YOU CAN KEEP your crowded bar and stale peanut happy hour. Our happiest hours are in the woods, and while there are no tap handles at our favorite watering hole (which is actually a hole with pristine glacial water in it), that doesn’t mean we can’t quench our thirst with delicious libations.
We asked an expert about the best ways to imbibe in the backcountry. “I’m a huge fan of bringing very high quality beverages into the mountains to relax after an adventurous day. But only after the mountaineering work is done and you’re in a safe spot for the night,” says Greg Van Wagner, the wine director for Jimmy’s and Jimmy’s Bodega in Aspen, Colorado. Greg is a camper, a climber, and a skier, and while he works in the wine industry, he says that hard alcohol — given its good weight-to-relaxation ratio — is the better way to go in the backcountry.
If your camping drink repertoire consists of filtered water and instant coffee, it’s time to upgrade. Here are eight of our favorite recipes — some boozy, some not — to keep you hydrated in style.
DRINKS FOR CAMP DAYS
1. Mexican Mocha
This isn’t a happy hour drink, but it’ll revive you the morning after a day on the trail. While instant coffee has improved in the past decade, it’s still not great. But when you dress it up with cocoa, cinnamon, and spices, it’s like a whole different — and delicious — entity. You can actually make the mix for this at home. Just scale it up for how many cups you’ll need, then pack it in a resealable bag and portion it out at the campsite.
- 3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
- 2 tablespoons powdered milk
- 1 tablespoon instant coffee creamer (omit this if it weirds you out)
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- ¼ teaspoon cinnamon
- ¼ teaspoon cayenne
- Pinch of salt
- 1 packet or serving of instant coffee (check your manufacturer’s directions)
Put all the dry ingredients in the bottom of your mug. Add two tablespoons of hot water and stir until the mixture forms a paste. Slowly add the rest of your hot water, stirring constantly.
2. Rocket Fuel
For mornings where you don’t have time to fuss with fancy coffee and need a quick hit of energy, slam one of these and get on your way.
- 1 packet hot cocoa mix
- 1 CLIF SHOT Energy Gel Double Expresso
- (To make it a Red Eye, add a spoonful of instant coffee.)
- 8 ounces of hot water
Mix all ingredients together, sip, and get ready to set a new personal best.
3. NUUN Tea
Hydration and electrolytes are important even on cool days. This mix of NUUN hydration tablets and hot tea makes a warming, but also replenishing beverage.
- 1 nuun tablet (try the citrus fruit or orange flavor)
- 1 bag of black tea
- 16 ounces of hot water
Steep your tea in hot water. Drop a tablet into the tea and dissolve.
4. Orange Creamsicle Power Shake
Tang has been a camping staple forever. But it’s pretty devoid of nutrition beyond simple sugars. We like this version, which delivers a big protein boost after a long day of hiking, climbing, or paddling.
- 1 packet of Tang
- 1 serving of vanilla protein powder (check your container as serving sizes vary)
- 1-2 drops of vanilla extract
- 12 ounces of cold water (about a cup and a half)
A shaker-style bottle works best for blending this, but if a water bottle is all you’ve got, it’ll work. Combine the powdered ingredients in your bottle. Drop in the vanilla and the water and shake vigorously — the frothier it is, the more it tastes like a milkshake.
DRINKS FOR CAMP NIGHTS
5. Backcountry (Adult) Lemonade
- 1.5 ounces of your favorite gin
- 1 scoop Skratch Labs Exercise Hydration Mix with lemons + limes
- Wild berries (or bring your own)
- 6 ounces water (just shy of a cup, if you’re guesstimating)
Ideally you’d make this camped next to a mountain stream, and you’d stash your gin and water in the stream to cool them down. If not, make do with what you’ve got. Mix everything in a water bottle, shake well, and enjoy.
6. Blueberry Mojito Summer Smash
This recipe is courtesy of Adam Price, executive chef at Victory Ranch in Park City, Utah. Price says that you can actually use any fruit-flavored NUUN hydration tablet in this drink, but he likes lemon + lime. Pack blueberries or pick them as you go if you’re in an area with the wild variety — just make sure you bring an identification book; eating mystery berries is never a good idea.
- 1 small fistful of blueberries (Price says not to worry if they get squashed in your pack as you hike. “Think of it as pre-muddling.”)
- 2-3 fresh mint leaves
- 1.5 ounces bourbon
- Splash of water
- ½ of a lemon + lime NUUN tablet
Start by finding a stream to cool your bourbon in. Tear mint leaves and place them in your cup. Drop the blueberries in and — if not already somewhat squashed — crush them with your camping spork. Add your bourbon, water, and NUUN tablet, and stir while the tablet dissolves.
7. NUUN Berry Camparita
The salt present in NUUN tablets makes this taste like a salt-rimmed margarita. This has no sugar, so it’s good for those who like their drinks more boozy than sweet.
- 1 lemon + lime NUUN tablet
- 1.5 ounces tequila
- ½ tri-berry NUUN tablet
- 8 ounces water
Chill your water and tequila as best you possibly can (perhaps in a nearby river?). Drop the two NUUN tablets into a cup. Fill with water and top with tequila. Stir and let the tablets fully dissolve before drinking.
8. Snowcone Julep
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- 2 ounces rye whiskey
- 1/2 ounces simple syrup (Van Wagner suggests combining this with your rye before you head out the door)
- 4-5 mint leaves
- Fresh snow
Put a few mint leaves in the bottom of an 8-ounce cup. If you’re a mint fanatic, consider bruising them a bit with your hands before you put them into the cup (it’ll make your hands smell lovely for the rest of the night). Fill the cup with fresh snow. Greg says that, while champagne powder is lovely for skiing, it’s actually best to choose the icy, well-packed stuff for this application. Top with your rye and simple syrup mix, and give the whole drink a good stir.
This post is proudly presented in partnership with REI.