Making your own yummy fruit leather

While I first made fruit leather for a camping trip, my kids are happy to just gobble it up at home!

I made some yesterday. Today my daughter said, “Did you take what you needed for your trip? I’m about to finish the fruit leather.”

Here’s my recipe for making it with a dehydrator (if you don’t have one, it’s possible to use your oven).


  • frozen mixed fruit (600 gram bag)
  • unsweetened applesauce (1/2 cup)
  • vanilla extract (1/4 tsp)


  1. Add fruit, applesauce and vanilla to small saucepan.

2. Cook at medium heat until it boils. Lower temperature and simmer for 10-15 minutes until it’s cooked through.

3. Remove from heat and let cool.

4. Puree with food processor (in batches if need be).

5. Pour onto parchment lined dehydrator trays.

6. Dehydrate at 135 F for 4-10 hours, depending on your machine. It’s ready when you can touch it without getting sticky, gooey fingers!

7. While still warm, peel it off the parchment, roll it, and break it into pieces. Enjoy!

It keeps well in the fridge and freezer, but never lasts that long at my house. You can experiment with the recipe by using a little lemon juice, sugar, cinnamon, or a different combination of fruits.

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How to plan a menu for backcountry camping

Are you considering going on a backpacking trip or a canoe trip, but aren’t quite sure what you would eat?  There are lots of things to keep in mind when you’re designing your menu, but really, it’s not that hard! You can buy everything ready to eat from the grocery store, or do like I do and prepare, cook, and dehydrate everything myself. If you’re looking for sample menus, look here.

Fresh banana, dehydrated strawberries, kiwi and mangoes, and fresh cooked chocolate chip pancakes.

Things to consider:

  • How many people will be on the trip?
    • Some meal ideas, like individual pizzas, might work for 2 or 3 people, but not for 5 or 6 because of the length of time it takes to cook each pizza (unless you’re bringing multiple stoves or are cooking on a grill over a campfire).  Pasta, on the other hand, scales up nicely.
  • Will you be bringing food just for yourself, or sharing meal prep and cooking?
    • Be prepared to compromise on the food you eat.
  • How many days is the trip?
    • For a 2-day, 1-night trip, you could bring frozen meat for your dinner (e.g. steaks or chicken breasts), but if your trip is longer than this, you’ll have to bring other sources of protein (such as beans), or bring freeze dried or dehydrated meat or eggs. Food safety is really important. Don’t let your frozen food get warmer than fridge temperature (at or below 4 degrees Celsius or 40 degrees Fahrenheit) before you cook it.
    • Consider how long that fresh pear will last in your bag before it’s a mushy mess! Some fruits and vegetables last longer than others, such as apples, carrots, and peppers.
  • What time of year are you camping?
    • If you’re camping in the snow, you don’t have to worry about food spoiling, but remember that everything will freeze – frozen peanut butter doesn’t spread very well!
    • Will you want a hot beverage to warm you up?

      Warming up with a bag of rehydrating fruit.
  • How many main meals a day will you have?
    • Will you have main meals at breakfast, lunch and dinner, with snacks in between? A main meal at breakfast and dinner, eating frequent snacks in between? A quick snack at breakfast and bigger meals later? I have main meals at breakfast, lunch and dinner, with a morning snack, afternoon snack, and evening snack.
  • Will your main meals be hot meals, or will some be “cold”?
    • I always have a hot breakfast and dinner, but a no-cook lunch, which means I can eat it wherever I happen to be when I’m out exploring.
    • If you want to get going quickly in the morning, you might want to consider having a no-cook breakfast.
  • Do you want to prepare food to eat while you’re out exploring?
    • Cooking is one thing, but do you want to have to assemble meals, chop vegetables etc., or would you prefer a ready made meal?
  • Do you want to be able to eat without stopping?
    • Will you be happy to sit down and take a break from hiking or paddling, or do you want to eat something without stopping, such as trail mix or an energy bar?

