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Instant oatmeal is easy enough to make, but doesn’t keep me fueled for very long, so I add almonds, hemp seeds and milk powder for protein and freeze-dried blueberries and raspberries for flavor.

  • 1 package instant oatmeal, any flavor (I like Nature’s Path Organic Oats and Flax)
  • 1 tablespoon whole milk powder (Nido)
  • 1 tablespoon hemp seed
  • 2 tablespoons sliced almonds
  • 1 tablespoon freeze-dried blueberries
  • 1 tablespoon freeze-dried raspberries
At Home

Combine all ingredients in a plastic bag. I use a Food Saver vacuum sealer to remove all air from the plastic bag and provide longer storage capability.

At Camp
  • add 1/2 cup of water to a backpacking stove
  • add all ingredients to the pan
  • bring to a boil
  • simmer for 2 minutes, stirring often
  • turn off fuel
  • cover and let sit for 5 minutes
Cook in the bag method
  • make sure to use a BPA-free freezer bag, not a regular plastic bag so it won’t melt
  • add 1/2 cup hot water to the bag
  • mix well with a spoon
  • seal and let sit for 5 minutes

The post backpacking recipe: almond berry oatmeal appeared first on I Heart Pacific Northwest.

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Chicken Piccata is one of my favorite Italian meals that I make at home. I adapted the recipe to make it work using dehydrated and freeze-dried ingredients, and it’s now my favorite backpacking meal.

This recipe will be featured in an upcoming backpacking cookbook that I’m working on and hope to publish in 2019. Look for more info coming soon!


See the sections on Sourcing Ingredients and Dehydrating Ingredients below.

  • 2 oz dehydrated pasta (or any pasta that cooks in 5 minutes or less)
  • 1/4 cup freeze dried chicken
  • 1 teaspoon dehydrated capers
  • 1/4 cup dehydrated mushrooms
  • 1 tablespoon dehydrated green onion
  • 1 tablespoon butter powder
  • 1 tablespoon powdered chicken stock
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 teaspoon cornstarch
  • 1 packet of crystallized lemon (or a small packet of lemon juice)

I dehydrate some of the ingredients at home, which helps to keep the cost down, but you can buy everything here already dried (except the capers… I don’t know of a source for buying these already dehydrated). For me, they are an important component in this recipe, but you can try it without them to see if you like it.

At Home

Combine all ingredients into a sealed plastic bag. I use a FoodSaver vacuum sealer for storing all of my backpacking meals, and I keep them in the freezer until I’m ready to go on a trip. Keep the lemon in its separate packet until ready to use.

At Camp
  • Add a cup of water to your backpacking stove and bring it to full boil. You may need to add more water, but it’s better to start with less rather than too much.
  • Add all of the ingredients (including the lemon) and stir well.
  • Turn down the heat and simmer for a couple of minutes.
  • Cover with the stove lid and let sit for 10 minutes.
  • I often turn the stove back on to cook down remaining liquid, being careful to not burn the meal. The cornstarch will thicken the liquid and coat all of the ingredients.

Note: I cook all of my meals in my Jetboil Minimo and eat right out of the pan. The Minimo has simmer control so it’s easier to cook without burning. I’m not a fan of eating out of a plastic bag, and I prefer to control the cooking of the food for better results. Cleaning the pan after I eat is worth the few minutes it takes. However, you could try adding boiling water to a freezer-style plastic bag with the ingredients and let it soak until the everything is fully rehydrated. I’ll be testing this method for my recipes on upcoming trips, but haven’t tried it yet.

cooking the meal in my backpacking stove

ready to eat!

Sourcing the ingredients
  • freeze-dried chicken: I buy Mountain House freeze-dried chicken in a large #10 can and split it up amongst my recipes. I keep the unused portion in a sealed plastic bag in the freezer so it will keep longer.
  • capers: I buy these at Trader Joe’s and dehydrate them at home. They rehydrate extremely well.
  • green onions & mushrooms: I get these at any grocery store and dehydrate them at home
  • pasta: for better rehydrating, use a pasta that cooks in 5 minutes or less. I used pasta that needed a longer cooking time, so I cooked it and dehydrated it for use in this recipe. This way, it will fully rehydrate better and not need to be cooked separately from the other ingredients in this recipe.
  • butter powder: from Packit Gourmet
  • powdered chicken stock: from Packit Gourmet
  • crystallized lemon: from Packit Gourmet (or you can use a small packet of lemon juice)

Packit Gourmet is a small family-run business in Austin that sells dehydrated, freeze-dried and ready-made meals for backpackers. They don’t use additives or preservatives in their dried ingredients, which is much preferred over products typically found in grocery stores.

Dehydrating ingredients

It’s easy to dehydrate ingredients at home! I use a Nesco Snackmaster dehydrator with temperature control. I purchased additional fruit roll trays for every tray in the dehydrator so food doesn’t fall through the standard trays. It usually takes 6-8 hours to dehydrate chopped vegetables, longer for foods with more liquid or for meats.

dehydrating capers

It’s important to thoroughly dry everything until there’s no moisture left. To help food rehydrate faster, cut foods into small equal size pieces before dehydrating.

I regularly dehydrate green onions, mushrooms, pasta, and rice for use in my recipes. I also dehydrate fully cooked meals, including one of my favorites: spaghetti with meat sauce.

dehydrating pre-cooked pasta makes it rehydrate faster

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links, which means that I make a small commission if a purchase is made. This does not change the price of the item. Regardless, the items listed here are owned by me and purchased with my own funds. All reviews are unbiased and not paid for by any company. Thank you for supporting this blog!

The post backpacking recipe: Chicken Piccata appeared first on I Heart Pacific Northwest.

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I’m super excited for backpacking season to begin this year! I have a lot of trips that I’m planning to do, including several longer four night trips to the Wallowas, Alpine Lakes Wilderness, and the Enchantments.

In order for these trips to be successful, I need to work on eating enough to fully replenish my body. At home, I don’t have any problem eating enough, but when I’ve been exerting a lot, especially during prime alpine backpacking season when it’s hot and my energy is easily depleted, I have a hard time wanting to eat. And I’m a picky eater, so that makes it even harder!

