How to Elevate Your Backpacking and Camping Food Game

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Food tastes better in the outdoors… we’re pretty sure it’s science. But no matter how delicious your favorite freeze-dried meal is, or how much you swear by tortillas and peanut butter, trying something new never hurts.

It’s easy to enhance backcountry meals without much extra effort. Whether you’re car camping, out for a backcountry weekend, or in it for the long haul, here are a few ways to elevate your food game during your next trip.

1. Car Camping

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chow time

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The sky’s the limit regarding weight/packability when car camping. Get a good cooler, bring a spare fuel canister, and stash a few extra garbage bags to pack out waste.

Prep each meal as much as possible

Prepping meals at home helps eliminate food waste to pack out, keeps the campsite organized, and saves time you’re better off enjoying in the great outdoors. Prepping can include pre-scrambling eggs in a tupperware instead of packing the whole carton, slicing and portioning veggies, and throwing seasoning on your food while you have your whole spice rack in front of you.

Adding protein saves even the most boring meal

Add protein to everything, and cook it ahead of time if you can. Not only does pre-cooking save the ickiness of packing around raw chicken, but it lets you portion and plan better for meals. Adding packaged meat, like tuna or chicken packets, works wonders for generic carb-heavy dinners. Bacon bits on your wrap is a surprisingly delightful addition for lunchtime fuel, and those bacon bits fit in nicely with your morning scramble as well.

Make This: Pesto Pasta with Chicken

At Home:

Season and cook two chicken breasts, cut into chunks, and tuck into your cooler where it’ll stay chilled. Pack a box of pasta, one package sundried tomatoes, and one package dried mushrooms

At Camp:

Bring water to a boil, add pasta, sundried tomatoes, and mushrooms. Cook it. Stir in chicken and pesto. Eat the heck out of it.

2. Overnight / Weekend Trips

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setting up camp

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An overnight trip isn’t long enough to worry too much about food weight, but you still aren’t packing cans of refried beans. Trail recipes are fun to experiment with, and you can plan ahead and bring extra ingredients to have something to look forward to at camp.

Season the heck out of generic meals

Mixing up another Alfredo Pasta Side? Spice it up. Tic-tac boxes make terrific portable spice containers—bring a few staples (garlic powder, paprika, cumin) or create your own blends at home and pack your favorites. Adding a cajun or italian spice blend to couscous or pasta brings it up a few flavor notches while hardly adding any weight to your food bag. Packets of soy sauce, mini bottle of Tabasco, and even a travel-size salt/pepper shaker make a huge difference when you’re craving flavor.

Drink your breakfast

You need fuel for the morning miles, but sometimes the desire for another crumbling PopTart or gummy oatmeal packet isn’t there. Enter Carnation Instant Breakfast. Two packets shaken in a liter of water = quick and easy calories. Feeling fancy? Toss an instant coffee packet in the bottle as well. This is a dirtbag mocha and it tastes better than it sounds.

Make This: Overly Indulgent Breakfast Bag

At Home:

In a Ziplock: Mix one cup of your favorite granola with a handful of freeze-dried fruit, slivered almonds, and dried cranberries. Add ½ cup powdered milk (or protein powder for an extra boost) and zip ‘er up tight.

On Trail:

Wake up, take in the view, add enough water to rehydrate the milk, shake it up, and enjoy a surprisingly fancy breakfast-bowl-in-a-bag.

3. Long-Distance Hiking

This is all about the weight-to-calorie ratio. When you’re packing food for up to a week, or planning resupply boxes for a thru-hike, you want to keep your food weight down while your calories sufficient to fuel long miles with a heavy pack. We don’t differentiate as much between extended trips (1-2 weeks) and thru-hikes (3-6 months) because most hikers won’t be out much longer than a 7-9 days without resupplying.

Stoveless? Try cold-soaking couscous

Many long-distance hikers swear by their cold food. It saves the weight of a cookset and fuel, and the effort of washing dishes and gathering extra water. Couscous can be cold-soaked in a Ziplock bag (allow 30 minutes to fully soften) and devoured right on the spot.