      Sometimes I pre-make this at home, wrap it up, and on the trail all I need to do is eat!
  • How much variety in your menu do you want?
    • Are you happy eating the same thing for breakfast every day, or do you like to change things up? Are you sick of oatmeal by the third morning, or is it comfort food for you? For a multi-day trip I may bring the same snack for a couple of days, but otherwise, every meal is unique.
  • Are there special dietary needs or restrictions?
    • For example, is someone on a low salt diet? Celiac? Allergic to nuts? Can’t get through a camping trip without s’mores?
    • Some meals and snacks are easy to customize for individual tastes – for example, individual pizzas can be loaded with veggies – or not! Trail mix can be heavy on the nuts – or goldfish!
  • How can you incorporate healthy foods like fruits and vegetables into your menu?
    • Dehydrated fruits and vegetables can be snacked on as is, or rehydrated to go along with meals. For example, I love eating dehydrated bananas first thing in the morning, and having rehydrated strawberries and other fruits in my hot cereal.
    • Look for prepackaged meals that include vegetables, or buy them on the side.

      Fresh cooked pasta with rehydrated green and red peppers and tomato sauce.
  • Consider favourite snacks as a pick-me-up when the going gets tough.
    • You’re likely expending a lot of calories on your backcountry trip! A bit of junk food may be just what you need to push through a tough afternoon – or day!
  • Are you backpacking or canoeing? How much food weight do you want to carry?
    • If you’re trying to lighten your food load, consider adding freeze dried or dehydrated foods to your menu.
  • How many calories do you need each day?
    • It’s a good idea to know how much food is enough to keep you happy and energized (it may take some trial and error)! I have learned that I burn far more calories hiking than canoeing, so I need to plan accordingly.
  • What cooking equipment will you bring with you?
    • Will you be cooking on a campfire with a grill, or using a portable stove?
    • Will you have a single pot, or are you bringing a frying pan or a 2nd pot?
  • Do you plan to simply boil water to rehydrate things (such as prepackaged dehydrated meals), or will you be baking fresh bannock?
    • If you’re just boiling water, you’ll use less fuel, but there’s something to be said for freshly baked bread on the trail!
  • How much food prep and cleanup do you want to do at your campsite?
    • After a long day of hiking or paddling, will you want to assemble a complicated meal? Do you want to deal with cleaning up messy pots or pans filled with bacon grease?

      Shelf-stable pepperettes and cheese sticks.
  • What is your budget?
    • Can you afford to buy prepackaged dehydrated meals, or will you stick to basics like oatmeal, beans, pasta and rice dishes?
  • Are you able to dehydrate your own meals?
    • Not only can you control what goes into the food you eat, but you can lighten your load too!
  • Are there things you can’t bring into the backcountry?
    • For example, at Ontario Parks, you’re not allowed to bring cans or glass bottles.
  • Is there a fire ban?
    • If fires are prohibited due to a high forest fire risk, your menu will have to change radically!
  • What will you eat if your trip runs longer than expected?
    • Plan to bring an extra meal or two, just in case!

dsc05808Examples of the food you can easily find in a grocery store or bulk food store:

  • oatmeal
  • dehydrated eggs
  • dried fruit (e.g. raisins, cranberries)
  • dehydrated fruit (e.g. apples, mangoes)
  • nuts
  • shelf stable (unrefrigerated) pepperettes
  • hard cheese (lasts for days on the trail – wrap in cheesecloth or parchment)
  • tortillas
  • crackers
  • peanut butter and other nut or seed butters
  • granola bars
  • energy bars
  • pasta
  • rice side dishes (e.g. rice and beans, or rice and veggies)
  • instant mashed potatoes

Energy square (with a view)!

Look for a post soon on how to organize and pack the food for your backcountry trip, so that you aren’t rifling though a big bag or barrel of food each time you go to eat something, don’t take up any more room in your pack than you need to, and reduce the weight as much as possible.

