Kinney Lake Pasta & Pesto

This blog has been hiatus for the last year and a lot has happened in that time- Chloe and Kurt went off to travel the world (last seen somewhere in Hungary?) and Courtney and I have a little one to haul around now!

We were hesitant about getting back into backcountry camping with an infant- we did a few experiments with some easier trips first (including a stay at the Elk Island oTENTiks) before taking the leap back in.

For our first trip out we wanted something easy and familiar, so we went back to Kinney Lake on the Berg Lake trail. It’s a short and relatively flat hike in (7km with only 130m gain) with a trail wide enough for the hiking stroller, with a beautiful little campsite and lake at the end.


The way in was easy, mainly because of the secondhand hiking stroller that we were lucky enough to be gifted- a Thule Chariot 2 with the jogging kit front wheel attachment for getting over rocks and roots on the trail. Our son, Jamie, rode comfortably and happily even though we’d overloaded his stroller with everything our new-parent-paranoia made us think we could ever need… (we’d joked about bringing a cast-iron pan in the stroller to cook breakfast on and I’m glad we didn’t- there were still a few hills and switchbacks to push that thing up.)


Dinner was a pretty simple variation on a recipe- we just swapped angel hair pasta for the faster cooking time, and added bits of dried tomatoes and jerky for additional flavour and protein. It’s quick and easy, and the homemade pesto is better than any prepackaged stuff you might pick up at the store!


We couldn’t have asked for a better first trip and introduction to family backcountry camping.. we’re planning our next trip!

Angel Hair Pasta & Pesto

Adapted from’s Rustic Pesto and Bowtie Pasta

Meal: Dinner

Serves: 2

Home Prep Time: 5 minutes

Camp Cook Time: 5 minutes

Calories Total: 688 (+200 if you add jerky)

Calories Per Serving: 344 (+100 with jerky)

Weight Total: 280g  (+50 for jerky)

Weight Per Serving: 140g


  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 tb. dried basil
  • 2 tb. pine nuts, finely chopped
  • 2 tb. sun dried tomatoes, chopped
  • 2 tb. olive oil
  • 1/4 package angel hair pasta
  • 2 garlic cloves (optional)
  • Shredded jerky (optional)


  • 1 pot

At Home:

Mix all dried ingredients and pour olive oil into a small travel bottle.

At Camp:

Place pasta in a pot, add water and bring to a boil. Cook until al dente. Drain off all but 1/2 cup of water. If using, mash garlic cloves with a fork. Add all ingredients to pasta and stir with reserved cooking water.


Breakfast in the Backcountry pt. 2

Biscotti is a great backpacking food- it’s basically the hardtack that explorers used for generations, but with added sugar, protein and caffeine. It’s perfect for dipping in your morning coffee/tea/porridge and stands up well to being crushed in the bottom of a backpack for a week.

We started off using the Dirty Gourmet recipe for biscotti (after getting the idea from them!), but found that it crumbled a bit too easily in the pack. Next we tried the Smitten Kitchen version but she’s not kidding about it being meant for dipping- you risk breaking a tooth if you eat it dry!

This adapted version adds just a bit of oil to the Smitten Kitchen recipe to split the difference on the hardness. In theory the added oil might cause them to spoil faster but we’ve never noticed an issue with it. This version also reduces the temperature for the second bake because I found some of the thin, diagonally cut ends were coming out tasting scorched.

Rolling the nuts and chocolate into the centre of the dough helps keep all the good stuff in the middle (rather than poking out the edges) and seems to help them maintain integrity. I also like to decorate the exterior with pearl sugar (just very large sugar crystals, available from German/Scandinavian import stores) because it looks good, and because the extra calories help, right?

This recipe is safe to experiment on- adding more or less oil for instance- because it all gets baked rock solid anyways.

This batch was made with half and half store-bought and wild hazelnuts I that picked in the Edmonton river valley (apparently they’re common there!)

Mocha Breakfast Biscotti

Adapted from Smitten Kitchen’s Chocolate Hazelnut Biscotti and Dirty Gourmet’s Chocolate Chip and Coffee Biscotti


  • 1 cup whole hazelnuts
  • 2 1/2 cups AP flour
  • 1/2 cup cocoa powder
  • 1 or 2 tablespoons espresso powder or ground dark roast coffee
  • pinch of salt
  • 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 tablespoon canola oil (optional)
  • 1 cup chocolate chips
  • pearl sugar for topping


Preheat oven to 350℉.
Prepare a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Spread hazelnuts in a pan and toast in the oven until lightly browned, about 10 minutes. Remove skins by wrapping in a clean dish towel and rubbing. Set aside to cool.

