Camping with Nicole Brandt

Nicole at Kenai Fjords National Park
Nicole at Kenai Fjords National Park, Alaska
Meet Nicole Brandt, a biological science technician for the National Park Service. She grew up camping and hiking in parks and found her love of nature and wildlife there. Getting to work alongside some of the amazing staff that help conserve our country's treasures is a dream come true for her. When she's not working, you can find Nicole outside hiking, fishing, climbing, or doing any water sport.
Sketched illustration of a leaf
Who would you invite on your dream camping trip?
I’d love to take someone from my “team”—close family or friends. But in lieu of that, I think it’d be awesome to go camping with Rachel Carson (if we’re really dreaming here and time travel is real) or Tina Fey (who doesn’t love a good laugh in the woods?). Although getting to jam around a campfire with Jack Johnson would be pretty cool.

Most frivolous item you bring?
Backcountry – fleece pillow case (you can shove your clothing in it for a pillow at nighttime). Frontcountry – Crazy Creek camp chair. I’ve had mine for over 10 years now, and it’s starting to wear out, but I love it.

Any wildlife sightings?
Oh yes! I’ve had a few close calls with bears (Always, always use your bear canister or bear bag. Always.). I like some of the little surprising ones though—a stunning cutthroat trout, curious chipmunk, feisty gray jay, or colorful butterfly.
Sketched illustration of an owl
Favorite park to camp in?
I love Denali National Park. I think many people are intimidated by the backcountry, but it’s amazing to get away from the crowds and feel like you have the park (or at least your little corner) to yourself. All my best wildlife encounters have been in the Denali backcountry. Nothing like pausing a card game because a bunch of moose decided to wander past your tent. Or foraging for blueberries for your morning oatmeal (in the same patch you saw a bear foraging in the day before). I won’t tell you my favorite spot, but strongly encourage you to find your own.

Advice to a novice camper?
It’s not as scary as it seems. If you’re nervous, camp in your backyard or a local county park to get the hang of it. Be sure you’ve put your tent up in the daylight before taking it camping. Try car camping until you feel confident and then take a (calculated) risk and try the backcountry for a few days.

Favorite recipes?
Pizzadillas: Bring tortillas and all of your favorite pizza fixings. Make it in a frying pan on the camp stove or cast iron pan over the fire. Best done one tortilla at a time, fold in half like a quesadilla.

Eclairs: Bring a roll of biscuit dough. Take one biscuit, stretch and wrap around your marshmallow stick. Roast over the fire (easy does it, going for golden brown). When it comes off the stick easily it’s cooked inside. Fill with chocolate pudding (either snackpaks, bring some or make instant onsite). Top with whipped cream from a can. If you’re looking for a backcountry dessert, take Jello Instant Cheesecake. It’s awesome and a great pickup at the end of a tough day.

Last updated: April 17, 2017

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