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The Best Foods for Swift Winter Treks

food for energy on the trailOne of the most obvious challenges to winter backpacking is keeping warm. But when it comes to staying toasty in the backcountry, top-dollar down jackets and wool socks can only do so much. The key to resisting the cold while trekking through snowy backcountry this winter depends just as much on the food you eat as the gear you wear. Here are our tips for planning, packing, and preparing meals that will fuel your body's furnace, all while keeping your pack light. 

Plan Ahead 

You may need a scale for this step. For every day of trekking, be sure to pack two pounds of food. Keep in mind this ratio for daily meals: 50% carbohydrates, 25% proteins and 25% fats. Fats, which carry twice as many calories per gram than protein and carbs, warm the body particularly well in snow conditions since fats take longer to be digested.

Cold and Ready 

On day hikes, feel free to pack sandwiches, fruits, and veggies. However, on treks lasting more than a day or two, an Italian sub from the grocery store deli can only get you so far. Pack foods that are durable and require little to no cooking: hard breads like baguettes, extra-sharp cheddar (stays fresh in winter temps), jerky, almonds, Granny Smith apples, muesli, ready-to-eat fish, dehydrated mashed potatoes, and a squeeze bottle of olive oil -- to name a few. For more packable food ideas, check out our list of foods for active lifestyles.  

Melt, Boil, Repeat

Using a trash bag and an avalanche shovel, scoop some snow into the bag and keep it in your tent when you're ready to cook. Melting snow is a long but necessary process, especially if you want your hot chocolate to cap a long day of snowshoeing. Note: Eating snow on the go only worsens dehydration and increases risk of hypothermia and bacterial infection.

Make a Menu 

Here are some examples of a three-square day*. Be sure to bring a spice wheel and pure cane sugar packets to give otherwise bland camp food a much needed kick. 

Breakfast: Apple cinnamon oatmeal or hot muesli (300 Cal/cup), with two packets of Sugar in the Raw (40 Cal); instant coffee (7 Cal); a handful of hard parmesan cheese (392 Cal/100 grams).

Snack: Trail mix of almonds (161 Cal/oz), banana chips (145 Cal/oz), peanut M&M's (278 Cal)

Lunch: Salami (400/100 grams), pepper-jack cheese (80 Cal), baguette (185 Cal)

Dinner: Dehydrated mashed Potatoes (212 Cal), vacuum-packed sockeye salmon (130 Cal) drizzled with Olive Oil (125 Cal/tablespoon)

*Based on percent daily Caloric Proportions recommended by Freedom of the Hills, 8th Edition (%): Carbs: 50-70, Proteins: 15-25, Fats: 15-25

--photo by iStockphoto/gaspr13

HS_ScottDonahue_BLOGJ. Scott Donahue is an editorial intern at Sierra. He was a freshman in Mr. Hancock's English class when he first read Jon Krakauer's Into Thin Air. Now, he's currently working on a graduate thesis composed of travel essays. Topics include substitute teaching kindergartners in Nepal, drinking rice beer with a Tibetan porter, and running a marathon from Everest Base Camp

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