If the idea of a winter picnic evokes images of shivering under a blanket while biting into a freezing sandwich, please hear us out. By preparing well and stocking up on the right foods and beverages, a frosty al fresco feast can be nothing short of magical. Learn from these picnic experts, then prepare and experience it for yourself.

Keep Moving (And Keep It Simple)
Tips from photographer and author Alanna O’Neil

“Winter picnics can be truly magical with fresh, glittering snow, especially when you’ve been cooped up inside by the fire. There are a few things to consider before a romp in the snow when the weather cooperates and it’s not bitter cold.

“Rather than just spreading out a blanket on the cold snow, I prefer to organise a winter picnic around activities such as sledding, snowshoeing, ice skating or a winter hike. Not only will you work up an appetite, but you’ll warm up, too, with all that vigorous exercise and rosy cheeks! If you head out for a snowy activity, pack a small backpack with a heat-reflective nylon blanket and a thinner wool one. It is a notch up from a standard tarp, but with a silver reflective side for warmth. When you’re ready to set out a spread, lay out the nylon blanket on the ground in a sheltered area, and cover it with the cosier, warmer wool one. It will keep your bottoms dry and warm if you do sit down and enjoy a hearty picnic.

“In the winter in particular, I prefer to pack along individually wrapped or portioned goods such as warm hand pies, brownies, turnovers or hot soups that can be poured from a thermos into individual mugs. Not only are they easy to serve and pack, they will also warm up any frozen fingers. Be sure to wrap them in foil to retain the heat in any baked goods. Compact and one-handed (or one-mitten) types of provisions are ideal to bring, as they limit the amount of skin exposure to the elements. A hot soup in a thermos is naturally a favourite to pack along. Leave the forks and knives at home – even puréed soup can be sipped without the need of a spoon. In addition to a thermos, enamel mugs are essential to pack along in the backpack; they are lightweight and unbreakable.

“Another handy item to transport your goodies, apart from a practical backpack, is a sled. In addition to carrying any little ones, it can easily hold the blankets and provisions. It glides smoothly on the snow and will save your back, too.

“Winter picnics are simply about getting outside in the crisp air and sharing a memorable moment with good friends and good food, rather than a picture-perfect lavish spread. It’s truly about celebrating the solace and beauty found in winter, with a hot pie in hand, of course!”

Photographer and author of The Art Of Picnics, Alanna O’Neil grew up in Vermont and now divides her time between Hawaii and Vermont. Follow Alanna on Instagram.

[Photos: Alanna O’Neil]

Hot Cocoa And Laughter
Tips from gourmet caterer and picnic curator Barbra-Joi Mitchell

“When it comes to picnics, always have a plan. You want to ensure you know exactly what you need, and don’t make things too labour-intensive. When it comes to clothing, I recommend doubling up in the trouser and sweater departments, and make sure your hat, gloves and scarves are as waterproof as possible. You want to be able to remove and put back items, as during different parts of your picnic you may experience different temperatures.

“To stay extra toasty, light a fire wherever that is permitted (your backyard or at a campsite) or pack a portable heater. My go-to heat sources run off mini cans of propane and are just perfect. I like to add in some décor year-round, using items that are easy to clean and won’t get damaged when wet. Flameless candles provide ambience and aren’t tough to light, unlike real candles.

“For the winter picnic menu, I serve bite-sized, individualised portions of cheese and charcuterie (you don’t want to have to deal with ice-cold tableware or knives). A thermal food container with any type of soup is a must. I love making s’mores with mini fire tins. You can individually pack them and make them a sweet treat party favour. Also, amp up your cocoa by testing different recipes for adult gourmet hot cocoa with a dash of your favourite spirits. (If there are young ones in the group, don’t forget to make sure you have different colour thermal containers or correct labels!)

“Lastly, make sure you are in great company with a great attitude. Any outdoor feast is so much more perfect if you can laugh and be crazy with each other. Weather discomforts will be non-existent if you’re having an amazing time.”

Barbra-Joi Mitchell started her catering and events company ByJoi Events in 2018, but had to pivot her business during the pandemic. The idea to start Picnics in the 6ix, a gourmet picnic company serving the Greater Toronto Area, sprang from her own joyful experiences in nature with good friends and good food.

[photo left: Barbra-Joi Mitchell]

Tips from lifestyle influencer Sher of Sher She Goes

“Bring an insulated travel thermos and double-walled cups! There’s nothing cosier than hot chocolate or tea to warm up on an outdoor picnic in the wintertime. If you bring along double-walled glasses, your drinks will stay hot for double the length of time, so you can focus on talking and relaxing with your friends and loved ones instead of gulping down your drinks as quickly as possible.”

Sher is an NYC-based travel writer with a perpetually overflowing suitcase. She shares tips for travelling the world in style on her blog and Youtube channel.

Don’t Overthink It
Tips from travel blogger and picnic aficionado Kate O’Malley

“Look to hearty yet simple, winter-warming picnic dishes. An excellent winter picnic can be as effortless as a thermos of hot soup and your favourite sandwiches. Individual insulated containers with a soul-warming stew and crusty bread make a deliciously easy picnic spread. Or perhaps the simplicity of a lovely picnic red wine and a platter of bold cheeses with smoked meats and a baguette – perfect for a cosy romantic picnic. Don’t overthink it when it comes to cold-weather picnic food; winter food is more forgiving and portable than you think.

“When thinking of your winter picnic kit, staying warm is essential. A cosy, waterproof picnic blanket is our key piece of picnic gear for any time of year. No matter how you plan to picnic, a quality waterproof blanket or rug, whether used on the ground or a cold picnic bench, will keep your slice of picnic real estate dry and cosy. Also, plan for extended periods outdoors and possible weather changes – even if the weather is mild, throw in hats, scarves, gloves, maybe even a windproof jacket.

“You can find more tips for successful winter picnics here.”

Australia-born, Portugal-based Kate O’Malley created Vagrants of the World Travel. During her travels, she learned how beautifully simple the portable feast can be, and she founded Picnic Lifestyle – a gorgeous guide with tips on making picnics delicious, enjoyable and easy, so everyone can enjoy an al fresco feast more often.

A Winter Fondue
Tips from Andra, founder of

“Winter picnicking is all about that crisp air, wool blankets and winter comfort food that keeps us warm and cosy. For a rustic touch, invest in a cast iron fondue set and melt some delicious cheese. Fondue is the perfect winter dish: easy to make, keeps you warm and the result is so delicious. You can mix in any hard, aged cheeses, but our favourites are Emmental and Gruyère (a traditional nutty, cave-aged Swiss cheese). Goes perfectly with crusty cubed bread or crackers. For something sweet, melt chocolate and salted caramel with marshmallows or strawberries – yum!”

Andra is the founder of, an online resource for all things picnic, featuring in-depth reviews, helpful guides, fun ideas and creative tips for open-air dining.

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