Booze for BackpackingThose of us who have breathed mountain air, walked through golden alpine meadows, or slept beneath starry skies know that the great outdoors are a kind intoxicant in and of themselves. However, many of us also know that there’s nothing wrong with cracking open a cold one after a long day of getting your wilderness on or sharing a drink with your hiking partners around the fire. But enjoying a drink in the backcountry comes with its own set of issues – how much weight am I willing to take on for that backpacking buzz? How do I negotiate weight versus tastiness of beverage? What’s the best packaging for roughin’ it durability and hiking backpack packability?

This year, I set out on a noble mission to answer these important questions and to bring my findings on the best booze for backpacking to the people. Here are my results:

 

1. Caribbean Cosmo by Malibu Rum

Booze for Backpacking
Tested at Shi Shi Beach, WA

A beverage I had never – and in my drink snoodiness, most likely would have never – tried in the front country, Malibu Rum’s Caribbean Cosmo gets my vote as the #1 booze for backpacking. Why, you ask, did I select this nuclear-pink, frat beach party cocktail as my top contender? Here’s the low-down: Caribbean Cosmo packs almost 2 liters of mixed-drink goodness into an aluminum lined plastic bag (think giant Capri Sun) that is super durable and also extremely packable because of its flexibility. Short of a direct puncture from your multi-tool, this thing isn’t going to leak or pop. Its large size and push top dispenser make it a fantastic drink to share with groups. In terms of transporting Caribbean Cosmo or setting up the pouch to enjoy, it has a small hole cut out next to its handle that is literally designed to clip a carabiner throughThis thing is made to take outside. As a final note, it’s delicious. As someone whose drinking tastes have been described as “old manish,” and I’m telling you, it’s delicious. When you’re enjoying your bright pink, limey, delicious drink on a rugged coastal beach somewhere, you’ll thank me.

Total Weight: 3.85 lbs
Total Volume: 1.75L
Alc/Vol: 15%
 

Booze for Backpacking

 

 

2. Pat’s Backcountry Beverages’ 1919 Pale Rail Pale Ale

Booze for Backpacking
Tested at Lake Eleanor, Mount Rainier National Park, WA

As long as beer and backpacking have existed, there has been a struggle over how to effectively transport this beautiful elixir into the backcountry. Too heavy, too much material to pack out, too breakable, too warm after days in a backpack – these have been the sad epitaphs of any beer lover before a beerless hike. The wizards over at Pat’s Backcountry Beverages may very well have brought this struggle to its end. What you’ll need: their carbonator bottle, an activator packet, a source of water and one of their brew concentrates (so far, they have a Pale Rail Pale Ale and a Black Hops Black IPA). The end game here is that, for just 12.3oz of weight in your pack, you’ll have a pint of beer – then figure in that each brew concentrate packet only weights 2.1oz and each activator packet only weights .4oz – those together equal another full pint of beer. Now mentally extrapolate to all the pints you could pack. I won’t go into the whole beer-making process and the chemistry of it here – they have a great video on their website that can do that for you – the important thing to understand is that with Pat’s gear and some cold stream water, you can have a totally packable, nearly zero waste producing, lightweight backpacking beer solution. Carbonating the beer in the backcountry your first time around can be a bit challenging, so I would definitely recommend practicing at home a of couple times first. I really enjoyed their Pale Rail Pale Ale after a day of hiking, but the dual effects of backcountry sourced water and the concentrating of the beer do contribute to a taste that’s a bit different from your local bar’s pint. Still, what they’ve created is one small step for mankind and one giant leap for backpacking beer lovers.

Total Weight: 12.3oz (Carbonator bottle + one packet brew concentrate + one activator packet)
Total Volume: 16oz
Alc/Vol: 5.2%
 

Booze for Backpacking

 

 

3. Jim Beam Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey – Traveler’s Fifth

Booze for Backpacking
Tested at the North Sister approach, OR

This one is a classic. This is the camping drink your dad is thinking about when he reminisces about his “fishing trips with the boys.” This is the drink that your grandpa snuck into his thermos of apple cider to “keep him warm” on your family camping trips. I found that the traveler’s fifth was the best option for three reasons – 1) The plastic (instead of glass) design makes it both lighter and more durable in your pack 2) The fifth size is reasonable for a group without getting too crazy (…that’s enough, grandpa) 3) The screw top is a necessity for multi-day trips. I would recommend taking powdered apple cider mix along with the traveler’s fifth for tastiness purposes.

Total Weight: 1.65 lbs
Total Volume: 750ml
Alc/Vol: 40%
 

Booze for Backpacking

 

 

4. Two Beers Brewing Company – Aluminum six pack of Evo IPA

Booze for Backpacking
Tested in Leavenworth, WA – Icicle Creek

As we know from the problem solving Pat’s Backcountry Beverages worked out, beer can be a difficult proposition for backpackers. Still, there’s nothing quite like sitting back in the sun enjoying your favorite ale with good friends and gorgeous backcountry views. My most effective compromise was with Seattle’s Two Beers Brewing Co. Evo IPA. Yes, you’re still humping a six pack while you hike, but the aluminum cans cut weight and are easier to pack out – not to mention they chill easily in water. Two Beers also utilizes a plastic pop off ring system (pictured below) that cuts down on materials for you to carry and makes the six pack easier to pack in your backpack. On top of that, you’re supporting a great local brewery, you’re enjoying a delicious IPA and, best of all, all of the Two Beers’ brews are outdoors themed! You can grab a “Day Hike Summer Session Ale” and hit the trail this Saturday, or crest ridges with their “High Divide Double Blonde” in your pack. Pretty cool.

Total Weight: 4.68 lbs
Total Volume: 72oz
Alc/Vol: 6.2%
 

Booze for Backpacking

 

 

5. Bandit Wine – Chardonnay – Merlot

Booze for Backpacking
Tested at Mason Lake in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness, WA

If you’re feeling classy, hit the backcountry with Bandit’s chardonnay. The wine comes packaged like a giant juice-box with a screw top – making it durable, packable and relatively light. Because of its shape, it fits well in the outside water bottle pocket of your pack, making it easy to carry – and it avoids any condensation building up inside your pack. Bandit markets itself specifically to outdoorspeople, claiming on its packaging that the wine is perfect for camping or a picnic, and I would agree. It’s also a decently good tasting wine. To be thorough in my testing, I took both the chardonnay and the merlot out to Mason Lake in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness – my findings were that the chardonnay is your better bet out of the two. Pro tip: let the wine breath before you drink it. I know that sounds a bit pretentious for your adult juice-box, but trust me, it makes a significant difference. I reclined in my hammock enjoying a ultra-light mug of Bandit wine while the sun set over a high alpine lake: would recommend.

Total Weight: 2.2 lbs
Total Volume: 1L
Alc/Vol: 13.6%
 

Booze for Backpacking

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