Backcountry Pancake Lesson

Who doesn’t love a good pancake on a cool camp morning. It’s the perfect meal to begin teaching young campers how to be a camp chef. Check out these tips on camp pancake making.

One of the best parts of camping is teaching my kids about camping and camp skills. On this years birthday trip to Mammoth Cave National Park in Kentucky, my daughter, Sandy, learned how to make Backcountry Pancakes.

It was brought to my attention while we were driving out to the NP that she was missing apple cinnamon pancake day in Home Ec. class. No worries! I assured her that she most certainly would not miss pancake day. No losing participation points here! The perfect opportunity to teach an important camping skill.

On our first camp breakfast of the trip, we had a pancake lesson. Sandy learned how to mix pancakes in a bag, start the camp stove, grease the pan, and fry up some flapjacks.

1. Prep

I like to keep things as simple as I can with as few dishes as possible while camp cooking. The easiest way to prep pancakes before camping is to measure out as much pancake mix as your party will eat in a meal into a ziplock bag. Write on the bag with permanent marker how much water is needed per your pancake serving amount. Example: Kodiak Pancake Mix (our favorite) takes 3/4 cup water per 1 cup of mix. This feeds our family of 4.

2. Gather Cooking Items

You’ll need a few items to successfully make pancakes at camp. Your kids can help gather materials, a good job for younger campers.

  • Camp Stove
  • Fuel
  • Lighter (if stove is not equipped with an igniter)
  • Coconut Oil
  • Pancake Mix
  • Rubber scraper or spatula
  • Plate & Spork
  • Soap & Sponge
  • Clean Water

3. Mix Pancakes

Pour clean water into the bag of mix a small amount at a time. Adding all of the water at once may result in runny batter. This will turn your pancakes into crepes. It’s not as appealing as it sounds, it’s a mess, trust me. Mixing the batter in the bag eliminates a dish and offers an easy squeeze method in placing the batter in the pan.

When the batter is mixed to your preferred consistency, cut a small slit in the bottom corner of the bag. Set aside with the slit corner up to prevent leakage.

4. Light’m Up

This was Sandy’s first time starting the camp stove. She wasn’t completely new as she knows how to ignite the gas stove at home. We talked about safety and order of operations per our stove mechanics before lighting it. If you’re teaching a new camp chef, be sure to give safe, clear instructions on how to operate your stove. (Her angle is goofy in the photo, but she did well.)

Once the stove is lit, place the pan over the burner with a slice of coconut oil.

5. Frying Flapjacks

As soon as the oil is melted in the pan, add the pancake batter. Use the easy squeeze bag and make a circle of batter in the pan. Watch the cake carefully and adjust fuel flowage as needed. When the bubbles begin to rise to the top of the pancake, it’s time to flip. Use the rubber scraper to loosen the cake from the pan and flip the cake. It won’t take long for the other side to cook, so keep an eye on it.

Apply some sweet syrup and dig in!

Slick Tip: It’s a really good idea to reapply coconut oil between each pancake. When I don’t reapply, my cakes stick to the pan.

6. Clean Up

After enjoying some delicious flapjacks, use warm water, soap and a sponge to wash dishes. If the kids are old enough to learn how to make camp pancakes, they’re old enough to clean up camp breakfast. Put those hands to work!

Tip: We cut a standard sponge into thirds to make them camp sized.

Overall, Sandy’s pancake lesson went well. A couple “hey, don’t touch the pan, it’s hot” moments, but otherwise she did great! Looks like some of the camp work load is off of my shoulders.

S’mores Mash Up Ideas

Happy National Smores Day! Set that campfire ablaze and get toasting! Check out these ideas to mix up your S’more recipe and find your new favorite s’more.

The s’mores is an iconic summer campfire treat! Dress it up, deconstruct it, make a mess! Change the mallow, change the chocolate, change the graham! Mix it up, try new things. Eventually you’ll find the perfect way to smash your s’more.

S’more Facts

Did you know that National S’mores Day is on August 10th every year? What a great holiday! We celebrate with a campfire and s’mores, of course. Here are some fun S’more facts to get you fired up for s’more day.