Add olive oil… to everything

A thru-hiker can burn up to 10,000 calories a day, so sneaking calories without extra bulk is important to keep energy high and chewing effort low. Olive oil is a fast, easy, and relatively tasteless way to add extra calories to your meals. Choosing the higher-calorie items, like tuna packed in oil instead of water will also add similar calories without having to eat more.

Resupplying during your hike? Pack out heavy food and eat it the first day

In the battle between weight and calories, fresh foods come out on the losing end, which means you’ll be eating a lot of processed foods during an extended hike. But on resupply days, allow yourself to pack out the heavy things, and eat them on the first day. Thru-hikers often pack out fresh fruit, a pack of deli meat, and sometimes an entire pizza, then eat it during the first day back on trail.

Make This: Low-Cash Lo Mein

Dig a Ramen packet, a handful of beef jerky, and a soy sauce packet out of your dilapidated food bag.

Mix it. Cook it. Enjoy it. The whole thing weighs several ounces at most and is an easy way to make your sad instant noodles more palatable.

Written by RootsRated and legally licensed through the Matcha publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@getmatcha.com.

Featured image provided by Ry Glover

How to Ride the Chairlift and Other Questions You Were Too Embarrassed to Ask

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You’ve got all the clothing and gear you need, and you’re ready to hit the slopes. Whether this is your first time out or you’ve been skiing a couple times, there may be a few lingering questions that you’re too embarrassed to ask your friends. That’s where we come in. Here, you’ll find a list of the most common questions that we hear from new skiers and snowboarders.

How to walk in ski boots

Let’s be honest, walking in ski boots can make you feel a little clumsy. First, be sure to loosely fasten the buckles and straps to make the boots secure for walking, just don’t tighten them as much as you would for skiing.

Many ski boots have a "walk mode" switch on the back that makes the material flex more comfortably for a walking stride. Take steps as you would normally, raising your front heel slightly as you firmly plant your back foot. Concentrate on the entire sole of each foot making contact with the ground as the opposite heel or toe lifts in stride.

Ski boot soles are generally quite slippery, so be especially careful on icy walkways.

How to carry skis/snowboard

The snowboard is easy. With the base of it facing your body and the top with the binding facing away, hold it perpendicular to your body against your side with one arm over the middle.

Skis and poles, on the other hand, are more cumbersome. Your first inclination might be to hold the four pieces in front of you like a stack of firewood, but don’t do this. Make sure the skis are pushed tightly together with the bases touching one another and the brake stems stacked snuggly. Place both skis over one shoulder. Hold onto the front of the skis with one hand and carry your two poles in the other, with the tips of the poles facing downward so as not to stab anyone behind you. Be aware that as you turn your body, the skis on your shoulder swing wide.

How to get in and out of your ski bindings

This will probably be covered in your first ski lesson, but if you want to practice ahead of time, place the toe of one ski boot into the front of the binding and step down with your heel until the brake bars rise off of the snow and you hear a click. Most skis and bindings are symmetrical, but if they’re not, the right will be marked with "R" and the left with “L.”

If there is snow on your boot it can prevent the binding from locking, so use one of your poles to remove snow from the bottom of your boots by tapping the side of the pole against the boot. To get out of your bindings, use one hand or the end of your pole to push down on the heel of your binding behind your foot until it clicks and unlocks.

How to skate on a snowboard with one foot out

If you’ve ever been on a skateboard, this technique will come much more easily. If not, the sensation of having one foot on the ground and the other on a slippery board can be rather unnatural (once you get your own board, you can get a stomp pad to put on your board for more traction).

But it’s important to get used to it because while your front foot is always strapped to the board, your back foot needs to be free to get on and off the chairlift. To practice, find a flat surface and with your front foot strapped in, practice taking small sideways steps with your back foot as the board glides on the snow.

