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:

For breakfast:

  • Oatmeal
  • Poptarts
  • Belevita breakfast biscuits (these were our favorite!)

For lunch:

  • Tuna in a tortilla
  • Pepperoni in a tortilla
  • Slim Jims
  • Any nut-free Little Debbie snack cakes
  • Raisins
  • Hammer or Gu energy gels
  • Nut-free Quaker granola bars
  • Stinger Waffles (the strawberry ones are everything)

For Dinner:

  • Mac and cheese
  • Knorr pasta sides
  • Pre-cooked bacon in a tortilla
  • Fruit/ vegetable squeezers

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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,

Maranda Stone


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Comments 7

  • Avatar
    Zach : Dec 7th

    Wait, NEVER had peanut butter? Or, like, it’s been a few weeks?

    Great article, Maranda!

    • Avatar
      Helen : Apr 27th

      Thank you for this article! My boyfriend is also anaphylactic to all nuts and I take no chances when we go hiking which means I have to find alternatives to! This gave me some good ideas for our upcoming summer hikes!

  • Avatar
    Laurel "Duchess of Slug" Seus : Dec 8th

    Fellow fragile nut-free flower here-
    Roasted chickpeas were my absolute favorite nut alternative. They were hard to find in the southern states, but most grocery stores above the Mason Dixon line had them. I also found a brand of pumpkin seeds that were kosher and not horribly expensive. I got sick of sweet snacks since “savory” was basically a synonym for “death by nuts” so chickpeas and pumpkin seeds were an absolute savior. I also made single-serve vacuum packs of freeze dried meat from a bulk can for my resupply boxes which were an awesome protein source that I never got sick of.

  • Avatar
    Antonio : Jul 12th

    Thank you for sharing your experience. I am not allergic to nuts but my two kids are allergic. I plan on getting into hiking and maybe some backpacking. I am hoping to take them along and your tips are very helpful. The last thing I want is for them to suffer an anaphylactic reaction in a remote area where help could be delayed.

  • Avatar
    Trent Helms : Oct 18th

    Thank you for posting this. We have scouts with peanut allergies and this is timely advice for an upcoming backpacking trip. Very much appreciated!

  • Avatar
    Kelly Nash : Jul 12th

    Thank you! I came across this article after googling nut free backpacking options. My son is a 16 year boy scout about to go on a week long trek. Last year he said everyone else ate peanut butter and all they gave him was tuna. This year he’s packing his own supplies.

  • Avatar
    Andrew S. : May 13th

    Hi there!

    I just wanted to say that I’m doing some research for my 6 yo daughter who is allergic to peanuts and your post was really helpful. I plan on taking her out car camping over the next couple years with progressively longer hikes as she gets older. When she turns around 9 or 10 I plan on taking her out for her first backpacking trip just the two of us. Understanding necessary nutrition intake is important and 86’ing nuts from the plan puts a pretty big question mark as far as what to pack for snacks. Growing up, classic trail mix (or Gorp, as my family traditionally called it) was a staple for hiking and camping. Obviously that’s not going to be part of her experience which in a way is kind of sad but necessary for her health.

    Anyway thank you for sharing your experience and some of the things you learned while in the wilderness. It is very helpful and I will be refering to this post as I get closer to our planned outing!


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