Food/Bear Can Musings and Questions
Sep 14, 2022 at 9:17 am #3759983Ben H.BPL Member
@bzhayesLocale: No. Alabama
If your equipment doesn’t fit in your backpack, you either need smaller (or less) equipment or a bigger backpack. Seems obvious, but should be said. There is no secret. People with tiny backpacks don’t take very much stuff with them. If they have a BV500 it is strapped to the outside.
I use a BV500 for family weekend backpacking trips (with a 70L backpack). For solo trips, I have a Lighter1 Lil’ Sammi. It is smaller diameter compared to other similarly sized canisters and I find it easier to fit in my backpack.Sep 14, 2022 at 9:36 am #3759986
“I guess bears never come and try to grab your backpack full of food while you are hiking”…. I have actually heard of that happening… but only in Yosemite…
“so maybe you just need to sleep with your food:-) ” …. besides being aginst the law in many areas, that is a very dangerous suggestion… you might get away with it in some areas, but I have also heard of bears ripping into a tent going after the food… and when surprised by the tent occupant yelling, then bear (being scared) taking a swipe at the occupant and causing damage… a bear is a very powerful animal and those claws can do major damage…YOU DO NOT WANT A BEAR IN YOUR TENT !!!!
“I dont think smell is going to get out of that sucker!”… doesn’t have to… after a couple of days on the trail and handling and cooking food, your hands, mouth, cloths, all smell like food to a bear :(((Sep 14, 2022 at 10:13 am #3759988
He talks about how he has slept with his food during his entire 18 month, 14,300 mile walk with opsacks and other tips – like dont eat where you camp, dont use popular campsites etc etc. And includes areas: (e.g. High Sierra, Montana, Wyoming, Pacific Northwest, Canadian Rockies).
All thieves are opportunistic. Thieves will first check for open car doors rather than breaking into a car or entering a house. They will think twice before entering a house to steal. Doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen. Sure, there are occossions where bears do enter a tent. But that is a minority of a minority – if you consider the vastness of a park and the number of bears – which is one minority. Then you need to have a crazy bear that wants to enter your tent – which is the second minority. If you are in a wild area where bears are not habituated, then it is not a problem. If you are in Yosemite valley, then definitely you need to have a bear can anyways. Once you are beyond Tuolumne Meadows, bear pressure reduces significantly on the JMT.
Everybody keeps saying bear’s smell is amazingly great. If that is true, then bears should enter every tent all the time as food smell is on your clothes, backpacks where you store your snacks, or spilt food on your shirt/pants. And the number of PCT hikers who travel through bear areas and the number of them who sleep with their food or eat inside their tents just makes me wonder how there are not more incidents.
I am definitely not advocating defying a park’s order of carrying a can etc. But, if you don’t need to carry a can, then carry a Ursack. But, above tree line, you are not going to find trees to hang, then I will either leave it at my vestibule or sleep with it while taking all the precautions I mentioned.
Also what kind of food you eat matters. If you are into cooking stuff, then food smell is a problem. If you are primarily boiling water and eating freeze dried food or cold soaking, then there is not that much food smell.
I really wish we could do experiments with bears with a few tents – one with food inside multiple opsaks, then inside a water tight liner and a watertight backpack and the backpack under your feet, Ursack and a bear can in Yosemite one day.Sep 14, 2022 at 10:17 am #3759989
“I dont think smell is going to get out of that sucker!”… doesn’t have to… after a couple of days on the trail and handling and cooking food, your hands, mouth, cloths, all smell like food to a bear :(((
If what you say is true, then every bear should enter every tent:-) without any food inside your tent….Sep 14, 2022 at 11:27 am #3759990
“If what you say is true, then every bear should enter every tent:-) without any food inside your tent….”
