Winter Hiking Food Must-Haves

winter hiking foods

Hiking and backpacking are great ways for staying active and fit year-around, but during the winter months you must take extra precautions. The type of foods you choose to carry along is critical. Your backpacking meals should be designed to make cooking on the trail simple. They should be nutritious and satisfying as well. Knowing what kinds of foods are right for cold weather trips is the key to having the nourishment you need to power through.

Winter Nutrition

When hiking or backpacking during the cold winter months your body will likely burn several thousand more calories per day than when doing the same activities in milder temperatures, just to maintain the internal heat you need for survival. For a typical cold weather hike, you will expend 2000-3000 more calories than you normally use. And you may burn another 1,000 calories just maintaining your body temperature during sleep. So in packing for winter hikes allow for an increase in calorie consumption of as much as 3500-5000 a day.

Food To Pack

Ideally you would want to take hot food for hiking trips in the winter. Cold food and drinks can chill the body. But if you spend a lot of time cooking, this will make you cold as well. To stay warm, think of taking “just-add-water” meals that do not take much time to cook or clean up after. These are some good choices for hot meals on cold weather hikes:


For breakfast you need something that will provide energy so you have the strength to get up and move on each day. The best foods for this include instant oatmeal, muesli and granolas.

Cranberry Orange Granola
Nutella Oatmeal
Peanut Butter Crunchy Oatmeal

Lunch & Snacks

On cold weather hikes it’s best to take short breaks for lunch or simply nibble snacks on the go. Take lots of snack food and make sure it’s easily accessible. Good choices are cheese sticks, jerky, dried fruits, nuts, crackers and pieces of chocolate.

Thai Style Beef Jerky
Puffed Amaranth and Peanut Butter Bars
Super Berries and Almond “Salami”

trail chili, backpacking dinner recipes, dehydrated backpacking meals

For dinners you would want something hot that fills you up. Look for dehydrated and freeze-dried one-pot meals that provide a good balance of complex carbohydrates, fats and proteins.


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Proper hydration is very important on any hike, but doubly so when hiking in winter. You can consume fluids by having soups and other brothy meals. You can make hot beverages like herbal tea, cocoa or hot chocolate at nighttime. Avoid caffeine and alcohol as they both act as diuretics and can make you more dehydrated.

Curried Pumpkin Soup
Pine Needle Tea
Really Hot Chocolate

Related Posts:

Top 10 Hiking Foods Highest in Calories
Trail Cooking: 35 Essential Ingredients
The Hiker’s Diet: Essential Nutrients
5 Delicious Backpacking Breakfast Recipes To Try On Your Next Trip


  1. James Bergman on December 13, 2016 at 10:16 pm

    Even if you are hiking in the middle of the summer, I think it is a great idea to bring simple add water meals. After a long day hiking, it is sometimes nice to be able to bed down quickly. I will even admit to sometimes only eating a few granola bars and calling it a good meal because I was too tired to cook. However, I don’t recommend this option unless you are on your last day of hiking and have extra granola bars.

  2. John Smith on September 29, 2016 at 10:41 am

    I think I have been picking the wrong meals for my hiking expeditions for a long time. Your article covers all the meals I would require when hiking in winter. Thanks, Tanya, for sharing this great content.

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