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Gear review: Drill Deck – Freestyle Swim Training & Drill Game for Triathlon

A planned short break from swimming after the 2016 triathlon season turned into a 4+ month break when I couldn’t get motivated to get back into the pool more than once or twice. It didn’t help that my local Y’s swim schedule changed, with no more Monday to Friday 12 PM swims. This had been the perfect time slot for me. Instead, I would have to shift my lunch hour, or swim at 5:30 AM, which has been very unappealing lately.

In February I was contacted by Drill Deck to see if I would be interested in trying out their swim game – the Drill Deck Freestyle Swim Training & Drill Game for Triathlon. It sounded intriguing, and I wondered if it might provide some inspiration for me.

My free copy of the game arrived in the mail in March, and one morning shortly after 5:30 AM, I was at the pool ready to try it out with my friend Rebecca.


Essentially, you roll the 2 dice, which determine whether you will swim laps or do a drill, and how many laps of the pool you do it for. If you’re doing a drill, then you draw a card from the deck, and do the drill you’ve chosen. Then you roll the dice again to determine whether you will swim laps or do a drill… and repeat.

Colour-coded drill cards

The cards are colour coded by area of focus, so if on a specific day you really just want to focus on one thing – e.g. speed – then you can just pull out the appropriate cards and choose from them. The categories are:

  • Stroke
  • Breathing
  • Body position
  • Kicking
  • Open water sighting
  • Speed

Each card gives a description of the drill, and then a tip.

Example of a drill card

Rebecca and I had fun trying out the game after swimming some warm up lengths. We even cheated a few times when we rolled “LAP” but really wanted to do drills – we overruled the game.

I have continued to use the game in my swims. Since I previously had semi-private swim lessons with a coach, I have tried many of the drills included in Drill Deck before, and was familiar with how to do them. If you weren’t sure what they meant, the Drill Deck website provides additional information for each of the drills, including videos.

Drill Deck doesn’t replace a swim coach, but it can definitely reduce the monotony of swimming endless lengths of front crawl. Sometimes, I’m perfectly happy to just get a specific swim distance done in a given amount of time, but other times, it’s nice to try some drills that I might not think of on my own, and to do it in a fun way.

I would recommend the game to someone who gets bored easily swimming lengths, or just needs a bit of inspiration to get back in the pool.

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Field testing my homemade tin can stove: hot chocolate, anyone?

What better way to field test my homemade tin can stove than to make hot chocolate in the woods of Algonquin Park while on a 4-day snowshoe backcountry camping trip? This would be my first time trying out the stove, so I had no idea how it would actually work in practice!

Two related links:

Making Hot Chocolate

For this little experiment, I used the cardboard/wax filled tuna can fuel source, and my peach can pot holder, plus my campfire cooking pot, 1 litre of water, a pot lifter, and my brand new first ever flint, which my co-worker thoughtfully chose for me (along with Moon Cheese!) in a secret gift swap.


I decided to set up the stove on hard packed snow. I struggled to get the flint to light the cardboard, but when I tucked a tiny piece of newspaper between the cardboard layers, it lit no problem. I put the peach can on top of it, the pot with water on top of that, put a lid on the pot, and opened the doors at the bottom to allow for good air flow. As you can see from the picture just below, the pot was a bit lopsided, and I was worried that it would tip over.

So, my friend Cheryl and I built a small wooden base, and then she carefully moved the burning tin can onto the wood (while I took photos!). I put the peach can on top, the pot on top of that, lid on, and then my “tea pot cosy” to speed cooking (apparently the technical term is a “pot parka” – incidentally, if you know where to buy a 10″ one, please let me know!).

And then we waited. And waited. And every once in a while, I went close to the stove to make sure that it was still burning – and every time, it was. Every so often, I removed the pot cosy and the lid, and carefully dunked my finger into the pot (kids, don’t try this at home!).