This is what I came up with for trips for four nights, three nights, and two nights:

backpacking food plan for a four night trip // weight: 5 lbs 8 oz // View larger photo

backpacking food plan for a three night trip // weight: 4 lbs 2 oz // View larger photo

backpacking food plan for a two night trip // weight: 2 lbs 12 oz // View larger photo


Surprisingly, I don’t get tired of eating the same thing for breakfast every day. For backpacking, I love instant oatmeal. By itself, though, it’s not enough to sustain me for long so I add almonds, hemp seed, milk powder, and freeze-dried berries.

For coffee, I like Trader Joe’s instant coffee with creamer and sugar. They aren’t very strong, so I use two to make one mug of coffee to have with breakfast.


Lunch is usually snacks to be eaten while hiking:

  • pita crackers (tend to not get smashed as easily as other crackers)
  • beef or cheese sticks
  • home made trail bars (similar to Kind Bars)
  • gummy bears (organic and without food coloring, these gummies keep me going when I need a quick energy burst)
  • home made roasted & seasoned chickpeas (a great protein source in a salty snack)
  • Trail Butter (besides the great flavor, I love the easy to dispense and easy to close container)

These are the new dinner recipes I’ve been working on (recipes coming soon!):

Night time snack
  • chia pudding with matcha (chia is super nutrient rich, and it makes a great pudding with coconut milk powder, maple sugar, and the green tea flavor of matcha)
Make your own dehydrated meals + trail bars

So far, I’ve only tried a couple of commercial freeze-dried meals but haven’t found anything I like. Plus, I’m not used to eating much of anything with preservatives or additives, so I’ve been making my own food for backpacking dinners. When I first started, I made curries, ramen, and other spicy Asian dishes. But my stomach doesn’t like anything even slightly spicy when I’m backpacking, and my taste buds crave something simple and home style. Especially starchy foods like rice, pasta, and potatoes.

To prep for this year’s trips, I’ve been working on several new recipes over the winter months. I’ve been taking my backpacking stove on hikes and cooking a hot lunch to test the recipes. So far, I’m really liking these meals and think that I’ll want to gobble them down each night instead of pawning them off to my campmates. I’ll be adding a few of these recipes to this website after a bit more testing and tweaking (and remembering to take photos before I finish eating). : )

I’ve also been trying out recipes for trail bars from the Power Hungry cookbook. I especially like the recipes that replicate Kind Bars and Larabars. While they take time to make, they cost much less than purchasing from the store. Plus I get to customize the flavor for exactly what I like. My favorite so far is a recipe I modified by adding candied ginger, ground ginger, and cardamon to a crunchy nut bar. Mmmm. I also made a PB&J bar using dates, almonds, and dried cherries. These bars aren’t too sweet and they stay soft, which is a nice change from crunchy bars.

Food Storage

To help keep track of how much I’m eating, I like to package all of the food for each day into a separate gallon-size plastic bag. I pack all of my snacks for lunches into individual serving bags, then place one days worth into a quart-size bag. This way, I can find all of the snacks that I intend to take on a day hike and know that I still have enough for the remaining days on a trip. And I can easily track to make sure I’m eating enough each day.

backpacking food bag with food for a four night trip

On most trips, I take a waterproof sack for hanging food from a tree, but I also take a bear canister on trips where bears are more likely. When using the food sack, I place all of the food in an odor-proof plastic bag and then put that in the food sack. This helps to keep animals from smelling your food and messing with it.

Bears aren’t the major concern… it’s the small critters like mice and chipmunks and marmots that are much more frequently trying to get into backpacker’s food. Of course, if it’s an area known for bears, I always use a bear canister, even when not required. It just makes me feel safer, plus I like how easy it is to access the food in a canister.

Backpacking food cookbook

I’m currently working on a “how to get started” backpacking book, and after it is published, I’m starting on a backpacking cookbook. I’m teaming with a friend who is a great cook, so look for more info coming soon.

I’d love to hear about backpacking recipes you’ve tried and liked!

The post My backpacking food plan appeared first on I Heart Pacific Northwest.

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You’ve been snow camping before and liked it so you want to go again. But this time, to a bigger mountain that you’ve never seen up-close in the winter. The fantasy includes views of the snow-clad mountain at sunrise and sunset, glimmering expanses of white powdery snow, and joyful moments of being outdoors overnight in the winter. The reality may include all of the fantasy, but it also includes a fair amount of drudgery.

Load up your pack, which is pretty much the same as regular backpacking season except for the extra weight of a winter tent, heavier sleeping bag, second sleeping pad, extra layers, and a shovel strapped on so you can dig your campsite base when you arrive at camp. Put the snowshoes on and hike in, stopping several times to catch your breath, wondering why you feel so out of shape when you never stopped hiking, even when the season ended and the rains began and you snowshoed every chance you had. That’s why you are here now, isn’t it? Who else backpacks to set up camp in the snow other than someone obsessed with being outdoors as much as possible? You love this. You crave this. You need this. So keep trudging on.

You are surprised at how hard it is to tell what makes a suitable campsite when all around you are rolling hills of snow with pockets of trees on the slopes. The high wind in the forecast convinces you to find a spot in an island of trees, some of which are dead snags. They sure look solid. What could knock them down onto my tent? High winds? Oh yeah. Better move out of the only flat spot and start digging on the slope.

Get out your shovel and work for 1.5 hours on a pit that’s 2-3 feet deep depending on which side you are on. Attempt to shovel without wearing your snowshoes but have to put them back on because all you do is fall down or posthole. Did you just step on the tent with your snowshoes? The footprint has punctures all over it from the last trip, so it’s not of much use this time. You could have left it at home. Oh well. Set up your tent, take off the snowshoes, then get inside and take off the boots. Untangle the mess of gear that you threw in with the tent door barely open so it wouldn’t let too much blowing snow inside. It’s cozy in here. But it’s time to eat.

