As I always say in the beginning of backpacking food posts, there are 3 things to consider when looking for a hiking food:
- High calorie/weight ratio to leverage more energy per unit weight carried,
- High protein and fat content as they're almost always digested slower compared to carbs and hence keep you more satiated  AND fats provide more calories per gram (9 kcal/g compared to 4 kcal/g of protein and carbs),
- And lastly, no need for refrigeration
If you also care about extra space... Don't forget about high calorie/volume ratio.
As eggs check all these 4 boxes, they're a great hiking food for most of us. However, there are different types (raw, hard boiled, powdered etc) and some information to consider when carrying them. I've gathered the most important things I've found through researching and laid them out here in this article.
In summary, here's the best practices I've found when going backpacking with eggs:
- Powdered (dehydrated) eggs is the most effective option for most of us as they're easy to carry, have longer shelf life and some are even tasty
- Boiling/cooking raw eggs will be the tastiest obviously. Opt for farm fresh eggs that haven't been refrigerated before for max shelf life. Carry them in a wide mouth Nalgene bottle (this one, for example) filled up with dehydrated rice or salt water
- Since pre-hard boiled eggs are less delicious in most cases and we'd still have to carry them in a plastic egg carrier, it's probably less useful compared to other options
Now let's get down to the bolts and nuts. First, raw eggs.
Raw eggs: How long do they last unrefrigerated?
First, the answer you don't like: It DEPENDS. But I'll try to give you more than that although it's almost impossible.
A rule of thumb is that if you buy raw eggs in a supermarket either in the United States, Japan, Australia, Sweden or the Netherlands, they'll last less than 2 hours. In most other countries, they'll last between 1–3 weeks .
Strange answer, right?
Well, that's because these countries wash the eggs you buy in the supermarkets . And since they're already being refrigerated in supermarkets, they need to stay that way, according to Egg Safety Center .
Otherwise, the eggs will begin to sweat, which promotes the growth of dangerous bacteria which enters through the shell. However, even if they weren't being refrigerated, I'd simply stay away from backpacking with them just to be safe.
I was pretty surprised when I learned about this the first time...
So, can you leave eggs out overnight if you're in one of these countries? Well, the obvious answer is no - if the nights are longer than 2 hours... But in most other countries, in most conditions; yes you can.
Fresh eggs shelf life
Mind you, there's some conflict around the term “farm fresh eggs” . When the term is used in stores, it seems to be virtually meaningless, but what I’ll use it to refer to is eggs fresh from the chicken. Eggs that haven't been refrigerated or otherwise tampered with. These keep for about one month at room temperature before they require refrigeration .
So, do farm fresh eggs need to be refrigerated? As you can guess by now, there's no short answer to that question either.
It isn't bad to refrigerate your farm fresh eggs, but in most conditions, if you refrigerate them, they need to be kept refrigerated .
If you’re one of the few people willing to go through the trouble of keeping the eggs cool while camping, then as a general rule they would last up to nearly six months if refrigerated after being laid - but needless to say, you'd still have to pay attention to the expiration date.
And unless car camping, I wouldn't carry a cooler with me (yes - some people seriously DO this!).
How to carry eggs safely
The next big question about raw eggs is how to carry them. As we'll see, you don’t need to worry about methods of transporting dehydrated (aka "powdered" or "dried") eggs as they come in a container and they will stay in it, sealed, until they’re cooked. More on that later.
I'm going to cross out the pre-cooked hard boiled eggs as well since according to FDA it isn't safe to eat them after they're left two hours in room temperature. More on that later, too.
The question becomes important when considering raw whole eggs that will be staying in your backpack the whole time. Before giving you products made expressly for this purpose, there's a trick I found that is both effective, and probably free for most backpackers, and I can't wait to try it.
Take a wide-mouth Nalgene bottle (this one, for example), stack it full, carefully with eggs, and pour dehydrated rice in until it's full (or water - especially salt water because of higher density). It'll distribute pressure equally around the egg and cushion them against any impact.
Camping egg carrier
If you didn't like my Nalgene bottle advice for some reason, your second option is to carry them using a container.
But let me say this in advance: No carrier can guarantee your eggs won't break. It mostly comes down to your gentle pack use - which is why I'd prefer Nalgene bottle method every time. I don't want to waste time thinking about some cracked eggs leaking inside my pack and items ruin my entire outdoors experience. I want to stop worrying and enjoy my time outdoors.
More, there isn’t a wide range of egg containers that you’d be able to take camping. Cardboard, glass and Styrofoam containers are obviously not practical, so we're left with a couple different kinds of plastic containers as options.
Hard plastic egg cartons
However, it might not be the best for storing farm fresh eggs, as the shape of the individual egg pockets isn’t conducive to their shape, as opposed to more standardized store-bought sized (smaller) eggs.
While this may not seem like a major concern, remember that farm fresh (not-previously-refrigerated) eggs are best for camping unless they're refrigerated before. So if this container is in fact bad for farm fresh (and/or large) eggs, it might be bad for camping.
