Catering all year round
Nothing increases our appetite more than long days adventuring in the great outdoors. And after adventuring there’s little better than cooking and eating a meal cooked outdoors, relaxing around the fire, friends, stories and sleeping under the stars.
I want to pack my stuff and head out from the Outdoor Review office right now, get into the wilds and get setup, fresh baked bread, fish over the fire…Yum.
In this article, we have a few helpful tips and tricks for enjoying your meal while you’re outdoors in the winter, although there’s a lot here that’s relevant to the whole year round.
Lighting a stove or getting a fire going in winter can sometimes be a bit difficult. But there are ways to get around the cold and the wind. You just have to know what you need and what to do.
Seek shelter from the wind
Cooking is difficult when the wind is strong. Thus, you have to find shelter by using huts, rocks or big trees to block the wind.
Another option is to shelter your cooking from the wind with an artificial barrier, such as a foil or tin cooker shield or barrier made of snow, If there’s snow, you can easily build one with a shovel.
Of course, you might be thinking that you can cook in your tent. But that’s generally a no-no, most manufacturers of stoves or tents will clearly say that this is strictly forbidden.
The tent could catch fire and you may hurt yourself, possibly badly and the manufacturers don’t want to be liable for that so they say not to do it.
You might be in a situation where you feel there is no other choice but to cook in the tent. However, cooking inside the tent must always be the very last option, and it’s imperative that you really know what you are doing.
When using the entrance porch of your tent for cooking; do so only in an emergency situation, make sure that you are fully experienced in using your stove, that you are 100% attentive to what you are doing, and that you observe crucial safety precautions such as:
The stove needs to be stable; you can place it on a solid object or embed the base in snow. You want the stove to be prevented from falling over. Also, make sure that there’s nothing combustible close by to the stove, tents can be very combustible.
Airflow is needed to make sure that your tent does not fill with any toxic fumes or gasses, Make sure there is plenty of air flow so that your breathing air is always good.
Keep a close eye on the stove, do not leave it unattended.
Poor ventilation in a tent swiftly intensifies the danger of carbon monoxide poisoning inside. Drowsiness is one of the first signs of carbon monoxide intoxication. If there are several of you in the tent, watch each other carefully. Unless you are in a critical emergency situation, you should strictly avoid using a stove inside the tent.
The first sign of elevated carbon monoxide levels is when the flame starts to pulse and ‘puff’. This effect will appear even earlier with the stove placed in a hole, due to the lack of oxygen. And this must be viewed as a good thing… it is a life-saving indicator! If the pulse and ‘puff’ occurs, turn off the burner immediately and ventilate your tent to air it thoroughly. It is all about ventilation!
Like most things this comes back to planning and preparation, it’s important to practice in your backyard or other safe location in order to develop familiarity, knowledge, and skills before heading out and wilderness winter cooking!
Choosing and handling of fuel
LPG cartridges are great, one of the best inventions for campers. They have the highest energy content, the least exhaust fumes, and are convenient to use.
So, whenever they are available, it’s good to use them if you need convenience, safety, and consistency. However, cold affects LPG cartridges which can be a big disadvantage: it’s possible that it might be too cold to use, whereas pressurized gas doesn’t get affected by the cold in the same way.
You can endeavor to keep your gas canisters warm in your gear, but that’s not always a practical solution, especially when you need to use it! There are gas mixtures that can work better in cold conditions, propane can burn better in low temperatures. If you want a better fuel for low temperatures it’s a liquid fuel, petrol, kerosene, white gas and even diesel.
Being able to use these fuels will be dependent on the stove you have so when purchasing your stove think about when you’re going to be using it, if it’s mostly in the winter then maybe a liquid fuel stove will be better than a gas stove. You can get good advice on this from the expert in the store and make sure that you read the manufacturers instructions and guidelines.
Snow is only frozen water
Obviously, you cannot take all the water you will need for a winter trip at once and you don’t need to, additional water can be had by melting snow or ice. For melting snow or ice you will need your stove, a very large pot and a lot of patience – the drier the snow, the longer it takes to melt.
When melting ice, try to crush it before placing it into the pot. The smaller surface area of the many pieces of ice will let them melt faster than one big block of solid ice. Also, snow is a great insulator so don’t seal the pot with the snow or you might burn the bottom out fo your point while it looks like the snows hardly melting.
Save energy and keep warm
Once you have gone to the effort to get boiled water don’t waste any that is left over. Pour the remainder into your vacuum bottle or food container so that it is isolated from the cold. It can be used later for preparing the next meal or hot drink.
You can also use the container as a heating aid inside your sleeping bag when staying out overnight. Hot water is a valuable commodity.
Drinking a lot of liquid is essential in low temperatures, and it is not just about drinking something warm. Your liquid intake is a high priority; breathing in the cold air creates a constant evaporation of liquid (saliva). Additionally, your thirst is significantly reduced in cold temperatures. Therefore, your body needs to be protected from dehydration because, as this process implies, the danger of both frostbite and hypothermia could be imminent.
In spite of all these risks, and everything you need to consider, winter trips are extremely rewarding. Nature is more intense, there are fewer people, it is like sanitizing your brain. You must give it a try!
- Save fuel by seeking shelter for cooking.
- Avoid cooking inside the tent at all times!
- If no other cooking option than the tent is available, strictly follow the safety precautions mentioned in the article above. They are essential for your safety!
- Choose LPG cartridges whenever possible. The second choice is white gas, but only when you have the right stove that can utilize it.
- Crush the hard snow/ice before you start to melt it. The smaller the pieces, the faster it will melt.
- Always keep hot water in your vacuum bottle. This will help to heat your sleeping bag and makes the next cooking session a little easier.
- Drink, drink and drink! Cold temperatures reduce your thirst, but your body needs to be hydrated just as much as in a warmer climate.
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We live in a beautiful world, get out there and enjoy it.
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