Winter Camping Food & Cooking Tips

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Keep warm and nourished with these winter camping tips

A true adventurer believes that there is no such thing as bad weather when you have the right gear. In the summer, it’s easy to pack a rain shell and feel adequately prepared, but winter camping is a whole other story. Some people just aren’t willing to endure the cold and snow, but not me! Winter camping has always held a magical fascination. Something about mountainous landscapes blanketed in snow illuminates my inner child and brings me a euphoric feeling of perpetual Christmas.

Winter camping cooking tips

Firstly, if you’re planning a winter camping trip, congratulations, you’re going to have a great time! And if you’re already thinking about food prep for your adventure you’ll definitely want to be adequately prepared. Meal planning for the backcountry is important because we’re burning so many extra calories, but especially in the cold winter weather when our bodies are burning even more fuel to stay warm. In this article we’re going to take a look at some cooking tips to help you stay WARM and nourished while winter camping.

Wakey, Wakey Hot Breakfast

There’s nothing like waking up in the backcountry, zipped into your warm sleeping bag, your warm breath rising in visible spirals into the crisp early morning mountain air. Item number one on the agenda is to fire up your cooking stove and start boiling some water for your luxurious hot breakfast. Boil enough to make yourself a hot beverage, like an instant coffee, or hot chocolate (or coffee, hot chocolate, and protein powder mixed together, because why not? You’re in the backcountry!). Just 12 ounces of boiling water is enough for a hot drink AND your Heather’s Choice Buckwheat Breakfast. Personally, Cherry Cocoa Nib Breakfast on a frosty mountain morning with a steaming thermos of coffee is my idea of heaven!

Winter camping food prep

Hot Drinks To Go

Before you breakdown your stove after breakfast, boil yourself another thermos of water and ready some hot tea for later down the trail. Opening up a hot thermos of tea 5-10 miles down the trail is going to feel great! Winter trekking with a thermos of mint tea became a tradition of mine several years ago after meeting some adventurers building a snow cave in the Colorado Rockies. They invited me into their snow fortress and shared hot mint tea with honey. I stood in their handcrafted vestibule sipping hot tea and pondering the absurd luxuriousness of it all.

Dinner: Hot, Delicious and Packed Full of Protein

Your backcountry dinner is the best opportunity to refuel after a long day of adventuring. Enjoy a hot meal, like our Smoked Sockeye Salmon Chowder or Dark Chocolate Chili, that’s packed full of protein and healthy fats. Your body will thank you! Packing in the calories at dinner time is a great practice in the backcountry. Your body will slowly digest while you sleep, helping you sleep more soundly, and wake up feeling fueled and energized.

If you’re enjoying dehydrated backpacking foods in the backcountry, consider bringing a ‘warming pouch’ in which to store your food while it rehydrates, so it’s still piping hot when you’re ready to eat it. I typically use a knit stocking cap, which I’ll have anyway, as a warming pouch while my Ethiopian Doro Wat rehydrates. I even heard about one hiker who would warm his meals inside his sweatshirt as he trekked the final miles into camp.

Snow caveStay Hydrated with Hot & Cold Drinks:

Staying adequately hydrated in the backcountry can be especially difficult in the cold weather. Drinking cold water from your Camelback straw becomes far less refreshing when you’re shivering on the side of a mountain. Stay hydrated by drinking lots of hot drinks throughout your day, like coffee, cocoa, or tea. Cold drink mixes can also be helpful for ‘getting it down’. I drink an Emergen-C packet every morning in the backcountry while I wait for my first batch of hot water to boil. This helps me get some cold water into my system under the guise of delicious vitamin-infused bubbly juice. Tons of hikers enjoy Gatorade mixes, Crystal Light, and other lightweight drink packets throughout the day.

Snow cave

Sleep Snug as a Bug in a Rug:

Ok, I’ll admit it. I HATE being cold when I sleep. In the front country or the backcountry. In addition to carrying an absurdly heavy down sleeping bag, I use these two tricks to make sure that I sleep snug as a bug in a rug when winter camping! Before you pack up your stove after dinner, boil one more round of hot water. Fill your water bottle with boiling water and put it at the foot of your sleeping bag to help keep your feet warm. Lastly, (this is one of my favorite backpacking tips of all time) sleep with your baselayers for the next day inside your sleeping bag so they are warm and toasting when you wake up! If your socks are wet, definitely sleep with them in your bag, and if possible, put a few crumpled handfuls of newspaper inside your wet socks to help wick the moisture.

Where are you winter camping this season? Share your adventure with #HeathersChoice.

Adventures Backpacking Meal Planning

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