What to eat, what to eat? Whatever you will eat is the answer. While camping during the winter and when you are at any sort of altitude, over 7-8000 ft., one often starts to lose their appetite. This makes it critical to have food that you will want to eat.
Breakfast is a tough one. You need calories, preferably something warm and definitely quick because you might have to get going quickly to break camp or for a summit bid, so oatmeal and hot tea is always a great combo. Repackage your instant oatmeal into a Ziploc Freezer bag, this helps save on waste, packaging and can eat right out of the bag. Or on your summit day a ProBar (I highly recommend the peanut and chocolate chip flavor) and hot drink (tea, cider, hot chocolate or the ever popular Starbucks VIA) speed things up for breakfast on the go and with almost 400+ calories per bar it is a great start to your day.
Lunch or snack time is not a determined hour, but an all day affair. Eating all day while climbing and hiking is key to staying topped off and energized and when you get behind it is difficult to catch up. This is true of hydration especially. Having two bottles, one with an electrolyte drink and one with water is a great way to keep your fluids topped off. Sport gu's are great for size, calorie count and some have caffine for an extra bump when you need it. I read a quote that "salami is always worth the weight", and we agree! Tasty, calorie rich, small, keeps in cold temps it is the dream food. That last piece is something you must consider, my Power Bar, which I love at room temp but break my teeth when it is frozen? Everyone has their favorite trail mix or gorp which are great stand by's. Candy bars are great, I used them during Ironman races and ones like Snickers and Twix are better frozen! Sodium is another must have and potato chips or crackers are light and tasty. Remember the mountains are no place for diets and as mentioned before the more you like what you brought to eat, the better the chances that you will actually eat it and that is a big key here. At first having variety is good because you may not be sure what will sound good, but eventually your snacks will be fine tuned.
Dinner starts when you finish your last snack. On a winter outing a great thing to fix up after setting up camp is something hot to drink, Saveria and I have championed hot cider because a shot of sweet after the effort of the day helps boost spirits. Next up, our guilty pleasure, Top Ramen. Both of these work as "pre" meal options and as you will notice they contain a good amount of water, added hydration. This could be among the best times to camp with the gourmet choices in freeze dried food, in winter remember to have some sort of cozy for the bag to "cook" in, I use my knit cap. We also make a meal that we call Thanksgiving dinner, Stove Stop Stuffing, instant mashed potato, gravy powder mix and powdered milk (Nido is our preferred brand). We premix all ingredients in a Freezer Ziplock bag and once at camp you just add hot water. You can have fun with mealtime if you don't want to use the pre-packaged meals.
Midnight snack, the last or first meal of the day depending on how you look at it. Usually we use a twix because we can share one. The purpose of this meal is if you wake up cold, eating something will helps warm you up.
The other thing to think about is packaging and space, especially on longer trips. Look for foods that are going to give you the most calories and nutritional value in the smallest package. One of the reasons we LOVE ProBars and salami.
Planning ahead is another important part of the process. We lay out our food by each day to make sure the calories need are there, that we have variety and then we put each day in a ziploc bag, with our lunch/day food in a smaller ziploc. This way we can be efficient in camp and not waste time rummaging through a big bin of food deciding/remembering what we should take for that day. Is also helps consolidate your food. Another sneaky trick... using a safety pin... poke a small hole into packaged foods (Top Ramen, trail bars, anything that is air sealed) and push out all the excess air. This will save space as well.
Here is our food for a 5 night winter backpacking trip. Organized on the table by day and then all combined into space saving Ziploc bags.
Get up repeat! Have fun!