What To Eat On Trail In Colder Temperatures

sockedinhikes Member, Moderator Posts: 22

It’s not even the middle of October yet but as anyone from New England will tell you that doesn’t mean it’s not unheard of to get winter weather on the high peaks. While bringing the proper gear is imperative to having a safe and fun hike, there’s something to be said for carrying the right kinds of food (and drinks) to satiate your salivary glands. Cold temperatures means I switch out some of my go-to trail snacks and would love to throw them out there for everyone to enjoy. And feel free to add your own faves in the comments below.

While I love gummy snacks during the warmer temps, I’ve cracked far too many Fruit Roll Ups into pieces trying to eat them in winter. In order to keep them from freezing solid, I’ll stash them in my sports bra for a half an hour or even in my mid layer pocket, if I’m bringing them on a hike. As an alternative, (and a recommendation to always carry in cold temps by Search & Rescue) you can bring a packet of jello and mix it with your water to boost your glucose levels and raise your core temperature. (Just be sure to bring hot water in your bottle.) 

In terms of bars, which are both a staple in my food pack and the bane of my existence after eating them so often for the last 8 years, the same rules apply. I will stash the bar in my bra or jacket for even just thirty minutes prior to eating to avoid breaking my teeth trying to snap into a Snickers bar. Eating bars that aren’t gooey is another great way to avoid that frozen crack and shatter. Bars that I normally wouldn’t eat, specifically Nature Valley crunch bars, are things that I’m more inclined to pick up in winter conditions because they don’t freeze solid like the more gooey bars do. 

Adding drink powders to your water can give you the necessary electrolytes and even a bit of caffeine and in winter I will carry these in my pack as a way to supplement the fluid I’m losing. Because I tend to leave the electrolyte gummies at home in winter, these mixes become much more important to keep me hydrated properly. It’s also worth noting that in winter you lose just as much fluids as summer and although you’re not necessarily sweating as bad, be sure to stay hydrated to avoid greater risk of hypothermia. 

One of the most important things to keep in mind in colder temperatures is the ease at which you can eat whatever it is you’re bringing on trail. While you may be able to sit down on a summit and have a thirty minute lunch break in summer, in winter you will be lucky if you can stop for more than ten minutes before getting uncomfortably cold. I will intentionally bring snacks that can be ate quickly and easily or those that I can down while walking. Things like pop tarts, granola bars (that don’t have a lot of gooey parts so they don’t freeze), chips, pretzels, cheese its, or cookies can all be thrown down your gullet while moving and without worrying about breaking a tooth on them. Sandwiches or bagels, cold pizza, even soup (if you’re not going UL and are willing to carry a thermos) can be great mood boosters in colder temperatures. Things to avoid would be anything that could potentially freeze. 

And speaking of freezing, the risk of your water freezing is very real as temperatures plummet so be sure to stash your water either inside you pack, or upside down to avoid being unable to drink from the bottle. I highly recommend carrying your water in something with a little extra thickness to it (think Nalgene with a wider mouth) instead of a Smart water bottle or worse water bladder. Being pretty adamant about not wanting to carry any extra weight I avoid the insulating sleeves for water bottles, but those are also a surefire way to keep your drinks liquid instead of ice. 

What are some of your own go-to snacks in winter and what do you try to avoid? Comment below.     


    MARK SIREK Administrator Posts: 306

    @sockedinhikes 110% in on the thermos full of soup - there's no weight penalty high enough (well, maybe) that could prevent me from installing hot stew in the middle of a big effort in super cold temps - absolute paradise!

    - Mark

  • Max_Kiel_Trail
    Max_Kiel_Trail Member, Moderator Posts: 12

    PB and J sandwiches are a staple for me. I also love Oreos and other cookies that won't freeze. Trail Mix is another classic. Oftentimes when trekking in the Winter, we (or maybe just me?) forget to eat and hydrate as we are so focused on staying warm, but our bodies burn more calories in the Winter to keep us warm, and keeping up the caloric intake is vital for an enjoyable and successfully day in the backcountry in the heart of Winter!