Say No to Trail Mix: Hiking with a Severe Nut Allergy
Confession time: I have NEVER tasted peanut butter. Nope, never.
I know… this is unbelievable, and even shameful, for most hikers. You can find a jar of peanut butter or Nutella in almost every backpacker’s pack. As well as a handful of Snickers, Clif Bars and probably some type of trail mix. But not in mine.
I have a severe allergy to peanuts. Like, severe severe. As in I go into anaphylactic shock in seconds of ingesting anything with nuts. I get hives, swell up everywhere, and my throat immediately closes. The only reaction I can remember having was about 5 or so years ago when I drank unknowingly out of a straw that someone who had eaten peanut butter crackers had also drank out of. Within seconds, my throat was closed and I prepared myself to meet my maker. After several hours of an IV of epinephrine and Benadryl at the hospital, I was cleared to go home with my steroid prescription and a renewed appreciation for how bad my allergy actually is.
Needless to say, I was a little worried about having an allergic reaction in the middle of the woods, miles from civilization and medical attention.
So how was I able to avoid having an allergic reaction on trail, and how was I able to get by without an “essential” backpacking staple???
The first thing I did was make sure that I always had several Epipens handy. An Epipen is an auto-injector loaded with epinephrine that you jab into your thigh when you are having a severe allergic reaction. For me, it is a lifesaving measure that keeps me alive until I can get proper medical attention. Before we headed out on the trail, I went to my physician and got a new box of Epipens to take with me on the trail. I always had one in the top of my pack, and so did my husband. I also carried a small bottle of Benadryl. I know, gram weenies are screaming at their screens (I wasn’t so happy about having to carry it either), but Benadryl is also a lifesaving measure, and liquid works in half the time that pills do.
The second thing I did was make sure that I didn’t eat anything that I couldn’t read the ingredients on, and rarely tried a food I hadn’t already tried before. This proved to be especially hard on trail because of all the trail magic. This means anything homemade was a big no no. No homemade brownies, cookies or snacks. I felt really bad not partaking in some trail magic, but I knew ultimately it wouldn’t be worth it. For the most part, I only bought and ate foods and snacks that I had already eaten pre-trail, so I could rest easy knowing nothing in my food bag was going to kill me. My sweet husband also avoided any nuts and any homemade trail magic, because you know… kissing. (The “kiss of death” is a literal threat in our household.) What a trooper.
The third precaution I took was not letting anyone borrow our stuff. Like I said, nuts and peanut butter are a backpacking staple, and almost everyone we hiked with carried both. We didn’t let anyone borrow our cook pot, cups, sporks, water bottles and even our Sawyer water filter. Other hikers probably wondered why we were so snobby and protective over our cookware, but cross-contamination was a real worry. If someone ate a jar of Jif, borrowed our Sawyer filter, and then put their water bottle mouth on it, BOOM DEATH for me. We didn’t care who you were, or how bad you needed a spork, sorry buddy, just eat your Ramen with your hands!
What I Ate Instead
Nuts are a healthy source of protein and fats, they provide energy and they’re very versatile and easy to carry. Basically the perfect backpacking snacks. So we had to get creative with our protein intake.
Some things I ate instead of nuts/peanut butter:
- Belevita breakfast biscuits (these were our favorite!)
- Tuna in a tortilla
- Pepperoni in a tortilla
- Slim Jims
- Any nut-free Little Debbie snack cakes
- Hammer or Gu energy gels
- Nut-free Quaker granola bars
- Stinger Waffles (the strawberry ones are everything)
- Mac and cheese
- Knorr pasta sides
- Pre-cooked bacon in a tortilla
- Fruit/ vegetable squeezers
If you have any recipes, ideas or recommendations on other allergen-free backpacking options, I would love to hear them!
Good luck to all my Epipen wielding warriors out there! With lots of precaution and a little creativity, you can backpack nut-free too!
Much nut-free love,
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