Are you concerned about taking eggs on a camping or backpacking trip, due to lack of refrigeration? Worry not, friends! People have been keeping eggs since LONG before refrigeration was invented, and you can too. First of all, unwashed farm eggs can keep at room temperature for long periods of time, months even. In European countries, most people don’t even refrigerate eggs at all, because their eggs are handled differently than North American eggs. If you want to take eggs into the backcounty, I encourage you to purchase unwashed eggs directly from a farm. Typically this is easy enough, depending on where you live. Ask around on community-focused Facebook groups or buy/sell pages.
If you absolutely must purchase grocery store eggs, it’s still possible to take them backpacking. First, buy eggs the day before you are set to leave for your adventure, as fresher eggs will last longer. If you are planning to eat the eggs within the first couple of days, I would just pack them as described below. If you want them to last longer than that, order or purchase some food grade mineral oil. It’s inexpensive and available at most pharmacies. Apply a bit of oil to some paper towel and rub the entire surface of each egg. You don’t want to saturate it, you’re simply trying to block all of the egg pores with a thin layer of oil, which will keep bacteria and oxygen out. The small amount of oil will not have any impact on the rice used to pack the eggs.
Regardless of what kind of eggs you end up taking, please thoroughly cook your eggs before consuming in the backcountry.
The question then becomes, how do I take eggs into the woods without any mess? Many people immediately flock to those plastic Coleman egg containers. I’ve used them myself, but I find they are too large for most eggs. If you’re going to use them, I think you’re going to need some padding in there. Generally we end up with cracked eggs. They are also bulky, inconveniently shaped, and once they are empty, they just take up pack space, which I don’t really like.
Enter the wide-mouth Nalgene bottle. Turns out, they are the ideal egg-carrier.
Now, we usually carry this green Nalgene on every trip. It’s light, it’s the perfect vessel for pre-hydrating meals (meaning we throw lunch into it after breakfast, and then some hot water, and the meal has time to reclaim water for several hours, saving us a lot on fuel) and it’s a great water bottle, holder of everything small and easily misplaced, and generally worth the minimal weight for it’s usefulness.
When it comes to carrying eggs, I very carefully slipped half a dozen eggs into the bottle, taking care not to crack any. Then I started to pour dehydrated rice on top, gently shaking the bottle to distribute the rice all the way down. You can use instant rice, couscous, or any small-grain food that will fill in the space between the eggs. I also found rolling the bottle slowly and then shaking a bit really helped the rice get all the way to the bottom. Pack the rice in pretty tight, filling it right to the rim before closing it up.
The eggs didn’t move at all, and after being none too gentle with our packs over a period of several days, not a single egg was cracked at all. It was brilliant. The extra rice had been designated for meals that didn’t already include it. To use the eggs, I gently poured out the top rice into a ziplock bag. Then, removed the eggs, one at a time, pouring out additional rice as necessary. Small and medium sized eggs tend to have thicker shells, and you can fit more of them into a bottle.
I’ve heard some criticism over the fact that you can’t use the Nalgene for water while it’s full of eggs…Well, yeah. I mean that seems a bit obvious. Usually when we hike out, we use reservoir bags to hold water. However, I find in camp it’s a bit impractical to drink from one, so we bring a Nalgene or two anyway (also it’s a fail-safe backup in case one of the bags gets punctured, which is a thing that has happened). Also, if you are struggling with the idea of bringing a ziplock bag for the rice, we’ve been experimenting with paper lunch sacks to store dried food, which can be burned or carried out once you’ve eaten all the contents. Given the alternatives available, I still maintain that using a wide mouth hard sided water bottle remains the superior method of carrying eggs.