Locate your stove and food. Open the tent door, attempting to keep snow out. Open the vestibule so you don’t suffocate when you use your stove to cook your dehydrated food that you brought with you in a heavy bear canister that slides around on the snow so fast you have to keep hold of it. Set up your stove and light it. Try to light it again. Turn the fuel on full blast, then light it again and hope it doesn’t explode. Okay good, it lit. But there isn’t much flame because the temperature is lower than this stove is supposed to be used at. It works, but it takes a long time. A really long time. You hope it stays on long enough to cook your dinner. Try to keep the tent door and rainfly lowered enough to keep snow out, but away from the low flame of the stove.

When your food is done, eat it in your tent for the first time. Chew the chewy chow you cooked, chewing more than you think is normal until you realize that the chicken sausage you added to your mac and cheese recipe never rehydrated. But you must eat. You exerted a lot and need to replenish your body, so chew on. Drink the hot (white) chocolate you made, which makes you very happy. Wash your stove pot because you ate out of it instead of a plastic bag.

Place the bear canister loaded with food, the stove, and the now empty but not clean mug into the second vestibule of your tent. Wonder if this is a good idea since it smells like food. Realize that keeping it anywhere else would require layering back up before getting back out of the tent, and then shoveling a small pit somewhere away from your tent because everything is sloped and the food will slide away if you just set it on the ground. And it’s dark. So you try to forget about it.

After sitting up to journal for awhile, you wonder if it’s too early to go to sleep. It’s dark, you are cold, and your back is tired from carrying a heavy load and shoveling more than you have probably ever shoveled before, so you decide that 7:30 is not too early. It’s cozy warm in the sleeping bag and double sleeping pads are cushy. This is nice. Drift off to sleep.

Wake up two hours later needing to pee. Layer up, put on the boots and walk gingerly so you don’t slip and fall in the dark. Of course, you have your headlamp on. When you squat to pee, you wonder if you are all lit up and on display from your headlamp reflecting off the snow. But there’s no one around. Go back to your tent and get all snuggly in your sleeping bag again and drift off until you have to repeat this process 3 hours later.

At some point in the night, you hear a sound that you are convinced is one of the wily foxes you saw on the drive up to the mountain and hope that they aren’t drawn to the smell of food that was cooked and eaten in your tent. Or to the still dirty mug in your vestibule. Oh well. Just forget about it and go back to sleep.

Wake up with the first rays of light and peek out of your vestibule to see that the sky is clear and bright blue. When you get out of the tent, it’s the coldest part of the day and you have to put those snowshoes back on and light your stove. Hope the fuel didn’t freeze overnight. The water did. And the views are as fantastic as the fantasy.

The post A short story about snow camping appeared first on I Heart Pacific Northwest.

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2017 was a year full of amazing camping, hiking and backpacking adventures. A few firsts included visits to Yosemite and the North Cascades, my first solo hike, most elevation gain on a day hike, camping on a beach, and not one but two(!) falls that injured my right knee. Here are highlights from each of my trips, with links to full trip reports and more photos. January

snowshoe hike from Timberline Lodge to Palmer Ski Lift

January 15: The new year started with a snowshoe hike on Mount Hood, from Timberline Lodge up to the Palmer Ski Lifts under bluebird skies with endless views. We took the Mount Hood Express bus from Sandy to Timberline Lodge, which was handy since it meant I didn’t have to put chains on my car to make it up the Timberline Road.
2.8 miles with 1,390 ft. gain

Tamanawas Falls snowshoe

January 28: Snowshoeing to see a waterfall is always a treat, and Tamanawas Falls never disappoints. The snow was packed down enough that we wore microspikes instead of snowshoes, which made it easier to go across a couple of bridges on the trail. This place is quite popular in the winter, so go early to avoid a crowded trail.
4.3 miles with 850 ft. gain


sunset at Hug Point

February 26: At an annual weekend getaway with friends on the Oregon Coast, two of us decided to explore tide-pools at Hug Point, but the sunset stole the show.


hiking the Summit Trail at Smith Rock State Park

March 11-13: Itching to spend a few nights outside, I headed to Smith Rock State Park with a couple of friends for two nights of camping and hiking. We hiked the Summit Trail and they took the Misery Ridge trail while I went all the way around the park on the River Trail.
7.9 miles with 1,350 ft. gain


For me, spring is all about getting in good condition for the upcoming backpacking season, so I made a plan with a few friends to do conditioning hikes every weekend in April.

Multnomah-Wahkeena loop hike

April 1: The Multnomah-Wahkeena loop is one of my favorite hikes in the Columbia River Gorge. It’s a fairyland filled with beautiful creeks, cascading waterfalls, and moss and ferns everywhere.
5 miles with 1,600 ft. gain

on the saddle behind Hamilton Mountain

April 10: The steep hike up to the summit of Hamilton Mountain offers many rewards: waterfalls and streams, interesting rock formations, and sweeping views of the Columbia River Gorge.
7 miles with 2,300 ft. gain

viewpoint from Angels Rest trail

April 17: For the Wahkeena-Angels-Devils loop hike, we started on the Wahkeena Trail, hiked up to the spring and over to Angels Rest, then to Devils Rest before returning down the Wahkeena Trail. This hike is an awesome combination of cascading streams and waterfalls in a mossy forest with great views of the Gorge. While Angels Rest is one of the most popular hikes in the Gorge, I’ve made three attempts yet still never made it out to the point due to high winds.
8.3 miles with 2,729 ft. gain

April 24: We didn’t let the rain or fog stop us from doing our final conditioning hike in April: the Herman Creek to Indian Point loop. Starting on the Herman Creek trail, we took the super-steep Nick Eaton Way Trail to the Ridge Cutoff Trail and then the side trail down to Indian Point. Due to the conditions, it had an eerie feel with only a few peek-a-boo views through the moving fog. For an easier descent, we took the Gordon Creek trail back to Herman Creek. This was the most elevation gain I’ve ever done on one hike… I’m getting stronger!
8.2 miles with 3,000 ft. gain

view from the Summit Trail at Smith Rock

April 28-30: I had planned to go on several backpacking trips this spring, but the weather did not cooperate, so I headed to the high desert of Central Oregon and Smith Rock State Park once again for two nights of camping and hiking with a few friends. Unfortunately, while walking through the campground looking for a spot, I fell and hit my knee HARD on a big rock. It swelled up like a grapefruit, so even though it was 28 degrees overnight, I had an icepack on my knee through the night. The next morning, it felt a bit better so I did the Summit Trail hike. Probably shouldn’t have since I paid for it by not being able to hike for two weeks afterward, but it was a great day for a scenic hike!
7.9 miles with 1,350 ft. gain


