The warmer days of summer entice more of us out into the countryside and it is the most popular time of the year for camping. We stare at stars that aren’t visible from the city, listen to the sound of the cows instead of the cars, and enjoy the fat expanse of time – whether with others or alone – without distractions.
But in temperate climates, if you are unused to spending time outside you might be surprised that the night, even in summer, can have cold teeth. Whilst some campsites have suitable places to light a warming fire, elsewhere it is necessary to forgo flames in order to leave-no-trace. Good wild camping means embracing the cold as part of the experience, but a portable camping stove to boil water makes a nice warm mug the simplest and best way to warm your hands and heart. I asked some of our adventurers to tell us their favourite hot drinks for adventures in the cold.
"Good wild camping means embracing the cold and a nice warm mug is the best way to warm your hands and heart"
I know that ‘coffee’ is a very wide classification, but if coffee is your drink, I wouldn’t dare to tell you how to drink it. I think it is akin to telling you how to raise a child. And there are a lot of variants that will determine the type of coffee you take camping. Will you be carrying all your gear? Can you settle for instant? Do you take milk? Ultra-runner Jessica (aka @suciumorgan) keeps it nice and simple. “I do drink plain boring black coffee”. This is an especially good option if you are carrying everything on your back. Just bear in mind that you’ll want to make sure that the taste to effort ratio is proportional (especially in the morning). Instant is the lightest and easiest option, but coffee snobs (like me) might prefer the extra weight and hassle of the equipment necessary to make something that is nice. Meanwhile, @Running_with_epilepsy (aka Kaydee) likes things a bit more extravagant. “Oh man, I have so many favourites! It would definitely have to be a hazelnut coffee with a splash of white chocolate raspberry creamer. It is heaven for the taste buds!” If you cannot live without your extras, consider decanting into a travel-size bottles. Switching out heavy ingredients with substitutes also helps: unless you happen to be camping near a shop (or farm willing to part with a bit of fresh stuff) powdered milk is the travelling go-to for a lighter bag.
Fat tea and bulletproof coffee
For the keto-conscious, fat teas and bulletproof coffees can also be created on a campsite. Our resident keto expert, @thetraininsideme Jade, likes “chicory tea or chai tea. I add one tablespoon of grass fed butter, MCT oil and heavy cream or coconut cream” whilst Kiley and Kathleen from @Lifeadpative use similar fats in their coffee, always using organic. Without the ease of home appliances, improvisation is key to ensure the ingredients blend well: Jade made good use of a shaker bottle and brute strength on her latest camping trip. “It’s not quite blender magic, but it gets the job done!”.
"I wouldn't dare tell someone how to drink their coffee. I think it is akin to telling someone how to raise their child"
Milo (with gingernut biscuits)
My own personal preference, this chocolate and malt powder was invented in Australia in the thirties and it remains popular in a lot of the Southern Hemisphere. Milo holds a nostalgic value to me that outweighs other drinks I actually prefer the taste of. A sip takes me back to New Zealand, where every adventure sport was accompanied with the hot drink and a couple of crunchy gingernut biscuits to dip in it. Milo likes to pretend it is a sports drink (the tin has sporty pictures and the tagline is “Go and go and go with Milo”) and it has added B vitamins that make you feel better about consuming it. And it also contains a vast amount of sugar. However, after a day’s exercise or when it’s cold, it really hits a spot. Unfortunately, I find it quite difficult to buy in the UK, which prefers Ovaltine (a poor substitute).
“I’m not a hot beverage person, but I love tomato soup. Pretty much it’s my favourite comfort food.” Jessica also offered this out-of-the box suggestion that makes perfect sense. I followed her advice and took some packets of soup on a recent camping trip. The weather was unseasonably cold, dropping close to freezing (in May in the South of England!) and the soup was light to carry, filling, and healthy(ish). And cuddling a nice snack in a cup between my gloved hands was indeed very comforting – especially when it had taken nearly an hour to heat the water over the wood fire! Some of the mushroom flavour was a very good addition to my dinner as well.
"Holding the cup of soup between my gloved hands was indeed very comforting - especially after heating the water over the wood fire"
Teas of various types
I think I might have my British passport taken away if I don’t mention tea. You want to make your campsite homely, and nothing is more homely than a cuppa and a few biscuits. I find breakfast tea a bit of a disappointment when camping or travelling – carrying around fresh milk is too difficult and powdered milk in tea is just a travesty. Herbal teas, however, are perfect. They are very light and need no accompaniment. Kaydee likes “a nice hot mug of chamomile tea” whilst Kathleen and Kiley use a few extra ingredients for “a hot green tea with fresh ginger and lemon.” I especially love being somewhere you can forage for the ingredients (responsibly). Wild mint, chamomile, mountain thyme and nettle all work well as teas and are all very easy to spot. Just make sure you only forage plants you are certain of to avoid making yourself ill…
"The next time you head out in the cold, why not try something a little more adventurous?"
Whether you are spending one night in the cold or it is a part of your morning routine when you are on a long trail, a hot drink is a comforter, and a very personal preference. But next time you head out in the cold, why not try something a little more adventurous?
What is your favourite hot drink in the wild? Let us know on Twitter @SYAdventurers, or share your pictures on Instagram with the tag #myepilepsyadventure.