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Backpacking with allergies

More than a decade ago, I considered myself an avid backpacker. It didn’t seem unusual for me to hike into a remote lake with all my gear and food loaded into a backpack. Stomach issues that turned out to be delayed food allergies curbed my enthusiasm for the activity.

Now, I am preparing for my first backpacking trip in 12 years. The last time I headed into the woods was when my daughter was still in high school. No, it’s not a mid-life crisis that’s prompting me to dust off my backpacking gear. My son has fond memories of backpacking with his parents and has invited us to go along with him on several short trips.

Regular car trips have posed problems for me because I have multiple food allergies. I have dealt with the problem by taking along lots of my own food and limiting eating out. Locating “safe” foods for backpacking is a challenge on another level. Sure, I am still taking along my own allergen-free items but whatever I pack must be lightweight which rules out regular food.

Backpackers usually pack easy-to-prepare meals that are pre-packaged and can be made ready by simply adding water to rehydrate the freeze-dried or dehydrated foods. Unfortunately, the meals are loaded with many of the foods I need to avoid, such as dairy, gluten, legumes and eggs.

In my search to find suitable food, I found some companies that manufacture backpacking meals have begun to take note of the fact that there are vegans and people with gluten sensitivity. There also are companies that produce organic meals.

I didn’t expect companies to prepare foods for individuals like myself with multiple food sensitivities. My plan was to purchase freeze-dried foods and assemble my own safe meals.

I found all kinds of freeze-dried vegetables, meats and fruits at nutsonline.com, and beprepared.com. I purchased carrots, broccoli, asparagus, celery, chicken, strawberries, blueberries, pineapple, dried soup mix, soy milk powder, brown rice and quinoa. I can make a variety of meals and snacks from these ingredients as well as some items I already have in my pantry.

Here’s a recipe for a quick allergen-free breakfast cereal that can be eaten at home or taken along backpacking or camping.

No-cook breakfast cereal


2 T. unsweetened coconut flakes
2 T. raw pumpkin or sunflower seeds
1 T. chia or flax seeds
2-4 T. quinoa flakes
1 T. vegan rice protein
½ tsp. cinnamon
½-3/4 boiling water
Sweetener of choice
½ cup rehydrated blueberries or fresh ones
2 T. powdered soy milk

Pre-trip preparation: grind seeds and coconut in a coffee grinder. Transfer to a container and mix in other dry ingredients. Pour into a zippered plastic bag. Place blueberries in a separate pouch. Rehydrate everything when ready to eat and enjoy.

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