More reusable types
This type of container, on the other hand, is made to accomplish the same purpose, and more. It advertises an airtight and watertight seal, which it goes without saying could easily be much better for camping for longer use. Over time, the seals might lose their ability to keep out water, though.
But the material is FDA approved in the health department, and box carriers like this can be better for longer use as it's harder to break in your backpack.
It's durable and claims its plastic is safe for dishwashers on the top rack. This hard egg carton might be better for farm fresh eggs and as a result, for us campers.
All the previous options seemed to me more trouble than necessary while keeping eggs, so I looked into methods of keeping and cooking eggs that don’t involve bringing those breakable things with you in your bag:
And I've found powdered (aka "dehydrated" or "dried") eggs are pretty popular with hiking enthusiasts.
A number of reasons to prefer them over other methods:
- Easy to eat,
- Easy to carry,
- Have longer shelf lives ,
- You don't have to worry about cracking them (duh... there's no shell),
- They're absolutely tastier than eating cold pre-hard boiled eggs, and not much less tasty than freshly cooked raw eggs
What are they?!
Well, they're basically eggs without the water content (duh...).
You can either buy them, which I'd recommend to most, or dehydrate yourself with the help of a dehydrator, which I'd recommend those who will be using the dehydrator for many other things besides eggs.
Provided that they're cool and dry, you can store them at room temperature as long as you'd like; however, after opening, there are conflicting information provided by different authority sources.
Some say you must store them in the refrigerator even if sealed  and some claim storing them in room temperature and consuming within weeks or even months after opening is OK  (provided they're in a sealed vacuum bag which prevents air and moisture contact).
I'd personally keep all the powdered eggs inside its vacuum sealed bag after opening, and consume each bag within a few days after opening, but that's just me. You'll also see some product labels saying eating within 60 days after opening is OK.
Keep in mind when purchasing powdered eggs, you’ll want to buy not just in proportion to how many you’ll need, but in proportion to how often you’ll need them.
Buy the dried egg products with smaller portions stored in SEPARATE sealed bags rather than all the eggs in a single big sealed bag - and finish each portion once opened!
Once dehydrated or "purchased", store them in a container to avoid air & moisture contact (to achieve long shelf life), and then reconstitute (cook) them when you're going to eat.
How to Reconstitute Dried Egg Products: 3 Easy Steps
I'm only going to mention reconstitution (in other words, "re-hydration" before eating) by hand, as I'll assume most of you have no access to a mixer unless car camping.
You'll need a bowl, a fork (yes a wire whisk would do better, but you don't need it) and by weight, one part egg mix with two parts water for egg mix, one part water for dried eggs only (this is my personal choice - feel free to adjust this as you'll see different ratios for each product you go for).
- Boil all water.
- Portion egg mix into a bowl, and pour the half of hot water over eggs.
- Whisk until the mixture is thick. Then add the remaining amount of hot water and continue whisking - again until it's thick.
No matter how safe you store them, once reconstituted, USDA recommends eating them in one hour at most (including preparation and serving time) .
As you see, powdered eggs is obviously the best option for most of us.
So, making or buying powdered eggs?
While it's probably easier and more hassle free to buy dehydrated eggs, you can make your own using an egg dehydrator.
While dehydrating eggs yourself is more cost effective, it isn't necessarily by much. The cheapest dehydrated eggs on the market go for about 20 cents per egg, while a dozen Egglands Best eggs from Walmart cost about 22 cents per egg.
These aren't absolute prices, according to my experience: There are some whole eggs that are cheaper than dehydrated eggs, and vice versa. Just know that neither are categorically cheaper.
You can read more about de-hydrating eggs for the back country here .
Where to buy powdered eggs
IMO easiest and most reasonable way is to order online. You can search easily for the one that suits you the most considering:
- Serving sizes in each sealed bag,
- The type (mix, white only, yolk only, white and yolk etc),
- But most importantly, the packaging. Some online stores like BarryFarm are great - but the packaging is just not for us campers.
They can also be purchased in markets like Target and Walmart. Make sure checking out the baking section. If the one in your neighborhood doesn't have them, you can also try your chances at:
- Specialty houses
- Restaurant supply houses
- Baking supply houses
- Camping stores
- Publix (AFAIK, US east coast only - correct me if I'm wrong please. Can be good if you'll hike the Appalachian)
If you're trying grocery store and they don't have them, ask the manager to order some for you. But, unless you're in Publix, that might not work very well - at least to my knowledge and research.
How long do hard boiled eggs last unrefrigerated?
Boiled eggs are another, at least seemingly easy solution to backpacking food because they don’t require cooking and are ready to eat. According to FDA, boiled eggs last about two hours at room temperature and about a week in the fridge . I know this sounds too soon to rot, but I'd personally play it safe with foods and would doubt you'd find any more reliable source than FDA.
If you don't care about the taste at all, and completely on the "practical food" side of the fence, this might be the most suitable option for you. You don't need to worry about protecting them against cracks, neither cooking them. I'd still go after powdered eggs for the sake of easy carrying.
So in summary, I'd personally rank different egg types as follows considering backpacking with them:
- Powdered eggs
- Raw eggs
- Pre-boiled eggs