Understood, but that does not take into consideration that bears have a super keen sense of smell and can easily discriminate ‘strength of smell’… and they are smart enough to go for the stronger smells that come off larger amounts and more aromatic food sources… at least that’s my theory… Bears are professional food scavengers… their lives depend on it… they will go for the biggest and easiest to get at food sources…Sep 14, 2022 at 3:45 pm #3759996
You just have to talk to the bear like this woman:Sep 14, 2022 at 6:44 pm #3760006John S.BPL Member
Didn’t Skurka sleep with his food on his big Alaska Yukon trip?Sep 14, 2022 at 6:57 pm #3760007
I once stupidly brought into my tent a bottle of vitamin C (don’t ask). soon after falling asleep I was nudged awake by a bear reaching in from the outside of my tent towards the bottle of vitamins by my side. My point is that bears aren’t logic machines. They know when you’re sleeping; they know if you’re awake. They may well know if you’ve been good or bad. So put your food in a canister for goodness sake.
Ummm…anyway, in my experience, mostly in and around Yosemite and the Sierra (MIT, for bears) bears are very intelligent and discriminating. and habituated. The bear I just described was familiar with tents, and hoping that the bottle of vitamins was in something like a vestibule. If so, he or she could steal it without waking me. Clever animal!Sep 14, 2022 at 7:06 pm #3760010
We have so many bear experts on here! Why do people doubt the advice of the people who actually study and experience bears on a regular basis? Scientists who have made it their life’s work to understand bear behavior? It seems so obvious to me, and I’m mystified by people who use anecdotes and trivia to guide their own potentially life-threatening decisions. Timothy Treadwell also fancied himself a bear expert, and yes, lived many years among them breaking lots of rules. And then…
Stephen Herrero’s book still stands as the best research-based evidence for how to behave around bears. In Nick Jans’ book on Treadwell, he provides a fantastic summary of what is known about bears and how to stay safe. There’s no reason to go googling for idiots who put snicker bars under their pillows; sure, no bear came along that night, good for you. And then…
But you do you. Just don’t wreck it for the rest of us, and for the bears.Sep 14, 2022 at 8:20 pm #3760012
ha ha to what AK Granola said! Hey – bear topics are always interesting! We are just having fun…. jscott – you didn’t use 3 layers of opsak, nyloflume, airtight DCF pack:-) Yes – I think Skurka slept with his food.
By all means, for peace of mind, use a bear canister always. Isn’t it the same as using a 0.51 DCF tent and getting ripped by hail and dying of hypothermia? But most folks said – hey, it is a highly improbable event and I will continue using my 0.51 DCF shelter…..I put bear encounters in the same category:-) It is a highly improbable event if you take all the precautions highlighted by “thehikinglife.com”.Sep 14, 2022 at 8:27 pm #3760013
jscott – I actually keep all my medicines – like thyroid medicine which I need to take every day in a opsak with me inside my tent. The opsak is rolled several times to make sure smell doesn’t get out. I have done this for more than 1500 miles of bear territory. I never keep it in my ursak or bear anister. My reasoning is I will be totally messed up without my medicines. So, I am willing to take the risk and fight the bear:-) I have heard others as well who keep their insulin medicine inside the tent.
I also keep my hand sanitizer some 5 to 10 feet away from my tent. Because as soon as I get up at 4AM, I need to run to for a potty run and I don’t have time to open my Ursak or bear canister. I have been doing this forever – 2x JMT, CT, SHR, PCT-Washington, Big Bend etc. So far, I have survived.Sep 14, 2022 at 9:41 pm #3760014
“By all means, for peace of mind, use a bear canister always. Isn’t it the same as using a 0.51 DCF tent and getting ripped by hail and dying of hypothermia?”
You’ve reached your conclusion and no amount of contrary evidence will make you change your mind. And so you’re left making absurd comparisons to justify your thinking.Sep 14, 2022 at 9:59 pm #3760015
If bear cans are not required – use all the precautions already mentioned – > avoid popular campsites, don’t eat at your campsite, don’t take smelly food, camp far away from the trail, use 2 to 3 opsaks/nyloflume/water tight backpack like DCF/XPAC etc. I am very comfortable sleeping with the food in wild areas – not Yosemite where cans are anyways required.
