- Sep 20, 2017 at 10:58 pm #3492198
Rene RavenelBPL Member
I’m surprised no one has mentioned Ursack yet.
10.5L, 8oz, $80. Not allowed by law everywhere bear cans are required, so check before you go, but they are accepted in many areas.Sep 20, 2017 at 11:01 pm #3492200
J RBPL Member
educate me as to why bear cans (especially the current ones on the market) are the only effective means of keeping food reasonably safe? Is hanging food properly simply not effective in these areas, or is it that people aren’t properly hanging their food?
Bear canisters typically are required in areas populated by bears where the bears have figured out how to defeat a hang and/or where a hang is difficult or impossible or illegal. A bear can’t break into or carry off a bear canister, so yes it’s the only effective way to keep your food reasonably safe in such areas.
The beauty of bear canisters is that they use a bear’s own intelligence to train it to ignore the canisters. First time a bear comes across a bear canister it will spend a lot of time trying to get inside, to no avail. Second time it tries it gives up a little more quickly. Pretty soon it’s to the point that the bear has learned that, no matter how yummy it may smell, a bear can is one big tease and a waste of energy and so leaves it alone. That bear has no motivation or incentive to mess with humans and so stays away.
I also accept that there is no way I can completely prevent them from getting my food,
There have been a couple of exceptions, but generally with a bear canister indeed you can pretty much completely prevent bears from getting your food. There was one bear in the Adirondacks that figured out how to open one canister brand’s locking mechanism, and there was one bear in Yosemite that figured out how to roll canisters off a cliff to crack them open, and both of them may have taught their cubs, but short of that a bear canister is pretty darn close to a slam-dunk that a bear won’t get your food.Sep 20, 2017 at 11:10 pm #3492201
I always hike and camp where there are lots of bears, (not the JMT) and although canisters aren’t required most places, using one gives me peace of mind; I always carry either canister or an Ursack, depending on the area. My food will be secure (from marmots too), I will sleep soundly knowing I won’t be waking up to a bear encounter, and no bears will be shot on account of my actions. I’m not setting up trouble for any future hikers. All good! And yes, it’s a decent stool, table and container for keeping chips and crackers from being pulverized. I’d rather eliminate other weighty items from my pack.Sep 20, 2017 at 11:44 pm #3492203
Heh I pulverize my chips so I can get more in the can. For example: did you know you can put an entire can of Pringles into two snack-size ziplock baggies if you crush them first? (Adam knows!)Sep 21, 2017 at 1:45 am #3492208
Paul MagnantiBPL Member
@paulmagsLocale: Front Range Zoo
Because certain areas that you mentioned are getting popular, because govt officials are risk-averse, bear canisters are the (almost) foolproof way to secure food vs. hanging or an Ursack, and requiring bear canisters are easier and perhaps more productive than trying to educate people on practices to actually prevent bear encounters in the first place.
The logical and legal choices are:
- Take a canister where required.
- Go where canisters aren’t required
I wrote something last year. The summary is expect more and more canister requirements for reasons as to what I wrote about. Option two is becoming more difficult to achieve.
Similar to alcohol stove use and how govt officials are starting to clamp down on their use as well. And for often similar reasons.
Enlighten me on how to tolerate this requirement–or to embrace it.
You are thinking too much. Be more Taoist – It just is. You neither embrace or tolerate it any more than you embrace or tolerate changing oil, paying taxes, or vacuuming.
Happy Trails…Sep 21, 2017 at 5:45 am #3492219
Nothing like someone mentioning going against a rule to get things fired up around here. Works every time .Sep 21, 2017 at 6:27 am #3492226
Pretty soon it’s to the point that the bear has learned that, no matter how yummy it may smell, a bear can is one big tease and a waste of energy and so leaves it alone.
Similar to how I stopped going to Taco Bell after I turned 30.Sep 21, 2017 at 8:30 am #3492252
“expect more and more canister requirements for reasons as to what I wrote about. Option two is becoming more difficult to achieve.”
This is my true concern, and a large part of the reason for my post. I have no control over when/why/where these regulations are imposed, and I cannot simply continue to evade these areas as they seem on the rise. This goes back to my question: Are these regulations written with a view towards UL? I’m pretty sure most of us would agree that the answer is a resounding no. It might have made sense in the 80s or 90s when pack weights were so high that an extra 2-3 lbs was a relatively small addition. It also might have made sense in an era when proper food storage was not taught and people commonly dumped trash and “LNT” was unheard of. Now I acknowledge that the current situation is somewhat of a predicament: there are increasing numbers of people out there backpacking in bear country, and thus it is increasingly a problem if only a small percentage of these people eschew careful practices. But perhaps there are other solutions that don’t contravene UL goals? Install bear boxes? Bear hang poles? Or develop other technologies? Bear cans that weigh 1/2 of what they do now? Cans that are non-cylindrical and actually shaped to fit one’s pack? I am fully aware of the Ursack, but less aware of the reasons for why they aren’t legal in places like the JMT other than that govt regs are designed to make things foolproof for idiots.
