On Labour Day Weekend the FC decided to take me canoe camping.  The plan was a 30km hike over two and half days with several portages ranging from 200m to 1k.  It was my first time portaging, and I was a bit nervous. Could I handle the physical demands without having a meltdown? Would the FC lose all respect for me if I did? And what about all those man-eating bears?


The portage is a great test of a relationship. Two people lugging a heavy canoe on top of their heads through the forest isn’t easy. Often the trails are muddy and steep, and most of the time you can’t see where you’re going (the canoe’s in the way.)   If a couple can survive it,  even thrive in those conditions, it’s a good sign. (After all, life has many portages.)


According to our camping friend and portaging super girl, Bano, she and her boyfriend usually get into a big fight during at least one portage. But I can proudly say that the FC and  I survived without even a scrap, just a lot of cursing and me asking questions like, “If I have a heart attack in the middle of the forest, how long will it take for rescue teams to get here?”  Luckily, the FC knows how to take my hypochondriacal musings with a sense of humour — and that was definitely part of  our recipe for survival. Though physically tough, the weekend was full of laughter (especially when I confused the sound of our neighbour snoring in the next tent for a bear.)



The FC snapped this while I was resting in the front of the canoe. Those trees are a reflection.


Food was also crucial. When roughing it in the woods, meals become even more important.  Food is a reward for your suffering, and a chance to refuel.  Though the trip came about last minute,  I have to say, the FC and I  nailed the meal planning. Unlike the camping “geeks” we were traveling with (equipped with camping stoves and LED lights on their foreheads) we cooked our supper on the open fire using an old grill we pillaged from a bbq in the garbage. Though tricky at times (heat control is impossible) cooking this way felt so basic and satisfying.


The first night, I made a penne pasta and with homemade basil pesto.  The strong garlic and basil aromas woke up the dark forest around us (I wonder if bears like garlic too?)  I made enough pasta so we could have leftovers for lunch the next day (which were even better, spruced up with chick peas and raisins.)  The following night, I made my Tuna and Tomato Paste Quick Pantry Meal which the FC and I adore. The sauteed leek (I chopped it ahead of time and put it in plastic container) smelled so fragrant and our camping comrades eyed our pan enviously, though their fondue looked yummy too.


Also interesting to note, the FC, who rarely cooks or cleans at home,  took full charge of the domestic front when camping.  Tent set up. Tent fold up. Fire.   Unpacking and re-packing the food (then storing it in a tree — to proof against bears). He even washed the dishes in the lake.  I think that’s because outdoorsy sporty activities are the FC’s thing. It comes naturally to him, and I have to remember that when balancing the relationship account book in the future.   If he can be in charge of arranging wonderful trips like this,  attentively caring for my happiness and comfort as much as I do for his at home, I’m okay with that.


Floating down a stream in between islands. Dodging fallen trees, rocks, rapids-- at times, it was very Apocalypse Now.

Limboing under fallen trees, dodging rocks, negotiating rapids - what's not to love about canoeing?


Oh, there’s one other thing I have to mention. On our way to the park,  the FC’s 75 dollar Chevrolet finally  broke down — a pot hole ripped off the muffler and though the FC fastened it with a bungee cord, it still dragged on the ground, making the three-hour drive back to Montreal impossible. For a while, it looked like we’d have to portage the car home,  and we sort of did, in a tow truck.  Yet even this ordeal was met with (relative) patience and humour.  As the tow truck barrelled towards towards Montreal in the wee hours of Monday morning, we held hands, napped.   We even got most of the tow paid for by the original car owner’s CAA membership so it was like taking a cheap taxi all the way home.


I’m starting to believe that the FC and I can handle any portage that comes our way.





Camping Food Ideas and Utensil Checklist




Fondue: Our camping geek friends Marco, Alejandro, Bano and Delpine had that on Night Two and it looked awesome!   This requires a camping burner. (I’d also want to throw some veggies in the mix somehow.)

Tuna and Tomato Paste Quick Pantry Meal:  Use your big pot to sautee the chopped leeks (or onion) and make the sauce.  Use your small pot for couscous. You can also add frozen peas (put 1 cup in zip lock bag and place in your cooler bag. As it thaws, it will cool other times in the bag.) Don’t forget to bring a little  olive oil in a small jar to sautee the leeks (I also place this in a zip lock, because oil tends to leek. )  Additional spices, like your chipotle, if you’re using it)  can be premixed and measured and put in foil.  Couscous can also be measured and put in plastic bag for travel (I put the bouillion cube and the spice packet in the same bag so it was all together.)

Pasta with Pesto: In the bigger camping pot  (you’ll need to travel with two)  boil pasta until cooked (penne or fusili is best). Then add in pesto. If you don’t have homemade buy the Classico and decant into a plastic container for saving weight.) Add parmesan cheese, raisins, nuts or even chickpeas for protein. (We carried the peas in a can, but you can decant them as well to save pounds.)  I also like to add chopped sun-dried tomatoes, the bulk ones, not the jarred, for weight and also the chewy texture.


Hot dogs travel well (though the buns can get crushed, so consider storing them in a firm plastic container which you can reuse later for leftover.) Small packets of relish, ketchup and mustard pinched from a fast food restaurant travel well, but dont’ forget to keep them in a zip lock bag in case they break and leak.  I also think Instant Mashed Potatoes are pretty nifty too (I recently  just discovered them.)  With a bean dish, canned chilli, or even a grilled meat, they’re perfect for camping.


