Access Special Backpacker.com Features, Register Now!

Any Winter Camping Cooking Tricks?

Kristin, do you have any tips for winter cooking? How should I set my backcountry kitchen up differently? Can cook in my tent?

Question:

Kristin, do you have any tips for winter cooking? How should I set my
backcountry kitchen up differently? Can I cook in my tent?

Submitted by - Anthony, Binghamton, NY

Answer:

First: Keep it simple. Winter is not the time for elaborate, fancy-pants menus. Winter is the time for shoveling hot, nourishing, easy-to-prepare food into your face, then crawling into your sleeping bag with a headlamp and a good book.

As far as setting up your kitchen, just make sure you have a stove that can handle cold temps. Go with a liquid fuel stove (check out this article for the full scoop) or a cold-weather-proven canister stove like the Soto Microregulator. A tip: If you’re camping on deep snow, it can be tough to get a stable cooking platform, because the heat melts the surface and the stove sinks into the snow. Make yourself a lightweight stable stove platform using scavenged household items.

As for cooking in a tent, for the most part (see exception, below), we don’t recommend it, for reasons that should be fairly obvious. It is perfectly common to cook inside a tent vestibule, however, where you don’t have to worry about toxic fumes or flammable fabric under your stove.

Should you find yourself high up on a mountain in the midst of an epic storm, then you have no choice but to cook in your tent. Hopefully you’ve packed one that can be hung from the tent ceiling, like the Jetboil PCS and this Hanging Kit (left). By keeping the stove off the fabric floor, you’re minimizing fireball potential. Just make sure you vent the space well, or you could fall asleep and never wake up.

One more tip: If you have a canister stove and want to boost its performance in colder weather, keep the canister warm—in a pocket or your bag. You can even duct tape a chemical hand warmer packet to the bottom. A warm canister is a happy canister. You can also set the canister in a plate or shallow bowl of water (don’t do this if you taped a hand warmer to the bottom).  —KRISTIN

1 Comment

  1. Backpack Gourmet

    Been backpacking and cooking for over 25 years and began winter trips about four years ago in the Sierras. Pulk travel is the way to go and you don’t have to skimp on the good food – you’ve got built-in refrigeration. To save on fuel it’s good to cook & dehydrate meals at home before the trip. Also you can change soups from wimpy to wonderful just by small additions of meats, potatoes, dumplings (thank you Bisquick). Another fuel saver – eat snow as you hike (less to melt later and it cools you off) and i often stuff my half/empty Camelbak with snow and put it against my back to melt while I hike. I have cooked in-tent with a canister stove using a down booty as a stabilizing platform (I know it violates a bunch of rules)but it was never left unattended and ventilation was good. Bottom line – be smart, pay attention, plan ahead.

Leave a Reply