Anyway, I think (or hope) we can all agree that cylindrical 2-3 lb monstrosities shouldn’t be simply be accepted as the final evolution of our best technology for food storage in bear country when we have made such advances in other areas of UL. Why is it that there are only 2-3 companies making these things and charging a fortune for it? The only explanation that I can think of is that their monopoly on the market is a result of the regs which don’t take into account (my) stated UL goals, human ergonomics, etc. Why innovate in an area if officials are unwilling to consider alternatives? I see no reason why we should simply accept bear cannisters as the pinnacle of our evolving technologies, nor that we should accept them simply because “it’s the law.” We should carefully separate the legal issue from the relevant ethical and practical dimensions. The argument: “X is illegal,” therefore “X is impractical or unethical” is clearly fallacious. We need less of this kind of irrational thinking. What I am interested in hearing more of are scientific studies that demonstrate the risks of bears getting to one’s food even when properly hung, such as controlled studies involving different food hang techniques. That’s more interesting to me. Any articles on this?Sep 21, 2017 at 8:50 am #3492261
Paul SBPL Member
I would say that bringing a bear canister, the considerations about it, the issues, aren’t so much about you, as they are about the wildlife AND other backpackers. In others words: Considerations of others, putting others first, above your own personal preferences.
If a Bear gets food it learns, and will come back again to get food.
So, if you don’t like using a bear canister, and a bear gets food, it will frequent that campsite, thus engendering other backpackers, and also putting the bears life at risk because it will be put-down (i.e., killed) if it comes to campsites, getting aggressive.
So, it’s not about you, it’s about considering others, both human and wildlife.
We should put down a bear (an incredible miracle of nature) just ’cause someone doesn’t want to carry the 2Lbs? I would not hesitate to call that a selfish behavior. Ultra-light is your preference, for you, considering others is a whole other thing and much more important.
Sep 21, 2017 at 8:53 am #3492263
- This reply was modified 2 months, 3 weeks ago by Paul S.
David please design a better bear can that weighs less and fits better in my pack. You will make a ton of money.Sep 21, 2017 at 9:06 am #3492266
Again, there’s no mention of levels of risk. I take calculated risks everyday, whether in the backcountry or in my daily urban environment. It’s not so much a matter of selfish behavior. It is a matter of achieving one’s stated goals by balancing cost and benefit. I have no desire for bears to be eliminated, but I also have a desire to travel comfortably in the backcountry (and avoid the high cost of a bear can). There is a high probability of discomfort (for me) carrying a bear cannister (in fact, I’ll put that at 1). Otherwise, people would carry them in areas where they aren’t required. What’s the probability of a bear getting to my food if I am hanging it properly? I don’t know–that’s the information I seek. I do know that I have backpacked in bear country (Colorado) for 10 years without ever using a bear cannister (including RMNP before they mandated bear cans) and never once saw a bear, nor had my food taken. The argument: “If I don’t carry a bear cannister, a bear may be eliminated from the wild” is unsound. First, the premise, “Carrying a bear cannister will prevent bears from being habituated to humans” is false. Cannisters have limited volume and may result in food being stored elsewhere. Also, bears have an incredible sense of smell and may associate humans with food through energy bar wrappers left in one’s pocket, food spilled on the ground while cooking, etc. In fact, these factors may play a larger role than food storage (hanging vs bear can). If I were truly “unselfish” I wouldn’t go into the backcountry at all, as going there presents a level of risk (however minimal) for me and the bear. Clearly none of us are willing to undertake that option. Therefore, I think a rational discussion needs to be had about the levels of risk we are willing to tolerate, alternative means of bear-proofing food, etc. I would hope that an enlightened crowd such as those here would be willing to participate in such a conversation.Sep 21, 2017 at 9:08 am #3492269
I’m working on it! :) Or at least I will if bear cans become mandatory in most places in Colorado.Sep 21, 2017 at 9:09 am #3492270
I’m not an expert, but isn’t the basic shape of the canister dictated by making sure it is big enough that a bear can’t get his mouth around it or carry it away. If so, it would seem easier to design a pack around the bear canister than to design a bear canister that fits better in existing backs.Sep 21, 2017 at 9:11 am #3492271
“There is a high probability of discomfort (for me) carrying a bear cannister (in fact, I’ll put that at 1).”
