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Protecting Your Food From Bears (Members Q&A)


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Home Forums Campfire Editor’s Roundtable Protecting Your Food From Bears (Members Q&A)

Viewing 25 posts - 1 through 25 (of 29 total)
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  • #3749755
    Backpacking Light
    Admin

    @backpackinglight

    Locale: Rocky Mountains

    Companion forum thread to: Protecting Your Food From Bears (Members Q&A)

    Learn how to store your food and protect it from bears in the backcountry – an overview of different methods and when to use them.

    #3750416
    Doug Schwartz
    BPL Member

    @explorerdj

    Hi Ryan,

    Thanks for a great presentation tonight.  I really appreciate your logical and concise presentations.  They are very helpful and enlightening.  After reflecting on tonight’s webinar, I have a few follow up questions.  1)  How do you deal with cooking gear (pots, pans, eating utensils, stoves etc) in bear areas?  In areas with limited water, through washing to remove all food debris and food odor is often difficult.  Where do you suggest storing this gear at night or when we are on day hikes when base camping in the backcountry – in the Sierras, -in the Rockies?  What is best practice for dealing with liquid food waste – think water used for boiling pasta?  Thanks for your thoughts.

    Doug Schwartz

    #3750561
    James Marco
    BPL Member

    @jamesdmarco

    Locale: Finger Lakes

    Thanks Ryan, a good presentation. Food discipline is an important part of any camping.

     

    #3750584
    Murali C
    BPL Member

    @mchinnak

    Fantastic presentation Ryan.

    I am glad that you seem enthusiastic about the Ursack. I didn’t have any issues on the CT or PCT-Washington when using the Ursack – though there were some pictures shared of completely shredded Ursack on CT that same year I hiked on reddit forums. Maybe user error – though the hiker claims they used Opsak etc inside the Ursack.

    #3750589
    David F
    BPL Member

    @dfraatz

    Ryan,

    You mentioned that you don’t know of anyone who carries two bear canisters. Well … I was backpacking in Yosemite and met this one-of-kind guy who called himself Two Pack.  He had a moderately large backpack on his back plus a somewhat smaller backpack on his chest.  He also carried two Bear Vaults stacked end-to-end below his stomach.  He said he could go two months between resupplies.  Needless to say, he walked veeeerry slowly.

    #3750619
    John S.
    BPL Member

    @jshann

    Nice presentation, Ryan. I would love to see lists of those odoriferous foods and odor-resistant packaging.

    #3750627
    Dan
    BPL Member

    @dan-s

    Locale: Colorado

    Bring your own bear.  Problem solved.  ;-)

    #3750895
    Todd G
    BPL Member

    @todd-goodenowgmail-com

    Worth saying not all bears hibernate in some climates specifically california and South America. Not a big deal just a detail

    #3750958
    Bill in Roswell
    BPL Member

    @roadscrape88-2

    Locale: Roswell, GA, USA

    Todd, black bears in southeast US don’t hibernate unless its really cold for some time. Past many years bears have been Very Active on the AT all year, much due to increase of novice hikers. From direct conversation with 2 brothers, and a recent thru-hiker article on The Trek, southeastern bears can defeat tree limb hangs. They go up the tree, crawl out the limb and dive bomb the bag. The Trek article said many hikers witnessed it at Carters Gap, Betty Creek Gap both near the GA/NC line. To add insult, bears are crushing Ursaks, biting the bag leaving it covered with mess inside and out (the brothers tossed theirs and got a BV500). Additionally, a very large male bear stomped on a BV500 til the lid  departed. The next can bear found got kicked into a laurel thicket down the hill. I use an Ursak and Im now getting the aluminum liner. Once I win the lottery, I’ll order a can from Wild Things. Lastly, the Forest Service are posting numerous signs in problem areas, but many hikers are not smarter than bears. If all AT shelters had bear cables many problems would go away. The Smokies and Shenandoah NEED steel food lockers at shelters. I don’t recall where I saw, but someone (Backpacker maybe) did an Opsak test with police trained dogs using precise testing protocols. Bears reportedly have even stronger olfactories than dogs. Test result – the Opsak faired no better than a ziplock. Needed: a better, lighter, easy to open bear can for under $100. Hmmm…

    #3750960
    Murali C
    BPL Member

    @mchinnak

    We need food bags which spew pepper spray when “armed” for the night!:-)

    #3750966
    jscott
    BPL Member

    @book

    Locale: Northern California

    We can dream all we want. At the end of the day…in the real world, a Bearikade checks the most boxes. It’s pricey for sure. On the other hand…it lasts a lifetime.

    The Scout is just about perfect for a five day venture into the wild. Packs small, weighs little, keeps food safe. I hung my food for decades in the Sierra, where the bears have Ph.d’s.  I was damn good. I would still bring the Scout these days, even if canisters weren’t required. it’s far easier and more reliable than hanging, or anything else, especially at altitude.

    #3750968
    rubmybelly!
    BPL Member

    @sleeping

    Locale: The Cascades

    “I don’t recall where I saw, but someone (Backpacker maybe) did an Opsak test with police trained dogs using precise testing protocols.”

