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

Backpacking Food – Tuna Cakes

Backpacking Food – Tuna Cakes with Remoulade 

There are days on the trail when you get to camp and all you want is to put something in your mouth as quickly as possible. This recipe is not for those days. Although a little fussier (and messier for the cook) than most recipes we use, these tuna cakes are amazing for an evening at camp when you have the time and energy! Adapted from here.

Fuel effeciency – 2 sporks

Ease – 3 sporks

Prep time – 3 sporks

Serves 2

½ package Stovetop Stuffing

1 pouch tuna

5 packets mayo

3 packets relish

1 packet ketchup

1 packet hot sauce (optional)

1 T* vegetable oil, plus more for frying

3 T* water

*These are approximate measurements. I am not hardcore enough to carry measuring spoons in my pack.

At home:

Dump stuffing mix and all unopened packets/pouches in a quart-sized ziploc. Be sure to include a small squeeze bottle of oil and a snack-sized ziploc for mixing the remoulade. 

At camp:

Add tuna, 1 packet relish, 3 packets mayo, 1 T of vegetable oil, and the water to the stuffing mix in the ziploc bag. Seal bag and massage until the contents are all mixed.

Combine remaining 2 mayo packets with the ketchup, hot sauce, and relish in the smaller ziplock bag.

Coat the bottom of your cookpot with oil. Take about a quarter of the stuffing mixture and form it into a patty. Fry until golden brown. Serve with a good dollop of remoulade.

backpacking food - tuna cake
Cake of awesomeness with generous smear of remoulade.


Notes: Your hands will get really messy when forming the patties. Have some wet-wipes or a bandana handy! Make sure to give each cake plenty of time to set up in the pan before you attempt to turn it. My first couple turned into a hash rather than a cake. Give it at least 3-5 minutes before you flip.


Backpacking Food – Butternut Squash Soup and Spicy Cheddar Shortbread Biscuits

Fuel efficiency – 4 sporks

Ease – 5 sporks

Prep Time – 4 sporks

When I first got bitten by the hiking bug, I would spend hours combing grocery store aisles for trail-friendly products. These little vacuum-sealed baby food squeeze packs caught my eye several times. I’ve been using the fruit packets to make a pretty kickass trailside PB & J for a while now, but I just knew there had to be a use for the vegetable variety as well.


Having trail-tested this soup on our most recent backpacking adventure, I can say for sure that this soup gives no hints to its baby-food roots. While the soup is probably not hearty enough to stand on its own, with the addition of these spicy cheddar shortbreads it was quite satisfying. It could also be bulked up with the addition of dehydrated chicken, dried mushrooms, or some form of grain.


Backpacking Food – Butternut Squash Soup

Serves 2

¼ cup Knorr Leek Soup mix

1 T  (heaping) Coconut cream powder

1 packet crushed red pepper

1 packet soy sauce

3 4 oz butternut squash squeeze packs

2 cups water

 At home:

Combine soup mix, coconut powder, and crushed red pepper in a small ziplock.

 On the trail:
Bring 2 cups water to a boil. Add contents of the ziplock to the pot and stir until dissolved. Stir in the butternut squash and heat until bubbly. Taste, add soy sauce as needed.

Backpacking Food - Butternut Squash Soup Fixins
Butternut Squash Soup
Backpacking Food - Spicy Cheddar Biscuits
Spicy Cheddar Shortbread Biscuits

A note on the shortbreads:

I baked these on a Thursday night and served them on a Saturday. They were still tasty, but any longer than that and they probably would not have worked. We carried them in a container that originally held Crystal Light 2 QT packets, which protected them from crushing and didn’t add too much weight.



Nerdy Backpackers

The Laws - Backpackers
This is us backpacking in Zion 2014

Living in Kansas City, and dealing with the midwest’s brutal summers and chilly winters, can put some harsh limits on backpacking trail time. In the off season, you’ll find us brewing beer, running around in World of Warcraft, or working on our indoor garden. We aren’t pro, we aren’t hardcore, and we certainly aren’t ultralight backpackers! But, whenever the weather or travel permits, we’re at our best when we’re on the trail, just a couple of nerds in the wilderness. . .