David, you are making way too big a deal out of the discomfort. It’s really not that big of a deal.Sep 21, 2017 at 9:13 am #3492274
What’s the probability of a bear getting to my food if I am hanging it properly?
You’re assuming the probability of hanging your food properly is 100%. That seems unreasonable. It seems really unreasonable when you consider that rules are developed for the average person so what you really need are the odds of a bear getting the average hiker’s food if it is hung properly multiplied by the odds that it is hung properly plus the odds of the beaver getting food not hung properly multiplied by the inverse of the odds that is it hung properly.Sep 21, 2017 at 9:23 am #3492276
Todd TBPL Member
@texasbbLocale: Pacific Northwest
This goes back to my question: Are these regulations written with a view towards UL? I’m pretty sure most of us would agree that the answer is a resounding no. It might have made sense in the 80s or 90s when pack weights were so high that an extra 2-3 lbs was a relatively small addition.
This is decidedly at odds with my experience. Two more pounds on top of 40 hurts a lot more than on top of 20. So while I’m sure the can requirements are unconcerned with UL in general, I think they’re much more palatable for someone with a UL base. At least as far as weight is concerned; size/shape/packability is another matter.Sep 21, 2017 at 9:27 am #3492278
Paul SBPL Member
Many times there are no trees from which to hang your food.
Also, as others have said, a bear canister has to be large enough such that the bear can’t get its jaws around it and crush it.
I like the idea someone had of designing a pack around a bear canister. Yeah!
I might add that bear canisters also are great at keeping rodents out of ones food!
We recently started using Ursacks instead of canisters, but both my wife and I feel that the canisters are less work, but yes, they weigh more. Nothngs for free.
Sep 21, 2017 at 9:37 am #3492281
- This reply was modified 2 months, 3 weeks ago by Paul S.
“You’re assuming the probability of hanging your food properly is 100%. That seems unreasonable. It seems really unreasonable when you consider that rules are developed for the average person so what you really need are the odds of a bear getting the average hiker’s food if it is hung properly multiplied by the odds that it is hung properly plus the odds of the beaver getting food not hung properly multiplied by the inverse of the odds that is it hung properly.”
No, I accept the risk that I won’t be able to hang it properly. Just as bear cannister carriers must accept the slight risk that their bear can may fail. Just as I accept the risk that by cooking food, I may spill it on the ground. These are all part of the risk calculation. As for the rules, what the average person does is irrelevant for my personal risk calculation. If I am personally meticulous about bagging my food properly, I need only multiply the risk that I don’t do it properly (due to environmental constraints) times the risk that a bear may be present near my chosen campsite. The overall collective risk is affected by improper hanging techniques, but this needn’t be an input into my personal risk calculation since I am not the average hiker.
Again, I would argue that spilled cooked food, along with the vapors produced by cooking food, are likely to play a larger role in bear habituation than freeze-dried food in an opsack and hung properly from a tree. It does no good to carry a bear cannister, plop it on the ground, and proceed to cook right in one’s tent and then spill the leftovers. Mandating bear cannisters controls one variable but does not control another which is likely to play a larger role (at least, arguably).Sep 21, 2017 at 10:00 am #3492290
The overall collective risk is affected by improper hanging techniques, but this needn’t be an input into my personal risk calculation since I am not the average hiker.
Even if you leave it out of your personal risk calculation, the risk calculation for other hikers (and the bears) are going to be based on the average. That’s how risk works. If you think otherwise, you should try things like driving with a BAC of .12 and convincing the judge that you personally are safer than many sober people.
Literally everybody thinks the other guy is the problem.
Sep 21, 2017 at 10:42 am #3492303
- This reply was modified 2 months, 3 weeks ago by MJ H.
Paul MagnantiBPL Member
@paulmagsLocale: Front Range Zoo
I see no reason why we should simply accept bear cannisters as the pinnacle of our evolving technologies, nor that we should accept them simply because “it’s the law.” We should carefully separate the legal issue from the relevant ethical and practical dimensions.
Canisters do indeed suck. They are bulky, heavy, and are the blunt hammer approach to solving bear issues.
With your polemic you missed the overall arc: Bear canisters are by far the easiest, least expensive, most foolproof, and least legal adverse method to implement at this time. Govt regulates for the lowest knowledge base (again, see alcohol stoves) and not BPL users.
Bear boxes cost the govt money and collect trash. Ursacks are prone to user failure. Hangs that are done by most people typically are awful.
If someone builds a better mousetrap to fit the government criteria a different discussion will be had.
Until then, you are just pissing in the wind.
Nothing to do with UL principle, ethics, or whatever else you wrote.
other than that govt regs are designed to make things foolproof for idiots.