Dressed-Up the Middle

Classic: Hershey’s has been the classic S’mores chocolate since the beginning of s’mores. With all of the different brands of chocolate out there, it’s time to dress her up! Try Cadbury, Ghirardelli, Lindt, milk chocolate, dark chocolate, white chocolate, whatever your chocolate loving heart desires!

Caramel: This is a real game changer. That fire melted s’more will turn a Ghirardelli salted caramel square into a dripping, mouthwatering morsel. Cadbury Caramello’s are just as delicious and work well for adjusting the amount of caramel in your s’more, Ghirardelli makes a square that is conveniently the same size as a graham cracker square.

Mint: Cool down the summer with a cool Andies Mint s’more. Line up three or more mints on a graham cracker for a bite of fire and ice.

Reece’s: For the PB lovers out there, here is the perfect mix of chocolate and peanut butter on a summer’s evening. The classic peanut butter cups fit perfectly on a s’more.

Fruit Filling: Add in sliced strawberries or raspberries for a fruitful twist. If fresh fruit isn’t available, bring out the fruit infused chocolates.

Mallow Mash-Up

Mallow Toasters don’t have to stick with the same plane mallow summer after summer. The number of gourmet marshmallow companies that have popped up in recent years is insane. You can find them all over, we even purchased some new ones at our local ice cream shoppe. They can be found in the baking isle at Walmart, too. Try out different flavors, we’ve found a few that are great and pair well with different chocolates.

Salted Caramel: Pair with milk chocolate, caramel, or fruit.

Mint: Pair with Andie’s mints, dark or milk chocolate. Make the ultimate with chocolate grahams.

Vanilla Bean: Pair with fruit, caramel, or both.

Birthday Cake: Pair with white chocolate or fruit.

Chocolate: Triple chocolate s’more with milk or dark chocolate, and a chocolate graham cracker.

Unicorn Poop: Mix with anything, the kids will love the rainbow mallows!

Exterior Make-Over

Don’t just change up the filling, get really creative and ditch the classic graham cracker for something new.

Chocolate Graham: The extreme chocolate lover can appreciate this bite of this double chocolate creation.

Cinnamon Graham: A cinnamon graham cracker is the perfect addition to a fall bon fire s’more. Bring some apple cider to wash it down, yum!

S’moreo: A what? Yep! A S’moreo, forgo the graham altogether and replace it with an entire Oreo. Cookie madness!

Chocolate Chip Cookies: Now we’re getting ridiculous. Or are we? This gooey mess is even better if you place the cookies near the fire to warm up while toasting the mallow.

Stroopwafels: Chocolate or honey, these are a unique way to squish your mallow.

Back Country Cast Iron Steak: What You Need to Know

There is something about devouring a steak in the backcountry that makes it taste so much better. Maybe it’s the starvation, hmmmm. Here is what you need to nail it on your backcountry dinner.

Backcountry cooking doesn’t have to be all freeze-dried mush. It can be delicious, satisfying and primitive. I don’t know what it is, but there is something about eating a steak in the backcountry that makes it taste so much better. Maybe it’s the starvation… hmmm.


Here’s what you’ll need to nail it on a BWCA camp steak dinner:

  • Camp Stove & Fuel
  • Cast Iron Pan
  • Cleaning Brush & Paper Towels
  • Steak
  • Coconut Oil (easiest oil to carry in)
  • Instant Mashed Potato Packet
  • Water, filtered/treated

Camp Stove & Fuel

We prepare our steaks using a propane fueled camp stove. With the cast irons being so heavy, I like to use a low sitting stove. It’s less likely to tip over. That’s why we use my parent’s Colman camp stove when they are along. We also have a single burner that sits atop the fuel tank, a smaller cast iron would be required if using that style. The two burner also works well for preparing the steaks and the potatoes at the same time.

Cast Iron can also be used over a fire. If using this method, there are three things to keep in mind. First, cooking over a fire does not allow for even cooking. Second, it’s the hot coals that’s important, not the flame. Last, the soot is annoying to clean off of the pan and blackens everything it touches. Bonus number four, we usually have a fire ban while camping in the later summer months anyway. This year it has already started in June with the fire bans.