So jscott – would you take a bear can say in Oregon or Washington where bear cans are not required. How about the CT? How about above treeline where there are no trees to tie your Ursak?Sep 15, 2022 at 8:04 am #3760028Paul WagnerBPL Member
@balzaccomLocale: Wine Country
The focus on this topic seems to be the fear that a hiker might lose food to a bear, which misses a key point. If a bear does become accustomed to getting food from hikers, it often means death for the bear.
This is Yosemite’s most recent bear incident report. Note the changes since they insisted on bear cans in the back country, and bear boxes in the front country:
2022 Total Bear Incidents: 25
2022 Total Property Damage: $1792
Bear Incident Comparisons (year to date—previous years compared to 2022):
Last year (2021) – Down 50%
Most incidents (1998) – Down 98%
Fewest Incidents (2019) – Up 19%
Bear Activity Summary: As summer starts to cool down in Yosemite, black bears are preparing for winter. Bears in the Sierra Nevada will soon enter hyperphagia—a state where bear appetites increase dramatically and they will eat as many as 20,000 calories and for as many as twenty hours per day to put on weight for the winter. This increased appetite can push bears to look for food where people are.
There have been two incidents since late August of bears entering buildings including an unsecured garage and an exterior storage closet. It is extra important this time of year as the outside temperatures drop to make sure buildings are secure to prevent bears from breaking into buildings. Residents and visitors of Yosemite can protect bears by ensuring that windows and doors are closed and securely latched whenever occupants are not home. Remove window AC units whenever the room is unoccupied. Do not leave open windows unattended overnight, particularly in or near the kitchen.
Red Bear, Dead Bear: So far this year six bears have been hit by vehicles in Yosemite. Help protect wildlife by obeying speed limits and being prepared to stop for animals in the roadway.
Fascinating Bear Facts: Even though bears mate in the early summer, the fertilized embryo does not implant in the mother bear’s uterine wall until fall. This is a reproductive strategy to make sure that the mother bear has enough fat storage to carry a litter to term.Sep 15, 2022 at 5:40 pm #3760051DanBPL Member
The focus on this topic seems to be the fear that a hiker might lose food to a bear, which misses a key point. If a bear does become accustomed to getting food from hikers, it often means death for the bear.
I think you’ll find that the latter point has been emphasized repeatedly in the thread. But that is cool info about bear reproduction. I hadn’t really thought about the delayed uterine implantation.Sep 15, 2022 at 5:55 pm #3760052
This situation at Desolation Wilderness, was caused by PCT hikers sleeping with their food, or hanging it improperly. I talked to two different rangers up there, and had my pack checked for a bear canister, and both said that there had been multiple incidents even that one week I was there.
It doesn’t matter if it only happens once; that bear has then been educated that people=food. They don’t really unlearn that lesson.Sep 16, 2022 at 7:54 am #3760062
AK Granola – the article doesn’t talk about PCT hikers sleeping with their food. Improperly hanging the food is mentioned.
Anyways, I bought Stephen Herrero’s book and am reading it. I guess most of what he says has been distilled in other forums. Like playing dead when a grizzly attacks you etc. I always knew grizzlies were crazy and unpredictable and this book re-inforces that. It doesn’t need a reason to kill somebody it seems. He talks about incidents where people were dragged out of their tents even though they didn’t have any food etc. One thing I did learn was that if a grizzly attacks you in the night – fight as it is trying to kill you. Easier said that done of course. Seems like most of the information about grizzlies charging etc during daytime can be avoided with bear spray – most of the incidents he talks about are til 1980ish where perhaps bear spray was not common. He was a skeptic of bear spray, but, seeing how great it works, he uses it now. Pretty much everybody carries it in grizzly areas nowadays.
He does say that he triple packs in plastic bags (doesn’t use the term opsak) and keeps it far away from his campsite – and hasn’t lost any food. So if the “expert” says triple bagging has not made him lose any food – seems like I am doing the right thing by triple bagging with opsaks.
I mean there are some obvious mistakes people make during some encounters – like food all over the place etc. But, if you don’t do stupid stuff like that, it all comes to incredible randomness – doesn’t matter if you had food with you or not. You don’t want to surprise the bear – yes – my trail name actually is “icecreamman” as I carry a obnoxious loud bear bell while hiking. I think many attacks can be avoided by not surprising the bear which has been well documented.
