By Andrew Attilio, Contributing Blogger
For many people, the camping season ends when the first day of fall comes. However, camping in the winter can provide extra peace and solitude, as most other people avoid the wilderness at this time of year. Plus, you’ll find different landscapes and scenery that can’t be viewed in the summer.
While food preservation becomes easier as the days get colder, there is still the challenge of cooking out in the cold winter nights and mornings. Have no fear though, as warm, hearty meals are much easier to prepare than you may think. We have collected a few essential cold weather camping recipes that should keep you hot and nourished during your nights in the wilderness.
Veggie and Bean Soup
Hot soups are a classic winter meal, whether you’re camping or cozied up at home. A veggie and bean soup is simple to prepare and packs in protein, nutrients, and most importantly, warmth.
The ‘bean’ in the soup could be anything—pinto, black, kidney, split peas, canned, dried—whatever you have on hand. To pack in some flavor, add dried veggies (try mushrooms, carrots, or tomatoes) and a bouillon or soup base. Finally, you can throw in some instant rice and butter to round out the soup.
The veggie and bean soup can be left vegetarian, or you can add shredded chicken towards the end of the cooking process if you are able to pack it in. Bring along a loaf of bread to soak up the soup and add more calories to your camping meal. Check out the full recipe here from Backpacker.
While instant oatmeal packets are a popular backcountry trail food, the real thing is not that difficult to make. You can substitute the cheap instant packets for a more nutritious, flavorful oatmeal, such as steel cut oats or rolled oats. Plus, you can customize the flavor, sugar level, and ingredients to your personal preference. Possible oatmeal fixings include brown sugar, dried fruit, nuts, honey, butter, cinnamon, nutmeg—or anything else you can think of!
With homemade oatmeal, you are no longer relegated to the popular instant packet flavors like brown sugar cinnamon or fruit and cream. Get creative! You can make a savory oatmeal with bacon bits, butter, herbs, and spices. Or if you enjoy something sweet for breakfast while camping, try a s’mores oatmeal mix with crushed graham cracker and milk chocolate.
Try pre-packaging your oatmeal mixes into individual plastic baggies. When you wake up at the campsite, you’ll just need to boil water and add in your custom bag of oatmeal! A well-made oatmeal will help keep you warm during the cold winter mornings.
Cast Iron Chili and Cornbread
Camp cooking can be wonderful—until the dishes start piling up! Luckily, there are all kinds of creative dishes that use minimal amounts of dishes, such as this cast iron chili and cornbread. Who doesn’t love chili and cornbread on a cold evening in the woods?
The magic here is that you only need one cast iron pan to cook the entire dish. First, you add in the chili ingredients and cook it down: ground beef, veggies, beans, spices, and your favorite chili spices. Once the chili has had enough time to cook, you can mix up the cornbread batter and layer it on top of the soup base.
Put a lid on your cast iron pan and place it on top of hot coals (with a few coals on the lid, as well). This will simulate the oven environment needed to properly bake the cornbread. Wait 10-20 minutes and voila, you’ve got yourself a delicious chili and cornbread with only one pot to clean up.
DIY Trail Mix
Trail mix is a great day-time snack, whether you’re hiking in the heat of summer or the cold depths of winter. There’s plenty of commercial trail mixes available, but they never seem to get the ratios right—too many raisins or peanuts are common complaints. Instead, try making your own trail mixes, perfectly crafted for your preferences.
Do you enjoy a deluxe nut? Use almonds, walnuts, or pecans instead of peanuts. Don’t want the processed sugar of M&M’s? Try adding dried fruit, such as bananas, mangoes, or apricots. The sky's the limit with custom trail mixes—other popular add-ins include dark chocolate, cereal, granola, pretzels, and more.