The brilliantly talented graphic designer Kat Marshello recently suggested to us that we should write an extreme picnicking guide. Obviously this is a genius idea. We picnic all summer after sunny day hikes, and we picnic in the winter after freezing-cold snowshoe adventures. Whereas summer picnics for us are all about spontaneity, winter picnics require thorough preparation. Each require completely different approaches, so it makes sense that in addition to our summery Guide to the Spontaneous Picnic, we should create a guide specifically for winter snow adventures.
Let Thy Food Guide to Extreme Picnicking
Step One: Survive
Preparing for extreme elements and freezing temperatures is literally a matter of survival. Always have the essential gear and information you need to stay safe. For helpful tips and information on snowshoeing, check out REI’s guide to snowshoeing tips and essentials.
Step Two: Enjoy
- If ever there was a time to bring ice cream on a picnic, this is it. The entirety of the wintry outdoor wonderland, is an icebox. Embrace this fact and pack foods that would be otherwise unreasonable on a picnic, such as ice cream pie, icebox cake, and, if you are feeling particularly ambitious, the assemblies of a Baked Alaska, aquafaba meringue, and a portable torch to prepare Baked Alaskas on site. This would be the ultimate trail-side showstopper.
- Hot cocoa. Obviously you’re going to need to warm up after all the ice cream and freezing temperatures. For a whole-ingredient, nutrient-dense hot cocoa, in a high power blender, blend water, cashews, dates, vanilla, a pinch of sea salt, and cacao or cocoa until creamy. Add a pinch of cinnamon or a drop of peppermint, if desired. Keep your cocoa hot in a stainless steel vacuum thermos.
- Walk the extra mile or three, and enjoy some (unrefined) sugar cookies with your cocoa.
- For the trail, go for handheld, easily transportable foods. The goal is to pack foods that do not require having to take off gloves. Stay warm, and pack burritos filled with beans, rice, Chile con Queso, and vegetables. Roll tightly, then wrap with parchment or sandwich paper then foil, and place in an insulated bag to keep warm for up to two hours. Other great options include wraps, apples, crackers, fruit and nut bars, Chedd’r Bac’n Biscuits, and savory handheld tarts,
- There is nothing like hot soup enjoyed at the end of a snowy trail overlooking the beautiful expanse of winter scenery. Pack soup in a stainless steel vacuum thermos, and remember the spoons. Some of our favorite soups and stews include Chedd’r Bac’n Broccoli Soup, Chile Bean Stew, Creamy Pumpkin Sage Soup, Roasted Tomato Bisque, and Chile con Queso Potato Chowder. A delightful accompaniment to any soup: Chedd’r Bac’n Biscuits.
- Remember water. REI’s guide has details on how much and how to store and carry, but it bears repeating that having water on hand is essential for any and all outdoor adventures.
- Pack it in, pack it out. Leave nature as beautiful (if not more so) than you found it. Bring a bag to pack out everything you brought in.
- The vibe of winter picnics is much different than summer picnics. Whereas the summer is very much about a flexible pace and carefree sensibility, we change our approach to the trail in winter. When it’s 10° F, we still love and appreciate the beautiful scenery, but we stay moving and constantly keep the finish line in mind.
- Because winter temperatures can be severe, we create a minimalistic, threadbare experience in terms of culinary accoutrements on winter picnics on the trail. Gone are the assortments of imported sea salts and hors d’oeuvres and napkins and utensils. Winter is more directly about safety, efficiency, and survival, so we take to the trail only what is needed for the trail.
- For the aprés snowshoe in-car picnic, you can get a little more elaborate and creative with ingredients. If it’s cold enough, items will stay cold (or even frozen) in your vehicle, which makes it ideal for ice cream, plant-based cheese, olives, hummus, and quinoa salads.
- Always bring with you a spirit of adventure and sense of humor. It will be at times insanely cold, but the stunning views will be worth the trip.