2014 Gift Giving Series

2014 Gift Giving Series - Gifts for the Backcountry Cook

by Auntie Shelley

Today we’re going to talk about gifts for the Backcountry Cook. 

My number one gift pick for the Backcountry Cook is a food dehydrator, especially if your cook is preparing food for a family.  We got ours from Excalibur a few years ago and it is amazing (I’ll be doing some posts on dehydrating in the New Year).  Excalibur dehydrators are known for being top notch, but they are a bit pricey (however totally worth the money in my opinion).  Before we got ours we used one like this and it was adequate for just the two of us.  If you have a family, then the dehydrator will pay for itself in the long run, allow you to save substantially on food weight and volume, and allow you to increase your camp food repertoire.

GSI Ultralight Nesting Bowl and Mug

GSI Ultralight Nesting Bowl and Mug

If you already have a dehydrator, or you’re getting one, then think about adding the GSI Ultralight Nesting Bowl and Mug as a little stocking stuffer.  They are the perfect size for rehydrating things like pizza sauce, applesauce, salsa, etc. and the insulated sleeve does a good job of keeping the heat in which leads to faster rehydration.

While you're at it, you might as well pick up a cookbook on the topic.   A couple of years ago our good friend and nature photographer, Mike Monaghan, leant me his copy of A Fork in the Trail by Laurie Ann March.  I promptly spilled sauce all over it - oops.  It quickly became by go-to  dehydrating cookbook. Laurie Ann explains all the ins and outs of dehydrating for the backcountry.  We have tried a number of the recipes, all with great success. 

Since we’re talking about cookbooks, I will add Camp Cooking in the Wild: The Black Feather Guide to Eating Well in the Great Outdoors to our list.  This book makes me want to go on an expedition led by Black Feather just for the food.  It is packed with gourmet recipes and they also cover cooking/baking with a Dutch oven.  For a long time I have wanted to experiment with baking in the backcountry, but unfortunately most backcountry ovens just aren’t big enough for a family of our size.  After reading this book I have come to the conclusion that a Dutch oven might just be the solution. 

GSI Hard Anodized Dutch Oven

GSI Hard Anodized Dutch Oven

So, I’m adding a Dutch to my list.  There are some like these from GSI that are made of anodized aluminum and relatively speaking they are light (weights range from 3lb 11oz to 8lbs).  If weight isn’t a concern then check out the selection of cast iron ones at Campers Village.  Obviously this isn’t something I would bring on a backpacking trip, but for a canoeing trip with a family it would be reasonable to pack in, especially if it meant fresh bread, cinnamon rolls, cake...

If you use a food barrel like the ones from Recreational Barrel Works, then a barrel cooler, barrel bucket, and/or barrel pocket wraps are a nice addition to the camp kitchen.  We've had our barrel cooler for about 10 years now and it's still holding up well.  They make it much easier to keep the food barrel organized. 

photos from Recreational Barrel Works

photos from Recreational Barrel Works

And finally, here are a few smaller items that we have tested and recommend for the backcountry cook:

MSR Alpine Chef's Knife and the MSR Alpine Kitchen Knife

Photos from mec.ca

Photos from mec.ca

These knives are stainless steel and light weight.  The plastic sheath protects your gear and will allow the knife to dry if it is damp when put away.

Photo from mec.ca

Photo from mec.ca


Loksak Opsak Odour Proof Barrier Bags
These are durable polymer bags that can be used to store food or toiletries.  The best part is that they are odour proof.  Dave and Lisa have a set of these that have lasted for several seasons.  We use them a lot to store things that we might want to leave out, such as kid snacks and energy bars.




These are just a few practical gifts for the backcountry cook on your list.  Tell us what's on your backcountry cook's Christmas list in the comments.


2014 Gift Giving Series - Gifts for the Backcountry Mom

by Auntie Shelley

The following are some gift ideas for the backcountry mom.  As we mentioned earlier, we are trying to keep our gift recommendations under the $100 mark.  The following are just a few little things that the mom on your list might appreciate.

Image from Stanley

Image from Stanley

I think almost every backcountry mom I know loves coffee, so top on my list this year is the Stanley SS Vacuum Coffee System.  When I showed this to Dan he thought it looked complicated and said that he would lose a part and then be in trouble.  But since he never makes coffee on the trail, I’m not too worried (for the record, he does make me coffee every morning at home). 

This system lets you brew and carry your coffee on the trail, comes in 500ml and 1L sizes, and will keep coffee hot for up to 15 hours.  Seriously, it will keep coffee hot for 15 hours!!  

Usually what happens when we're in the backcountry is I brew up coffee and just as I'm about to enjoy it, a little person needs my help.  By the time I get back to my coffee, it's cold - even if it's been in an insulated mug.  Well, this little thermos will give me 15 hours to get back to my coffee.  My kids can't possible keep me busy that long can they?