Cast Iron

It is important to bring a well seasoned cast iron pan. Don’t pack a brand new one, it’ll cause a sticky and frustrating mess. Test out your pan on your camp stove prior to your trip to ensure it fits on the burner and that your steak size will fit in the pan.

Steak Cuts & Prep

This meal can vary greatly in cost. We acquire high quality steaks from our local butcher for this trip, but that isn’t necessary. Good steaks can be purchased on sale at the grocery store too. Our favorite is Ribeye beef steaks for the BWCA. These are tender and flavorful, and cooking on the cast iron always adds a little something. We also recently prepared a filet mignon, yum!

A Word on Bones: Bring your favorite cut of beef, but a word of caution; avoid bone-in steaks. They’ll fry up just fine and be delicious, but the bone takes up space in a small pan, and when disposed of, it can poke a hole in the trash bag that must be packed out. Bones cannot be buried in the BWCA. It’s less fuss with boneless cuts, even if you’re sacrificing a bit of flavor.

Seasoning: Season your steaks ahead of time. Doing so will eliminate a step out in the woods, allow the steak to soak in the flavor, and remove unnecessary items to pack in (like seasoning and marinades). We prefer a dry rub, but you can us a marinade as well. Keep in mind that you have to pack everything out. A bag of marinade is bound to cause a mess.

Freezing: Once the steaks are properly seasoned, wrap them in freezer paper and freeze them completely solid. Having them completely frozen will allow them to last longer. Steaks that have been thoroughly frozen will assist in keeping the cooler cold.

Transport: A good quality cooler will be needed for transporting these scrumptious chunks of cow into canoe country. I do not mean a large hard sized igloo or yeti. No way, that’s going to be horrendous and hazardous to hang from a tree. Use a soft sided, well insulated cooler that will fit in the food bag. Place the steaks in a one gallon Ziplock freezer bag to keep the meat juices from contaminating anything else in the cooler.

Thawing & Flexibility: We don’t have specific days set for our meals. Flexibility is key. When we eat our steaks is greatly dependent on two things; how long it takes to thaw and how the fish are biting. Last year, we caught fish for our second dinner and waited on eating our carried in protein. The temperature was also much cooler than usual, so the steaks stayed frozen until the last night of our trip. If you’re needing to cook steak sooner, take them out and warm them in the sun on a rock. Don’t leave them unattended! A bear can absolutely smell them and would love an easy treat.

Instant Mashed Potatoes?

Okay, so this isn’t the freshest option, but it’s the easiest for potatoes. You can bring whole potatoes out there with you. You’ll need to wrap them in foil and place in the coals or on the fire grate. Fresh potatoes take a long time to cook, instant is quick, easy, and light to carry. They can be ready quickly, making it easy to time it with the steaks.

Idahoan Instant Potatoes makes a variety of different flavors. We like the loaded or sour cream and chive. Whatever the flavor you choose, be sure there is no milk required. Most suggest putting a little butter in, we use coconut oil out in the woods. Dairy spoils easily.

Cooking the Steak

Level Camp Stove: Place the camp stove on a level surface. This could be a fire grate, flat rock or even a picnic table for really luxurious campsites. It’s important to keep that stove level for safe camp cooking.

Prep the Cast Iron: Light the burner and place the cast iron over the flame. You’ll have to play with your settings as each camp stove is different. Find a good medium high setting for searing.

Grease it up: Add a chunk of coconut oil to the cast iron to keep the pan non-stick. Be sure that the entire base of the pan is coated.

Sear the Steak: Once the oil is headed in the pan, place the steaks in the pan, sear one side for 5-7 minutes depending on cut thickness and stove strength. Using your tongs, flip the steak over and repeat on the opposite side.

Potatoes: To time the potatoes right, start heating the water after the steaks are flipped, if using a dual burner. Follow the instructions on the package. Only used water that has been treated or filtered.

Cover: If you have a cover for the cast iron, feel free to cover the cast iron to help trap the heat. We don’t have a cover, it’s also extra weight in the pack. If you like your steaks more well done, reduce the heat and cover for longer more thorough cooking.

