Cooking a big part of enjoying winter camping
This isn’t an excuse to order pizza and see if anyone will deliver it to the middle of the woods.
But, when it comes to camping in winter, you needn’t worry about calories.
Or rather, you don’t usually need to worry about consuming too many. The challenge is to get enough.
Oh, you’ll be dressed appropriately for whatever it is you’re doing, be that hiking, snowshoeing, late-season, backcountry hunting or something else. You’ll have a good sleeping bag. And you’ll be carrying something like handwarmers.
But – unless you’ve got a wall tent or something similar with a stove – there’s not going to be any respite from the weather.
That doesn’t mean winter camping can’t be fun. It is, if done right.
But that requires a bit of forethought and planning. And food is a big part of that.
Simply put, you’ve got to be able to prepare hot foods, eat a lot of them, and be sure all your meals include the right ingredients.
To do that, for starters, it’s important to understand that cooking in winter is a bit different than in warmer months. Stoves that use pressurized gas, like propane, butane or some combination of those, aren’t reliable in the cold. A better bet is a white gas stove that you can pressurize.
Even with one of those, though, prop the stove on a table or bed of wood to keep it off the cold ground and use a wind screen. Those steps will cut down on how much fuel you use and how long it takes to heat food.
Likewise, if you’re cooking over a fire, if possible build it on a bed of logs and shelter it from the wind.
As for what foods to cook and eat, plan meals that combine a mix of carbohydrates, fats and proteins.
Pre-packaged, dehydrated meals work, and come in many varieties for meals throughout the day. But you can make your own, too.
For breakfast, for example, instant oatmeal or granola are good choices, especially if you add dried fruit, powdered milk and some kind of sweetener, like honey.
For lunches and snacks, think sandwiches – peanut butter is a good choice – and protein or granola bars. Simple is best, as you’ll often want to be able to eat quickly or even while moving, so as not to sit too still for too long and get cold.
Carry your lunch close to your body rather than in an exposed pocket on your pack, too. Otherwise, crunchy granola bars can freeze into nutty jawbreakers.
When it comes to dinners, soups and chili are great options. You can start with a bouillon cube to make broth, then add pre-cooked rice or beans. Then, toss in some meat, either a foil pack of chicken or tuna or something that needs no refrigeration, like summer sausage or pepperoni. Add any spices or vegetables you want and you’re good to go.
Pair it all with something warm to drink.
Drinking cold water – or worse yet, eating cold snow – will lower your body temperature. Your body has to work even harder just to stay where it was.
So instead, heat your water – whether you;ve carried it with you, filtered it from a stream or got it from melting snow -- and turn it into hot tea or cocoa. Add a dash of honey, sugar or even cinnamon to make it stand out a bit.
Carry some of that tea or cocoa or even just warm water in an insulated bottle when moving, too, so that you can stay hydrated throughout the day, no matter what you’re doing.
Stay fueled that way, with warm food and drinks, and your next winter campout can be more fun that some might think.
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