Go Cocoa In The Wild

I had the joy of experiencing 4 days off this last weekend and although I was able to get in 3 days of hiking and snowshoeing, I have to say the weather was miserable.  Thank goodness I was born here in the PNW and we learn early that you can’t wait for perfect weather days or you would never get outside.  One of the beautiful things about rainy, wet weather is it puts you in the mood for a hot, steamy beverage on the trail.


Snickerdoodle (from 5 Bs Bakery) and hot cocoa

I am one of the few people who does not have a coffee habit (blasphemy I know, living here in the Land of Starbucks). I’ve discovered that although I love it, it does not love me back.  So, normally it is herbal tea for me.  My favorite is: Sunset in Seattle.  However, tea just doesn’t have the satisfaction on trail as something rich and creamy.  And it definitely doesn’t have enough calories!

#coconutmilkpowder #cocoa #cacao #cinnamon #vanilla #cayenne #sugar

If you haven’t heard about the difference between regular cocoa and raw cacao powder, basically the raw stuff has all the benefits of chocolate that we hear about in the news versus the cocoa which has been heated and thus lost those benefits.  You can read more here: Difference between cocoa and cacoa.

Since I tend to avoid processed foods, buying the little packets of pre-made cocoa is not an option so I set out to make something I could enjoy on the trail.  I do not normally carry a stove when backpacking but I do have a way to heat water enough for a warm beverage.  You can find it here: Trekmates Flask or on Amazon here: Trekmates Flask.  I never liked the idea of carrying fuel, so it’s been a good option for me on weekend trips (too heavy for the long distance ones!). For day hikes I carry a travel tumbler cup a coworker got me from Teavana: Tumbler.  I love it because beverages stays warm all day.

Let’s talk about hot cocoa.  Who doesn’t love it? Here are the basic ingredients (actual recipe below):

  • Milk Powder (I use coconut)
  • Cocoa or Cacao powder (I buy mine at my local co-op or you can find it here: Cacao powder.  But any cocoa powder will do.)
  • Cinnamon (optional)
  • Vanilla Bean or Powder (optional)
  • Cayenne (optional)
  • Sugar (optional)

I started out on Pinterest looking for a paleo hot cocoa recipe but could only find recipes that used canned coconut milk, so I did some experimenting.  Most of the standard cocoa recipes use some simple ingredients like powdered milk, cocoa and sugar.  A lot of sugar. I’d rather just have the fat, thank you.


A lot of backpackers will use powdered milk like Nido because of the higher fat content. I hear you can often find it at Walmart. I try to limit my dairy to cheese and yogurt (usually raw or goat/sheep), so I started using coconut milk powder a few years ago in my granola and when adding extra calories to meals.  You can find the packets at most Asian markets or places like PCC or Whole Foods.  It’s not the best stuff; you will some times find extra things like dextrose or casein to keep it from clumping. If you get a packet that has clumping, a few pulses in the food processor fixes that right up and  help it dissolve better on the trail.

When I can afford it I buy the brand from Native Forest.  It is better (and vegan if you are into that), but you will have more clumping.  They cost about $1 more each, I find them here: Thrive Market.  My membership with them has more than paid for itself, especially when someone you know signs up, too.

I usually make my cocoa at home more like a drinking chocolate (less milk powder; I’m a dark chocolate kind of girl). For the trail, I use a ratio of 1 cup cacao/cocoa to 2 cups milk powder, then add cinnamon/cayenne to taste.  For the sugar, I will add 1/3 cup per batch for the extra energy.  If you can find organic powdered sugar that would be best, but I have had success just using something like these pictured.

The sweet stuff.

The sweet stuff.

The recipe:

  • 1 cup cocoa/cacao
  • 2 cups milk powder
  • 1/3 cup sugar (or more if you like it sweet)
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla bean (optional)
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon (optional)
  • 1/8 tsp cayenne (optional)015

Mix this all in a bowl (using a spoon to mush the clumps if necessary) and store in a jar.  For the vanilla, you scrape out the inside of a vanilla bean pod or use a vanilla powder like this: Vanilla Powder. Just be careful to buy one that doesn’t have fillers like sugar or corn starch.

To make a single serving, mix 1/3 cup of the mix with 8oz (1 cup) of hot water.  You can package each serving in snack size Ziploc bags for the trail.  I sometimes even add a sprinkle of mini chocolate chips to each bag!  Here are my favorite (soy, dairy and nut free): Enjoy Mini Chips.  I have even made this mix for family and friends as gifts at Christmas and get rave reviews.


On a side note (for my coffee loving friends), back when I was trying to have a coffee habit (I felt like such an outsider!) I found this great product for my long distance treks for when I felt like having a taste of coffee.

I just added about 1/3 cup of the coconut milk powder mentioned above to a double serving of the coffee (2 tsp) in a snack sized Ziploc bag.  Because it is freeze dried, it’s good cold (I just added water to the bag, shook it and drank).  I bought it at Central Market but you can find it at Thrive Market, as well.

What is you favorite hot beverage on the trail?

You can find pictures of my hikes this weekend here: Baker River Trail, Suiattle River TrailArtist Point.001




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