Devour: Monitor the steaks closely and remove from the cast iron just before they’ve reached your preferred level of doneness. They will continue to cook for a few minutes once they’ve been removed from the heat. Enjoy!

Clean Up: Be sure to clean up the cast iron while it’s still warm. It makes the cast iron easier to clean up and you won’t be wasting any fuel reheating the cast iron.

Clean Up

This is where that cleaning brush and paper towels come in. Cleaning your cast iron right away is important, especially in the backcountry. Cast irons are porous, so you’ll want to clean it while it’s still warm to keep anything from being trapped. Here are the steps taken to clean a cast iron in the BWCA.

  • Dig a hole 200 feet away from trails, campsites, and the shoreline per BWCA Regulations.
  • Pour any grease left in the pan into the hole, do not burry yet.
  • Return pan to camp stove and turn on the burner.
  • Add enough clean water to cover the bottom of the pan (no soap).
  • When the water begins to bubble, use the scrub brush to loosen up any stuck on food.
  • Pour dirty water into the hole previously dug, rinse once more with a small about of clean water.
  • When the pan is clean it’s time to re-season it. Return the pan to the stove once more and allow the water to evaporate off.
  • Once the water has evaporated, remove from heat. Immediatley, take a small amount of coconut oil with a paper towel and oil the pan.
  • Allow to cool completely before storing.

For more on back country dish washing check out How to Wash Dishes in the Backcountry.

How to Wash Dishes in the Backcountry of the BWCA

Washing dishes anywhere is a chore, but it doesn’t have to be a miserable chore. Get a system down and make dishwashing in the backcountry a snap.

Even the wilderness can’t save us from having to do the dishes. Washing dishes in the backcountry doesn’t have to be terrible, though. Once you have bug spray and a good system down it’s pretty slick.

Regulations & Disposal

For such a freeing place, the BWCA sure does have a lot of regulations! These regulations keep one of the world’s most pristine wilderness areas just that; pristine! So, please respect the rules and keep our beloved BWCA clean.

BWCA regulations require campers to dispose of dishwater at least 200 feet from any water sources including rivers, creeks, and lakes. It must also be disposed of 200 feet from campsites, latrines, and walking paths such as hiking trails and portages. Keeping dishwater disposal distant from these areas will help reduce the encounters with curious critters and cause the water to be filtered through the ground before entering the aquatic system.

Dish soap & Sponge

Go easy on the soap quantity, a little bit goes a long way. Biodegradable or not, less is more. We use regular dawn dish soap. A couple drops of soap gets us through an entire meal’s worth of dishes, no problem.


Growing up, our family would always bring a dish cloth. I remember scrubbing noodles off the bottom of the pot with my nails because the cloth wasn’t efficient. Now we bring a sponge with a scrubby side that we have cut into thirds to make it smaller. It’s small, wrings out most of it’s water, packs well and is easy to hang up on the clothes line. In general, I’m not a fan of sponges, but it works best for camping purposes.

Regular drying/tea towels will work just fine. We have discovered, however, that using a quick drying micro fiber towel is the most efficient way to get dishes and towels dried quickly. This is important for those who don’t base camp and are on the move during a route. It’s a real pain to have a towel hanging off of a bag to dry while you’re portaging and canoeing.


Heating water isn’t necessary for dish washing in the BWCA, but it is nice. Heating up a small pot of water on your gas stove can make for more pleasant washing, it’s up to you whether you want to use the fuel on that or not.

We prefer to wash with water right from the lake, nothing fancy. We wash back into the woods, away from trails and water. In the past, we have used a tub but I’ve gone lighter in recent years and simply use our largest cooking pot, which is actually quite small. It gets the job done, though and doesn’t take up any extra space in our packs.

Rinse water can be hauled in a collapsible bucket or another pot. Again, we use water right from the lake. There are some that fold down to fit in the palm of your hand. Camp gear has come so far!

Clothes Line

You’ll likely already have a clothes line ready to roll for bathing suits and wet clothes. If not, a simple stretch of paracord and some clothes pins is all you need.