It seemed unlikely that the water would ever boil. I can’t remember now if I ever put the doors down – but I don’t think I did. The water did warm up, but it never did boil. I’m not sure why.

So we made our “hot chocolate”, which was actually “warm chocolate”, and I enjoyed every last drop, knowing that I had made it on my homemade stove!


After I had removed the pot, I left the tuna can fuel source to burn. I wanted to know how long it would last. In the end, it burned for a remarkable 3 hours! So while it was a bit of a failure in making hot chocolate, it would have served its purpose had I needed it to light a fire to stay warm!

Converting My Stove into a Stick Stove

I wasn’t done experimenting with my little stove! I decided to turn it into a stick stove, and to try to melt a pot of snow. It wasn’t designed for this purpose, but I didn’t care. I used 2 logs as a base, and started a very small fire in the can. I wasn’t having much luck keeping the fire burning – some of the wood was wet, so that didn’t help. It was also somewhat windy. I had to continually feed the sticks in, and push the fire into the can (the fire was burning both inside and outside of the can.


Remember that wood base? Well wood burns, right? Eventually, the two base logs started burning, and my fire dropped onto the snow beneath the big logs. By this point, the fire was burning down below, and inside the can.

Twice I had to move the stove along the wooden base, so it didn’t shift too much and tip – the burning base was tipping the stove!

The snow melted, but by this point, I was growing bored of my stove, fighting with wet wood, wind, and my own patience. I decided to give up. However, I had successfully melted the pot of snow, and the water was even starting to warm up slightly.  I’ll call that a win!

I had fun field testing my homemade tin can stove. I was at Algonquin – how could I not?!

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Making a simple, tin can back-up stove for backcountry camping

Just for the fun of it, I decided to make a simple, tin can emergency back-up stove to take with me on my upcoming winter snowshoe backcountry camping trip at Algonquin Provincial Park. We’re planning to take 2 MSR Dragonfly stoves, just in case it’s super cold and one doesn’t function, but in future, that might not be necessary if I’m happy with my emergency back-up! For winter camping, I keep things really simple, and either boil water (say, to add to oatmeal), or heat up frozen things (like soup). No extended cooking in the winter!

To make my stove, I followed directions online, but made a slight modification when I realized that 3 inches couldn’t possibly be right and they must have meant 3 centimetres. Either that or the picture just didn’t match the instructions. In any case, here’s what I did!



  • 2 tuna cans (I made 2 fuel sources)
  • 1 peach can for the stove (798 ml)
  • 1 peach can to melt the wax in (798 ml)
  • cardboard
  • 5 emergency candle
  • scissors
  • church key can opener
  • tin snips
  • pot
  • tongs
  • oven mitts


Step #1: Remove lid from tuna can. Eat tuna. Wash can. Dry can. Cut strips of cardboard the same width as the height of the can. Put cardboard in can.

Completed Step #1.

Step #2: This step depends on whether or not you have a double boiler. I don’t. So, I put about 4″ of water in a big pot and boiled it. In the meantime, I broke the candles up into smaller pieces, put them in a peach container (label removed) and put that in the big pot. Of course, it floated, so I had to hold it down with tongs while wearing gloves. As it melted, I took it out and poured the hot wax into one of my tuna cans, then put the solid wax back to continue melting. If you have a double boiler, then you can half fill the bottom pot, boil the water, put the wax in the top pot, and put it inside the bottom pot. However, I’m not so sure I’d want to then cook food in the pot that had melted wax in it. In any case, continue pouring wax into your tuna can, but leave some of the cardboard exposed at the top so you can light it (don’t overfill the wax, but try to get it into all the nooks and crannies).

Holding the can down.

