Winter camping, whether you’re doing car camping or backpacking, is a great if you want to enjoy pristine nature while avoiding the crowds that come with more comfortable temperatures. That being said, it is more involved and camp cooking, meal planning and post-meal clean-up is no exception.
The Challenges of Winter Camp Cooking
When it comes to cooking meals while winter camping, you’ll want to have hot meals to help you stay warm, but minimize the amount of prep work and clean-up you have to do on-site as everything you do has additional layers of complexity in sub-zero temperatures. Little things like cutting and arranging food takes dexterity, which require shelter and/or heat so you can use thinner gloves or no gloves to do the task. The same goes for cleaning, plus you have to wrestle with melting extra snow for water just to do dishes. This is why your best bet is to plan meals that allow you to do as much of the prep work ahead of time, and minimize the amount of dishes that will have to be washed after your meals. This is the logic I follow in putting together this list of best meal types for winter camping. Please note that all of my examples are keto-friendly, but the logic applies for any type of food.
1. Boil-in-Bag Meals
This basically includes any meal that can be reheated or cooked by boiling in water in a silicon bag or other heat friendly sealed bag. Below are a few examples.
- Pre-cooked meals: chili, stew, soup, etc.
- Omelette-in-a-bag: beaten raw egg, your choice of milk or cream, along with any add-ins.
- Commercially packaged pre-cooked meats: Lou’s Slow-Roasted Turkey Roast or Homestyle Roasted Pork. Both of these have small amounts of starch and/or sugar, but each serving is 5g of carbs or under. With convenience, you sometimes have to take a few carbs, except with...
- Konjac Noodle Ready-to-Eat Meals: Miracle Noodle Ready-to-Eat Meals come in a few different flavours. (*Note: I don't know if their packaging can sustain boiling, so I would repackage it in something that can.)
2. Foil-Wrapped/Casserole Meals
Aluminum foil and casserole dishes are a staple with camp cooking, even more so in the winter when you just want to cook your meal on a grill or over an open fire and "throw out" your cooking dishes.
- Foil-roasted meat, fish or cheese: Cheese stuffed meatballs (beef or chicken) wrapped in bacon are one of my favourites. Poultry and fish fillets also cook nicely in foil as it keeps their juices locked in while cooking. Baked brie can also be an awesome treat that need only be wrapped in foil and roasted. Pre-cooked sausage or bacon can also be done in foil to minimize clean-up too.
- Casseroles: Make your casserole in a foil casserole dish then simply heat it up over a grill or campfire. We've done everything from standard casseroles to frittatas, s'mores dip, even a full Thanksgiving dinner. What could be easier?
- Pre-wrapped sandwiches/wraps: tacos, breakfast burritos, fajitas, melt sandwiches, breakfast sandwiches, s'mores, etc. Be sure to use keto tortillas, buns or even waffles for something a little more decadent.
- Unstirred stir-fry: Your choice of chopped meat, veggies and sauce/seasoning, wrapped in foil or in an aluminum casserole dish.
- Foil-roasted veggies: A few keto-friendly options you can do this with include cauliflower, zucchini, peppers, broccoli. For veggies without seeds, you can just brush with oil, season and wrap. You can get by without cutting them if you want. Peppers and zucchini can be stuffed with whatever you like first before wrapping in foil and cooking.
3. Pre-Cooked Reheatables
Certain batter or dough-based foods can be pre-cooked and easily thrown on a griddle or grill to be heated up when ready to eat.
- Biscuits: There are lots of different ways to make biscuits a satisfying meal by mixing cheese, meats, veggies or a combination into the dough.
- Batter-based foods: Pancakes/waffles, and french toast (made with keto bread) are awesome camp breakfast staples.
4. Cook-on-a-Stick Foods
Winter is one of those times when you can almost always have a wood fire, so it's nice to be able relive your youth and cook at least one meal on sticks.
- Pre-cooked meats: The classic is to do this with sausages but you can also try the trick of wrapping bacon on a stick.
- Bell peppers: Peppers are one of the few veggies this can work with. I've heard you can even stuff them and cook them this way, but I think just doing them unstuffed is a bit safer and less hassle.
5. Just-Add-Hot-Water Foods
- Instant porridge: Keto versions can be made from a base of hemp hearts and chia seeds. Just add spices, nuts and sweeteners too taste.
- Dehydrated camp meals: If you own a dehydrator, you can make your own keto camp meals like my creamy burrito bowl-in-a-bag.
- Powdered drink mix: Drinks need not only be about hydrating. You can have hunger-satisfying drinks that minimize clean-up. If you use powdered drink mixes, they won't freeze up on you in the cold. Even better if they're hot drinks! Try my keto instant hot cocoa mix for a delightful, satisfying drink after a day of winter activities. Or start your day with a coffee that fills you by making a keto coffee.
6. Cooked Fruit
Over an open fire or wrapped in foil, hot fruit can make a great snack or condiment while winter camping. Low-carb fruits that can be cooked this way include: strawberries, rhubarb, blackberries, blueberries, star fruit, grapefruit and watermelon.
- Cook on sticks: Strawberries can be hulled, filled with keto-friendly chocolate and/or keto marshmallow then supported with a two-pronged roasting stick to give you an inside-out campfire fondue.
- Cook in foil: Wrap up your favourite fruit in foil, add spices, nuts and/or sweetener if desired, and toss on a grill or over a campfire. Eat with keto-friendly cake, sweet biscuits/scones, pancakes/waffles or french toast. If you're feeling ambitious, you can pre-make a keto fruit crumble in foil or a foil casserole dish.
I believe this about covers the variety of different prep/clean-up minimizing options for making awesome, hot winter camping meals. If you have any other ideas that I may have missed, I invite you to share them in the comments so we can all benefit from each others’ knowledge and experiences. :)