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Chanell's Story / You've answered my questions, and now what?

This is an ongoing series on chanell, a black woman who's documenting her journey of going on her very first backpacking trip. If you're joining now, you can start here

Thank you Liz for all the answers to my questions! I don’t know why I didn’t think about bears, especially because I did watch Grizzly Man. It must be due to the fact that I’m assuming all the places I want to travel too are bear-free. I guess I’ll see if that’s true!

First, that gear check list is super organized but feels a bit overwhelming. I don’t have most of the things on that list. Right now I’m thinking, how much of this list do I absolutely need to purchase? Luckily, I have a number of friends into camping and backpacking so I think the “sleep system” will be the easiest thing on my list.

My initial question is, "What about the gear checklist is overwhelming?" Is it because you don't have most of the stuff on the list or you don't know what it is or something else? If it's you don't own most of the stuff, I've created a pared down version of the essentials I think a beginner needs on their very first backpacking trip. Keep in mind that you don't need to take all these things if there are amenities available to you. For example, you might not need an extra bag for soiled toilet paper if there are pit toilets. (Phew!) Research beforehand is key. 

Second, I’ve always wanted to explore Big Sur. I think I went once in college for what turned out to be a very uncomfortable camping trip. My tent was set up on top of twenty million rocks, so I didn’t get a good night’s sleep for two nights! The outhouses were super gross (to me) so I ran in, held breath, and peed as quickly as possible. And I didn’t want to hike so I just hung out around the camping area (and missed out on the waterfall and swimming hole)! Other than the great people, the trip was pretty dismal. Since then, I’ve driven to Big Sur a couple of times and have been astounded by its beauty and proximity to the water. I’d love the opportunity to be in that space for a couple of days. While I’m not attached to Big Sur (I’d certainly consider other places near bodies of water) I’d want an easy hike for my first time around though, nothing to crazy.

Having a bad camping experience sucks! I know what that's like so I'm sorry you had that experience. But it sounds like it hasn't completely deterred you from wanting to go again. (Awesome!) And it also sounds like you really want to be near water. Is that the ocean more specifically? Or does a river or lake work too? 

Big Sur is awesome for sure. I'm thinking it might be kind of fun for you to go to Sykes Hot Springs, but it'll be about 10 miles in and 10 out which could be a challenge depending on your fitness level. Unfortunately, it's gotten really crowded especially on the weekends. The other option that might be awesome is going to Point Reyes - one of my favorite places on earth! There's a fairly easy backpacking trip you that'll lead you close to the ocean. I just searched and it looks like there's availability in the next month. [Search: Coast Campground, "Walk to"]. I've stayed at campsite #1 and it was a bit exposed, but I liked that it was centrally located. I would go with sites 1, 2, or 3. 

I did like the plug for free gear (which I’m pretty sure I can also borrow from some friends) but again, I’m wondering: do I need to buy everything under pack essentials? Do I need a stove? I’d like to do this trip solo or with one other person so I don’t want to overburden myself.

You don't need to buy everything under pack essentials. The gear checklist is a pretty thorough list of stuff I take on almost every trip. Check out the pared down list here. As for the stove, it totally depends on if you want hot food. So for example, if you want hot coffee in the morning or a warm meal at the end of the day, you'll want a stove. If not, you can eat dry/cold foods and be perfectly fine. If it's an overnight and you don't want to carry a stove, I say go simple and eat no-cook food. I can make some suggestions for food for an overnighter when we get there.

Next question: I’m leaning towards Big Sur (but I also plan on doing some research for other parks near large bodies of water). I’m hoping to carve out a weekend in mid November. Once I have a place in mind and a general time I want to go, what do I do next?

After you have a time and location, I would recommend thinking about how many days you're going to go and how many miles you think you'll want to hike per day. If you're thinking 5 miles or so, it will put some parameters on what trails to take and what you'll be able to see. You can start by searching sites like The Outbound, EveryTrail, or even just googling "backpacking in _______". Honestly it might confuse the heck out of you - it confuses me every time I look for backpacking trips! But when you find a trail that meets your criteria, you need to: 
  1. Find the ranger's # for the area you want to go to
  2. Look into permits and secure them
  3. Nail down dates to go
  4. Get a sense of the weather to prepare accordingly (ask the ranger when you secure a permit)
  5. Finish getting the rest of your gear
  6. Think about what you'll wear and wear it on practice hikes
  7. Practice hiking with your pack partially loaded so you can work out kinks

Once you've decided on your location and route, let's take it from there! You have about a month before you have to go, and that can go by real fast. Love that I get to work with you through this Chanell! I admire your will and determination to forget something new for yourself.  