Salmon River Canyon hike

May 14: After recuperating from my knee injury, I needed an easy hike. I’ve done the Salmon River Canyon Trail many times and it’s always a pleasure to spend time here. We hiked to the canyon viewpoint, but my favorite spot is the view from the bridge above. I just can’t get enough of fairyland forests with streams.
7 miles with 1,000 ft. gain

backpacking out on the Hoh River trip

May 19-21: It’s finally time for the first backpacking trip of the season at the Hoh River rainforest in the Olympic Peninsula! We hiked in to the Five Mile camp to set up for two nights.
16 miles with 960 ft. gain

fern covered hillsides on the Gales Creek trail

May 27: The Coast Range of Oregon is often overlooked by hikers, but it’s close to the city and usually accessible year round. We headed to one of my favorite easy trails along Gales Creek.
5.3 miles with 950 ft. gain

above the clouds at Saddle Mountain

May 28: The wildflowers were in full bloom at Saddle Mountain, and while a low layer of clouds obscured views to the north,  we could still see Mount Rainier, Mount St. Helens, Mount Adams, and Mount Hood from the summit.
5.2 miles with 1,700 ft. gain

giant trees at the Prairie Creek campground

May 31: On a trip to San Francisco and Yosemite, we stopped at the Redwoods National Park for one night of camping. This is a place I’m definitely going back to for more exploration and hiking!


view from Glacier Point at Yosemite

June 2-4: I can’t believe it took me this long to get to Yosemite National Park! It truly is a grand place. We spend three nights in the tent cabins and did a few short hikes in the valley.

Nick Eaton Falls on the Herman Creek trail

June 11: On my last hike in the Columbia River Gorge before the Eagle Creek fire in September, we hiked on the Herman Creek Trail to Casey Creek. On the way out, I tripped on a rock and fell, hitting my right knee (again) and my head on rocks before doing a flip off the trail, landing on the downslope. I managed to hobble out the last half mile to the trailhead with the help of my friends.
8 miles with 1,800 ft. gain

camping on the beach at Shi Shi

June 22-25: On a three night backpacking trip during the summer equinox at the Olympic Peninsula’s Shi Shi Beach, we camped on the beach and experienced the longest sunsets I’ve ever seen. The tides were the lowest of the year, with many tide pools to explore at the Point of Arches.
8 miles with 200 ft. gain


wildflowers and panoramic views at Silver Star Mountain

July 2: Silver Star Mountain in Southwest Washington is a great hike for wildflowers and panoramic views. We took the Grouse Vista trail to the summit of Silver Star.
6 miles with 2,000 ft. gain

Siouxon Creek

July 14-16: This was my sixth time backpacking at Siouxon Creek. Obviously, it’s one of my favorite places.
10 miles with 1,450 ft. gain over 3 days

view from Alta Mountain

July 26-29: This was one of my favorite trips of the year: a three night backpacking trip to Rampart Lakes in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness, with a hike on Alta Mountain. I will be back to explore more of this area!
16 miles with 3,900 ft. gain over four days


Goat Rocks!

August 9-12: This was my second backpacking trip to Goat Rocks. We spent three nights and did hikes to Goat Lake and a short loop on the PCT and Bypass trails. There were tons of wildflowers, with plenty of flying insects, hot weather, and thunderstorms the last morning that made us cut our trip short.
17 miles with 4,500 ft. gain over four days

view from Sahale Arm in the North Cascades

August 23-27: My first visit to the North Cascades was a three night backpacking trip at Cascade Pass. With glacier-clad peaks in all directions, it was a stunner for sure! My body is still learning how to do these longer trips, and I suffered from a combination of heat exhaustion and electrolyte imbalance, making the long hike out more arduous than expected.
21 miles with 5,200 ft. gain over four days

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This is an article I wrote for Visit Corvallis:

As an avid hiker and backpacker, I’ve spent a lot of time on trails in the Northwest’s many mountain ranges. While I had crossed over the Willamette countless times on its bridges, the closest I ever had gotten to it was a bicycle ride on the Eastbank Esplanade’s floating walkways in downtown Portland. But that all changed when I signed up for a kayaking trip with Cascadia Expeditions in the Corvallis area. View the full article

The post Discovering Wilderness While Kayaking on the Willamette River  appeared first on I Heart Pacific Northwest.

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No more pumping or squeezing! Convert a Sawyer Squeeze water filter and let gravity do the work of filtering water.

I’ve been using the Sawyer Squeeze for filtering water on backpacking trips for the past two years, but find the process of squeezing the bag to be a tedious task that takes too much time. I was planning to purchase a gravity system, but decided to turn my Sawyer into a gravity system instead, which not only saves money, but also saves weight!

Here’s what you need:

Sawyer SqueezePurchase at REI or Amazon (retail price $39.95) Note: this method also works with the Sawyer Mini.

Sawyer Fast Fill Hydration Pack Adapter Kit
Purchase at REI or Amazon (retail price $8.95)

Hydration bladder: I prefer using a hydration bladder that has a tube you can disconnect, like the Camelbak Crux. At camp, I remove the bladder from my backpack and use it to hold water. It’s easy to pour from the wide opening into a water bottle or backpacking stove as needed. Purchase at REI or Amazon (retail price $35.00)

Option: use tubing with a water bottle instead of a hydration bladder. Purchase at REI or Amazon.

Cord or rope cut into 2 foot length. I like the BlueWater 3mm NiteLine Utility Cord. It’s lightweight, strong, and has reflectors so you can see it in the dark when you shine your headlamp on it. Purchase at REI

Conversion process

Step 1: Cut holes in the bottom of the 64oz Sawyer bag, being careful to not cut through the part that holds water. I used a paper hole punch.

