Three Warm Meals for Cold-Weather Trips

It’s been a chilly, wet winter here so far in the Pacific Northwest, the kind of weather that makes you want to curl up indoors with a movie and a hot bowl of soup and wait for spring. But winter hiking brings its own set of rewards. Trails you’ve hiked so many times that they’ve become routine are transformed by winter into a whole new adventure. Even better, everyone else is inside, curled up and watching movies with a hot bowl of soup. That means that you can enjoy some of the most popular trails in your area without the crowds you’d find in summer.

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During a lull in the first winter storms of the season, my husband and I, along with our friend Dave, took advantage of the thinned out crowds and fresh powder on a day hike up to Talapus and Olallie lakes near Snoqualmie Pass. Knowing that the chilliness we were feeling at sea level would only be heightened by traveling up into the mountains, we were sure to bring along a few quick-cook lunches to enjoy at the lake, including–you guessed it–hot soup.

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While my light MSR PocketRocket 2 is my go-to stove for backpacking, this time I brought along our MSR WindBurner Personal Stove System, which performs better in cold conditions, so that we could boil water quickly and efficiently.

Our first meal was a spicy take on ramen, to help us rehydrate with some hot liquid after the climb to the lake.

Sriracha Ramen with Mixed Vegetables (Serves 2)

  • Rice Noodles (2 cups)
  • Freeze-Dried Mixed Vegetables (1 cup)
  • Dried Onion (2 tbsp.)
  • Bouillon (Chicken, Beef, Vegetable, or Mushroom) (1 ½ tbsp.)
  • Powdered Soy Sauce (1 ½ tsp.)
  • Powdered Sriracha (½ tsp.)
  • Dried Garlic (¼ tsp.)
  • Salt (¼ tsp.)
  • Seaweed (optional) (¼ cup)
  • Dried Mushrooms (optional) (½ cup)


Frontcountry: Combine all ingredients in a gallon size plastic bag.

On the trail: Boil a liter of water and pour three quarters of it into the plastic bag. Seal the bag for two to three minutes. Taste for doneness, adding more water as desired. To keep our food warm while we ate, I fashioned some last-minute pouches out of reflectix (the same material used for car sunshades).

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Potato Mushroom Stew with Dill and Fried Onions (Serves 2)

  • Dried Potato Slices (2 cups)
  • Dried Mushrooms (2 cups)
  • Dried Dill (1 tsp.)
  • Dehydrated Milk (2/3 cup)
  • Powdered Parmesan (2 tbsp.)
  • Salt (¼ tsp.)
  • Black Pepper (to taste)
  • Fried Onions (1/2 cup)
  • Olive Oil (2 tbsp.)


Frontcountry: Break up the dried mushroom into bite-sized pieces. Combine all ingredients except for the fried onions and olive oil in a gallon size plastic bag. Store the fried onions in a baggie and the olive oil in a disposable plastic water bottle.


On the trail: Boil a liter of water and pour half of it into the Ziploc bag. Seal the bag for two to three minutes. Taste for doneness, adding more water as necessary to reach the desired consistency. Add the fried onions and stir to incorporate.  To keep ourselves warm while we were waiting for our food to rehydrate, we used some of the extra water from the meal prep to make some hot chocolate.

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New Orleans Red Beans and Rice (Serves 2)

  • Instant Rice (1 cup)
  • Dehydrated Red Beans (1 cup) (I dehydrated my own, but Backpacker’s Pantry sells freeze-dried red beans if you don’t want to go through the trouble)
  • Vegetable Chorizo Sausage (1 link)
  • Dried Onion (⅓ cup)
  • Dried Bell Peppers (¼ cup)
  • Dried Thyme (a pinch)
  • Dried Garlic (¼ tsp.)
  • Salt (¼ tsp.)
  • Cajun Seasoning (1 tsp.)
  • Mushroom or Beef Bouillon (1 tbsp.) (optional)
  • Olive Oil (2 tbsp.)


Frontcountry: Pack the olive oil in a disposable plastic water bottle. Combine the rest of the ingredients in a gallon size plastic bag.

On the trail: Boil a liter of water and pour three quarters of it into the Ziploc bag. Seal the bag for two to three minutes. Taste for doneness. Add the olive oil and stir to combine.

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Originally Published December 21, 2015.

Laura Lancaster started backpacking at the age of 12 and hasn’t let up since. Currently a freelance writer and editor living in Seattle, she thru-hiked the Pacific Crest Trail in 2014 and the Wonderland Trail in 2015. Laura has been published in Survivor’s Edge magazine and has forthcoming work in Backpacker and American Survival Guide.

  • John Smith

    This article got me looking at dehydrators on Amazon.


    1. Nice recipe guidelines.

    2. On a lightly burdened day hike why re-hydrate foods? You only carry it one way.
    I suppose it’s almost as easy as heating ready made soup, but I’d save the dried goods for when
    weight mattered.

    3. Why “disposable” bottles for oil? You can’t dispose of them, you have to
    pack them out, and their volume is typically far more than you’d need. Why not
    a small reusable bottle?

    4. On that note, for a day hike why can’t
    you just add the oil (and onions) to the Ziplocs before you leave? A tiny bit of
    leakage might be a concern, but not if you pack them upright, or double bag or slap a strip of that blue tape across the edge.

    5. In fact, why fuss with Ziplocs at all? Just
    carry three appropriate meal-sized Tupperware containers, preloaded with the goods
    including oil and then you could eat out of them too. Much better than eating soup out of bag.

    Note: for making sure the food is hot whether or not you have reflector bags (nice idea btw) add half or so the appropriate amount of water, let the hydration carry on fully, then add the rest as fresh boiling water to top it off hot.

    • Kim Wise

      been using the reflector cozies for a while now…..big caveat; use waterproof tape to hold them together!

  • Beau Raines

    Nice post. Those reflector bags are awesome!

  • James Wilson

    Great article, things like this really need to be posted for the general backpacker out there! Dehydrated food and backpacking is always a challenge for those who haven’t tried it before.
    I would like to add a couple of the tips that my scouting buddies have shown me :
    – if you miss meat in your dehydrated dishes, try some beef jerky! It will add sodium, so be careful of how much sold another seasoning to add. If a vegetarian, TVP.
    – for packing your oil him, utilize eardrop bottles or eyedrop bottle that of been thoroughly cleaned. Very small volume, and they seal up reliably. Be sure to label with both sharpy and stickers to prevent confusion.

    Hike On!!

  • IcemanCometh

    Good ideas but Ziploc bags are less than ideal for usage with boiling water as the plastic will soften at around 175 degrees. Especially the lighter weight sandwich bags opposed to the heavy freezer bags. There are Cook-In-Bags™ and Bailable Bags that are more suited for in the bag cooking.

  • Josh Blakley

    What kind of meal cooking set up is that? DIY?? I see you have the Windburner but I mean the foil looking thing and plastic bags..EDIT: Actually nvm I just missed it in the read.