Alternative Cold Weather Backpacking Meals

Winter hikeFood options are often pretty limited for long backpacking trips. You have to carry food that is lightweight, compact, and crush resistant, but the food also has to be non-perishable. This typically means freeze dried meals, rice, or noodles. There’s nothing wrong with any of these options, but after a week straight of eating dehydrated food, your taste buds might get upset and start plotting your downfall.

However, backpacking in cold weather can give you some alternatives when it comes to food. Suppose temperatures don’t get out of the 30s. You’re basically hiking through a refrigerator! This means that foods can be preserved and you don’t have to stick solely to non-perishable food items. Here are some ideas for alternative cold weather backpacking food.

  • Cold temperatures means you can bring out the dairy. Cheese is pretty robust. You could probably take it out in the summer if you don’t mind your cheddar sweating or having an odd texture. But cold weather also lets you bring things like portable yogurt, and a small bottle of milk to put on your granola for breakfast. After you finish the milk you can clean the bottle and use it as an extra water container.
  • Meat is another cold weather option, but don’t bring raw steaks in your backpack. Some cooked chicken or sandwich meat are nice ways to get some protein on the trail. You want to be careful with meat, though. Keep the scent locked in with a bear canister or similar container and thoroughly clean it when you finish your food. Otherwise you’re just slowly wandering through the wilderness reeking of chicken. Predators will notice.
  • Many companies make a variety of refrigerated or boil in bag meals. These will keep in cold weather and can be a nice treat in the backcountry. You can also carry some cooked chili or casserole if you don’t mind the extra weight or space being taken up by containers. This works best if you’re scheduling a food drop on your hike and you can leave the containers after the first leg.

Even if the forecast calls for cold temperatures for the entirety of your trip, don’t bank on it. Eat the food most likely to spoil first. Chances are that food will be the heaviest, so you would want to eat it first anyway. Always carry a few dehydrated meals or some rice. Their packability, resilience, and weight really do make them some of the best hiking foods.

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