Last fall, our youngest was waitlisted for her favorite outdoors group (The Mountaineers Jr. MAC Program), due to Covid 19 restrictions. In December, we received word that they would have room for her starting in January. Hooray! She was ecstatic. Her first outing was to build snow caves at Paradise on Mt. Rainier. We’ve been out building them before and we both love it! Can you remember playing in the snow when you were a kid. Trust me, Life is Sweet Playing in the Snow. I was 6 years old all over again! So this year, we were super excited to head out in February to build and camp in a snow cave.
Ironically, our snow cave camping trip was cancelled due a rare snow storm in our area. It was forecasted to snow the entire night on Friday, which would leave us driving up to Mt. Baker on snow covered roads, in the dark. Better safe than sorry. So, once the trip was cancelled, we decided it would be fun to snow camp in the back yard. We were all prepped to go to Mt. Baker. So, why waist it?
We pitched our little 2 person tent in the snow before it had a chance to really accumulate. We laid down a vinyl tarp under the tent, which I only due if poor weather is anticipated. After doing a little research, I had learned a couple of tricks for keeping extra warm. We put down a fabric tarp on the floor of the tent with a foam matt and air matt for each of us. On top of that went our cold weather sleeping bags. Just to finish it off, we brought out a couple of heavy flannel blankets…just in case.
Seattle seldom gets snow. Maybe one good snow every couple of years. This year, it’s a beauty! We had to knock the snow off every couple of hours throughout the night. By 1 am, our youngest’s air mattress had deflated and she grew too cold. At that point, she bailed and headed on into the house. I woke up at 5, dug myself out and headed into the house. A hot cup of coffee sounded really good. By a little after 7, the tent was completely buried, again!
While we didn’t get to dig our snow cave, we did get to sleep in a kind of snow cave. With our meals all ready prepped, we decided to have a backyard snow cook out. Last year, I bought a Unigear Potable Folding Stainless Steel Backpacking Stove. I love it. It’s what I use most, now. It burns wood or coals. This was a great opportunity to try it out in the snow.
But, let me back up a smidge. Let me share with you a couple of tips and tricks for packing prepped food before you head out camping. My favorite camping hack, is to make a casserole and freeze it. One of my favorite camping recipes is a 5 Layer Breakfast Casserole. When frozen, it works as a giant ice block in the cooler. Once it has had a day or so to thaw, it’s ready to reheat. Another favorite tip I like to use, is to make freezer pouches. It saves on dishes and allows everyone to eat what they want, when they want. For this trip, I had prepped a Cincinnati-Style Chile and my Worknight Crockpot Stroganoff. In quart sized bags, I added individual serving sizes and froze them. When we’re ready to eat, it just takes some boiling water and our meals are ready.
Keeping in mind that coals burn more quickly in cold weather, I added a few extras to the grill, a total of about 8 – 10. Once the cools were ready, I added the pot with the 5 Layer Breakfast Casserole. It only took about 15 minutes to heat through. Be careful, if your coals are too hot, you’ll burn the hashbrowns on the bottom and center-top won’t quite be ready. Try not to peek. Keep the lid on. Use your nose. Once you smell the hashbrowns browning, you can remove a few coals and allow the dish to heat more slowly. I like to reheat it this way so that the hashbrowns become crisp and brown!
Once it’s heated through, allow it to rest for a couple of minutes so that the casserole has a chance to distribute the heat. Any remaining cold spots will finish warming up. If you’d like to toast the top of your casserole, add a few briquettes to the top of the lid for just a couple of minutes.
Being surrounded by snow, I had plenty of water to use. If you are planning on using snow, remember that the snow crystals take up a lot of room. You’ll need to fill your pot and keep an eye on it. Continue to add snow until you have the desired level of water you are looking for. Cover it and allow it to come to a hard boil
Depending on the temperature and because snow can take some time to melt and boil, you may need to check the coals or wood before adding the freezer bags and covering the pot.
Because the frozen meal bags can become punctured or scratched when they are frozen, I like to place all the meal bags into a larger plastic bag and seal them in. You’ll want to give some thought to how many meal bags your are looking to reheat at a time. This will determine the size of the bag you’ll need. Squeeze out most of the air. However, you’ll want to leave a small amount of air so that the bag will float and not rest on the bottom where it would melt.
Allow the them to boil for 10 – 15 minutes. Remove the pot from the heat source and set it aside. Pull out the bag and stir the meal pouches by squeezing them a few times. Allow the bag to rest in the hot water until you are ready to serve.
Life is Sweet Playing in the Snow. If you ever have that inclination for a new adventure, don’t forget that you have local places to go and organization that specialize in getting you outdoors and teaching you what you need to know. Snow camping in the back yard gave us a chance to try a few new things. Some worked and some didn’t. When it comes down to it, we both had a wonderful time that we’ll remember forever…Snow Cave Camping next season.