Breakfast Idea / Easy, simple, and tasty oatmeal packets

I'm a simple gal. A hassle-free one, really. Backcountry meals really brings that out in me. So when I found this recipe for homemade instant oatmeal packets, I was sold! It's perfect for simple, nourishing backpacking breakfasts with (this is key) VARIETY!

I tried the exact recipe from the website and found that I wanted more milkiness, sweetener and flavor, so altered it to suit my palette. The best part of these recipes is that you can get really creative and mix & match flavors and make it what you want it to be. Here's my version of The Yummy Life's recipe:

Ingredients for oatmeal base

  • Small snack-size ziploc bag
  • 1/3 c instant or quick rolled oats
  • 2 tsp oat bran
  • 3 Tbsp powdered milk
  • 1 Tbsp brown sugar
  • 1/8 tsp cinnamon
  • pinch of salt


Ideas for Flavor Combos

  • Apricot-Ginger: 1 Tbsp chopped apricot + 1 Tbsp chopped crystallized ginger
  • Apricot-Almond-Coconut: 1 Tbsp chopped apricot + 1 Tbsp of almonds + 1 Tbsp of coconut
  • Ginger-Almond-Coconut: 1 Tbsp chopped crystallized ginger + 1 Tbsp of almonds + 1 Tbsp of coconut
  • Almond-Coconut:  1 Tbsp of almonds + 1 Tbsp of coconut
  • Banana-Apricot: 3 Tbsp freeze-dried bananas + 1 Tbsp chopped apricot
  • Strawberry/Banana-Coconut: 3 Tbsp of freeze-dried strawberry/banana mix + 1 Tbsp of coconut
  • Flax-Coconut-Almond: 1 tsp ground flax seeds + 1 Tbsp of coconut + 1 Tbsp sliced almonds
  • Chia-Coconut-Almond: 1/2 tsp chia + 1 Tbsp of coconut + 1 Tbsp sliced almonds
  • Blueberry-Banana-Almond: 2 Tbsp freeze-dried blueberries + 3 Tbsp freeze-dried bananas + 1 Tbsp sliced almonds
  • Apricot-Walnut: 1 Tbsp chopped apricot + 1 Tbsp chopped walnuts


  1. Open up all the small snack bags
  2. Go through and systematically go through one ingredient at a time: oatmeal, milk, brown sugar, cinnamon, and then salt
  3. Chop up your preferred toppings (i.e. I chop the ginger, apricots, walnuts, macadamia into small pieces and don't worry about the freeze dried fruits because they'll get kinda crushed in your pack anyway.) 
  4. Add your toppings to each ziploc snack bag
  5. Seal up and label with the flavor + "Add 3/4c H2O" so you don't forget how much water to add. 


  1. HOT: Put in your cup, add 3/4c-1c of water, stir and eat.
  2. NO COOK: Put in a ziploc bag (slightly larger) OR a ziploc twist n' lock, add water and let it sit overnight. When you wake up in the morning, breakfast is served. 

Chef's notes

  • I buy almost all the products from the bulk section at our local grocery store, so I just use what's available there. But if you don't have a natural food store in your hood, you can get any of the toppings online. Check out the variety!
  • You can make this however you want. You really can't go wrong.


PROTIP: Just take one cup to eat and drink out of. Less mess, less cleaning. Simple! 

Have a suggestion for an awesome oatmeal combo? Tell me in the comments below. 



Lunch Idea / Flat Bread, Salami, and Cheese Wrap

Ever have NO IDEA what to eat for lunch in the backcountry? 

Dehydrated beef stroganoff? A dry bar? [Insert: Tongue sticking out, eyes all buggy with a "BlaahHh" sound]

Here's my latest lunch find that I sometimes even crave when I'm at home.


ONE  |  Papa Pita Flatbread  |  200 calories  |  8g of protein
1 OZ  |  Tillamook Cheddar Cheese  |  110 calories  |  7g of protein
1 OZ  |  Columbus Peppered Dry Salami  |  90 calories  |  6g of protein
ONE  | Mustard packet**  |  5 calories  |  0g of protein
ONE  | Mayo packet**  |  80 calories  |  0g of protein

TOTAL  |  485 calories  |  21g of protein (at a minimum)

*All purchases made with these affiliate links support Snowqueen & Scout. Thank you!
**The mustard and mayo packets require you carrying a little bit of extra trash, but I truly think they elevate the wrap. It's so nice to have a little bit of fatty moisture! 

