It’s cold, the stove is chugging along, the water is close to boiling and your fingers are waiting in anticipation when they wrap around the warm mug. Toss in some powder into the bottom of the mug, pour in the water, give a stir with your spoon and you’re in instant winter bliss mode, no matter if you’re in the mountains, on a beach, in the rain or in a snowstorm. Hot chocolate is the winter drink of outdoor champions.

Hot chocolate isn’t just a great drink in the outdoors just because it’s made with chocolate; it’s a great drink because on a cold winter day it’s an instant dose of warmth. It’s also a versatile drink, ready to have spices – or maybe even a drop or two of libations from your flask – added to it.

But for a good batch of hot chocolate, you don’t need to buy a bunch of individually sized packets from an industrial food conglomerate. Making your own hot chocolate mix to take with you on outdoor adventures, or even just to stir up on a cold winter morning at home, is easy and doesn’t require a whole lot of ingredients. You can make a lot or a little, keep it on hand in a jar, and fill up whatever sealable container you like to adventure with when you’re ready to take it on the trail.

A lot of hot chocolate mix recipes call for powdered milk, but I find the addition of chocolate chips – which easily melt when hot water is poured in – is a much better way to get a creamy drink. Plus, who doesn’t like drinking melted chocolate?

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But why stick to just average hot chocolate? This hot chocolate recipe is great because it acts as a base for a multitude of variations, and I have added in three suggestions.

Spending your weekend with a few people who all have different hot chocolate tastes? Make the basic base recipe and keep a good hot chocolate spice kit with you; a dash of chili powder, cinnamon or even black pepper all make for a mug of hot chocolate that’s far beyond average.

DIY Hot Chocolate Mix
Makes enough mix for about 6 to 8 cups of hot chocolate

Ingredients
1 cup (6 ounces, 170 grams) bittersweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup (3.5 ounces, 100 grams) organic cane sugar
1/2 cup (1.5 ounces, 42 grams) unsweetened cocoa powder

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VARIATIONS
Spiced Hot Chocolate
1 batch hot chocolate mix + 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon + 1 teaspoon ground ginger

Cinnamon and ginger make for a gently spiced hot chocolate.

Smoky Chili Hot Chocolate
1 batch hot chocolate mix + 1 teaspoon chipotle chili powder

With a little spiciness and a little smokiness, chipotle chili powder makes for hot chocolate with a kick. Spiciness will depend on the type of powder you use, so you may need to add a little more or less.

Mocha Hot Chocolate
1 batch hot chocolate mix + 3 teaspoons finely ground coffee

Ground coffee will give a slight coffee taste to your hot chocolate, which also helps to deepen the chocolate flavor. Note that coffee does lose its freshness over time, and if you really want a strong coffee taste, consider adding a few tablespoons of the basic hot chocolate mix to a freshly brewed cup of joe.

Preparation
Coarsely chop the chocolate chips; this helps to get them melted a little faster when you pour the hot water in. Place the chopped chocolate chips in a bowl and add in the rest of the ingredients.

Stir together and once mixed, transfer to a sealable, airtight container.

Double or triple the batch depending on the length of your trip, or how many people are going to be drinking your hot chocolate.

To make hot chocolate, use about 3 to 4 tablespoons for 1 cup (8 ounces, 240 milliliters) boiling water.

Camp Notes is a big high five to the fun of sleeping outdoors and all that comes along with it. You know, camping and stuff.

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