Top 5 VEGAN Camping Must Haves + GIVEAWAY!
1. ENO Doubleneck Hammock + Straps
We bought our ENO hammock at REI after seeing it advertised a few times. We were super curious and love to snuggle so it seemed like it would be a nice addition to our camping gear. Priced at about $70 for the Doubleneck - or 2 person - hammock, we figured it was worth it. We also bought the ENO brand attachment straps for the hammock so we could still string it up in areas with few trees or hanging spots. We first used our hammock on our Big Sur camping trip 4th of July weekend (above), and we've been hooked on it ever since! We even brought it with us on our most recent trip to Maine and I didn't think my younger sister was going to let us have it back. She loved it! It is made out a parachute-type material and spreads to fit two bottoms or two people laying down side by side. It was a great way to catch a breeze on top of the mountain we were on and a nice way to unwind and watch the sunset after a long day of hiking. The best part? The whole hammock folds up into that attached bag shown at the center of my back in the picture above, which is only about 4x6 inches. Seriously- best camping purchase we've ever made!
2. Jet Boil Flash Cooking System
This system has changed the way we camp. Before we were always concerned about having a fire ring so we could cook, but now we can dispersed camp anywhere we want and always have hot meals on-the-go! We're thinking about hiking the 220 mile JMT next year and owning a Jet Boil is an absolute must. We've made oatmeal, pasta, pho soup, and even just boiled water for hot drinks and to do dishes with. The setup is easy and about 2 cups of water is boiling in less than a minute. Plus, if you're into attachments (Alex is), Jet Boil offers a ton of other cool things like portable pots + pans, a stability system, canister cozies, and a range of other cooking attachments. If you spend a lot of time outdoors, do yourself a favor and invest in a Jet Boil. The fuel is cheap and it is so, so worth it to have steaming hot chocolate in under 2 minutes after a rainy 9 hour hike. Trust me. You can check them out at JetBoil.com.
3. Squeeze Pod Travel Toiletries
My biggest issue with travel - of ANY kind - is always dealing with the toiletries. Packing them into travel-sized bottles for convenience, only to have them explode or pop open and leak all over everything. So then you start wrapping them in plastic sandwich bags but then you're just left digging the exploded bottle out of the goop it's swimming in. Ick. Enter SQUEEZE PODS! When I was first emailed about these I was skeptical, but as soon as I received the product I realized how genius it really was. The creator was a huge traveler with as much frustration as I have over toiletries, so he aimed to make something better. These little pods come in 9 toiletry types: shampoo, conditioner, body wash, hair gel, lotion, shave cream, hand purifier, facial cleanser + toilet odor eliminator. They are made with pronounceable ingredients you can trust like coconut oil, aloe vera and shea butter and contain NO parabens, phthalates, sulfates, phosphates or other harmful preservatives. All of Squeeze Pod's products are made in the USA, 100% vegan and TSA compliant! They even offer cute kits for 'Girls Getaway Weekend', 'Guys Getaway Weekend', and 'Sleepovers' that contain a bunch of toiletries into an easy-to-share kit. We really loved taking our Squeeze Pod toiletries camping, especially on our super rural Big Sur trip, because we often didn't have access to facilities of any type, so having small, easily dispensed amounts of product became key. Plus, there is so little waste, it's easy to pack in the toiletries and pack out the trash without it being an issue. We're taking our Squeeze Pod's everywhere now, and we want you to be able to, too! Scroll all the way to the bottom for a chance to WIN the kit pictured above! 9 travel-sized, leak-proof toiletries in one TSA-friendly carrying case could be yours. Details below. Good luck! If you don't want to wait, you can check out their full line of products at SqueezePod.com!
4. A Sharp Knife
There is just no better thing you can ever have in life than a really great, sharp knife. I spend a lot of time in the kitchen, and when we're camping it's no different. We like to eat as much fresh food and home-cooked style meals while camping as we can because it's cheaper than buying everything pre-packaged and its way healthier. Don't get me wrong, I am all for some packaged mac n' cheese and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, but there is really only so much that food will do to power you for an 8 mile hike at camp. Start throwing some fresh veggies and fruit into your meal ideas and that knife will come in seriously handy. Plus, if an axe murderer is roaming the woods at night, you got this. We even bought a knife we keep specifically in our camping gear, which you can find here. (pictured above)
