Allergies in the Backcountry: Don’t fuck around

Recently I saw a post about someone looking for ultralight options for Epipens.  There aren’t any.  Furthermore, weight should not be an issue in regards to something life saving.  It’d be great if there were 1g Epipens, but there aren’t.  Whats worse, carrying a few extra ounces of life saving medication or dying on the trail unable to breathe while watching your friends or family freak out?  Your choice.

If you have allergies consult with your doctor about the fact that you go into the backcountry.  Years ago, I discovered that I had several food allergies, including nuts.  My doctor was also a backpacker and immediately recommended that I take an Epipen along with benadryl for unexpected allergic reactions.  I also carry a PLB.  You can plan around food allergies quite easily as its very easy to control what you eat in the backcountry.  However, if you are also allergic to bees or other things in nature you can only do your best and you need to “bee” prepared.

Last summer, I got stung by a yellow jacket through my pants on a solo trip.  I took a pain killer cause it hurt like a bitch, drank some whiskey and passed out.  Next morning my leg was incredibly swollen and painful.  I made it out safely and it only continued to grow for the next 24 hrs.  This was a moderate reaction to bee stings, which tend to get worse over time.  If that sting happened on my neck it would’ve been so swollen that it may have restricted my breathing and could well have killed me being 8 miles from a dirt road that was 1 hour from a town.

My doctor said he had people come in that had bad reactions while alone in the backcountry, some of whom just kinda woke up in camp and had no idea what happened.  Im sure others have not been so lucky.

So now, on all my trips I take two Epipens, a few benadryl, and a PLB.  This is what I was recommended, but you should consult with your doctor if this may be an issue for you.  Don’t rely on this post to plan for yourself medically on your next adventure.  Your doctor may recommend something else that’s better for you.

Why two Epipens?  Cause your symptoms have a chance of returning after it wears off, the second one may give you some more time.  That extra time may get you to a ridge where you have cell service or somewhere that your PLB has less obstructed access to satellites.  Also keep in mind that you need to keep your Epipens at a certain temperature so they stay viable… look on the case for that info.  Tip: use your expired Epipens on a grapefruit to get a good feel of what it is like to use.  Remember, you have to stab it into your thigh and hold it there so all the medicine is properly injected.

The Benadryl is unbelievably cheap and there is no excuse not to have any.  It also doubles as a sleep aid if needed.

If you don’t have cell service and have an emergency, especially when solo, you’re kind of fucked.  Don’t be.  I have a PLB and there are numerous other options out there for emergency communication.

How much does it all weigh?  Who cares!  If you need these treatments and skimp on it due to weight, you’re a damn fool.


  1. I am an allergy sufferer and have an epipen, which I usually forget to bring, but I have never heard of a plb and a quick googling didn’t turn anything up. What is it?

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Epi-pens actually have a second dose inside, and judicious googling will provide at-your-own-risk directions for accessing the second dose. Also note that the expiration date on the Epi-pens can be stretched a few months (don’t remember the exact number). Do double-check your Epi-pen right when you receive it to make sure it’s not near the expiration date. In recent months the cost has come down somewhat.

    If you have an Epi-pen, the perfect time to bring it is when you’re more than an hour from definitive care (ambulance/etc.), i.e. back-country activities.

    As Andrew Skurka notes, there’s light, and then there’s stupid light; as you’re noting, there’s really no excuse for trying to save this type of weight. Not a bad idea to look for a lighter Epi-pen, but it doesn’t weigh much.


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