Hygiene / Backcountry Dental Hygiene

Have you heard yourself say, "Ehh, I'll just skip brushing my teeth tonight. I'm too tired and I feel so dirty anyway...what's skipping one night gonna do?"

Ha! I've said that a hundred times! (Ok, I exaggerate.)

Even if you might be feeling dirty from a good ole day's hike, I believe dental hygiene (hygiene in general) is important in keeping up your mental game. I really think it's the little things that extend mental longevity in the wilderness. Anyway, I love feeling clean at the end of a physically demanding day. (Who doesn't like that feeling of stepping out of the shower after getting filthy?) It's wonderful! But more importantly, being clean helps me sleep better and feel refreshed at the start of a new day. It's not just about being OCD with cleanliness, it's really about having a long-term strategy to help me keep going so I can stay out longer in the wilderness. 

All that to say, one piece of floss and some easy teeth brushing skills can help your mental game, not to mention your breath.


1. Floss your teeth.
If anything, flossing is the least you can do. It's SO good for your dental hygiene!

2. Dab just a tiny bit of natural toothpaste on your kid-size toothbrush.
You don't need a lot of toothpaste. It suds too much and it gets messy if you use a lot. Instead, try just a dash just to get that minty fresh feeling without frothing all over (which means more clean-up).
TIP: Baking soda is also a great natural option!

3. Add a tiny splash of water and brush like normal.
I have my water bottle with me (with potable water) and I put the tiniest bit of water in my mouth before I start brushing. (This is my equivalent to getting my toothbrush/paste wet under the faucet when I'm at home.) Then I brush brush brush. I have a small toothbrush, so it takes a little more effort.

4. Add a little more water in my mouth, swish, and spit. 
Spit into a cathole or have you ever tried the spitting method where you create a really fine mist? (If you have no idea what I'm talking about, I really need to make a video!)

5. Final rinse.
One more mouth rinse and toothbrush rinse and voila! Minty fresh....Ahhhhhh! Time for bed. 

This is my entire hygiene kit I used for a 9-day trip. From L to R: Sunblock, toothpaste, lotion, Diva cup, tweezers, comb, kid toothbrush, floss, all-purpose castille soap, small piece of broken mirror. I had too much toothpaste, castille soap, and sunblock. I could've lightened my load even more. (And the lotion was gold!) Total weight: 4.5oz


Buy: Kid-size Preserve Toothbrush
Buy: All-natural Tom's of Maine Toothpaste
Buy: Oral-B Glide Deep Mint Floss


*All purchases made with these affiliate links support Snowqueen & Scout. Thanks!

How to Filter Water / Aquamira Water Treatment

There are a lot of different ways to treat water in the backcountry. This summer, I've been giving Aquamira my full attention and I want to share my thoughts on it because it's a really great system. 

Aquamira is very well-known in the ultralight (UL) backpacking community, but most folks don't know about it when they're first starting out. It's probably the most effective, smallest, ultralight water treatments out there. It's basically a two-part chemical that you mix and then drop into your water. Easy! Unlike a filter, you unfortunately can't drink your water right away. The chemicals need to do their magic, killing all of the water-borne diseases (for about 15-30 minutes). 

For some strange reason, I trusted Aquamira's effectiveness right away, unlike it's pill-form counterparts. I think there's something about seeing the chemical mix into the water right away that feels like it's at work, versus having to wait for (let's say) an iodine pill to dissolve. (Inside voice: "What if the pill doesn't mix thoroughly with ALL of the water?!") Plus, research always helps. 


THE PROS: Very effective, ultralight, tiny, affordable, easy, and water tastes pretty good compared to iodine treatment.
THE CONS: Chemicals are strong so you don't want to get it on your skin; the water does have a tiny sour taste (barely noticeable, but still worth noting); 15-30 minute wait time




  • Purchase small bottles to take only what you think you'll need on your trip. 
  • Drop about 20 drops of each A and B into the mix bottle in the morning. That way your Mix is ready for use all day.
  • Keep your Mix safe from heat and sun. If it's not bright yellow, it's probably compromised. Start over.
  • If you have a little left over at the end of the day, mine tended to evaporate.
  • Be careful not to get A, B, or Mix on your skin. You can smell the strength of the chlorine dioxide when you open the container. Definitely don't want to be getting that directly on your skin. 


Buy: Small bottles
Buy: Aquamira

Would you give Aquamira a try? Why or why not? 

*All purchases made with these affiliate links support Snowqueen & Scout. Thanks!