oz per serving)
  • Falafel Wraps (8 oz/570 calories per serving)
  • Cheesy Rice and Sausage (7.7 oz/460 calories per serving) No real recipe for this one. It’s just a package of this with 4 oz. of summer sausage and 1.5 oz of cream cheese. Toss it in your cook pot, then heat, and eat.)
  • Cheese and Bacon Potatoes (4.3 oz/460 calories per serving)
  • Taco Potatoes* (instant mashed potatoes with half a package of instant taco filling and a package of powdered cheese sauce. It’s salty but so good!)
  • Cheese and Sausage Plate (Basically the same as the cheese and sausage lunch, but with the addition of a couple of single-serving boxes of wine)

*The spices used in these meals are crazy odoriferous. If you don’t want your tent, sleeping bag, clothes, and everything else in your bag to smell like tacos and curry for your next 3 trips, I strongly recommend carrying them in one of these.

Backpacking Snacks:

Backpacking Food - daily snacks

  • Trader Joe’s chocolate trek mix
  • Hershey’s nuggets
  • Beef jerky
  • Maple sriracha chex mix (This recipe with 3 Tbs maple syrup added. 232 calories per 2/3 cup)
  • Logan bread (This recipe with dried cranberries in place of the raisins and some vanilla extract and cinnamon added. 271 calories for 1/18th of the recipe)

I was initially concerned that there wasn’t enough variety, especially in the lunches and snacks, but it turned out not to be a problem. The logan bread and chex mix were both big hits, even on day six!

 

Product Review-Thermarest Backpacking Pillow

For my first several backpacking trips, I tried to save weight with ultra-light pillow options. I tried using my jacket. I tried shoving my clothes in one of those pillow case stuff stack things. I tried an inflatable stuff sack wrapped in fleece.  For me, at least, all of those options were total and complete failures.

Thankfully, my lovely parents bought me one of these bad boys last year.  The weight and bulk are completely worth it to me for a good night’s sleep. I have the small one. It weighs a hefty 7 oz, and I just don’t care. No more waking up with a stiff neck and headache, which happened every morning before I bought this thing. My pillow is the shit.

Weight: 7 oz (small) 9 oz (large)

Small pillow compressed, Nalgene for scale

Small pillow compressed, Nalgene for scale

Medium pillow compressed
Medium pillow compressed

Pros

  • Very comfortable. I sleep as well on this pillow as I do at home.
  • Machine washable
  • Available in S, M, L, and XL
  • No need to worry about a leak, as you would with inflatable pillows

Cons

  • Weight-7 oz for the small, 9 oz for the medium. To me, it’s absolutely worth it.
  • Somewhat bulky when compressed. I never could get mine back to it’s nerf-football size.
Small backpacking pillow expanded
Small backpacking pillow expanded

Medium backpacking pillow expanded

Medium pillow expanded

Underside of backpacking pillow
Underside of backpacking pillow

The pillow is filled with foam scraps leftover from making sleeping pads. When you first unroll the pillow, the case will be very loose as the foam bits are still compressed, but they expand fairly quickly. I usually unroll my pillow right after unpacking my tent, so by the time I am ready for bed it is plenty firm.  There have been a few times when I’ve forgotten, and the pillow is still pretty comfy pre-expansion.

The orange material feels kind of like suede, while the grey side feels like a well-worn bed sheet. So far it has been through about ten trips and as many washings with no sign of wear.  While this piece of gear probably counts as a luxury, it’s a luxury I don’t see myself going without.

Misadventures in the Black Elk Wilderness, South Dakota

Backpacking is hard work. It’s dirty. There are bugs. The pack can feel heavy. It can be hot. Your legs will hurt. There may be blisters. I know all of this, and I love it. It is my absolute favorite thing, and usually when I’m out there–buggy, hot, dirty, and tired at an almost molecular level–I’m also planning the NEXT time I get to go.

Continue reading Misadventures in the Black Elk Wilderness, South Dakota

What 4 days worth of trail food looks like plus backpacking recipes

Meal planning for the trail can be as simple or as complicated as you want it to be. Some hikers subsist completely on Pop-tarts and pre-packaged meals, while some make elaborate three-course meals. While we here at Nerds probably fall somewhere in the middle, the thought of a delicious meal at camp has more than once kept my feet going.

Continue reading What 4 days worth of trail food looks like plus backpacking recipes

Ouzel Falls Hike, Memorial Day 2015

After far too many weekends spent inside, Hubs and I decided to spend Memorial Day weekend stomping around the Estes Park area. We were hoping to avoid the crazy holiday crowds at Rocky Mountain National Park, so after asking for trail suggestions at one of the local hiking stores, we headed to the Wild Basin ranger station to begin our hike.

Side note-when hiking in the mountains, the weather is unpredictable to say the least, and you must pack accordingly. A comfy cotton sweatshirt tied around your waist will not cut it. Bring layers, bring rain gear, or you might suffer.

Estes Park hotel pic hiking rocky mountain national park rmnc
Note the gorgeous, clear blue skies

For example, this is what it looked like when we left the hotel for our hike.

Here’s evidence of the brief hail storm we just missed:hiking rmnp hail in rocky mountain national park

After a brief chat with the rangers at the Wild Basin station, we headed off onto the trail, regardless of the cold rain. Thanks to the downpour, the trail was blissfully free of traffic. After about a mile, we were rewarded with a lovely view of Copeland Falls.

Copeland Falls rocky mountain national park rmnp

Followed quickly by Calypso Cascades.

