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Warm up with a winter picnic

OS Team • Other outdoor sports and activities • Jan 31, 2022 • 10 mins

Get inspired with these winter picnic ideas including what hot food to take on a picnic, how to keep your picnic warm and where to go for a picnic, especially in winter. Includes a simple one pot recipe for you to try.

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Picnics are not just for summer. Hot food and drink instantly warm you up and offer a welcoming snug, especially during cooler months. A hearty stew is far more satisfying than a squashed sandwich and a coffee can make a world of difference if energy levels are diminishing.

Heading out for a winter picnic is low-cost, hassle-free and will provide some much-needed fresh air. Plus, eating in the great outdoors is a fun thing to do with kids, your mates and even serves well as a romantic date.

winter picnic 

Friends enjoying a hot drink outside

Popping some outdoor snacks in your bag may seem like the easiest option but it really doesn’t require too much preparation to make sure you’re going to be kept warm and properly fuelled throughout the day.

Get inspired with these ideas including what hot food to take on a picnic, how to keep your picnic warm and where to go for a picnic, especially in winter.

Hot food and drink for winter picnics

A comforting cuppa, a strong coffee or a thick hot chocolate are our go-to winter drinks. There are so many hot dishes to choose from when it comes to having lunch outside. If it can fit in a bowl or a flask then it will make perfect picnic food. Nothing beats a comforting veggie stew, a creamy chicken soup or a fiery curry.

Vegetable dahl recipe picnic 

Simple one pot dahl

Easy vegetable dahl recipe

This dahl can be made in just one pot. It always tastes better when reheated a day or two afterwards and it can also be frozen.


  • 1 tablespoon oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 400 g tinned chopped tomatoes (or 4-5 fresh tomatoes, chopped)
  • 200g dried split red lentils
  • 500ml vegetable stock (less if including veggies)
  • 1 tbsp curry paste (works well with Thai or Indian). Replace with a mix of fresh spices if you wish.
  • Optional: Vegetables. Peppers, aubergine, courgette and sweet potato all work well.
  • Optional: Coconut milk. For a creamier taste, replace 400ml of stock with a can of coconut milk.


  1. Heat oil in a large frying pan at medium heat. Add the onion and fry until it is lightly brown.
  2. Add the garlic, fry for 1 minute, then add your curry paste or spices.
  3. Add the chopped tomatoes and optional vegetables. Stir and cook for a further five minutes.
  4. Stir through 200g dried split red lentils and 500ml vegetable stock in water. If adding vegetables, reduce the amount of liquid you use as they will release water as they cook.
  5. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat, partially cover the pan with a lid and simmer for around 20 minutes until the lentils and vegetables are soft. Top up with extra hot water if needed.
  6. Season with salt and pepper and any additional spices to taste. Stir well.
OS Thermal Bottle

OS Thermal Bottle

How to keep food hot on the go

Let’s start with your drinks. Flasks are the way to go and are great at keeping liquids warm throughout the day. The benefit of carrying a flask of hot drink is that you don’t need to carry any cooking equipment as you can prepare everything before you set off. Once your out, a thermal mug helps to keep things warm for longer.

Left over dinners or tasty meals whipped up especially can be transported in a thermal food container. These come in several sizes and will keep food warm until lunch. If you don't have a thermal food container, a soup, curry or dahl will work well inside a large thermal flask.

Stanley Legendary Camp Mug 

Hot chocolate in a Stanley Legendary Camp Mug

What to pack for a winter picnic

If you’re after a posh caffeine hit then there are portable coffee kits for fresh coffee on the go and sturdy flasks for a well-earned hot toddy.

You’ll also need something warm and waterproof to sit on. A picnic rug or sit mat works well. Feeding a feast? Just remember to pack cutlery and bowls so the food can be divided evenly.

Biolite Campstove Kettle winter picnic 

Biolite Campstove Kettle

OS Champion Harrison Ward, otherwise known as the Fell Foodie, will argue that cooking while you’re out and about is just as easy as preparing things at home. If you’d like to practice your culinary skills out in the wilds, then you’ll need portable kitchen gear including an quick-to-boil outdoor stove.

Wrap up for the occasion. Hot food and drink will do a great job at warming you up but it’s still important to wear the right kind of clothes. Layering in the best way to keep warm and if there’s chance of rain, do remember your waterproofs.

winter picnic

Kids love picnics outdoors

Where to go for a winter picnic

The great thing about picnics is that you can enjoy them just about anywhere and you’ll be able to find some incredible views. Sunsets are by far our favourite time to enjoy a warming drink and a hot snack.

If you plan to stay put for some time or have kids in tow, the look for a picnic bench which will be warmer than the floor. It can be hard to resist an impressive view but when choosing a spot, think about the wind direction and try and find a sheltered position away from the elements.

winter picnic 

Picnic spot

Find designated picnic sites across Great Britain by looking for the blue picnic symbol in OS Maps plus everything you need for a picnic outside this winter in the OS Shop. 

Published: Jan 31, 2022 Edited: Oct 20, 2023

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