Step #3: Remove the lid from the peach can. Eat the peaches. Wash the can. Dry the can. At the end that you didn’t just remove the lid from, make 3 or 4 holes in the can using the church key can opener. These are your vents. At the end where you removed the lid, use your tin snips to cut a little door out so you can open it to let more oxygen in or close it to reduce the oxygen fueling your fire. I followed the directions I referred to above as written, then realized once I’d make 2 vertical cuts 3 inches apart that you couldn’t possibly “open” the door. Hence I made another cut down the middle. So, I now have 2 doors, which coincidentally appear much more similar to the ones in the picture of the instructions I followed.

I may have overfilled the wax in the one on the left. Time will tell.

Step #4: Light the cardboard, put the peach can over top of the tuna can, and voila, cook something! Remember, the tin cans will get HOT! Use gloves! Be careful of sharp edges!

Doors fully open.

I’ll be using my little stove in a couple of weeks, and will report back on what I thought of it and how it worked. Stay tuned! [UPDATE: I have now field tested it. See how it worked!]

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My foray into orienteering and adventure racing

It didn’t take much to convince me to try orienteering and adventure racing: I was inspired by the enthusiasm of friends Kristi and Michael who recently spent the weekend at my house. They and their two boys Evan and Lukas are members of Orienteering Ottawa and have competed in both Canada and the US. They (and Kristi through her blog!) made it sound really fun, so after they left, I registered for the “Navigation 101” 4 hour clinic through Don’t Get Lost, an orienteering club in the Hamilton/Niagara area. Several years ago my kids participated in the Don’t Get Lost 12-week Adventure Running Kids program, which I highly recommend! Here’s the Navigation 101 course description:

Learn the basics of map and compass skills in the first 2 hours of this clinic. Learn to read and understand maps, map legends and scales.  Basic compass skills will be introduced, for map orientation and introductory bearings. Preparatory route selection and relocation techniques will be covered. The second half of the clinic introduces concepts and strategies for improving your basic navigation skills. Learn about handrails, catching features and attack points. Practice “aiming-off”, “attacking from above” and “contouring.” Learn about pace counting and distance judgment. Relocation techniques are practiced in the woods. Discover how planning ahead can help you stay on track. The role of the navigator is also presented.

On a more practical note, taking a navigation clinic would strengthen my very limited map and compass skills, so that when I’m backcountry camping I don’t have to rely only on my battery-powered GPS unit! I have been wanting to do a hands-on clinic for a few years now.

So, I signed my daughter and I up for the clinic in Ancaster, and we learned lots in those 4 hours. The instructors (Meghan and Kris were excellent.

Of course the next (il)logical step was to sign myself up for an orienteering race – in the dark!

Spoiler alert: I am home typing this blog post, so I survived, didn’t get (too) lost in the dark, and even earned a few points!

I arrived at Kerncliff Park in Burlington for the X-League 30 minute race. Some might wonder, “What could possibly go wrong in 30 minutes?” I knew better. I checked in on arrival (with Meghan my instructor from the clinic), paid $5 (fundraiser for Don’t Get Lost adventure running athletes), picked up a map, and was able to orient myself and study the map to plan an approach before the race began. I was nervous, hoping that I wouldn’t get completely lost – at least we were required to carry a whistle! Next time I would probably arrive earlier to have a few more minutes to prepare. I also spotted Chris the other instructor.

At 6:55 PM there was a very short pre-race briefing, during which Meghan mentioned that the controls (checkpoints) were inside the circles on the map. She also told us to use the hole punch on our map at the controls to prove that we were there. By this point, it was dark out and everyone was wearing headlamps. With a countdown from 10, the race was on!