Mix flour, cocoa, coffee, salt, baking soda, and baking powder together in a large bowl.

Separately, stir eggs together and set aside 2 tb in a small bowl. Add vanilla and oil (if using) to remaining eggs and mix well.

Add the wet ingredients to the dry and mix just until it comes together. Turn out half of the dough onto a floured surface and shape into a square about 1/2″ thick. Spread half of the nuts and chocolate on top and then roll into a cylinder. Squash the dough back into a rectangle, about 4 1/2″ inches wide, 1″ thick, and as long as necessary (they’ll spread about an inch as they bake.) Place this on your prepared tray and repeat with the remaining dough & filling.

Brush the top of your logs with the reserved egg mixture and sprinkle the top with the pearl sugar.

Bake for 35 minutes. Remove pan from oven and place on a cooling rack. Reduce oven temperature to 325℉ and wait 10 minutes. Using a serrated knife, cut each log into 3/4″ slices on the diagonal.

Put the slices on their sides back on the tray and bake for 10 minutes. Flip pieces and bake for another 10 minutes. Remove from oven and allow them to cool completely before storing.


Skyline Energy Bars


Kurt and I first hiked the 46 km Skyline Trail in Jasper in 2011 with some friends.  We took 3 days to enjoy the incredible scenery, camping at the Snowbowl and Tekarra campgrounds.  For those who haven’t hiked this trail, it truly is a premier rocky mountain hike and I highly recommend it.  We met many other hikers along the way and found that people were doing the trail over 1, 2, 3 and even 4 days.  My curiosity was piqued by those who had started before sunrise to walk, jog or run the trail in one day.  The idea was stuck in my head that someday we would return to do the one day challenge.  Noel and Kurt finally caved to my crazy idea in 2014.


It is essential to plan carefully for a big day hike like this.  My first concern was calorie intake and energy requirements.  I played around with a few different online calculators,  to guess how many calories we would burn walking 46 km, with 1400 meter elevation gain over 10 hours.  I estimated we would burn more than 4000 calories.  Taking this into account and I planned our food for the day.  I decided we would eat every hour to maintain a steady intake of calories.  My second concern was weight.  We wanted to keep our day bags as light as possible.  (While still bringing the required safety supplies of course.)  


Anyone who has done a few backpacking or hiking trips knows how awful store bought bars taste.  Personally, I’ve had moments in the backcountry where I practically force feed myself to finish a bar.  And so began my quest to make high protein, high carbohydrate, and most importantly tasty trail bars and snacks.  I found a few recipes online, and then came up with my own modifications.


We started on the trail at 7 am from Maligne Lake and were still going strong when we hit the halfway point at the Notch- a grueling 350m climb through midsummer snow. From there it was easy and spectacular ridgewalking with incredible views (and wind!)



The fun wore off somewhere around Kilometer 35 when the views were gone and all we had left was the gruelling grind to finish.  The final stretch on the Signal Mountain fire road feels never ending, especially if you have fallen behind on your energy intake!  Be aware that this is bear country, do not skip packing your pepper spray to save a few grams. We came across a black bear mom and two cubs somewhere around Kilometer 40- it was a good thing that Noel and Kurt were still alert enough to see them in the distance and had the energy for some good hiking pole percussion to scare them off…

The Skyline trail in one day should only be attempted by experienced hikers, who are well prepared and when the weather is perfect.  Take careful consideration to pack the necessities (warmth layers, first aid, pepper spray, water filter, and food.)  Bring more food then you think necessary, 4000 calories is a lot more than I would usually eat in a day!  And finally, bring a variety of snacks.  There’s nothing worse than staring at your bag of trail mix knowing you have to keep eating but disgusted by it at the same time.  I came up with 3 varieties of the following recipe so that each time I grabbed a trail bar, it was a fun surprise!


(Adapted from who adapted from A Fork in the Trail) 

⅓ cup honey

¼ cup brown sugar

¼ cup peanut butter

Heat the honey and brown sugar in a large pot and simmer for one minute.  Remove from heat and stir in the peanut butter.  Using this as the gooey, sticky base you can then add whatever you like.  Don’t be afraid to go a little crazy. For longer backcountry trips, I’ll sometimes throw in some ground flax seed as well, a little extra fibre doesn’t hurt.  Some variations I’ve tried:

Old Fashion (~140 calories per bar)

2 cups home-made granola

½ cup dried cranberries

⅓ cup slivered almonds

⅓ cup dark chocolate chips.