Fight black bears, look bigger etc has been well documented. But he talks about cases where black bears have been predatory and attacked people from behind without any warning – I don’t know what one can do about that. There is nothing one can do other than hope it doesn’t happen. Though the incidents he talked about happened a long time back and in Canada/Alaska etc.
Paul – I agree that bear cans reduce incidents a lot especially in Yosemite or other high traffic areas. I am not advocating against breaking rules. The question is what do you do when bear cans are not enforced like say in Big Bend in Texas, Oregon, Washington, CDT trails etc. No one carries them when they are not enforced. Sure a few of them carry them – but that is a minority. I never understand this love for bears that lots of people seem to have. I mean I don’t hate them – but, I don’t care for them much. Stephen Herrero talks about a case where a ranger on a horse dismounts and waves to a grizzly bear to make sure grizzly knows he is there. The grizzly charges and the ranger shoots the mama bear with the cubs following the mama. While that was heart breaking to read, I still think grizzlies are crazy and unpredictable. As long they leave me and my food alone, I am perfectly fine with them. Maybe I am extremely selfish, but, I am more concerned about losing my food and spoiling my trip, rather than the life of the bear. So, I will do everything to make sure that I do not lose my food. But, yes, if it does get my food, then do not trying to get it is the advice which I will adhere to. Whatever the motivations are, we are all doing the same thing – avoiding the death of a bear if it becomes habituated or food conditioned.
But, again if you follow the rules – don’t have smelly food (don’t catch/cook fish and eat at camp), eat far away from you camp, triple opsack your food, dont camp at popular campsites, use bear lockers if available, take can if required, camp away from trail as bears use trails just like hikers etc, you will be fine. He actually says, having a tent is better than sleeping outside without a tent which I found interesting. And if the tent is big ,where, if the bear is nosing around, it cannot get to your feet or head like it could if it was a smaller tent.
But I think it is incredible randomness like lightning and hail once you do all the right things.Sep 16, 2022 at 10:00 am #3760089
The article doesn’t state that the incidents were PCT hikers, but the rangers did tell me that, and so did the lady who takes permit reservations for Desolation.
When you say you don’t understand the love for bears, I think that’s a question of different values. I can’t tell you you’re wrong there; we have a different world view is all. One of the reasons I live in Alaska is because we still have great open spaces with lots of wildlife, including bears. They belong here; it’s their home first, and mine second. More wildlife than people, suits me fine. The animals are not there for our entertainment; they live here. I don’t fence my yard, expressly because I want moose to wander through; it’s perfect moose habitat and I have a house built into the middle of it.
I’m not romantic in my feelings about bears. While most bears behave as one would expect, individuals can be unpredictable, and even bear spray is no guarantee for your safety. I have a friend who was mauled after spraying a bear. Two young women close to here were attacked a few years ago, and used bear spray. One was killed by the bear, tragically. Some bears have been known to stalk and attack people as prey, but it’s rare. But we do everything we can in our power to avoid encounters, and to avoid training a bear to know human food as a source. We try to live better with them as much as we can. Even my friend who was mauled would not want bears gone from this place; she’s definitely more cautious now.
In my world view 8 billion people are more than enough representation of our species on the planet; no more are needed. And I see us as animals, just like every other animal. Not superior at all, except in our unique ability to destroy; we’re like super-beavers. I don’t hate people, but I think we are just way out of balance with nature. Again not a warm fuzzy romantic thing, but a recognition that we do not control nature and it doesn’t always do what we want or expect and when one species dominates the environment, others suffer. And that the animals that share our living space aren’t there for our abuse or convenience. But they certainly bring me joy, even bears.
I remember years ago traveling in Indonesia, and seeing orangutans or monkeys chained up at truck stops for people’s amusement. I was struck by the different perspective – that people could look at that and not clearly see the suffering of the animal but instead find it funny. I’m not a PETA person but wanton disregard for our fellow creatures was a world view I could not then and cannot now comprehend. Different perspective.
