How to Drink in the Woods

From beer to bourbon, here’s how to cut loose (safely) while camping

Pick your vice and pack it intelligently. (Pekic)
Campfire

Stashing a cold beer in the bottom of your pack at the beginning of an outing always seems like such a good idea. I’m going to really want this, you think as you squish it between your real trail necessities.

But by the time you arrive at camp after a long day hiking, that beer will undoubtedly have lost its luster, having warmed up and been shaken around all day. Suddenly, you feel foolish for hauling that extra 12-ounce weight up a mountain.

There are drawbacks to backpacking with booze. Alcohol is a diuretic, meaning it causes your body to produce more urine. That, in turn, dehydrates you. The more you drink the more water you’re going to need to drink to compensate. In fact, if you’re in a place where water is scarce, it’s smart to skip the booze completely.

But gathering around a campfire is obviously much more fun with an alcoholic beverage, and we’re here to show you how to do it in the best way possible. Since powdered alcohol isn’t set to hit shelves on a wide scale until sometime later this year (and when it does it will likely be heavily regulated), you’ve got to be smart about how you want to get silly. Here we recommend the best ways to backpack with booze, whether you’re thinking of bringing a can of beer, a bottle of wine, or a handle of the hard stuff:

Liquor

It performs well even after a long day in the knapsack and keeps you warm at night. But if you’re thinking of schlepping liquor, skip the glass bottle. Pack plastic flasks (yes, I said flasks plural) or mini bottles. “The mini bottles keep you from going overboard,” says Mike Stevens, a former chef, avid outdoorsman, and man of incredible self control. Liquor also has the added benefit of giving you more bang for its weight than beer or wine, and every ounce counts on the trail.

Wine

Don’t even think about taking that 750ml glass bottle into the backcountry. The alternative, as you may have guessed, is packing a bladder pouch. But maybe a bellyful of Franzia Refreshing White at the end of a long day doesn’t sound appealing. No worries. Boxed wine is experiencing a surge of interest, and a corresponding uptick in quality, so you should be able to find a quality boxed cab. Or, if you’re feeling particularly adventurous, seek out canned wine. Yup, it’s now a thing. Denver’s Infinite Monkey Theorem winery, for example, offers a white, a red, a moscato and a rose all in Red Bull-sized cans.  

Beer

It’s often the least attractive option because of its poor weight-to-drunk ratio, but new innovations are making beer a viable option on a backpacking trip. Backcountry Beverages, for example, makes a beer concentrate which, when mixed with water in a water bottle and left to carbonate, makes a pretty convincing pale ale or stout. You’ll need to buy the company’s special carbonator bottle ($39.95) if you want your hops with bubbles, but the end product is actually pretty good.

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