Step 2: Add cording through the holes and tie knots to securely hold the bag when it’s full of water. I used a bowline knot.

Step 3: Cut the hydration tube and add the Fast Fill Hydration Kit Adapters as shown. I recommend cutting the tube no more than 6-8″ from the bite valve. The longer the tube, the better the gravity system will work.

Step 4: Attach the remaining adapter from the Fast Fill Kit to the Sawyer Squeeze. If using a Sawyer Mini, remove the adapter from the longer section of tube and attach the tube directly to the Mini.

To use for filtering water

Step 1: Fill the Sawyer bag with untreated water. To make it easier to fill the bag, I use a water bottle that I cut the top off of.  I used to put the Sawyer bag in the water source and swish it back and forth, but that tends to stir up sediment which ends up in the bag and can clog the filter. The plastic bottle also makes a great holder for the filter and bag, rolling them up together to place in the bottle for storage.

Step 2: Attach the Sawyer filter to the bag.

Step 3: Reconnect the tube to the hydration bladder, then connect to the filter using the plastic adapters, which will click when connected.  Note: the water will begin to flow as soon as the bag is hung, so connect everything before hanging the bag.

Step 4: Hang the Sawyer bag from a tree using the cord.

Kick back and relax while gravity does the work of filling the hydration bladder! When set up using this method, it takes about 2-3 minutes for two liters of water to go through the filter and fill the hydration bladder. You may need to release air from the bladder so water can fill it completely.


If you are filtering a lot of water, or if the water has sediment, you will probably need to backflush the filter on an overnight trip. With this gravity setup, you won’t need to bring the syringe that comes with the Sawyer Squeeze. Instead, with at least a liter of clean water in the hydration bladder, hold it above the dirty water in the Sawyer bag long enough for clean water to flow back through the water filter, which is the same as backflushing. This method worked well for me on several three night backpacking trips this summer.

Post-trip clean up

After each backpacking trip, I rinse out the water filter, Sawyer bag, and hydration bladder. Lay them out to dry thoroughly before putting away to eliminate issues with mold and mildew. Some people keep their bladder in the freezer to keep bacteria from growing, but I’ve never needed to do this. After several backpacking trips, I’ll use a cleaning tablet made for hydration bladders to clean it and the tubing, and a drop or two of bleach in a gallon of water to backflush and disinfect the water filter and Sawyer bag.

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links, which means that I make a small commission if a purchase is made. This does not change the price of the item. Regardless, the items listed here are owned by me and purchased with my own funds. All reviews are unbiased and not paid for by any company. Thank you for supporting this blog!

The post DIY Sawyer Squeeze gravity filter system appeared first on I Heart Pacific Northwest.

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Not long after to moving to Portland a decade ago, I planned a vacation that involved sightseeing along the entire Oregon Coast. Attempting to cram all 360+ miles into one trip proved to be less than an ideal way to enjoy all that this incredibly scenic coast has to offer. Instead, we decided to visit different sections of the coast every year: annual camping trips at Cape Lookout, weekend trips to Newport and Yachats, long drives along the coastline to Brookings for several days of camping and hiking, and regular visits to Cannon Beach for day hikes.

The five hikes listed here are my favorites on the Oregon Coast, including trails to secluded beaches, through coastal rainforests, to summits with panoramic views, and along the coastline with tidepools, spouting horns, and if you are lucky, views of migrating whales.

All of these hikes are covered in my I Heart Oregon’s Seven Wonders hiking book.

Hikes, north to south Crescent Beach

view of Crescent Beach from the trail

Distance: 2.4 miles (round trip)
Elevation gain: 200 ft.
Location: Ecola State Park
Nearest town: Cannon Beach
Fees: Oregon State Park pass

Crescent Beach is one of the most photographed places in Oregon. Bounded on the north by Ecola Point and on the south by Chapman Point, this secluded beach is only accessible via the 1.2 mile hike down a steep and often muddy trail, making it more isolated than most beaches on the northern coast. Park at Ecola Point and look for the trailhead near the restrooms. Several sections of steps lead towards the park’s entry road. The trail continues alongside the road for a very short distance, then heads towards the ocean, with fantastic views at the top of the cliffs above the beach. The rest of the hike is through coastal rainforest, crossing a small creek that makes its way to the ocean via a waterfall on the beach. Continue up and over a small headland to a trail junction. Turn right and take several long and steep switchbacks down to the beach. This beach is best visited during low tide, giving you a lot more beach to explore, as well as sea caves on the north end of the beach.

View trip reports and photos

Neahkahnie Mountain

view from the summit of Neahkahnie Mountain

Distance: 4.2 miles (round trip)
Elevation gain: 1,300 ft.
Location: Oswald West State Park
Nearest town: Manzanita
Fees: none

The views from Neahkahnie Mountain (1,680 ft.) are some of the best in the north Oregon coast. With two trailheads, it is possible to do this as a one-way hike, but it would require either a car shuttle or a 1.5 mile walk along busy 101 highway. To hike from the more scenic north trailhead, park at a small pullout on the highway on the north side of the mountain and cross the highway. The beginning section of the trail switchbacks up the slope of the mountain through a tunnel-like path of salal, ferns and berry shrubs, with occasional views of the ocean, Cape Falcon and Smuggler’s Cove. After a short distance, the trail then enters the forest and continues up the north side of the mountain through varying types of forest, mostly with an undergrowth of ferns and salal. Coming around the west side of the mountain, the trail drops to a small saddle, then begins climbing to the south summit area. The views to the south suddenly open in a rocky area of the trail, and there is a steep scramble up the rock to the summit, but it’s much easier to reach the top if you continue a short distance until a sharp turn in the trail leads to a hillside of tree roots that provide steps up the slope and lead to a small rocky spine to the top. At the summit, take in the views looking directly down at the town of Manzanita and Nehalem Bay, and on a clear day, all the way to Cape Lookout.

