Ask any backpacker, hiker, or outdoor enthusiast what their trail drink of choice is, they’ll likely say whiskey.
I know — beer is the first thing that pops into your head, because there’s nothing like a cold one after a long day outdoors but the unfortunate fact is, weight is everything and you can’t lug around a sixer in your pack. Not only is it heavy, but a good chill factor is essential which makes lugging beer impossible if you’re heading out on a day hike, scaling a wall, or spending several days in the wilderness.
Beer just isn’t practical when you’re trying to keep supplies to a minimum.
That’s where whiskey really shines — not only do you need very little of it thanks to its high alcohol content, but there’s no need to keep it on ice and it pairs great with a roaring campfire. It’s a win-win.
4 Reasons You Need Trail Whiskey For More Than A Buzz
More than simply a nice buzz before bed, studies have shown that whiskey can actually be helpful in your first aid kit, too. Check out these four ways whiskey can help keep you healthy on the trail.
- It will light your fire. If you’re not an expert fire starter, whiskey can fuel your flame much quicker because of its flammable properties. Soak your kindling and light ‘er up.
- It can treat your water (kind of). Backpacker columnist and wilderness medicine expert Buck Tilton reports that early settlers to Canada’s Red River area experienced less waterborne illnesses when they mixed whiskey with their water. Keep your guts in check by adding a shot to your bottle of water and wait 20-30 minutes in order to kill the bugs.
- It can treat your wounds. There’s a reason old westerns show injured cowboys taking a shot of whiskey then pouring some on their wounds before the doc stitches them up. On average, whiskey is 40% alcohol, so it has the capacity to kill topical germs. It’s no moonshine, but it’ll do.
- It’s lighter than beer. A single flask weighs much less than that six pack of artesian small batch beer you were thinking about bringing, so lighten your pack and pony up for the good stuff. If you must bring liquid, you’d better make it worth the weight.
Surprised? You shouldn’t be — whiskey has been around for literally ages, and it’s not the drink of choice for cowboys (in movies and IRL) for no reason. Get on board.
Best Ways to Pack Your Whiskey
There are many that say a regular ‘ole flask is the way to pack the whiskey in your backpack, but if you’re trying to conserve weight on a longer trek, this may not be ideal. Cut the ounces with one of these packing ideas.
In a small plastic bottle.
While a normal, reused plastic water bottle may do you just fine, the seal may be a concern for you. And packing a hard sided water bottle may take up too much space in your pack. That’s where the Memobottle ($26) comes in. This flat container takes up less space in your bag, weighs only three ounces, and carries up to 13 fl oz of liquid.
In a disposable flask.
The ultimate in lightweight packing, a Disposable Flask ($13) will be your best boozy trail companion. Coming in at only 0.3 ounces in weight, these flexible flasks will hold 7.5 fl oz of your favorite whiskey and can practically fit into any nook and cranny of your pack. While the description says “disposable,” you can also reuse these babies by throwing them in the dishwasher. You can even freeze them if you wanted some icy beverages on your next trip.
In a soft-sided container.
This recommendation comes straight from Reddit and is great if you’re traveling with a large group. A GSI Soft Sided Wine Carafe ($15) will hold an entire 750ml bottle of wine, or a shit ton of whiskey for you and your trail buddies. Sucks for the person who has to carry around that extra weight, but maybe you can draw straws every day for that duty.
So now that you know the how’s and the why’s of whiskey as your backpacking bff, let’s talk about the what. We’re not saying we’re whiskey experts by any means, but we’ve been around the block a few times and can help you choose a solid blend for your palette.
An Ode to Whiskey: Our Favorite Labels
- The Macallan 12 Year — Highly regarded as some of the best whiskey in the world, any Macallan you grab will be a solid choice. Just watch the price tag, as good whiskey can run you a pretty penny. Go for the 12 year if you’re just getting started and expect an bitter, oak-y start to your sip that opens up into a fragrant floral bouquet with hints of cinnamon, plum, and nutmeg which goes down nice and easy.
- Templeton Rye — Sweet and smooth, fruity and woodsy, Templeton is a JOY to drink, especially for those just getting started in the whiskey game. Rye whiskey is usually pretty fruity, and this characteristic is apparent in Templeton.
- Glenmorangie 10 Year — You cannot go wrong with this crowd-pleasing single malt scotch — literally everyone we’ve introduced Glenmorangie to has liked it. It’s smooth and not overly spicy, and has a pleasant warming effect as it goes down. Simply delightful.
- Redemption Rye — A little bit harsher on the nose, this whiskey could be a turnoff to those that don’t drink whiskey often. Some note a smell of acetone mixed with licorice and pepper. This whiskey is a polarizing one (most find it too harsh and medicinal) but if you’re into strong and spicy whiskeys, Redemption is a solid choice.
- Nikka Coffey Grain — One of our favorite Japanese labels, Nikka is both spicy and sharp in scent, but fruity and fragrant to taste. It might make more sense for a more experienced whiskey drinker to pack this whisky, but adventurous newbies may be pleasantly surprised.
- Bulleit Burbon or Rye — A pretty solid staple in anyone’s at-home bar (and corner store), you could also simply grab a bottle of Bulleit before you head out and call it a day. Especially if you’re making a trail hot toddy — a go-with-everything whiskey, Bulleit is perfect for mixed drinks, too.
Travelstoked Recipe: The Campfire Toddy
There aren’t many things better than a warm whiskey on a cold night, especially if you’ve been trekking all day and your legs are burning. If you’ve got some room in your pack for a few additional ingredients, the Campfire Toddy will hit the spot and put you to sleep in no time.
- 1 1/2 ounces of Bulleit Burbon
- 3/4 ounces of honey (grab some individual packets at Starbucks, your local coffee joint, or pack some honey in a baggie)
- 1 slice of lemon
- 4 ounces of water
- 1 cinnamon stick
Boil your hot water on the campfire, and mix your ingredients while you wait. Use the cinnamon stick to stir it altogether and enjoy!
Show off Your Trail Whiskey
We love seeing where you are in the world, so take a snap the trail and tag it with #travelstoked on Instagram — we’ll feature you in our growing community of adventure photographers!
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