Catering all year round
Nothing quickens the appetite more than a day-long outdoor adventure. And there is nothing better than having a meal out in nature to allay it. Swedish brand Primus is globally known for their portable outdoor stoves. On this page, Johan Skullman, Swedish survival expert and part of the Primus test team, reveals tips and tricks how to survive and enjoy an outdoor meal even in wintertime.
Lighting a stove in winter can be a bit tricky. But difficulties are not a must: You just have to know what to do and you will easily outwit the hurdles that might arise from the cold, the wind and the alleged hostile circumstances. Below are a selection of products suitable a harsh winter.
Seek shelter from the wind
Strong winds can make cooking difficult. Thus, you have to look for shelter by either using the slipstream of huts, rocks or big trees. Another option to shelter your stove from the wind is an artificial barrier made of snow. You can easily build one with your avalanche shovel if the snow allows for it.
Of course you may think you can cook in your tent. Most manufacturers of tents or stoves will clearly say: this is strictly forbidden. Why? For liability reasons: you may hurt yourself or even die. Looking back I remember plenty of situations where we didn't have any other option than cooking in the tent. However, cooking inside must always be the very last option and it's important to really know what you are doing. When using the vestibule of your tent for shelter, make sure that you are really experienced in using your stove, that you are 100% awake and that you observe some serious safety precautions:
• Start by digging a hole in the snow in the vestibule.
• Make sure there is plenty of ventilation.
• Keep a close eye on the stove, never let it out of your sight.
Its all about ventilation
Poor ventilation of a tent rapidly increases the danger of carbon monoxide intoxication inside: Drowsiness is a sign of carbon monoxide poisoning. If there are several of you, watch each other carefully. If you are by yourself, you should strictly avoid using the stove inside the tent if at all possible. The first sign of high carbon monoxide levels is usually that the flame will start to pulse and “puff”. With the stove placed in a hole, this effect will appear even earlier due to lack of oxygen. And this is definitely no disadvantage… It is a life-saving indicator: If the pulse and “puff” happens, turn off the burner immediately and open your tent to air it thoroughly.It is all about ventilation
Lightweight tents are made typically of synthetic fabrics – all very or extremely flammable. Thus, you have to make sure that the stove stands stable (e.g. on a wooden board) and nothing flammable like the flysheet, your down jacket, sleeping bag, etc. is close by.
In the end, I think it`s of great importance that you develop a relationship with your burner/stove and that means that you have a serious plan for maintenance and do a lot of practice in your home backyard before going out!
Choosing and handling of fuel
My favourite fuel – in three out of four seasons – are LPG cartridges. They are convenient to use, have the highest energy content and the least exhaust fumes. So I use them for cooking whenever they are available. However, LPG has one big disadvantage: It might be too cold to use it. The liquid, pressurized gas doesn’t evaporate anymore. Turning the cartridge upside down is not an option on most stoves due to darting flames that can cause serious injuries or set your tent on fire. It helps to keep cartridges warm (inside your jacket or in the sleeping bag) but only to a certain point. You should also look for gas mixtures that contain a higher percentage of Propane as it evaporates better in low temperatures. Or even better: go for liquid fuel like white gas, petrol, kerosene or when nothing else is available: diesel. Just make sure that your stove can actually burn it.
Snow is only frozen water
It is obvious that you cannot bring along all the water you need for a winter trip. You will have to melt snow or ice. For snow you need your stove, a very big pot – and patience. The drier the snow, the longer it takes. If you melt ice, try to crush it before putting it in the pot for melting. The larger surface of many small pieces will make them melt faster than one big block of solid ice.
Save energy and keep warm
Once you have boiled water, do not tip away the leftovers. Fill the rest into your vacuum bottle or food container in order to isolate it from the cold. You can later use it for the preparation of the next meal or hot drink. And you can use the vessel as a heating inside your sleeping bag when you stay out overnight. Place the bottle at the bottom of your sleeping bag and you will have warm feet for the next couple of hours.
Drinking a lot is essential in low temperatures. And it is not just about something warm to drink, it is about the liquid intake that is mandatory: Breathing in cold air brings along a constant ullage. Additionally, you have a significantly reduced thirst in cold temperatures. Thus, your body needs to be protected from dehydration as this process implies the danger of both frostbite and hypothermia.
In spite of all these risks and things to consider, winter trips are extremely rewarding. I love them. Nature is more intense, there are less people, it is like cleaning your brain. Just give it try!
• Seek shelter for cooking in order to save fuel.
• Avoid cooking inside the tent!
• If no other option than the tent is available, observe the safety precautions mentioned above. They are essential for survival!
• Choose LPG cartridges whenever possible. Second choice is white gas. But only when you have the right burner that can take it.
• Crush the snow/ice before you start to melt it. The bigger the surface, the faster it melts.
• Always keep hot water in your vacuum bottles. This helps you to heat your sleeping bag and it eases the next cooking session.
• Drink, drink and drink! Cold temperatures reduce your thirst although your organism needs the fluid as much as in warmer climate.