5. Vegan Snacks!
On top of meal planning for our trips to conserve space and wasted food, we are always sure to bring plenty of snacks. Between the drive to where we camp (usually about 5ish hours) and the downtime spent at camp, plus packing for hikes and adventuring, we like to bring a variety of goodies - both sweet and savory - to munch. Above is a photo of the haul we took on one trip, but its a pretty good representation of what we normally bring with on smaller trips, too. Lots of granola + power bars, faux jerky, granola, oats, chips, fruit, and PB + J for when you want to feel like a kid again. Oh and of course, S'MORE stuff! Of course you could just bring these S'mores cookies, instead. And if you're like us and go camping year round, be sure to check out the monthly snack boxes from Vegan Cuts + Urthbox! They both offer great deals on fun and creative snacks that get shipped to your door monthly. We always end up with leftover snacks in our box that we toss into our camping tote for trips. It's perfect and always snack sized!
Enter our giveaway below to win 1 loaded Squeeze Pod Travel Toiletries kit with 9 different types of portable, spill-proof toiletries and a cute zippered pouch to carry them in! US entries only please. Winner will be chosen 8/19/15. Good luck!
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Summer Vacation in Maine!
I grew up in Maine, so anytime I get to head back for a vacation- especially when it's not winter- is a welcome retreat. This summer Alex and I were able to both take off from our real lives for a week to head east and hang with some of my family. Normally around this time of year, my whole family- aunts, uncles, cousins, extended family and friends- would all go camping at a place (peninsula) called Hermit Island. Its a magical place that I grew to really love and cherish spending summers there every year. I love going back, but these days it seems like we've all grown up and moved away and it can be hard to get everyone together for a whole week of just enjoying each others company. So instead, this year, Alex + I joined my Dad and sister Jade, plus my Dad's partner and her daughter as we planed to hike to the top of Mt. Katahdin, Maine's tallest mountain, and then raft our way through class 5 rapids in the Penobscot River. We hopped on a plane at LAX (Miley style) and spent 5ish hours traversing the country before waking up at about 4 am in the Boston Airport, where my Dad was waiting to pick us up. First stop on the way home? A bright and early check in at LL Bean for some quality hiking boots and then to Mister (Mr?) Bagel to get double toasted onion bagels with veggie tofutti cream cheese (at least that's what I ordered). It was humid AF outside, but it was good to be back!
We got home and napped, then woke up to do a bit of foraging on Dad's property. We found at least 6 different crab apple trees, plus ripe raspberry bushes and early season blueberries to munch, and we collected some for later. It also just so happens to be peak strawberry season in Maine, so we stopped by our favorite local and SUPER vegan-friendly farm + cafe Sheepscot General to pick as many pints of organic strawberries as we could hold. That night we made dinner for the family, which included a big green salad with lots of goodies from the garden and our foraging adventure, a whole roasted cauliflower like this one, some chickpea salad with rye bread and a strawberry raspberry crisp made from the fruit we'd collected ourselves. It was so good + we were so happy to cook a healthy, protein-packed vegan meal that everyone could enjoy.
The next day we spent driving north and setting up camp and eating bagels at my FAVORITE ever bagel joint in Maine, Bagel Mainea, where I coincidentally worked in high school - so maybe I'm biased?- but almost every bagel is vegan and they offer 5 vegan-friendly spreads as well customizable vegan sandwiches and even house-made granola and bagel chips! I always get the veggie garlic, double toasted, with plenty of veggie tofutti cream cheese and sliced down the middle for my eating enjoyment. If you're in Augusta, it is way worth the visit.
The next morning we were up and out of camp by 5:30 to drive to the trailhead and get our permits checked in. Below is a picture of my sister Jade, me, and my Dad at the beginning of the hike, probably about a mile in. (Note the rad fanny back if you will!) I have a super weak stomach in the morning and rarely eat before 10 am, plus being up so early hadn't allowed me my normal morning *ahem* ritual, so at about this point I was slowly dying inside. I felt SUPER nauseous and dizzy, and also like I was going to crap my pants while hiking uphill in front of my boyfriend so yeah, it was getting bad. It was about 3 miles to the first stop with outhouses on the trail, Chimney Pond, and somehow I managed to make it there without throwing myself off the mountain itself, although I did manage to get stung by a bee while attempting to sit down and rest on the way up. It wasn't a great start. But after a visit to the ladies room at Chimney Pond, a lot of trail-side dry heaving and half of a chickpea salad sandwich, I was feeling ready to push on and conquer Katahdin. (2 pics down is Chimney Pond in all of its shorts-saving glory.)