Root of the Issue

Bring a collapsible shovel with a serrated edge for cutting through the excessive amount of roots in the ground. I’m not kidding, we tried to pack light one year and brought a tiny trowel with a smooth edge. It did not go well. My following birthday, my husband gifted me a collapsible shovel with a serrated edge. It’s pretty awesome. The hole doesn’t need to be large or deep. Just enough to pour a little water in. We are trying to reduce impact, not litter the forest with holes.

Fewer Dishes, Less Washing

Try reducing the amount of dishes you need to wash by making a few of them dual purpose. For example; drink your coffee/hot cocoa first in the morning and follow it by making oatmeal in the same mug. Always have your breakfast after your beverage, otherwise bits of breakfast will be littering your morning brew.

The System

After cooking your delicious meal and feasting, it’s time for the dirty work. Dish duty should be a shared task. If you have a small group, everyone gets a job. For larger groups take turns with different meals. For the most time efficient dish wash, 3 people is optimal. One to wash, one to rinse and dry, and one to dig the hole. On our most recent excursion, we had a 4th job; watching the kids, this took the most effort.

We have a pretty slick system for dish washing in the back country. The key to not being devoured by mosquitoes is to work fast and well together.

  1. Spray with bug spray, very important.
  2. Heat water while gathering dishes, soap, sponge, towels, rinse water, and shovel.
  3. Find dish washing location.
  4. One person starts on a hole (200 feet from trails, latrine, camp, water and portages).
  5. Soap up the dish water and lay out one dish cloth.
  6. Wash each dish with the sponge and toss into rinse bucket.
  7. Each dish can be rinsed and placed on the drying towel.
  8. Depending on how fast your washer is, dishes should be dried as they are rinsed or after they are all washed.
  9. Wash the pot last and hand off to the hole digger. The pot should be dumped in the hole, then rinsed out with the rinse water. The remaining rinse water can be disposed of in the hole. Bury the dish water.
  10. Dry and stack the dishes. Keep the dishes off the ground so they don’t collect debris.
  11. Hang the towels and sponge to dry, pack away your clean dishes. Done!

Your camping crew will learn what works best for your situation. We’ve learned through trial and error and things have gotten better as we’ve grown more experienced and camp tools have evolved over time.

Camp Coffee 3 Ways

3 simple, quick ways to make coffee in the backcountry. No coffee press here, just fast and easy coffee to kickstart your wilderness adventures.

Is there anything better than a steaming cup of coffee on a crisp camp morning? It’s the perfect beverage to grasp and warm your hands on while watching the fog roll off a glass water lake at sunrise. Now how to obtain this wonderful cup of awake juice?

These are the three best ways I’ve found to make coffee on an outdoor excursion. They’re fast, easy, and don’t require much cleanup.

Instant Coffee

The easiest coffee option for camping is an instant coffee. Simply mix in hot water and there you go… instant coffee. There are various brands that vary in quality.

  • Folgers
  • Nescafe
  • Starbucks
  • Black Rifle Coffee Company

This is a great option for those trying to cover a lot of ground in a day and don’t have much time to spend on camp kitchen duties. It’s also the most lightweight option.

Supplies Needed:

  • Fuel & Burner (or Jetboil)
  • Pot/Kettle
  • Mug
  • Spoon
  • Clean Water
  • Instant Coffee Packet of Choice

Steeped Coffee or Diy Teabag Coffee

Using a simple coffee filter and your favorite ground coffee, you’ll be able to craft your own coffee teabag. This is a fairly cost effective and personalized option. The only drawback I found with this method, is that the coffee bag needs to steep for quite some time and needs to be agitated. There are also steeped coffee teabags that can be purchased.

Supplies Needed:

  • Fuel & Burner (or Jetboil)
  • Pot/Kettle
  • Mug
  • Clean Water
  • Pre-made Coffee Teabag (Coffee grounds, coffee filter, staple, kitchen string) or purchased Steeped Coffee

Collapsable Coffee Filter

In my search for the best backcountry coffee, I discovered this little device. It’s a simple, silicone, collapsible coffee filter. It features a mesh reusable mesh disk at the bottom and easy clean silicone material. We gave it a whirl and loved it! Of the different options of coffee in the backcountry, this has produced the most flavorful and satisfying cup of coffee.