Kurt’s Favorite (~190 calories per bar)

2 cups of Golden Grahams

½ cup dried cherries

⅓ cup slivered almonds

⅓ cup butterscotch chips

Fun & Fruity (~170 calories per bar)

2 cups Fruit Loops

½ cup chopped up dried fruit (mango, pineapple, apple, whatever you have!)

⅓ cup slivered almonds (or other nuts!)

⅓ cup white chocolate chips

Mix whatever ingredients you feel inspired by at the time into the gooey mix and stir.  You can allow the mixture to cool if you prefer the chocolate (dark, white or butterscotch) chips to be whole.  

Coat the bottom and sides of a 8 inch square pan with vegetable oil.  Evenly flatten the mixture into the pan.  Freeze for 30 minutes.  Transfer to a cutting board and cut into bars (makes about 10 bars.)  Wrap in wax paper or parchment paper.



Breakfast in the Backcountry pt. 1

When we started our adventures in the backcountry, we ate a lot of the pre-packaged, store bought meals.  These are an excellent starting point, as they get the job done and it’s easy.  But after a few hikes, or a few days of repetitive meals, it starts to get boring.  We began to venture out into the possibilities and alternatives, and things just keep getting better.


Despite our breakthroughs with supper, I found that we were still starting the day with our same old boring instant oats.  Don’t get me wrong, I am a big fan of oatmeal for breakfast while hiking.  They are light-weight, easy to make, high in fibre and grains, and give you some sugar to start the day.  A warm bowl of oats on a cold morning in the backcountry is comforting and warms the soul.  However be aware of the high sodium, high salt, artificial flavours and preservatives that are often found in the store bought instant oats.

Our first attempts to mix it up with breakfast involved plain instant oatmeal packages with the addition of our own dehydrated strawberries, apples (and a dash of cinnamon), pineapples, or mangos.  This works wonders as the fruit will rehydrate slightly with the hot water.  Change it up each day with a variety of fruits and it will make the oats slightly more tolerable.


The next progression is to make your own instant oats.  There are numerous websites that give recipes for this, my personal favorite being: from the Yummy Life

Even with all the different variations of oatmeal, it still gets old.  I’ve started bringing home made granola with a small amount of dehydrated milk powder for alternating days with the oats.  I roughly follow the Planet Organic Market Cookbook recipe for Organic Granola.

3 cups slow cooking oats

1 cup slivered almonds

1 cup cashew pieces

¾ cup unsweetened coconut flakes

¼ cup brown sugar

½ tsp sea salt

⅓ cup pure maple syrup

¼ cup canola oil

1 cup – whatever I have in the cupboard – dried cranberries, walnuts, raisins, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds

Preheat oven to 250F.  Combine oats, almonds, cashews, coconut, sugar and salt.  Whisk maple syrup and oil together and pour over oat mix. Place onto baking trays and bake for 1-2 hours, stirring every 20 minutes.  When desired colour is achieved, remove and cool.  Place in large bowl and toss with berries or raisins.  Yields 6 cups.

The final addition to our breakfast line up was care of Noel, bringing a batch of biscotti to Iceland.  This was a big hit and has become a necessity to fully enjoy our morning coffee/tea in the backcountry.  Whether soaked in your drink or dipped in oatmeal, the biscotti really brought breakfast to the next level for us… Watch for the recipe in part 2,  coming soon!

Backcountry Basics: Dehydrated Ground Beef

Dehydrated ground beef is a camp food fundamental- an easy starting point for a lot of delicious meals and a great way to start learning to dehydrate because there’s no such thing as too dry.

In this recipe we’re looking to reduce the fat as much as possible because it can go rancid with exposure to oxygen over time (especially in hot weather.) Storing the dried beef in your fridge until you’re ready to leave will also help reduce the chance of any spoilage.



Dehydrated Ground Beef

Meal: Basics

Serves: 4

Home Prep Time: 8-10 hours

Camp Cook Time: 15 minutes

Calories Total: 1506

Calories Per Serving: 376

Weight Total: 110g

Weight Per Serving: 28g


  • 1 lb lean ground beef

At Home:

Heat a frying pan over medium-high heat and add the beef. Season with salt and pepper, and stir until browned and broken up.

Transfer the meat to a fine colander and rinse with hot water to remove as much grease as possible. Let sit to allow the water to drain.