Instant oatmeal was warm and comforting on those frosty mornings in the woods. For camping, I like the sweetened ones with brown sugar so there’s no extra fussing with garnish. (Store out of box in zip lock bag.) I also sprinkled walnuts on top for protein.  We also toasted bread with peanut butter and jam (use jammers or put our jam and peanut butter in small plastic containers.)

Fruit Cups are easy for mornings — and give you some vitamin C.  We recycled the containers for our wine at night instead of using our coffee cups.

Vanilla soya milk in boxes are great for addint to cold cereal in the morning. The packaging can be burned at night on fire. They don’t need to stay cool, and you can drink them as refreshment and nourishment during the day as well.

For coffee, I used paper filters with a portable plastic coffee filter. For milk, I froze creamers and milkers pinched from a restaurant. They travelled well in my soft cooler bag, which we than stuffed in our knapsacks.  A frozen bottle of water, 500 ml, helped keep things cool during the day was we travelled.  I might consider bringing my stovetop espresso maker next time, but it has a plastic handle, which might not work so well. With a camping burner, this is fine and our camping friends made espresso each morning. Still, for camping, I’ve become fond of strong filter coffee, dripping over each cup.


Leftovers from dinner worked well. Also, on Day 1,  we enjoyed baguette with sliced cheese, salami, and a small jar of artichokes on the side  (I’m liking “Lords” these days). Don’t make your sandwiches ahead of time, they get soggy. If you buy a loaf of bread, make sure it’s crusty and firm, and consider the kind that are not pre-sliced– this helps the bread keep its form while shoved into your knapsack.  We used baguettes which you can strap to the outside of your knapsack. (If you’re doing rapids, you’ll have to bag it.)Vanilla soya milk in boxes are great for refreshment, a snack, a sweet or in cereal in the morning. Packaging can be burned at night on fire. They don’t need to stay cool.


Raisins, nuts (which doubled for oatmeal garnish) granola bars, those little Bebel cheeses travel well, and apple purrees in those little tubes you suck on Our camping comrades also brought fresh firm apples, which travelled well and you can also wrap them in foil with sugar and cinnamon and throw them on the fire embers for a baked apple dessert at night.  Carrots also travel well and a humus or babaganoush dip make a great snack. I”ll do that next time, I think, since veggies are key for nutrition and also staying regular in the woods.


Baking apples in foil is a good idea, pudding cups, chocolate (keep it cool and protected) and of course MARSHMALLOWS for roasting.

Other ideas for keeping things cool. If you want to reheat a homemade meat sauce, or even grill sausage or steak, freeze the sauce or meat beforehand so it thaws as you travel. These will also keep anything around it also cool. This goes in the soft cool bag  (see utensils list) along with other items you want to keep cool-ish, like your cheese, creamers, etc.

Water: The FC and I travelled with only three 1.5 litre bottles. (We boiled our water for cooking at night, but  somtimes the flavours were a bit off.) We had to borrow a water filter from our camping geek friends on the last day to top up our supplies.  The filter is amazing and we’ll definitely considering getting that for next time. Of all the comforts you can travel with, this one is the best, saving precious weight as you go.

Utensils and Supplies: We took one small red camping pot (very light) for boiling water for coffee or oatmeal, or making couscous or rice, and one bigger one, for pasta and the tuna dish.  Finding a light, fireproof pot will be key for me in the future. The we brought was a bit too heavy and bless the FC for carrying it all the way without complaint.  A long spoon for stirring. One oven mit for removing hot pot from fire. Can opener.  Two cups (use for coffee and wine and water.)  Two bowls ( you don’t really need plates.)   Fork and spoon — don’t bother with plastic, old metal ones are fine and you can wash them. One knife (the FC had a Swiss Army knife that did the job.) Soft cooler bag for carrying frozen items and anything you want to keep cool-ish.

Booze: Boxed wine is light and easy to carry, and, except for the plastic lid, you can burn the carton on the fire afterwards.  1 litre goes a long way.  For something harder, I recommend a mickey (plastic bottle) of Canadian Club Whisky. It’s a Canuck camping classic and  we all took swigs from the bottle by the fire at night or a little nip when we first arrived at our camping site.

Lighting: Flashlights are good, but an LED light strapped to your forehead while dining isn’t very romantic. (Save those gizmos for your tent and taking a cr-p in the woods.) For dining and nights by the fire,  I brought a candle, but I think a little portable lamp might be nice for next time. Atmosphere counts, even in the forest.

What am I missing? Please feel free to share your camping food ideas with me.  I’ll definitely be portaging again next season.

Me, the FC, Bano, Allejandro, Delphine and Marco relax after another grueling portage.

Me, the FC, Bano, Alejandro, Delphine and Marco relax after another grueling portage.

Laura and the FC, sitting in a tree....

Me and the FC, sitting in a tree....

One Response to “Cooking for Bears”

  1. Cesar Says:

    Nice camping meal ideas…. i can say it’s useful as to be honest when i’m planning a canoe camping trip , i’m thinking about my comfort and i just want to enjoy nature , but these ideas combined with good camping equipment are really suitable for canoe-camping.

    For information regarding our Canoe Camping Trip see:

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