One flaw that I found is that after one cup of coffee, the filter becomes gunked up. It does need to be cleaned out after each cup, but cleaning it is as simple as scooping out the old grounds and rinsing the mesh filter.

This is a great option for bringing your favorite coffee to the backcountry, especially if your particular brew doesn’t offer an instant option.

Supplies Needed:

  • Fuel & Burner (or Jetboil)
  • Pot/Kettle
  • Mug
  • Collapsible Filter
  • Clean Water
  • Coffee Grounds (Caribou is my favorite)

Creamer options

I love coffee, but I don’t love how coffee tastes… Figure that one out. Creamer is a must for me in any coffee related situation, whether I’m at home or in the backcountry.

Hot Cocoa Packets: Before venturing further in the coffee creamer quest, I used Swiss Miss packets as my coffee creamer. I still use this method when we are out of other options and love it! It’s great when you can’t decide if you want hot cocoa or coffee, just have both! I call it my Hot Cofflate, just for fun.

Creamer Cups: Did you know that you can purchase those little creamer cups that you see at cafes? I just learned that they can be purchased right at Walmart or order on Amazon. Wild! I like this option for camping at a campground or near my vehicle. I wouldn’t bring this type of creamer into the BWCA or backpacking as it doesn’t pack well. The risk of one bursting and stinking up my pack is too prevalent. I would also require a lot of them to make my coffee drinkable.

Powdered Creamer: This might be the best option for canoe camping or backpacking. It’s lightweight, can be transferred to a smaller canister, an has little risk of making a mess. There are different varieties on the market to test out. Some are more cost effective than others. There are also dairy free options available online.

I like to use an old spice container for my powdered creamer, it’s smaller than the canister it comes in and makes it easy to use while camping. Note: Wash the spice canister well and don’t use any that held things like cayenne pepper. A cleaned parsley container will do just fine. Yikes! Also, label all containers in your food back, mixing ingredients up can get gross fast.

However your drink your coffee in the wilderness, enjoy every sip.

Trail Snacks for Kids & Toddlers

Keep your little hiking partners happy and fueled with these trail snack ideas. Don’t let a hiking adventure go cold with an “I’m hungry” five minutes in.

Hiking season is here, although it never really goes away, am I right? As the weather warms up, it gets easier and more comfortable to get the little adventurers out on the trail.

Keeping kids fed while hiking is essential for a good time. There is nothing worse than a hangry toddler or the complaints of “I’m hungry” or “When are we going to eat” when you are less than a mile in.

The Snacks

Water: I know this isn’t a snack. But it is the first thing you should pack. It’s a good idea to bring more than you think you need and to have some extra waiting in the vehicle for when you return. Hydration is key!

**Tip: During winter months, it’s worth it to bring a thermos of hot chocolate.

Fruit & Veggies: Non-perishable, hard to bruise fruit and veggies that stay fresh without being refrigerated. It’s a healthier alternative to sugar packed, processed fruit snacks. This snack is not as filling, but could be paired with another higher calorie snack.

  • Apples
  • Oranges
  • Sugar Snap Peas (a ‘go-to’ for our toddler)
  • Carrots

Trail Mix: A Classic! Trial mix on the trail is just so awesome. You can eat on the go and customize as you please. If you like the premixed stuff at the grocery store, have at it. For the picky eaters, those with allergies, or if you just know what you like; throwing together a quick trail mix is a snap.

Dried Fruit: If trail mix isn’t your cup of tea, maybe you’d prefer just the ingredients. Anyone have kids that don’t like their food to touch? Individual ingredients are the way to go.

Crackers: Here is a filler. Whole wheat crackers of any variety is bound to keep your little adventurer going. It’s something that can be paced and eaten on the move. The only downside, it can be crumby.

**Tip: If you have a little one in a backpack carrier, don’t feed them crackers until they are out of said carrier. You’re crumb-less hat and hair will thank you.

Pretzels: Twisted or stick, this snack can’t miss. I actually prefer pretzels to crackers on the go for two reasons. First, they make less crumbs and don’t fall apart in a strong little grip. Second, they seem to be more filling than crackers.

