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Food supply for winter trips

In the long run it is an attitude thing, how you intend to journey. Either you can plan each winter trip in such a way that you start the cooker or a campfire for each meal. This way, meal planning is simple, because you do not have to consider which food can be eaten at -25° Celsius without heating it up.

But travelling on ice or in steppe areas, things are a little different. You might want to limit the amount of fuel you have to carry on you, and for sure you won´t find wood for campfires out there. Also, on longer journeys in the Ural, plus degrees never prevail for long, not even inside many vehicles.

Particularly on winter tours with a tent much depends on optimal meal planning. Nothing is worse than to have to get into your ice-cold sleeping bag, away from the warming fire, with too few calories. Even in the best sleeping bag you will be freezing. And after several days not only your physical condition but above all also your motivation will suffer. The same applies to drinking. A thermos bottle or a cooker for hot tea should always be with you. But be careful with snow or ice-cold water from the lake. Snow contains no minerals or salts and thus leads to dehydration. And cold water takes the body a lot of energy to adapt it to your body temperature.

Meals on the way - without cooking

Firstly, one might think of all forms of cereal-, chocolate- or other bars; of chocolate generally, nuts or dried fruit or bread chips, etc. For sure, you should always have some of that in your backpack for the "small hunger". Clearly, at temperatures below the freezing point the power requirements of the body rise.
However, if you want to enjoy an adequate meal, cereal bars are not sufficient. This problem can be solved easily, though, by a little preparation and a grocery walk across one of the larger markets in Irkutsk or Ulan Ude.

Bread (chleb):
Fresh bread tastes good, however it freezes immediately due to its high water content. Therefore you should take some time before each expedition and cut larger quantities of bread into cubes (approx. 2*2 cm) and dry these slowly in an oven. Dried bread cannot spoil, does not freeze, and above all sure tastes good.

Alternatively, taking along a lot of french toast/rusk (suchar) with or without raisins is just as worth the while as is taking the typical ring cookies (suschki), which sometimes are jokefully called "biting rings".

All fat- or oil-containing spreads are suitable:

Sausages of all kinds (salami, sausage pies etc..):
Good salami is expensive in Russia as well, but you can get it on almost every upscale market nowadays. Easier to get and more inexpensive are canned sausage goods (Pashtet), which are offered in very suitable packaging for hiking.

Fish cans (above all the Russian omni-present phenomenon of canned sprats (Salaka)):
Russian fish cans are actually better than their bad reputation. You should, despite all, prefer those cans with whole fish or pieces of fish. The fish should be tinned in oil, because oil freezes only at very low temperatures. The taste does not really matter in the end, because at such low temperatures fish tastes simply like fish!

Bacon (Salo):
One crucial food item, of course, is a good piece of bacon. Bacon does not only contain an extraordinary amount of calories and thus energy, it secondly is easy to eat, and suddenly starts tasting surprisingly good on winter tours. In Russia it is available in many different flavors, among others: chili.

Basically you can carry any kind of cheese with you, but you should not keep it for too long and always store it cold. Cheese cannot deal with heavy differences in temperature too well (pay attention to mold growth), plus its consistency will suffer a little over time. Cheese spreads (Ruskaja, Gorodskaja, Sowjetskaja) are more suitable, but be warned that it will turn into cheese you have to cut in those temperatures, too.

Cooked meals on the way

No boundaries to your cooking creativity here! The western affluent hiker will supply him- or herself with special lightweight food and additional high-energy bars such as Pemikan etc.
The Russian way looks somewhat different and bears the great advantage that you can buy everything locally. Breakfast on Russian expeditions mostly is "kasha". The bandwidth reaches from buckwheat, millet, rolled oats to milk rice. Usually, kasha is served with some pretty unfamiliar and very greasy canned meat. For milk rice, Russians like to use Korean milk powder, since it tastes better than the Russian kind and is sold in sturdy aluminum-jacketed bags.

For lunchtime, usually a cold snack is taken. Only in the evening there is cooking going on again, and mostly they make a hot-pot. The basis is noodles or rice and veggie and meat cans act as supplements. But: there is hardly any seasoning in Russia. In wintertime sometimes you will find people taking fresh frozen meat with them, but this can be a questionable thing the further the year has advanced. In march or april daytime temperatures can rise well above freezing point.

As in so many situations, the middle path is the best alternative. For breakfast Kasha and/or Porridge make sense, and you can eat them sweet with brought-along cinnamon or raisins and apricots etc., too.

In the evenings you can cook pretty darn delicious soups from just a few stock cubes, noodles or rice, some vegetable cans and brought-along freeze-dried beef. Russian meat cans need a little accustoming, therefore taking along lightweight beef is sensible. Some other good ideas are beans, peas, and you can continue this list yourself. However, if you are traveling alone or with just one more person, and without a Pulka, the ready-packaged lightweight meals seem the most sensible way.


Beside the mandatory chocolate it is a nice thing to carry some Russian sweets on you (the Muscovite is known to be the best) as well as cookies or chocolate bars on you. On Russian expeditions, too, there is never a lack of cans of condensed milk. But caution its unbelievable sweetness. It is availabe in all sorts of flavors. By the way, if you boil it for several hours, you will find some nice caramel coming out!

Tea and beverages

On Russian expeditions the standard drink is black tea. If the budget is tight, you might want to get the cheaper black tea granules. However, real leaf tea (e.g. by Ahmad) tastes a lot better. You can buy herbal teas, too, but be aware of the fact that they taste extremely artificial and are quite expensive in Russia. As it does not weigh so much you can consider packing it up at home already.

If you cannot find ice holes from ice fishers, and none of your group members feels like hammering through the thick ice, then you should prefer melting ice to melting snow for getting water. First of all, you gain a lot more water from ice than from snow (the density of snow is very small compared to water), and secondly snow contains no minerals and salts and therefore leads to dehydration of your body.


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31 Jan 2006

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