View trip reports and photos

Cape Lookout

view from Cape Lookout Trail

Distance: 5 miles (round trip)
Elevation gain: 400 ft.
Location: Cape Lookout State Park
Nearest town: Tillamook
Fees: Oregon State Park pass

Cape Lookout was formed 15 million years ago when massive lava floods flowed down the Columbia River and fanned out down the coastline, hardening into basalt headlands. At the trailhead, take the Cape Trail for 2.5 miles as it juts westward into the Pacific ocean. Since this part of the Oregon coast receives about 100 inches of rain each year, the trail is often wet and mucky, so plan on getting your boots or shoes muddy. Heading through a dense forest of old-growth Sitka spruce with an understory of ferns, salal, and salmonberry, openings in the trees offer views to the south of a secluded beach accessible via the South Trail junction at the beginning of the hike. At about .6 miles in, a marker commemorates a WW II B-17 bomber that crashed nearby. At 1.2 miles in, a railed overlook provides views to the north, showing the waves crashing below at the edge of the cape. A couple of sections of the trail are along open cliffs with 400 feet drop-offs, so be careful to watch your step here. Openings in the dense forest offer views to the north of Cape Meares, Three Arch Rocks, Netarts Spit, and the campground at Cape Lookout State Park. The end of the cape is railed, with views to the north obstructed by trees, but the views of the ocean stretch out endlessly westward, and to the south look out toward Cape Kiwanda and Cascade Head.

View trip reports and photos

Cape Perpetua

Cape Perpetua’s rocky shoreline


Distance: 1.9 miles (round trip)
Elevation gain: 120 ft.


Distance: 6.4 miles
Elevation gain: 1,200 ft.

Location: Cape Perpetua State Recreation Area
Nearest town: Yachats
Fees: Northwest Forest Pass

Located two miles south of Yachats, Oregon (pronounced Yaw-Hots), the Cape Perpetua Scenic Area includes a campground with trails linked to a Visitors Center, so it’s easy to spend several days exploring everything this area has to offer. The Visitors Center includes a ranger station, a small gift shop, and interpretive displays about the region’s history and ecology. Do a loop on the Cooks Ridge and Gwynn Creek Trails for a moderate hike (6.4 miles with 1,200 ft. gain) with some of the best remaining old-growth coastal rain forest. A short drive to the top of Cape Perpetua offers outstanding coastline views from a 800’ high promontory, also accessible via a hike from the base of the cape. 

Captain Cook Trail: From the Visitors Center, take the trail that goes under the highway to reach the rocky coastline. Turn left for Thor’s Well, Spouting Horn, and the best tide pooling. Spouting Horn and Thor’s Well are best seen at high tide or during winter storms. During a low tide, this area is filled with sea anemones, sea urchins, and other tide pool dwellers.

Restless Water Trail: From the Visitors Center, take the trail that goes under the highway to reach the rocky coastline. Turn right and continue on this path along the highway for almost a half mile. The trail switchbacks down a hillside next to the ocean. Devil’s Churn is the rocky chute at the end of the bluff, with water slamming into the rock and spraying straight up into the air. Best viewed at high tide or during winter storms, make sure to keep your eye on the ocean since sneaker waves can surge in without warning at any time.

Cooks Ridge & Gwynn Creek loop hike: From the Visitors Center, take the trail from the upper parking lot. Begin in a dense forest with Douglas fir and spruce trees, with a section of old-growth Sitka spruce near a trail junction for the Discovery Loop. Continue on the left trail, gradually ascending the ridge for 1.6 miles to a trail junction. Take the Gwynn Creek trail to the right for the loop hike. The Gwynn Creek trail slowly descends, meandering around several small creeks, and a thick undergrowth of ferns lends special beauty to this coastal rain forest. Gwynn Creek is occasionally visible from the trail as you get closer to the coastline. The trail ends at a junction with the Oregon Coast Trail. Take a short detour to the left to a bridge over Gwynn Creek. Turn around and continue on the Oregon Coast Trail all the way to the Visitors Center. With the highway directly below, there are several good views of the ocean through the trees in this section.

View trip report and photos

Samuel Boardman Corridor

Thunder Rock Cove

Distance: about 2 miles (round trip)
Elevation gain: 250 ft.
Location: Samuel H. Boardman State Scenic Corridor
Nearest town: Brookings
Fees: none

Located between Brookings and Gold Beach along Highway 101, the Samuel H. Boardman State Scenic Corridor is 12 miles long with numerous pullouts designed to help explore the area. The Oregon Coast Trail runs the length of the corridor, with 27 miles of trails meandering through coastal forests that feature up to 300 year-old Sitka spruce. My favorite sections are the short hikes to Thunder Rock Cove and Indian Sands, although I would recommend stopping at as many of the pullouts as you have time for – all of southern Oregon coast is incredibly scenic.

Thunder Rock Cove (highway 101 milepost 345.8) is accessed via a one-mile loop that leads to a partially wooded grassy headland with fantastic views of rocky islands, cliffs, and secluded beaches. 

Indian Sands (highway 101 milepost 348.6) is a unique section of the Boardman Corridor, with sculpted sandstone formations and dunes, wildflower meadows and a basalt sea arch. From the trailhead, a steep trail drops 200 feet to a junction with a side trail to the dunes (go right on the side trail, then left at a large opening to reach the dunes).

View trip report and photos

The post Five Scenic Hikes on the Oregon Coast appeared first on I Heart Pacific Northwest.

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This is my typical three-season backpacking gear list, although I don’t take every item on this list on every trip. What I take depends on many variables, including the weather, trail conditions, hiking distance, etc. For a typical 2-3 night backpacking trip, my final pack weight is 25-30 lbs, including food, water and a few luxury items like my backpacking chair and pillow (does not include items I’m wearing). Note: this list is continually updated with new gear and replacements.


 Osprey Aura 65 AG, XS (4.0 lbs)
This is a heavily padded pack with a suspension system that hugs your body. In other words, comfortable. The many pockets and zipped compartments are great for organizing gear. The only flaw on this pack is the teeny tiny openings for the hip belt pockets, which makes them hard to use. However, I’ve heard that the larger size packs have larger pockets. I have the extra small size.