Here's how it works:

To really enjoy backcountry coffee though, the mom on your list needs a nice seat.  I have the Helinox Chair One and I highly recommend it.  There's a reason why this chair wins awards.  It's light, compact, comfortable, and stable.  My kids put it to the test on our trips this past year and it held up to a lot of abuse.  I don't just use it on trips either.  It comes with me to the beach, the pool, the soccer field, etc.

image from helinox.com.au

image from helinox.com.au

I recently tried out the Therm-a-Rest Treo at Adventure Guide and it was on par with the Helinox in terms of comfort and stability.  Actually, Dan thought it was more stable.  I think the thicker legs probably won't sink into the ground as easily as the Helinox's do.  An added benefit is that the legs fold up to make the carrying case so you don't have worry about losing the little storage pouch.

Image from cascadedesigns.com

Image from cascadedesigns.com

Just think how happy mom will be watching her children enjoy the wilderness from the comfort of her own special chair, nursing the baby in the chair, snuggling her bigger kids in the chair, reading a book in her chair, begging her kids to "please, please let me sit in my chair!"  On second thought, maybe you should get the kids some chairs too.  That way mom might actually get to sit in her chair and enjoy her coffee. 

Of course, after a really stressful day in the backcountry, maybe what your mom really needs is to sit in her chair with one of these ;-)


If the outdoor mom on your list is a runner, hiker, snowshoer, cross country skier, etc., then a pair of Dirty Girl Gaiters would be a practical and stylish addition to her wardrobe.  


image from mec.ca

image from mec.ca

And for the outdoor mom whose hair styling repertoire consists of a ponytail (yes, that's me) the Smartwool PhD Hyfi Training Beanie, or any other stylish beanie with a ponytail exit would be thoughtful.  

Personally, I think winter hats are a great gift  Why?  Because they let me hide the fact that I haven't had time to do my hair.  

A good winter hat transforms me from the disheveled mom who hasn't had time to brush her hair and is racing her kids to the bus into the stylish outdoorsy mom who's dropping her kids off at the bus on her way out for a run.  Really the only running I'm doing is back to the house where I will finish my coffee (that's still hot because I left it in my Stanley thermos) and read outdoor blogs, but what the neighbours don't know won't hurt them.  

Here are a few more of my favourite hat picks.

For the outdoorsy mom who likes to cycle around town you might want to consider a trendy purse/handle bar bag like this Sherpani Samba Handle Bar Bag.  This is a good sized bag with enough room for diapers and wipes, keys, wallet, a phone, candy wrappers, random pieces of lego, special rocks, exoskeletons, acorns, and the odd pine cone.  You know, all that important stuff that outdoor moms carry. 




photo from mec.ca

photo from mec.ca

photo from mec.ca


Finally, if the mom on your list doesn't have a good knife, consider picking one up for her.  If you want to splurge, a really good knife is something that she will keep for years, but it will cost you.  However, there are a lot of decent knives out there for under $100, such as the Gerber EZ Out Straight Edge.  It's easy to open with one hand, has a reliable locking mechanism, and the belt clip is solid.  For the price (under $35), you really can't go wrong.  




These are just a few gifts that the mom on your list might appreciate.  If your outdoor mom likes to cook then you might find some more ideas in our next post - Gifts for the Backcountry Chef!

2014 Gift Giving Series - More Ideas for Outdoor Kids


Orienteering and map reading skills are essential for anyone spending time in the backcountry.  I recently came across the following books that are great for introducing map skills to kids in the 4-7 year old range.  

Package these two books with a little compass like the Terra Kids Keyring Compass and you have a gift to inspire mapping skills in your 4-7 year old.


For older kids a compass like the Silva Trekker 420 is in order.  Combine that with a book like Be Expert with a Map and Compass, some maps of places you plan to explore in the coming year and their own SealLine Map Case and you'll be ready for adventures in 2015.  Stay tuned for our next instalment. It's my favourite - gifts for the outdoor mom!

Be Expert with Map and Compass
By Bjorn Kjellstrom, Carina Kjellstrom Elgin

2014 Gifts Giving Series - Ideas for Outdoor Kids

By Auntie Shelley

Christmas is quickly approaching and we've been busy putting together our wish lists.  We have come across some neat ideas for the outdoor family.  Over the next few days we'll be posting some Christmas gift ideas.  

For the most part we have tried to keep all of the items under $100.  Many are under $20 and would be ideal as stocking stuffers.  For the kids we have tried to focus on items that will encourage them to develop their outdoor skills and inspire them to get outside.  

So here's our first instalment.

Knot Tying Kits

Terra Kids Knack of Knots Kit

Knowing how to tie various knots is an essential outdoor skill and it's a great to practice during the winter months.

We recently came across this Terra Kids Knack of Knots Kit.  It retails for $16-$20 and comes with everything kids need to know how to tie various knots.

On its own this kit would be great, but you could add a book on knot tying, like My First Book of Knots.  

A great stocking stuffer for older kids would be ropes of various sizes/weights, a carabiner or two and the PROKNOT Outdoor Knots Cards.  This set contains twenty of the most common knots.  They are illustrated on waterproof plastic cards and held together with a grommet.  

They would easily fit in a glove box, backpack, or purse and could be used as a quiet activity during the year on car rides, etc.  

For those with anglers on their lists, they even have the Fisherman's Ultimate Knot Guide cards.



I would round out a knot tying kit with this Nature Facts Knot Tying Bandana.  


Stay tuned for our next instalment - Gifts to Inspire Orienteering Skills.