Given that this was my first race (in the dark no less), and you could attempt to do as few or as many of the controls as you wanted to in 30 minutes, I decided to go for only the “easy” ones, not the “intermediate”, “advanced” or “expert” ones. I planned to do #1, then #2, then #4, and if I made it that far, I would decide what to do. There were 11 in total. When the race started I wasn’t the only one running for #1 – there were 5-10 headlamps in front of me (this made it rather easy to find). Ditto for #2, but I did take a bearing with the compass and follow along on the map for both of them. From there I headed for #4, but couldn’t for the life of me find it. I did find a man – a parent volunteer for the kids doing their Adventure Running Kids program – who didn’t know if a control was there but did think there was one on the bridge. I hadn’t seen a bridge. I backtracked back up the hill, went down again to the little creek, and when I couldn’t find it still, decided to backtrack again, find the path and head for a different control. As I was out there, I also realized that I wasn’t holding the map the way I should have been, moving myself around the map rather than the map around me (to keep it oriented to always be facing the way it should be). It was then that I got mixed up and wasn’t sure where I was. But I found Kris, who was also turned around. We started looking for #6, but it turns out we weren’t where we thought we were, and given the time we had to give up and head back to the finish. We did eventually figure out where we were (it was mostly Kris!), and we reached the end approximately 3 minutes over the 30 minute cut-off (Meghan wrote our time down).

I had to calculate my points (before time penalties) and it was pretty easy – 25 points for #1 and 25 for #2. I wrote them on a sheet along with everyone else’s results (at least a couple of people got all controls!). With probably 30 points in penalties, I think I ended up with 20 points. Woohoo! I was in the positive. I could have ended up with 0, or not found a single control.

See the punches at #1 and #2. Proof that I made it there!

In talking to people afterwards, I realized my error at #4 – I was looking for the control under the number four on the map, not under the circle!!! I was assured that this was a rookie mistake that everyone makes. It was actually on the bridge that the man mentioned to me!

When I got home (I got home!) I realized that I hadn’t even looked at the scale on the map before I started running – another potential fatal flaw!

All in all I had fun, and was glad to have found Kris out there to find my way back. I learned how much harder it is to navigate at night in the dark, but how fun orienteering can be. I’d say there were about 30 people doing the race tonight, and I may have been the only brand new one. The people I spoke with were very friendly.

I am hoping to do another weeknight X-League race before the November 13 Raid the Hammer 12k adventure run, which I have signed up to do with my teammates Alasdair and Rebecca (ARK de Triumph triathlon relay team reunited as an orienteering team) – a first orienteering race for them (I’m now the expert – ha!). In the meantime, I’ll likely take my Kerncliff Park map and go back to try to find where the controls were tonight – they won’t be there, but I’ll get to practice my map reading skills!

I think I’m hooked.

[UPDATE: I might have finished in last place, but I actually got 30 points, not 20, with only 20 time fault penalties! There’s hope for me yet.]

Modifications to my sled for winter backcountry camping

It might have been 35+ degrees Celsius this week with the humidity making it feel much hotter, but I was thinking of winter camping and modifying my sled!

Last winter I bought a Pelican sled and modified it for my very first winter backcountry camping trip.

My sled during my trip last winter.


If you’re interested, you can read my instructions on how to make a sled, and my review of the performance of the sled for a 4-day snowshoeing trip at Algonquin Provincial Park. The trip report is here.

During the trip, I realized that while I intended to buy rigid poles to avoid the sled whacking the back of my ankles, I somehow got the wrong poles and that is exactly what ended up happening, so I needed to replace the poles before my next trip. I also decided to add more points of attachment for bungees or straps to fasten a tarp on top of my precious cargo!

This afternoon, I bought what I needed and made the changes. First, I replaced the poles.

New poles on the left.

Then, I added 6 new points of attachment – one on each end, and 2 more on each side. Now I’ll have even more options for strapping things down.

Now sporting 6 additional points of attachment.

Can’t wait to use it again! (But I’m not yet ready for winter.)

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How to easily hang a bear bag with one rope

After many backcountry trips in which I used 2 ropes, pulleys, carabiners, various knots and loops and way too much time finding the “perfect” tree (in the dark, in the rain, in the bugs), I discovered the “Reg technique” to hang a bear bag and will never go back! This method uses 1 rope, 1 bear bag, and 2 trees (tree #1 needs a horizontal branch, and tree #2 just needs to be big enough not to snap).