When we left Chimney Pond, we were about 4 or 5 miles from the top and the weather was getting worse and worse. We had worn shorts and brought light rain jackets, but overall we were seriously underdressed for the ascent. Alex and I ended up getting quite a bit ahead of the rest of our group as we neared the top, and the higher we climbed the steeper it got. We kept hearing about rock scrambles but it felt like the whole top half of the mountain itself was one giant rock climbing expedition. Your arms felt like they were working just as hard as your legs, and it was getting colder and harder to bend your fingers and toes all the time, but we pushed on. We look happy even!
In the picture above right we're about 1/2 mile from the summit peak at the top of the mountain, and pretty much where we ended our hike. We had originally planed to hike Knife's Edge up to the top but the wind conditions were so strong at Chimney Pond they advised against it. When we reached the tablelands, about 1 mile from the tippy-top, the hail began. First it was a light rain, then harder and harder until actual hail was hitting us all over and the temps had dropped to about 30 degrees. Oh, and there were 50 MPH winds, so we were getting sucked around and hiking behind large boulders to stop and catch our breath. It was a really crazy expercience being up there, and even though some people chose to keep going- and I applaud them- I just could.t My fingers were frozen and I had a little mental breakdown cry feeling so guilty about turing back just before we snapped the above right picture. Luckily, Alex was (always is) amazing and coached me through it, reminding me that no one really cared if we summited but us - and that in his opinion we had gone far enough. That was enough for me! We started our descent back down the tablelands and met up with my Dad, sister, and the rest of our group just before we begin our final descent. A few of them decided to keep going, and did summit (you go guys!), but the rest of us took our frozen buns back down the mountain. We stopped and chatted a bit when we got back to the Chimney Pond station, and we continued down the trail a major thunderstorm rolled in. The lightning was close and we were soaked, but at least my feet stayed dry until the last mile or so. At that point there was a veritable river running down the trails and we were just splashing our way down, trying not to lose footing or each other in the dense rain. When we finally got to the bottom we had hiked a total of 14 miles over 9 hours, in some of the worst conditions I have ever voluntarily placed myself in. We were soaked, but we were happy to be heading back to camp, where we made a big pot of black pean pasta with garlicky tomato sauce and toasted bread. It doesn't look like much, but it was the perfect post-hike hot meal.
The next day we spent rafting down the Penobscot River, where Alex, my Dad, his partner, and the raft guide all got tossed out in a Class V rapid and I had to steer the boat to safety. NO JOKE PEOPLE. I have video evidence, if I can figure out how to single out that part and upload here. I'll work on that. Anyway, it was incredible and I wish we had more pictures but the whole losing-your-iphone-in-the-river thing was something none of us was willing to risk, so we have to pictures to prove it.
After that, we spent a day at Hermit Island, walking around a getting a small piece of what we used to go there for every year. We hiked around the island, collecting seashells and taking in as much fresh sea air as we could. Afterwards we want to the best pizza joint in coastal Maine, The Cabin. Its a great wood-built cabin (literally) that houses some of the worlds best pizza crust and lives right next door to Bath Iron Works, Maine's largest ship builder. It gets pretty busy when those guys are out for lunch around 12-1 pm, but any other time its worth stopping in for a veggie topped pizza for two.
We visited our favorite hidden gem farmstore next door, admiring the produce and hanging with the chickens they keep in the back pasture. Th next day we went paddle boarding in the Damariscotta River while my Dad and sister kayaked, and afterwards enjoyed lunch at The Newcastle Publick House, where we got to try their new vegan menu item - inspired by our cauliflower nuggets recipe! They tasted great and it was awesome to see a small restaurant like that offering something for all their customers. Also, their hand-cut french fries were AMAZING. And isn't my boyfriend just the most handsome? I sure think so.
On our last night, we played trivia at the Liberal Cup in Hallowell, and Alex and I each ordered one of their hand-made, bean + veggie based burgers with grilled onions and a side of hand-cut fries. I also worked here in high school and was always a fan of the fries. In fact, I used to be the one that CUT them all! I'm glad I don't have to do that anymore, but I love coming back for trivia night and its always great to run into old friends while we're there. We didn't win at trivia (but we didn't lose either!), and afterwards we headed home for an early bedtime so we could get our butts up in time for our flight the next day. Lucky for us, our favorite little donut shop, The Holy Donut, in Portland is open early and let us reserve and order of a dozen vegan potato donuts to scoop up on our way by. About 7 made it all the way back to California, and the rest were gone the next day. You can read our full review on The Holy Donut here. We love hanging in Maine and can't wait to go back. I'll be there for a quick visit in September again, and will definitely be getting another dozen donuts to bring back. Have you been to Maine? Where are some of your favorite places?