Spread the meat on parchment sheets in your dehydrator and run it overnight at 145° until it’s very dry. (The parchment helps keep all the fine pieces from falling through into the bottom of your dehydrator..)

Crush the beef further, using either your fingers or by placing it in a ziplock and running a rolling pin over it. Store in either a new ziplock or carefully vacuum pack it. Don’t let it run a full vacuum seal because the sharp edges of the beef will pierce the plastic and let the air in.

Laugavegur Chili

Another standby recipe we’ve come to rely upon is an adaptation of Flo’s Chili. We’ve brought it on a bunch of trips, but it wasn’t until we ate it in a sleet storm on the top of an Icelandic mountain that we discovered its true, restorative magic!


In 2014 we took advantage of Icelandair’s new cheap flights from Canada and we hiked the Laugavegur trail in southern Iceland. This was the first time any of us had done international trekking and between airline’s rules and customs regulations we had to plan our meals carefully.

We started in Reykjavik with a long all-terrain bus ride out to the northern trailhead at Landmannalauger on a ominous grey, moody day. As we climbed through the famous rhyolite hills, it got colder and greyer before finally turning to rain and wind (at which point the cameras had to be put away.)



By the time we arrived at the first campground, Hrafntinnusker, we were wet, cold and quickly approaching hypothermia.  We had hiked in rain, sleet and gale force winds that blew volcanic dust into every orifice.  We managed to set up our tents into the pre-made rock shelters (apparently these storms are not uncommon at this site!) Our next priority was to warm up.  Noel, Courtney and I were borderline delirious and having serious doubts about our safety and decision to tackle this trail.  Kurt however diligently went to work rehydrating (thankful for the lack of large predators in Iceland, which means you can cook in your tent!)  Today when we tell this story, we like to say that Kurt saved our lives that night with this delicious chili.

We barely slept that night listening to the rain and wind sweep across the mountain in what felt like waves.  The storm did ultimately pass, and the next day as we crested the ridge overlooking our next campsite at Alftavatn the sun came out!  The spectacular view silenced any doubts and we sat in awe of the magnificent landscape for quite some time.  DSC00197
This recipe takes a little bit more effort before the trip, but you’ll thank yourself when you take your first bites at some backcountry shelter.  You’ll be sure to garner many looks of intense jealousy and envy from other campers as they heat up their ramen noodles for the third night in a row.


(photographed on a different, warmer trip!)

Flo’s Chili

Inspired by Kurt’s Mom

Meal: Dinner

Serves: Many.  We usually make a big batch, then measure out 3-4 cup portions to dehydrate and package depending on how many people we will be hiking with.

Home prep time: 1.5 hours to make, 8-10 hours to dehydrate

Camp Cook time: 30 mins

Calories Total: 1634

Calories Per Serving:

Weight Total:

Weight Per Serving:


  • 1 lb ground beef
  • 1 cup chopped onions
  • ¾ cup chopped green peppers
  • 600 ml (19 oz) can of diced tomatoes
  • 255 ml (7.5 oz) can of tomato sauce
  • 420 ml (14 oz) can of kidney beans
  • 420 ml (14 oz) can of brown beans
  • 1 tbsp chili powder
  • 1 tbsp salt
  • 1 tsp parsley flakes
  • 1 bay leaf


  • 1 large pot
  • Campstove

At Home:

Brown the ground beef with the onions and pepper.  Add the rest of the ingredients and bring to a boil.  Simmer for 1 hour.  We usually continue to simmer until most of the water has boiled off.  Once the chili has reached a paste like consistency, measure out portions that you will be able to eat on the trail (we usually bring 1-1.5 cups each).  Place the measured out portions onto parchment paper and dehydrate at 135F for 8-10 hours.  Once dry, break it into smaller pieces and store in ziplock bags or vacuum seal.  (We’ve had bad luck with vacuum seals being pierced by sharp edges.)  The dried chili can be stored at room temperature for up to one month, or in the fridge or freezer for much longer.

At Camp:

Kurt prefers to boil water and then add the dehydrated chili to the already heated water.  Take this off the heat and let it sit for 10 minutes to rehydrate.  Give it a little heat and bring it up to a simmer, and again take it off the heat to rehydrate another 10 minutes.  Continue this pattern until the beans are rehydrated.  We have found that the kidney beans take the longest to rehydrate, so test them as you go.  

Serve with salt, pepper, chili flakes and grated cheese.  Even better if you have brought in a wedge of focaccia or extra tortilla to mop up all the goodness.