I camp in Ontario, Canada, where black bears roam the woods and other critters like racoons and mice would also be more than happy to sample my food!

The Reg technique is named after a Scout leader at 3rd Waterdown Scouts. He taught my backcountry camping friend Cheryl his method, and we named it after him.

Below the picture (I’m not an artist!) you will find step by step instructions for how to easily hang a bear bag! From start to finish we can put this up in less than 10 minutes (depending on my aim!).

We use:

  1. one dry bag as our bear bag, with a bear bell on it so if something investigates our food in the middle of the night while we’re in the tent, we can scare ourselves silly (I’m not getting out of the tent!);
  2. 85 feet of rope (mine is 6 mm Mammut nylon static cord from MEC, but my friend’s is thinner and works great too – it also weighs less); and
  3. two trees.

Screen Shot 2016-06-08 at 8.01.36 PM

STEP #1 (see 1 on diagram above): Rock over tree branch

  • Find a suitable tree that is away from your tent. Look for one that has a horizontal branch high enough that you’ll be able to get your bag out of the reach of bears, but low enough that you’ll be able to throw a rock over it! The best trees don’t have other branches near your preferred horizontal branch. Look for a tree that has open space between it and another tree at least 14 feet away. The second tree is simply an anchor point – you don’t need to use any branches, but they could come in handy (keep reading).
  • Tie one end of your rope to a small rock, light enough that you’re able to throw it, but heavy enough that it can actually make it over a branch with your rope attached! A rock with notches on it is helpful to hold the rope in place. Sometimes the rock is thrown right out of the rope! This really sucks when you’ve lost a perfect rock and there aren’t many other rocks around. I have resorted to taking rocks out of the fire pit and then returning them.

Random rope tying.

  • Make sure your rope isn’t tangled in bushes or under your feet when you go to throw it (speaking from experience!), and have your camping buddies clear out of the way so no one gets a rock in the head!
  • And finally, wind up and throw that rock over the tree branch, using an underhand motion!

It took me just 1 attempt to throw the rock over the “U” shaped branch just to my left!

  • Once your rock is over the branch, you can untie the rope.

STEP #2 (see 2 on diagram above – though this step is done on the ground, not in the air!): Tie rope to bear bag 

  • Tie one end of the rope to one end of the bag, and the other end of the rope to the other end of the bag. For a heavy load, or to lessen the stress on a strap, you can also use any loops along the side of your bag. We use bowline knots for this step.


STEP #3 (see 3 on diagram above): Figure out height of bag and tie off

  • With the rope that is hanging over the tree branch on the opposite side as the bag, pull on the rope to raise the bag to the appropriate height. You want your bag to be around 7 feet away from the base of the tree, if possible. So, let your bag hang about 7 feet down.
  • Now you need to use the rope you’re holding in your hands to keep the bag up there to tie the bag off. Use whatever knots you want, but you’ll need to grab a bit more of the rope (i.e. the rope that’s hanging to the ground) and loop it all the way around the tree (one or more times). Then tie it off. No fancy knots needed! If there are little branches or little bits of branches sticking out of the tree, they may help in tying it off. Bark can also be helpful, but try not to damage the tree.
  • You’ve got the bag hanging tight now – next you need to pull it away from the tree trunk.

STEP #4 (see 4 on the diagram above): Add a loop to pull load higher (OPTIONAL STEP – can skip to STEP #5) 

  • If your bag is heavy and you’d like an easy way to pull it up even higher, tie a loop in the middle of your rope 4 or 5 feet away from the second tree. You’ll have to experiment to find the right distance, but the rope you want to use is the one that is tied to the bottom of the bear bag now hanging in the tree. You can use one of many different knots to add a loop to the middle of a rope.

Loop in the middle of the rope.

