Planning a Winter Picnic

Kurt Mead, Interpretive Naturalist at Tettegouche State Park


Add special flair to your winter outdoor adventure by packing an energized picnic feast to fuel your family fun in the snow. Foods won't spoil, so the sky's the limit when it comes to creative snacks and meals that provide high energy for hard play. And remember—yard games aren't just for summer! Consider playing active, running games to warm up chilly children (and adults).


Pre-made sandwiches

Use a panini iron, indoor electric grill or fry pan at home to make pre-grilled sandwiches such as grilled cheese—or use a variety of salamis, cold cuts, cheeses and vegetables to create a delicious high energy meal. Individually wrap each sandwich in foil or plastic bags.

Ice Cream

For a calorie-rich ski break or picnic dessert, surprise your family and friends with the sheer absurdity of a pint of gourmet ice cream. Go ahead—it's winter, it won't melt! Serve it by slicing both the ice cream and the cardboard container with a knife just before you serve it. The carton sections make nice little bowls for each serving. Don't forget to pack some plastic spoons.


Hot soup is a terrific way to warm tummies on a cold day. There are lots of sizes and styles of wide-mouthed, insulated Thermoses that will keep soup warm for hours. Combine a pre-grilled cheese sandwich with tomato soup or a squash red pepper soup for a hot, savory treat—or make your soup on site by combining instant soup packages with hot water heated over a lightweight backpacking stove or campfire.

Campfire kebabs

At home, marinate one-inch square pieces of venison, beef, pork or chicken to thread onto a roasting stick at your picnic. Add your favorite veggies! Vegetarians, try roasting chunks of marinated tempeh over an open fire—it's amazing!


It's easy to forget to drink enough water in the winter, but cold winter air is desert-dry and winter activities can dehydrate you quickly. Hydrate often with warm beverages such as cocoa, hot cider, tea or coffee. Alcoholic beverages are not recommended...that old image of a Swiss Saint Bernard with a cask of brandy around its neck is romantic, but not very helpful.


Recreating in winter doesn't mean you have to be cold! Dress for the weather and your activity level, and plan ahead for a few creature comforts that will help keep your picnickers warm and happy.

  • Regardless of how warmly you are dressed, sitting directly on snow or frozen picnic benches will quickly cool you from the bottom up. A couple of camping pads or wool blankets will prevent your posterior from conducting your heat away from you. (Many Scandinavians keep reindeer or fluffy sheep hides around just for this purpose!)
  • If you have time to get fancy, construct comfortable snow benches and a table at your planned picnic site, and then class up your snow table with a checkered tablecloth. It's like building a snow fort without the mock battle.
  • Get people moving with active games such as tag or snowshoe races to keep the blood circulating.


Winter travel can be a breeze—you don't even need a backpack! Just strap your picnic and extra layers onto a sled. Even a cheap little plastic boat sled will work fine to haul your goods through the woods. Put your kids to work pulling the sled! Even a growing child can haul a lot more stuff on a sled than an adult could comfortably carry in a backpack. A sled is also a great way to get a tired little skier home at the end of the day—just wrap them up in a nest of those wool blankets you packed, and start for home.

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