Some riders prefer to skate with their back foot in front of the board, some with the back foot behind the board, but it’s a matter of personal comfort. The important point is to keep your front shoulder pointed in the direction you want to go and keep your sideways gliding steps no wider than your rear binding. This will prevent you from inadvertently doing the splits.

Once you can take small skating steps, practice placing your back foot just in front of your rear binding as the board glides. The key is taking small sideways steps, keeping your front shoulder aligned with the front of the board and skating in a straight line, just a couple of feet at a time as you become familiar with the sensation.

How to get on a chairlift

Good news! Riding the chairlift is really simpler than you think.

Skiers:

Once it is your turn to get on the chairlift, use your poles to move up to the "load here" line. Place your poles in one hand so you can grab the chair with your other hand. Be sure you are only holding on to the poles, not the straps while you’re in line for or on the lift.

Snowboarders:

Take one foot out of the bindings and skate to the "load here" line. Keep your board straight, and after you sit down, your board should remain somewhat straight. When the lift takes off and you put the safety bar/footrest down and place the board on the footrest, your hips will remain slightly turned to keep the board straight.

For both skiers and snowboarders, just sit down when the chair touches the back of your legs. Always use the safety bar. If you are riding with strangers who have not put the safety/footrest bar down, simply ask or announce that you are pulling the bar down.

How to get off of a chairlift

As you approach the top of the lift, make sure everyone’s feet are off of the footrest and put it up. Stay where you are on the seat until you reach the "unload here" marker.

Skiers:

Keep your skis flat with the tips up as you approach the top of the lift. At the "unload here" marker, once your skis are gliding on the snow, stand up and keep your knees slightly bent and your poles up in front of you. Glide slowly down the ramp to a stop, making sure you are clear of others getting off of the lift behind you.

Snowboarders:

Make sure your board is pointed straight and flat with the tip up as you approach the top of the lift. After your board hits the ground at the top of the lift, place your back foot on the board in front of your rear binding and at the "unload here" marker, stand up with your weight on the center of the board. Keep your front shoulder pointed forward and your back foot on the board as you glide slowly to a stop, making sure you are clear of the ramp. Find a flat area to comfortably strap into your rear binding.

How to get up after a fall

As you may have learned, falling is likely to happen at least once. There are numerous positions you can land in after a fall, but the ticket to getting up is turning so that your skis or board are downhill from you and perpendicular to the slope.

Skiers:

With your skis perpendicular to the downhill slope so they won’t slide away when you stand up, lay with one hip and shoulder on the ground. Use your arms and/or poles to push yourself off of the snow to a standing position, using the edge of your inside ski for traction. If you have lost one or both skis, you’ll have an easier time standing, but make sure you find a flat area of the slope to put both skis perpendicular so they don’t slide as you step back into your bindings.

Snowboarders:

With your board downhill and perpendicular to the slope, turn onto either your stomach and push yourself to a standing position or onto your bottom and use your knees and arms to hoist yourself up.

That should cover the basics. And don’t be embarrassed – if you were wondering, chances are that someone else was wondering, too!

Written by RootsRated for Rent Skis and legally licensed through the Matcha publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@getmatcha.com.

Featured image provided by © Vail Resorts

So, When’s the Best Time of Year for a Ski Trip?

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Deciding when you want to take your ski vacation is sort of like choosing dessert. All of the options look scrumptious in one way or another, but you still need to pick just one.

School breaks and when you are able to take time off of work might factor into your selection, but it can still be a tough decision. We put together a list of everything you need to know about each window of the season in order to help you choose the best time for your next ski trip.

Early Season – Mid-November through Mid-December

You want to get out on the hill as early as humanly possible and you’re perfectly okay with the fact that all of the ski terrain is not yet open. With the exception of Thanksgiving weekend, this is one of the most peaceful, uncrowded periods for a ski trip and a wonderful way to usher in winter amid the snowy peaks and falling snow.