Purchase: REI  /  Amazon

raincover for backpack: Osprey ultralight rain cover, large (3 oz)
I like using a rain cover so the pack doesn’t get wet, and everything in the pockets stays dry too. Since I keep the backpack in my tent, this keeps the tent drier too. This rain cover has elastic cording to pull it tight on your pack regardless of the load or shape.

Purchase: REI  /  Amazon


tent: Tarptent Moment DW (2 lbs 8 oz)
When I’m backpacking, I like using a single person tent better than sharing a shelter. The Tarptent Moment DW is a one person double-wall tent with two doors and two vestibules – great for storing gear outside of the tent while allowing for easy access in and out of the tent on the other side. An optional crossing pole (6 ounces) makes this tent freestanding, and adds four season capability with snow load support. The Moment DW can be purchased with a mesh interior or a partial solid interior. I have both and can swap them out as needed based on conditions.

Sleep System

sleeping quilt: Enlightened Equipment Revelation (1 lb 6 oz)
(See my full review of the Revelation Quilt) After purchasing three different sleeping bags, I’m now using a sleeping quilt. I was looking for something lighter in weight but still warm. I also wanted more flexibility: something more snug when it’s cold, and looser when it’s not. A quilt has the advantage of being more flexible in terms of how it it used. Available only by ordering directly from the manufacturer, you can choose from three fill weights (850, 900, or 950), six temperature ratings, five lengths, four widths, and more than 15 fabric colors for a totally customized quilt. I ordered a 950-fill, 10 degree, short length, regular width quilt with 20D fabric on the outside and optional water resistant stripes. This quilt weighs only 22 ounces, which is less than half as heavy as the my old sleeping bag I used to take backpacking. The Revelation quilt has a short zipper at the foot, with snaps in a few spots and buckles that can be used with included straps to attach the quilt to your sleeping pad. On colder nights, wrap the quilt all the way around your body and connect the buckles and snaps. The top has a pull cord that tightens for keeping warm air inside, but there’s no hood. I wear a hat when I sleep, or if it’s really cold, I wear my puffy with the hood. In hot weather, leave it flat and use like a blanket.

sleeping pad:
 Exped Synmat UL M (16 oz)
Extremely comfortable, lightweight, and quiet! The Exped Synmat has synthetic insulation and an R-value of 3.3. I love the raised baffles on the sides, perfect for keeping my arms off the ground. Almost like sleeping at home!

 Therm-a-Rest compressible, medium (9 oz)
I know, most backpackers don’t take pillows. I’ve tried using clothing in a stuff sack and it’s a no-go for me. Besides, sometimes I end up wearing all of my clothing in my sleeping bag to stay warm. I’ve tried air pillows but don’t like them. This compressible foam-filled pillow is a bit bulky for backpacking, but it is very comfortable, so I take it whenever possible.

Winter Sleep System

sleeping bag for colder weather: Mountain Hardwear Phantasia 0 degree (2 lb 8 oz) no longer available, but the Mountain Hardwear Phantom Torch 3 is similar.
I mainly use this sleeping bag in the winter. The Phantasia keeps me toasty warm on the coldest of nights, even when snow camping. I can even go to bed cold, and within about 5-10 minutes, it feels like a heater has been turned on. It has a double zipper, so I can leave the bottom partially unzipped when my feet get too warm. The hood wraps around your head snugly, keeping cold air out, and an inner draft collar blocks the heated air from escaping out of the bag.

winter sleeping pad:
 Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XTherm, regular (15 oz)
This sleeping pad is very comfortable (2.5 inches thick) and lightweight. The Xtherm model has features to help keep you warm, with a reflective coating and an R-value of 5.7. I usually fill it up all the way, then lay on it and let out quite a bit of air until it’s just right. It isn’t the quietest pad, making crinkly bag sounds when you move around on it.

(optional) sheet for sleeping pad:
 Therm-a-Rest Universal Sheet (3 oz)
I purchased this sheet to fit over my sleeping pad to keep the sleeping bag from sliding around on (and off) the pad, which the Mountain Hardwear Phantasia will do all night long without a sheet.

pillow: REI Backpacker Pillow (6 oz)
This pillow is shaped like the hood on a sleeping bag, so it fits inside the hood of a mummy bag much better and doesn’t pop out. On one side, the fabric is slick polyester, while the other is a polyester/cotton blend so it’s more comfortable to sleep on (and less slippery). The fill is a combination of synthetic and down, good for loft and warmth.


  • stove: Jetboil Minimo system (14 oz)
    This stove is my entire kitchen setup (with the addition of a spork) and serves as my cooking pot and bowl. I like to cook, and love the simmer feature of the Minimo. It’s easy to clean, so I don’t mind needing to wash it. I eat directly from the cooking pot, so I don’t need to carry anything else.  The fuel consumption is minimal (even with simmering meals), so one canister lasts for multiple trips. So far, I’ve used it on over 25 backpacking trips and it’s still working like new.
  • fuel for stove: 1 small canister (weight varies based on how much fuel is left – a full canister weighs 7 oz)
  • food sack: Osprey Ultralight Dry Sack
    I use this stuff sack to carry and hang my food. It’s lightweight, with a large capacity, and it’s completely waterproof (tested on a particularly rainy night in Indian Heaven Wilderness).
  • cord for hanging food: BlueWater 3mm NiteLine Utility Cord
    The NiteLine cord is highly visible at night when you point your headlamp near it, making it look like a string of lights.
  • mug: GSI Outdoors Infinity Backpacker Mug (3.5 oz)
    An insulated mug that keeps drinks very hot, with a locking lid that limits spills.

