During the winter extra thought must be put into planning your camp meals. The cold weather demands more of your body and you will burn a lot more energy than you would during the rest of the year. In addition, more time is needed to actually cook your food and more stove fuel will be used up. Here are a few guidelines for planning your meals in the winter backcountry:
Take mostly dry, or freeze-dried meals (with the exception of meat, cheese, and butter – these are critical for their high fat content). Fresh food contains lots of water, which adds significant weight to your pack and runs the risk of freezing!
Breakfast: This is the most important meal of the day as it will lay the energy foundation for your day of activity. It is therefore imperative that this meal is complete and full. We recommend a hot breakfast to warm you up and rev your engines! Instant oatmeal with hot milk and butter provides the nutrients that your body will need the most throughout the day (Fat provides the most energy per gram, protein provides slow releasing sustained energy for the day, and carbohydrates provide quick releasing energy to get you moving). Adding granola gives you some extra flavor and texture. Wash it all down with some hot chocolate, tea, or hot Gatorade and you are warm and ready to start the day!
Lunch: There are two popular schools of thought when it comes to lunch. The traditional method is to incorporate lunch into a nice rest midway through your day. Set up your stove and heat up a nice hot bowl of soup (add some cheese for needed fats) and a cup of hot chocolate or tea. Don’t forget to add some extra layers to your clothing, not moving will cool you down quickly.
The second approach to lunch is more of an “eat as you go” style. This doesn’t allow a long rest period in your day, but will allow you to cover more ground. Trail mix complete with chocolate, Smarties, raisins, and nuts is a favorite to munch on along with bite-sized lunch meat and cheeses.
Dinner: You have finished for the day and can now have a well-deserved rest and refuel! It’s a good ideal to have some hot soup as a tasty, hydrating Hor d’oeuvre. This will warm you up as you prepare the Pièce de résistance. A good standard main course is a nice hot stew loaded with meats, starches (rice or pasta), and veggies. Be sure to add some spices to make your meal extra gourmet and mouth watering (make it interesting for your winter reduced appetite). Freeze dried meals are also a light and easy meal to cook up nice and quickly. After a long day of winter activity this will likely be the best thing you have ever tasted, so wash it all down with some hot chocolate or tea. If you ate your vegetables you can top your day off with a brownie (or 6)…you deserve it!