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Backpacker Magazine – Fall Gear Guide 2009

Winter Camping: Winter Essentials How To...

Learn how to cook, make water, and...go to the bathroom when the backcountry is a winter wonderland.

by: Kelly Bastone

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Cooking | Winter Bathroom Basics


Winter campers prefer liquid-fuel stoves, which work better than canister stoves at altitude and when temps plummet. Here's how to adapt your cooking skills to subfreezing conditions.

Pack more fuel You'll need three times as much: Fierer calculates 250ml per person, per day in cold, high-altitude environments.

Site the kitchen Keep the stove a few steps from the tent for quick access to hot drinks.

Insulate your stove Use a reflector pad to keep it from melting into the snow: aluminum foil wrapped around a square of cardboard or closed-cell foam.

Keep it simple Since much of your fuel will go to melting snow, stick to boil-and-eat meals like noodles, instant potatoes, and rice.

Make Water
Melting snow for drinking and cooking is a big part of staying warm, mobile, and well-hydrated. Here's how we do it.

Avoid the burn Never put a pot of just snow on the stove. "Snow doesn't conduct heat, so the pot will scorch before the snow melts," says Kereszti. Warm an inch of water, then add snow a handful at a time until the pot is full of slushy water. Put the lid on, then stack a second pot of snow on top to start melting.

Remember to hydrate Winter is deceptive, like a desert: In the dry air, you don't notice how much you're sweating. But you are–a lot–and hydration is critical to warmth. So drink two liters of water (or other beverages, such as tea or sport drink) each morning and another two at night. Supplement that with frequent sips throughout the day.

Insulate your water To keep your bottle from freezing overnight, stash it in a "refrigerator" cut out of the snow (which is a phenomenal insulator). Carve a shelf, line it with a piece of foam, and stack bottles on top. Then seal it up with food bags or snow.

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Sep 27, 2010

I discovered the following method for speeding water making. I use a large empty stuff sack to transport fresh, clean snow from our 'spring' to the kitchen. The stuff sack makes it easy to 'pour' snow into the kettle as the contents melt. A large stuff sack of powder will make around 1.5 quarts of water. We have also decided to carry two stoves for two hikers. While this adds the weight of the second stove, it doesn't affect the weight of the fuel used and may even stretch the fuel used a bit. It halves the melting and cooking time however.


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