Three Popular (legal) Drugs for Backpacking: An Overview

Pain, boredom, soul-crushing loneliness.  These are just a few of the problems on the trail that we can ameliorate using legal drugs when backpacking.  Now, Im not talking stuff you buy at your local pharmacy or Wal-Mart.  I’m talking about the fun stuff!

Note that the legality of these drugs are dependent upon age and local jurisdiction.  

Alcohol is probably the most popular backpacking drug (exception: Saudi Arabia).  Most bring liquor, because it gives the most “bang” for the “buck”.   I prefer a smooth whiskey or bourbon.   If you’re 21+ in the US or 19+ in Canada, check out your local liquor store.  I like to buy liquor in a plastic bottle to save weight on the trail.  Some people even like to bring fixins for cocktails.  Feel free to share your fav backpacking cocktail recipes in the comments section.


On shorter trips you can also pack in beer, which is very satisfying after a long day in the wilderness.  However, it is significantly heavier.  Pay attention to the alcohol content so you can haul in the most effective load for your particular needs.  Crush every single can and put them in a plastic bag to make it easy to pack out.  Always keep it away from anything you want stale beer getting on.  In winter, sky’s the limit, and you can load up a sled with whatever you want.  You can seriously pack a pony keg on a sled and make everyone jealous.


Wine of course is another popular option, as it is more potent than beer.  One of my favorites is Copa.  Its wine that literally comes in its own glass, and you can buy it at a gas station on the way to the trailhead.  And you get to keep the glass!  Don’t worry, its plastic.  I also like Vendange Wine.  It comes in a little drink box type thing, which is lighter than glass.  If you’re a little more classy, you can get a bottle of whatever you want and pour it into one of those plastic platypus containers to save weight.

Now onto the second most popular legal drug on the trail: Cannabis.  Cannabis is also known as marijuana and is legal for recreational use for people 21+ in Washington State, Oregon, Washington D.C., Alaska, and Colorado.  I believe in 24 states it is legal only with a doctors prescription.  I know in Canada, Justin Trudeau supports full legalization, but Im not an expert on Canadian drug laws.  This is a very light addition to your pack, a negligible amount of weight.  If you aren’t in one of the states listed above, it’s against the law and you risk fines, jail, or prison depending where you live.   More details on cannabis in a future post (I’ll be interviewing some backpackers with detailed knowledge about cannabis since I don’t use it).

Remember: In the US cannabis is still illegal under federal law, so although it may be legal in your state, it is still illegal on federal land (natl parks, national forest, monuments, BLM land and so on.)

The third drug on the list may surprise you, it’s a little known drug popular amongst an underground rebel set of PCT’ers and dirtbags who have inconsistent access to alcohol and cannabis.  It is believed to have been invented by street children in the 1990’s.  Its a combination of #1 and #2 which will make more sense once you read below.   Cool thing is, they say you can make it as you “go” along the trail.  The people I interviewed had some interesting things to say about it.

What am I describing here? Jenkem.  Basically it’s feces and urine in a plastic bottle left to ferment in the sun.  The gasses released reportedly give a hallucinogenic experience.  The gasses are caught in a balloon or condom put on the lid.  Condoms are designed to be pretty strong, so you could use one for its intended purpose and then use it on a jenkem system, or vice versa.  You can strap it to the outside of your pack for a continuously producing fermentation station.   Mind you, this is a camp drug and obviously not something you want to do traversing a dangerous mountainside.


Many I talked to view this as a form of “Leave no Trace” because much of the hikers feces and urine is not deposited in the immediate environment.  Instead it’s fermented, used, and then dumped once the hiker gets to the next town.  Its still important to recycle the bottle after you dump out the jenkem and wash out the bottle.  I’m interested in any reader experiences with Jenkem on or off the trail, feel free to tell us about yours.


Legal status of Jenkem is unknown, you’ll have to do your own research.  Feel free to comment with any legal facts, I’d appreciate it.


  1. Leave it to fiending teenagers to get high on their own piss and shit — really the third most popular drug is mushrooms…

    But I think everyone knows backpacking is the mecca of herbs and hiker stink. Rare to meet a PCT thru hiker w/o their share of legal weed, esp on those cold, wet, shitty, raining, fucking miserable, socked in, foggy, ugly, annoying, cold, wet — did I say wet — Washington days.


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