STEP #5 (see 5 on the diagram above): Tie off to second tree

  • For this last step, you need to grab the rope that is hanging from the bottom of the bear bag, and pull it tight to your second tree. Pull the rope all the way around the tree, as high up as you can manage. If you did STEP #4, thread your rope through the loop and pull the rope back towards the second tree to get the rope as tight as possible and the bag way up out of reach of any hungry black bears. Use any knot you want to tie the rope to the second tree.

Cheryl pulls the rope through the loop on the second tree. The first tree is the one with the U, to which our rope is tied off.

This is how the end of our rope looked after we fed it through the loop and pulled it tight.


In summary: find a couple of trees, throw a rock over a branch, tie the rope to your bag, adjust the vertical height of the bag to get proper space between trees, tie it off, pull the bag away from the base of the first tree, and tie off to the second tree. Tada! Food is safe.

On my most recent backcountry trip, an 8 day, 90k hike along the entire length of the La Cloche Silhouette Trail at Killarney Provincial Park, we used 1 dry bag for our 24 pounds of food. We noticed after a few days that there was a small tear in one of the seams of the straps, so next time, I would use 2 dry bags to split the load.

In practice, we don’t always find 2 trees that allow us to hang our bag 13 feet from the ground and 7 feet from the base of any tree, but we do our best! And while we bring 85 feet of rope, we’ve never needed quite this much.

This technique is fast, easy, and hasn’t failed us yet!

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Why every triathlete and runner should learn first aid

Have you ever been running in a race, only to have your thoughts interrupted by the laboured breathing of a competitor who sounded as if they were on their last legs?  Would you know what to do if they collapsed? If a triathlete had a panic attack during the swim, would you know how to help? If you were out for a group ride, and someone crashed, would you be able to handle the situation? What would you do if your running partner became faint, dizzy, or incoherent?
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Don’t let this happen to you!
Every triathlete and runner should take a first aid course to learn how to prevent emergencies from happening, and to learn how to deal with them when they do. Your life or that of your friends or family may depend on it! Today I spent the day taking a Canadian Red Cross Standard First Aid recertification course.
Infant-specific skills.
If you’ve never taken a first aid course before, or it’s been a long time, consider taking the 2-day Standard First Aid course, which covers the following important topics:
  • Preparing to respond (e.g. recognizing an emergency and deciding to act)
  • The Emergency Medical Services (EMS) system
  • Check, Call, Care (e.g. making sure the scene is safe)
  • Airway emergencies (e.g. choking)
  • Breathing and circulation emergencies (e.g. anaphylactic reaction to a bee sting)
  • First aid for respiratory and cardiac arrest
  • Wound care (e.g. road rash)
  • Head and spine injuries (e.g. bike crash)
  • Bone, muscle and joint injuries (e.g. broken limb)
  • Sudden medical emergencies (e.g. diabetic emergency)
  • Environmental emergencies (e.g. heatstroke or hypothermia, realities in some race scenarios)
  • Poisons
  • What to put in a first aid kit
The course is hands on, so that you can practice some of the skills you learn on your classmates, and others on mannequins.
Saving the life of one mannequin at a time.
Once you pass the written test, you will be certified for 3 years. Take the recertification course before the 3 years is up and get recertified, like I did today. But don’t races have medical staff? Yes, they do, but they can’t be everywhere on the course all the time. You may be the first person on scene able to help! There are lots of people and organizations providing first aid training. In addition to the Canadian Red Cross courses,  St. John Ambulance also offers courses. Screen Shot 2016-04-07 at 8.49.19 PM Check out the Red Cross First Aid App! It’s not a substitute for taking a first aid course, but it’s got lots of helpful information in it! Not a triathlete or runner? You should still take a course! Think of the family, friends, and random strangers you might need to help one day. You won’t regret it. Follow me on Facebook: Kyra on the Go: Adventures of a Paddling Triathlete Follow me on Twitter: @kyraonthego Follow me on Instagram: @kyraonthego