Snowbird Pass Spaghetti and Meat Sauce

Kicking it off with a new favourite trail and an old favourite recipe!



This year we spent 5 days hiking the unbelievably beautiful Berg Lake region in Mount Robson Provincial Park, British Columbia. The undisputed highlight of the trip was the day hike up to Snowbird Pass from our basecamp at Rearguard.



The trail is 19km return, with 800m in switchbacking elevation gain. It takes you from the toe of Robson Glacier to a high rocky ridge with spectacular views of the ice. Then suddenly, you’re into a perfect little hanging valley that’s lush with willow and wildflowers and a gently gurgling stream. These meadows are the reason why you need to plan your trip dates carefully: the caribou calve here so the trail is closed until July 1 (They’d moved on by the time we did it- but we did see a few mountain goats in the valley here.) You might be tempted to just nap the afternoon away by the creek but it’s worth the final push back into the rocks and up the last ridges to the pass itself- suddenly you’re back in the land of snow and ice again with a jaw-dropping view of the Coleman glacier and the Reef Icefield.





19km later, you’re back to camp and it’s time for Spaghetti and Meat Sauce for dinner! Easy to prep at home and easy to cook on the trail, this is now one of my stand-bys for backcountry meal planning. The meat seems to absorb some of the sauce as it rehydrates and it tastes like a long-simmered marinara sauce.

You only need 3 things: a jar of premade pasta sauce (I used a generic jar of “Classico Di Napoli Tomato & Basil Pasta Sauce” for this trip), a box of angel hair pasta (because it cooks faster than spaghetti) and a package of ground beef. For the true backcountry gourmand, a bit of parmesan is a nice touch, it keeps well as a hard, dry cheese.


Spaghetti and Meat Sauce

Inspired by Tomato Sauce Leather on

Meal: Dinner

Serves: 4

Home Prep Time: 8-10 hours

Camp Cook Time: 15 minutes

Calories Total: 2550 (Sauce: 234, Beef: 1506, Pasta: 810)

Calories Per Serving: 637

Weight Total: 410g (Sauce: 65g, Beef: 110g, Pasta 225g)

Weight Per Serving: 103g



  • 2 pots
  • Cheese grater if you’re paddling and weight doesn’t matter? A woman lent us hers when we were kayaking the Bowron Lakes circuit and it blew our minds.

At Home:

Dehydrate spaghetti sauce at 135℉ on either a fruit leather liner or a tray lined with parchment for 8-10 hours (I usually leave it overnight because it doesn’t seem to matter much if you over-dehydrate it), then tear it into small pieces and store in a ziploc. I don’t recommend vacuum sealing the package of sauce because it seems to just stick back together into a giant glob that’s harder to rehydrate. I also don’t bother blending the sauce before dehydrating- any chunks in it will still reconstitute faster than the beef itself.

Measure out your pasta and prepare a batch of dehydrated ground beef. ⅛ of the box of pasta is the recommended serving, but you’ll probably be hungry- take more.

At Camp:

Dump the dehydrated sauce and beef into one pot and roughly add a couple cups of water and let everything soak for 5 minutes. Then, light the stove and bring to a boil with the lid on for a minute. Remove lid and reduce heat to a low simmer until the meat starts getting soft- stirring continually so it doesn’t burn on the bottom of the pot.

When the meat is almost ready, remove it from the stove and cover it again, and use the stove to cook the pasta (we had to snap all the pasta in half to fit the pot.) Angel hair is supposed to be cooked for 6 minutes, but who brings a timer when they’re backpacking? Just keep sampling bits when it looks like it’s getting close to al dente.

Toss a bit of the pasta cooking water into the sauce and drain the rest of the water off. Add the noodles to the sauce as well and give it another blast of heat if necessary.

Serve with salt, pepper, chili flakes and grated cheese.

“We should start a food blog!”

We were halfway up the mountain when Chloe came up with the idea: “We should start a food blog!”

We’d been talking about cooking and camping, and how competitive we’ve gotten in the last few years with trying to outdo each other on our shared trips. We started with the usual bad premade boil bags and flavourless “just add water” meals. At some point, one of us (we disagree which) got a dehydrator and started bringing homecooked meals, and that changed everything. Now it’s embarrassing when it’s your turn to cook for the group if your meal has only one course, doesn’t have a dessert, or you didn’t carry in enough wine.

This blog isn’t about ultralight camping or survival, it’s about great trails, great food and spending as much time as possible in the backcountry!

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