We can agree not to share the same appreciation for bears. But we can agree that we need to understand how to behave around them to reduce problems for both bears and people.Sep 16, 2022 at 11:31 am #3760102Todd TBPL Member
@texasbbLocale: Pacific Northwest
my trail name actually is “icecreamman” as I carry a obnoxious loud bear bell while hiking
Smith says bear bells don’t work. High-pitched sounds apparently don’t get the bear’s attention because only tiny things–squirrels, birds, pikas, etc.–make high-pitched sounds. You have to make sounds that could sound like something big and threatening, which is basically another bear. Simple things like snapping a twig do the trick, as do coughing, throat clearing, and talking, or so I gather. I got that info from one of these, don’t remember which:
Smith, T. S., Herrero, S., Layton, C. S., Larsen, R. T. and Johnson, K. R. (2012), Efficacy of
firearms for bear deterrence in Alaska. The Journal of Wildlife Management, 76: 1021–1027
So you can quit driving the rest of us to mental instability with your interminable bell ringing. :-)Sep 16, 2022 at 12:17 pm #3760110
There is another reason, other than bears, to not put food in your tent:
Small Critters… like raccoons, mice, chip monks, etc. Small critters tend to have very sharp teeth and can eat a hole in your tent going after the food (or the smell of food from a previous trip). And…. some small critters carry diseases… like fleas with bubonic plague… and Hantavirusesvirus… and ticks with lyme disease…
I don’t eat food inside my tent… and always keep my food outside the tent… if a hard sided canister is not required AND there is not high bear activity, I use an Ursack… In the canyons of Utah/AZ, I may hang a wire mesh bag instead of an Ursack if small critters are a well known problem… if not, I may us a simple nylon stuff sack hung from a tree branch. In any case, I never have food in my tent… it is just asking for trouble… and if I’m not using a bear canister, I hang the food to keep it away from small critters… Keeping food away from critters is the safe and responsible thing to do… both for your welfare and the good of the critters… The OP was asking about how to carry/store his food, so there it is from someone who has many decades of backpacking experience from California to the Canyons of the southwest to the PNW and up to Alaska…Sep 16, 2022 at 12:49 pm #3760116
Yes, what DWR D said.
If bears aren’t an issue, why not just hang your food?
Murali seems far more concerned about possible bear attacks than I am. He carries a bear bell! well, in grizzly country I would too. So…after all the stories about bear attacks, and wearing a bell, why then would you sleep with food in your tent? It doesn’t make sense.Sep 16, 2022 at 1:47 pm #3760121bradmacmtBPL Member
I didn’t read through all the responses, so forgive me if I’m repeating anything shared. I suppose I’m wondering “why” you’re intent on using a bear can unless legally required to do so? I’d never carry one except required to. Here in grizzly country my wife and I have been hanging our food for the last 25 years without a problem. Why not go with what is not only a lighter solution, but also a better bear defense? I can understand if you’re above timberline and run out of trees (like much of the Sierra), but here in MT that kind of country is also not typically bear country, in which case I’d rather use a Ursack.Sep 16, 2022 at 2:25 pm #3760124
“I suppose I’m wondering “why” you’re intent on using a bear can unless legally required to do so?”
I would generally agree with that, but… there are areas where the Park/Forest service has not caught up to the reality of bear problems… (it can take a year or more for them to agree on regulations)… and… while bear cans are a pain to pack in you backpack and extra weight, they are much easier than some types of hangs can be… just get to camp and plop them down… done… and… they can serve as a seat… so it is not all downside for bear cans…Sep 16, 2022 at 2:26 pm #3760125
And… if you are entering an area where you just don’t know the bear situation… a bear can is a hedge to the safer side of not losing your food…Sep 16, 2022 at 3:31 pm #3760133
“Didn’t Skurka sleep with his food on his big Alaska Yukon trip?”
The great thing about Alaska is that there are almost no rules. Go ahead and sleep with your food in your tent. You’ll probably be fine. If not, Darwin wins again. No one cares how you kill yourself up here if you decide to play the fool.
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