  • stuff sack for kitchen kit: Granite Gear Air ZippSack, extra small
    I’m a very organized person, so I love to use different color stuff sacks so I can quickly grab what I need. This one is used for things needed at mealtime: my spoon, soap, towel and multi-tool.
  • soap: Dr. Brommer’s Pure-Castile Liquid Soap (2 oz) (also used in toiletry kit)
    One soap, two purposes: for the camp kitchen and the body.
  • multi-tool: Leatherman Squirt PS4 Multi-tool (2 oz)
    This multi-tool includes regular pliers, needle-nose pliers, scissors, 3 screwdrivers, wire cutters, wood/metal file, straight knife and a bottle opener. I use the scissors the most.
  • towel for washing dishes: PackTowl, small – 14″ x 10″ – green  (1 oz)
    I like to reduce the amount of disposable items I use, and pack towels are a great way to do so. They are lightweight, dry super fast, and this brand is microbial. 
  • spoon: Sea to Summit Alpha Light Spoon – Long (not shown)
    The longer length of this spoon makes it much easier to stir food that is simmering.
  • spork: Light My Fire

(optional) bear canister:
LIGHTER1 Lil’ Sami Polycarbonate Bear-Resistant Food Canister (1 lb 11 oz)
This is one of the lightest and smallest bear canisters currently made, and it’s approved by the Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee for use in National Parks. The lid to the canister doubles as a lightweight cooking pan, while a metal brace inside the lid adds strength to the plastic canister and serves as a handle for the pan. A lid  for the pan is also included in the kit. I’m not sure if I’ll use the pan to cook with since I love cooking with my Jetboil Minimo, but I might if I want to cook something more suited to a skillet than a pan. I bought a bear canister to take on trips where they are required, but I’ve been using it on most of my trips regardless of requirements. This is not due to bears, it’s pesky chipmunks and mice. Some rodents are particularly clever at getting into a food sack that can’t be hung a proper height and/or distance from a tree trunk, and have been known to eat holes in tents and backpacks to get to empty food wrappers (hasn’t happened to me yet, but several of my friends have experienced this). Raccoons and other critters are a problem in some areas as well, and using a bear canister will help eliminate feeding them instead of you.

Food: I can be a picky eater, and I like to cook, so I make my own dehydrated dinners. This helps keep the pack weight down while giving me something healthy and tasty to eat. Look for my recipes on this blog under the Backpacking Recipes topic. I’m planning on adding more over the next year.


  • first aid kit: REI First Aid kit
    I modified my first aid kit to make it lighter, removing duplicates of items and adding items not included, like a syringe for cleaning wounds and Second Skin blister care.

  • emergency blanket: SOL Emergency Bivy (3 oz)
    Shaped like a sleeping bag, this bivy is more durable than a typical emergency blanket.
  • headlamp: Black Diamond Spot (3 oz)
    This headlamp has high-power LEDs that are dimmable, and a red lamp.
  • compass: Suunto MC-2 Pro
  • repair kit: Gear Aid Tenacious Tape
    This tape can be used to repair just about everything.
  • fire starter kit: mini Bic lighter, cotton balls soaked in petroleum jelly, waterproof matches
  • extra batteries: 2 AAA for headlamp
  • stuff sack for essentials: Granite Gear Air ZippSack, medium

Bathroom Kit

  • bidet: Blue Bidet BB-20 (2 oz)
    There’s nothing like a strong spray of water to keep you feeling clean and refreshed on an overnight trip. This bidet is small and lightweight, and for going #2, it makes toilet paper almost not necessary.
  • towel used for pee rag: PackTowl, small – 14″ x 10″ – purple (1 oz)
    I don’t use toilet paper for peeing, and drip dry doesn’t work well enough for me, so I like using a bidet to spray water and the pee rag for drying off. I keep it on the outside of my pack and it dries super fast, with no smell (this towel is microbial).
  • trowel: Deuce of Spades trowel
    Super lightweight and easy to use.
  • toilet paper or wipes (always carried out after use)
  • odor-proof bag: Loksak Opsak, 11″ x 9″
    An odor-proof bag is the best way to pack out used toilet paper. I keep one in my bathroom kit, and place a plastic doggie bag inside it so it conceals the contents and keeps the Opsak clean. Also helpful for carrying out doggie poo.
  • hand sanitizer (without alcohol, which aggravates skin conditions like eczema)
  • stuff sack for bathroom kit: Granite Gear Air ZippSack, extra-small
    Used for my trowel, toilet paper, wipes, hand sanitizer and an odor-proof bag for carrying out used toilet paper.

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I am one of the unlucky souls that mosquitoes love, yet I don’t want that to stop me from being able to go hiking and backpacking. To prepare for trips into areas that are known to have a lot of the biting nuisances, I use a three-step method:

1. Sawyer Permethrin: I spray the clothing that I’ll be wearing while hiking and relaxing at camp with Permethrin (a synthetic version of the Chrysanthemum flower’s natural insect repellent pyrethrin), including my socks and hat. Unlike DEET, Permethrin won’t damage gear, so you can also spray it on your tent and backpack. On three separate backpacking trips last year to alpine lakes areas, the treated clothing that I wore really repelled the mosquitoes. A few landed on me, but didn’t stick around long enough to bite. Note: this product should be sprayed on clothing only (not skin). Permethrin  can be toxic to cats when it’s wet, but is supposed to be safe after it dries. Purchase: Amazon  //  REI 

2. Sawyer Picaridin: For use on your skin, this product protects against mosquitoes, ticks, biting flies, gnats, chiggers and fleas. The lotion version lasts for up to 14 hours, and the spray version lasts 8 hours. I applied this on every backpacking trip during mosquito season and it worked in spite of being swarmed by mosquitoes. To protect aquatic life, make sure to wipe it all off before taking a plunge. Purchase: Amazon  //  REI

3. Sea to Summit Head Net with Insect Shield: The last line of defense against mosquitoes that I use is a head net. However ridiculous it feels to wear, it really works. Just remember it’s there when you are eating and don’t push your food through the net. Yeah, that happened to me. Purchase: Amazon  //  REI

UPDATE: on a recent trip to the Alpine Lakes Wilderness, the mosquitoes were swarming heavily and I had to resort to using DEET on any exposed skin during the super buggy parts of the day. Otherwise, the system above worked great.

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links, which means that I make a small commission if a purchase is made. This does not change the price of the item. Regardless, the items listed here are owned by me and purchased with my own funds. All reviews are unbiased and not paid for by any company. Thank you for supporting this blog!

The post How to Prepare for Mosquitoes on Hiking & Backpacking Trips appeared first on I Heart Pacific Northwest.

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