All posts by Amanda Laws

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


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!!!

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


  • 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


  • 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 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)