Hey.! You actually get it! Now you understand. :) (I’d be less harsh and say less experienced users, however)Sep 21, 2017 at 10:54 am #3492308
Alex WallaceBPL Member
@feetfirstLocale: Sierra Nevada North
“I’m not an expert, but isn’t the basic shape of the canister dictated by making sure it is big enough that a bear can’t get his mouth around it or carry it away. If so, it would seem easier to design a pack around the bear canister than to design a bear canister that fits better in existing backs.”
User Nunatak posted a picture of a pack his son made specifically to carry a large size bear canister on another forum (I think he’s on these boards too):
“My son made this pack for hauling a full size canister. It’s under 20oz dry, and actually carries really well with a 30lbs+ load. The top sack is maybe 35 liter, so it’s for an ultralight type approach. We have only used it once so far.”
I hope he doesn’t mind me re-posting here. Seems like a really good approach to the issue and an awesome pack!Sep 21, 2017 at 11:00 am #3492314
Lester MooreBPL Member
@satoriLocale: Olympic Peninsula, WA
As for the rules, what the average person does is irrelevant for my personal risk calculation.
Should you camp in a no-camping area because you have excellent stealth camping skills and can do it without impacting the area, unlike less skilled wilderness users? Should you have a campfire during a burn ban because you have superior fire management skills and can do it safely?
One can do all the math they like, but the bottom line is that you choose to follow the regulations or you choose to break them. If a life is potentially part of the equation (a bear’s life with canisters, people’s lives with forest fires), then following the rules is a no brainer, and one sleeps better at night for doing so.Sep 21, 2017 at 11:43 am #3492330
@hknewmanLocale: Western US
Add: the areas requiring bear cans are so popular they tend to be heavily patrolled by federal or state rangers/wardens (the places being in the East, the Daks … state, and the West, chunks of the Sierra/Yosemite/Alaska/ CO’s Maroon Bells .. Fed, so far).
Rangers there tapped my pack to ensure a bear can is in there, and backpacking the Maroon Bells when a habituated bear raided campsites (right before their bear can rule was started), it’s no joke.Sep 21, 2017 at 12:02 pm #3492334
Jon FongBPL Member
@jonfongLocale: FLAT CAT GEAR
There are some basics in animal behaviors that need to be understood.
Bears (at least the ones in Yosemite) are extremely smart and persistent (with respect to finding food with calories). They have been known to recognize unlocked cars and use their tongues to lift the handle. They have been reported to roll some bear canisters over cliffs to break them open and have defeated hanging methods by having cubs climb up trees and drop onto the bags thereby breaking the rope. Bear canisters have proven to be extremely effective in populated areas. While people would like to use Ursacks and odor resistant packaging, I believe that bear will figure out that there are calories in those bags and will figure out that they are easier to open than a bear canister. I suspect that if you put a smoked ham in a known hard walled bear canister that they would walk away as they know that it is near impossible to crack open. This is basic animal behavior; it takes too much energy to open a bear canister while there are better options to consume calories
People (at least the ones in Yosemite) tend to be lazy. They cut corners on food storage, cooking areas and clean-up.
Regulations need to take into account a vend diagram of the intersection of smart bears and careless people. Today, approved bear canisters meet that requirement. Could you make a lighter bear canister? Absolutely! The question is the return on investment. You have at least 3 companies out there filling a pretty niche market. A new bear canister would have to be 20%-30% better to capture a reasonable market share or you wouldn’t take the risk. That probably means that you offer custom sizes (volume) for the UL market to get the weight down. There are good chances of getting a single person, 1 week bear canister down to under a pound. The capital investment would probably be north of $300k for just the R&D work, not including the certification process. Let’s say they cost $20 in raw material and sell for $150. You would need to sell at least 2,500 to break even. So what is the market size for a small volume UL bear canister? 10,000 seems like a stretch to me. The only people that really have that kind of resources would be the 3 players currently in the market. Yes, there are crowd funded sources, but in general, they do not have the knowledge/experience to pull this off. The best way to get a light weight bear canister is to convince Garcia / Bear Vault / Bearikade that they can make money with a lightweight bear canister. my 2 cents.Sep 21, 2017 at 12:04 pm #3492336
Ken T.BPL Member
More than two or three
Garcia, Bear Vault, Bearikade, Bare Boxer, Counter Assault, Udap, Lighter One.
At least three others have tried and failed to bring theirs to market. There was the clear sphere one and that one that looked like a paper shredder bin. That one just a bit ago that was going to be printed or something. Two other companies already have come and gone.
Hard to get approval does not help.
You eat the weight of the canister pretty early into a trip.
Still lighter than a gun.
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