Cascade falls rocky mountain national park rmnp Ouzel Falls Hike - calypso falls rocky mountain national park rmnp

Soon after passing the Cascades, the rain turned into a heavy, wet snow accompanied by loud, raucous thunder.

hiking rocky mountain national park rmnp - Ouzel Falls sign

Unfortunately, the bridge after Ouzel Falls was washed out by the 2013 flooding, so we turned back and headed to the trailhead.Lawses in the snow

Stage one in convincing Hubs to try winter camping, complete!

All in all, the hike from Wild Basin to Ouzel Falls is a fairly easy and rewarding hike, and a great alternative to the amusement park crowds at Bear Lake.

Trail lessons:

1. All those warnings about the temperamental nature of the weather in the Rockies? They’re legit. Ignore them to your peril!

2. Even if you are planning on staying in hotels and don’t have to take ALL your gear, pack carefully. Otherwise, you might end up thinking you have left your rain gear behind and only finding them after you have purchased new gear. Oh well, it never hurts to have a spare, right?

Backpacking checklist -Flying with camping gear

If you want to go far away and backpack when you get there, this is no faster way than to fly. Of course, flying brings a whole new backpacking checklist and skillset. Here are the things we have learned over the last two years.

First of all, familiarize yourself with all the rules and regulations.

Checked baggage only:

Sharp objects (knives, axes, saws)

Liquids outside of the 3-1-1 rule (For those of you who like a little sip now and again on the trail, packing alcohol in your checked baggage is a-okay as long as it is in a seal-able container.)

Carry-on Only:

Lighters-one per person, no lighter fuel (per regulation)

Safety or waterproof matches-one book only, cannot be checked (per regulation)

Water filter-Your checked baggage may be exposed to below freezing temperatures, which is bad news for the filter.

Electronic devices

Compass-We packed ours in our checked baggage on our first flight, and now north moves as if by magic!

Do not pack:

Bear spray-Most bear spray exceeds the 4 oz limit for self-defense spray.

Fuel for your camp stove-Your stove itself can travel either in your checked bag or your carry-on, provided it is completely empty.

Note: If you will need either of these items, be sure to research where you can purchase them at your destination and check the store hours.  On a recent trip, we ended up spending our first day in town instead of on the trail because the quaint hardware store where we planned on buying fuel didn’t open until noon.

Protect your pack!

While you could just check your pack as is, it would be easy for a strap to get caught on something in transit. Backpack material could be  punctured or torn by the luggage processing equipment (its not as heavy as suitcase material) all of which can leave you scrambling to repair a damaged pack.

We pack ours in large duffel bags (these are ours) to keep them protected. Because there is always a chance the luggage will be searched, we place our empty packs in the duffel first, put our trekking poles on top of the pack, and then arrange our stuff sacks around them.

 

Make things easily searchableWe’re  careful to put anything likely to trigger a search right on top, so airport security doesn’t have to dig through all our gear to get to the suspicious-looking object, such as a homemade stove tucked into a dented pot and then wrapped in reflectix.  (The object is to reduce the number of the things the TSA is going to have to remove from your bag to get what they are after – the less they remove, the less they have to put back, the less likely something gets left behind.)

We’ve had our gear searched only once, and we lost nothing in the process.  Hopefully making our bags easily searchable  lessens the likelihood of anything being damaged or misplaced.

Easy Backpacking Checklist:

1. Look up the regulations, familiarize yourself with how the airports and really heavy bags (filled with weird stuff you need on a backpacking trip) work.

2.Pack your bag in a bag – keeps it clean, undamaged (hopefully) and lets those who need to search thing, do so more easily.

3. Make sure your trip takes into account that you are going to an airport, flying, and then driving to the trailhead – that’s a lot of travel and hassle, you might be better served by staying in town one night and launching the next day. Stress and hurry are no fun on a trail – don’t learn that the hard way like we did.

4. Relax, you’re going backpacking.

Backpacking Trip – Columbia River Gorge (Eagle Creek To Wahtum Lake)

Backpacking Trip – Columbia River Gorge

Eagle Creek Trail

As I may have mentioned, there are but two short windows between the freeze-your-snardlies-off winters and the humid misery of summer for local outdoor adventuring. When backpacking isn’t a possibility, the next best thing (for me at least) is to nose through the camping and hiking subreddits in search of beautiful places to visit. It seems that the Pacific Northwest has way more than its fair share of pretty, and we were thrilled to see some of it ourselves last summer. Continue reading Backpacking Trip – Columbia River Gorge (Eagle Creek To Wahtum Lake)

Backpacking Gear – Logitech Bluetooth Keyboard

Backpacking Gear - Bluetooth Keyboard
Yes, it’s big, I know.

 

Alright, alright, I know what you’re thinking: What?  A keyboard? That’s not backpacking gear.

Well, you can be right, go ahead, I don’t mind. I pack a little heavy for my backpacking trips and, honestly, what I call backpacking gear might actually include things like my Nexus 7 tablet and a keyboard. What’s wrong with that? Continue reading Backpacking Gear – Logitech Bluetooth Keyboard

Backpacking the Buffalo River

Backpacking the Buffalo River – Steel Creek to Kyle’s Landing

Backpacking the Buffalo National River is one of our go-to spots. If the weather’s right and we have the time, you will usually find us in Arkansas high on the bluffs that overlook the Buffalo River.

This was a five day/four night trip that served as our spring break. The distance of this backpacking trip wasn’t the goal; (the entire length of the trail between Steel Creek and Kyle’s Landing is only 8 miles) instead, the idea was to put 4 nights on the trail, the longest we have ever gone. Continue reading Backpacking the Buffalo River