While parts of the mountain will still be closed, you’ll have plenty of room to spread out on the open trails, not to mention an easy time getting into your first pick of restaurants, many of which will be eagerly debuting their winter menus.

Another huge allure of an early season ski trip is the lodging deals. Depending on the resort and the dates you book, you could land a sweet deal by checking out the 96-Hour Sale or Cyber Monday Sale at snow.com.

Holiday season – December 20 through January 2

As you might imagine, with schools on winter break, this is the most popular time of year for family ski trips. A key tip for planning a trip during the holidays is to book lodging early. The lights are twinkling, snow is glistening, and ski towns are bubbling with festivities like tree-lighting ceremonies, ski-down parades, New Year’s champagne toasts and fireworks. There is no more magical place to spend the holidays than in a ski town.

While you and your family will not be the only ones embracing this reality, the beauty of the holiday ski crowd is that you are surrounded by like-minded individuals thrilled to be away from the city and tucked into this winter wonderland. It doesn’t seem like a big deal to wait a few extra minutes for a dinner table.

Another upside is that, depending on the resort, many locals’ ski passes are blacked out between Christmas and New Year’s Eve, meaning more room to breathe on the slopes than you might expect.

Other Holiday Weeks/Weekends – Martin Luther King, Jr. Day (in January) and President’s Day (in February)

Although the busiest week of the ski season is between the Christmas and New Year holidays, these weeks and weekends are also popular times for ski vacations. Thus, you should book your lodging early and make sure you make restaurant reservations at least the day before.

Also, take a look at the resort map to plan a strategic route during your ski day. By mid-January, most resorts have opened all of their runs and there is ample room to spread out. The snow is deep and deliciously powdery. Again, some resort season passes are off-limits on these weekends, meaning that the crowd is controlled and there can be entire corners of the mountain to call your own if you aim your route higher and beyond the base areas.

Also, even on these popular weekends, the early bird gets the goods. Get on the first chair and you’ll probably have a delightful hour or so to yourself.

Mid-Winter – January through February

This is the snowiest time of the year in the mountains and ski conditions are absolutely divine. Aside from the weeks and weekends surrounding MLK and President’s Day, crowds are generally light and you might very well glide into the magical experience of making turns from one end of the trail to the other with no one else in sight.

Powder days abound, as do one-of-a-kind special resort events, like beer and film festivals, snow and ice sculpture exhibitions, and professional sports competitions. Top resort restaurants still fill up this time of year, especially on the weekends, but you can pretty much meander freely and land a table without a reservation.

Spring Break – March

There is an unmistakable taste of "party" in the air this time of year, but since the nationwide school spring breaks happen on different weeks throughout the month, the ski crowds are still manageable. With warmer temperatures and lots of sun, that celebratory vibe is contagious and this could be the best time of year to make new friends on and off the slopes.

While sunscreen is a must and you might catch a few skiers and riders rocking T-shirts instead of jackets, March is historically a month of bountiful snowfall. In 2016, ski areas across the West were hammered with snow, some getting multiple days of more than a foot at a time. So for anyone who thrives on that savory combination of deep tracks and sun, March is your month to shine.

April

There’s a little secret among ski towns – April can be an amazing time on the slopes. While tulips are blooming and grass is growing at lower elevations, ski resorts are still in full winter mode. Most resorts, especially those at higher elevations (like Breckenridge), still have a thick snow base and the majority of the terrain remains open. Temperatures are warm in the afternoon and chilly in the morning, and powder days are not uncommon in April.

Once you get out on the hill and experience your skis gliding through that fresh velvet blanket of snow, you’d swear it was January. That said, the warm sun can create slush in the afternoon and hard-packed trails in the morning, so be prepared for variable conditions. There are plenty of lodging deals this time of year, not to mention restaurant deals and outerwear/gear sales.

The best part? There will be no crowds.

Written by RootsRated for Rent Skis and legally licensed through the Matcha publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@getmatcha.com.

Featured image provided by © Vail Resorts