WTF! (What The F**k – Winter Trail Food)

Healthy Homemade Snack For Life In Bitter Cold

Winter has just started to arrive here in northern New England, but it will be in full force soon. I have the good fortune of a busy winter schedule including spending four weeks guiding snowshoe expeditions (2 x 2-week trips) from late January through early March. That’s a lot of days on the trail, and I’ve been thinking about winter expedition snacks and experimenting in the kitchen.  

There is a single food that you can live on for extended periods of time, summer or winter, and maintain health; pemmican. It’s a mixture of dried raw meat and fat. This isn’t about pemmican. This is about making a food that feeds your body’s furnace and tastes good but isn’t the one thing you’re going to live on for several months or years. We’ll have regular meals on the trail. Think of this as a healthy snack. (For a first-hand account living on pemmican for 38 while living on the snowshoe trail, read Jerrel Friesen’s article.)

Food takes on more meaning on an extended winter expedition. When the thermometer reads waaaayyyy below zero for a few weeks and you’re out living in it, finding good foods that don’t require preparation or heat is challenging. Commercially made foods are usually loaded with sugar and questionable ingredients. Others are ridiculously expensive or not appetizing. This was the problem I was trying to solve, and I started with a few criteria. The final product should be:

  • Calorie dense.
  • Contain minimal water (to avoid carrying the extra weight and bulk).
  • Easy and quick to make.
  • Minimal ingredients that I can easily get in bulk.
  • Tasty (if it’s not good, why bother?).
  • Made into small servings that you don’t have to bite (because biting frozen things can be hard on the teeth).
  • Transported in wax paper bags that I burn when empty, so no trash.

So far I’m really happy with the results. My base ingredients are peanut butter (the natural, no sugar type) and coconut oil. These are the “glue” and are warmed until they’re a runny liquid.

Into the glue, I add the “filler”: chia seeds, sunflower seeds (raw, hulled) raisins, and sometimes a few rolled oats. I also add some spices, such as cinnamon and sometimes a touch of cayenne pepper.

I add enough filler so that the mix is thick but held together with the glue. Then I make a bunch of little disks (so I can eat them without biting into it), put them on a plate or pan, and put them outside to freeze and solidify.

These will stay solid when cold or cool, and I have no problem keeping things cold on winter trips. The small pieces will be quickly thawed when put in my mouth, even at forty below.

Before my month on the trail I plan to dehydrate a bunch of fruit (whatever’s on sale) to add as a filler. I’m not a big sweets guy, so I didn’t want to add any sugar or honey, but you can add whatever you like. I plan to experiment further with a bunch of other filler ingredients, and rendered animal fat for the glue.

And it’s no accident we’ll be referring to them by their acronym WTF. I’m personally referring to them as “What The F**K! – Winter Trail Food”, as it’s easy to remember.

If you make some, let me know how they turn out. And if we meet along the winter trail, plan to stop for a bit of What The F**K and tea!


WTF! (What The F**K Winter Trail Food) Recipe


  • Peanut Butter
  • Coconut Oil


  • Chia Seeds
  • Sunflower Seeds
  • Raisins (or other dried fruit)
  • Spices (cinnamon, cocoa powder, cayenne, etc.)
  • Rolled Oats (leave out to be grain-free)


  1. Warm up peanut butter and coconut oil, the “Glue”.
  2. Stir in “Fillers” of your choice.
  3. Shape into small servings that you can pop in your mouth. An easy way is to make small balls, then flatten them.
  4. Let them cool outside in the cold.
  5. Pack them in wax paper bags, to be burned when empty.


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