Fruit Strips: Not the healthiest choice but it is convenient and can be used a great reward/bribe for accomplishing a certain distance or hill. They don’t take up any space and can be easily tossed in the snack section of your pack.

Prepackaged Snacks: Isn’t the world of food great these days? There is a smorgasbord of ready to to roll snacks just waiting to be tossed in your hiking bag. Most snacks that your kids enjoy are sold in individual servings now. Some of our favorites include:

  • Granola Bars
  • Gold Fish/ Cheese Whales
  • Fruit snacks
  • Cookie Snacks (as a treat)`

Puree Pouches: Apple sauce is the bee’s knees for our littlest adventurer. There are so many different flavors out there to try and bring along. We have migrated more to just apple sauce and the like, but there are whole meal pouches that can provide a more filling snack. If you are looking for a more filling snack, check out the pouches that have sweet potatoes, rice, or other carbs snuck in there.

What Not To Bring

I hate to be nit-picky, but there are a few less than desirable snack items out there that can stay home.

Allergens: Even if you aren’t the one allergic to a food item, leave any allergen that anyone in your group has at home. If a member of your hiking party goes into anaphylactic shock; you’re going to have a bad time. Avoid the risk altogether.

Perishable Foods: Leave the yogurts and cheese at home. I know some them come in convenient tubes and individual packs, but they go bad. Even with a cooler, they don’t stay cool forever and who wants to carry a cooler? I sure don’t. When that food starts to warm up even a little bit, you end up eating questionable dairy. That’s not something I gamble with.

Bruise-able Fruit: Bananas, pears, kiwi, etc…. Though delicious, they will bruise in your bag or squish all over everything. Bananas are, however, a great snack for when you get back to the car. And the potassium can help relieve muscle cramps.

Messy/Inconvenient Food: This one is more at your discretion on what you consider messy. Even a simple trail mix can become messy in the wrong hands. What I have in mind when I think of messy foods is something like pudding cups or fruit bowls. It requires more of a sit down style snacking and needs a spoon. Gets too complicated and in the end, messy.

**Tip: Speaking of messes; a small pack of wipes in your bag is quite handy.

Pack the Snack

Tossing your selections into a pack is a no-brainer; but here are a few things that I’ve learned from experience that I’ll share with you.

Taste Test: As mentioned in previous posts for little adventurers; make sure you kids like the snacks you bring before you bring them. In the middle of a hike is not the best place to learn your hangry toddler doesn’t like something.

Pack Options: This is especially helpful for longer durations, nobody wants to eat only dry crumbly crackers for six hours. Having a variety will help break up the monotony of trail food.

Pack More: Whether your kids are working those little legs or riding in a carrier, they will be wearing themselves out. Have extra snacks available to replenish those burnt calories.

Pace It: Don’t burn through your snacks in the first hour. If you’ve just started and your kids are asking for something to munch on, set a goal to reach before digging into the bag. I like to use benches or mile marks as our goals. If benches and mile marks aren’t an option at that location, I use the Alltrails app on my phone that tracks our hike. I can see how far we’ve gone and pace our snacks by that. Pacing younger kids is more of a challenge. If our little guy is in his pack, I like to hand him pretzels one at a time and only when he asks for them. Otherwise, he eats them all or tosses them into the woods.

Rewards: Having a secret, special snack ready for when your little adventurer accomplishes a great task or concurs a fear is a neat idea. For instance; if your are tackling a greater distance or encounter a steep hill/climb, encourage your kiddo to concur that a obstacle for a reward on the other side. Or don’t tell them and have it as a surprise.

Let the Kids Work: There is a sense of pride and independence that comes with having your kids choose there own hiking snacks and carrying it themselves. My 10 year old daughter has been carrying her own hiking pack for several years. It feels like she is more of a hiking partner now than a little adventurer. Her bother, 2 years old, is now carrying a pack around the house pretending to hike. He’ll have his own bag soon enough!

There are so many snacking options on the market and things you can whip up at home. You’ll find what works for you. I hope that these suggestions give you a head start and some of my trial and error has set you up for success. Happy snacking!