    You saw it on BPL.

     

    #3751018
    Murali C
    BPL Member

    @mchinnak

    We can dream all we want that everyone is going to carry a bear can. And we can dream that that bear can will be Bearikade or that a Bearikade cannot be breached by a bear – only a matter of time.

    In the real world – no one takes a bear can unless they are forced to by the parks.

    If the purpose of food storage is to save bears, then why not have those industrial bear containers every 5 to 10 miles of every trail where there are bears?

    Take JMT for example where we need to carry the bear can. It is 225 miles or whatever. Every 10 miles will mean have 23 containers along the trail. It would be cheap to buy those single use shipping containers and convert them to small bear containers. JMT has a limit of 40 hikers per day. And its as everybody know very difficult to get a permit. Assume a 3 month hiking period. And assume everyone is spending $100 for a bear can. That comes to 40*120 days * $100 or $480K every season. I am sure it will be cheaper to put in a bear container every 10 miles. Charge every JMT hiker $100 for  a period of 5 years to recoup the cost of installing these containers. I would donate money for this purpose.

    Sure not so popular trails will not be able to spend the money. But popular trails are where these are needed.

    If the “noble” purpose is to save bears, then federal government can cough up the cost. Or some benevolent billionaire.

    #3751216
    Morgan S
    BPL Member

    @captainat

    Nice job, Ryan.  Thank you.  I coordinate dealing with black bear issues on the A.T. for ATC.  Based upon our annual survey 77% of respondents who said a bear got their food did not report it, which is unfortunate since knowing where the problems are helps solve them.  Method of food acquisition has been through defeat of food hangs, Ursacks and canisters.  We’ve had a few reports this year of: Ursacks being shredded, at least one bear can moved far enough so the user couldn’t find it, and all types of food hangs being defeated.  At one point, every A.T. shelter from Springer to near Erwin, TN had food storage cable systems, but they were often abused or vandalized and too difficult and expensive to repair so have been largely removed as they failed.  A few have been replaced with food lockers, but those are too expensive, too difficult to transport, and also prone to vandalism rendering them unusable, or on peak use nights they are full to overflowing. Dispersed camping is allowed along much of the A.T. and we can’t place food storage lockers everywhere somebody camps.  Poor food handling in dispersed sites may mean trouble for campers at sites with food storage provided.  A.T. wide about 40% of designated campsites have food storage facilities, so A.T. campers need to be prepared to properly store their food at all times without expecting food storage to be provided.  Bear canisters provide the food storage method with the most flexibility and surety for camping anywhere (along the A.T.)  I have used food hangs and an Ursack, but much prefer bear cans.  I use a BearVault and aspire to a Bearikade.  :)  ATC is hoping that use of bear canisters become the norm along the A.T. and since 2015, their use has risen from 0 up to 17% last year (survey respondents were mostly thru-hikers).  Here’s a pretty good rationale for using a bear can that was conveyed to me by the YOSE bear biologist about 3 or 4 years ago:  In Yosemite NP “prior to 2005 they had well over 100 bear incidents per year.”  Following a park wide bear canister requirement in 2008, YOSE bear incidents generally fell to 50/year or less, and “In the past three years we’ve had less than 30/year.”  Our aim on the A.T. is to make human/bear conflicts a rarity, avoid euthanization of bears and prevent injuries to hikers.  (A Boy Scout was bitten by a bear in NY a few weeks ago while sleeping in a tent near an A.T. shelter.)

    And P.S., to answer a previous question, I use a BV500 which is large enough for both my food, other smellables, and cooking gear.

    #3751225
    Murali C
    BPL Member

    @mchinnak

    Nice to hear from someone who is part of a major long distance trail Morgan!

    I checked this website for Bear Lockers – they are around $1500 approx.

    https://bearsaver.com/collections/bear-resistant-food-storage-lockers

    As I said, on say JMT, in one season hikers collectively spend 480K for these bear cans conservatively – with $100 being spent by a hiker on a can (bearikades as you know are 3X that amount typically). That will get around 320 bear lockers (at $1500 a piece or 480K/1500 = 320) – enough to have more than one every mile! Of  course I am not saying we should have one every mile. But, you get the point. Yes – installation and carrying it is a pain. But, I would think building a trail will be more painful than installing these. Maybe there should be a way to dismantle it into smaller pieces and assemble it at destination. This number of 320 lockers are just from one season. In a few seasons, you will have lot more to make sure no hiker is not able to store food in the wild!

    Surely, AT thru hikers will not mind paying $50 or $100 to thru hike the AT. I am sure there is a way to put enough of these bear lockers for everyone to use.

    That is just a thought.

    Since I am dreaming anyway – maybe provide some bear cans inside these lockers for people to camp away from these bear lockers if they choose to:-)

    #3751242
    Dan
    BPL Member

    @dan-s

    Locale: Colorado

    @Murali C, I don’t think that anyone would debate your calculations, but I’m not sure there is a practical route to convert funds that individuals spend on bear canisters into donations to the AT Conservancy. One can ask, of course, but I think it’s wishful thinking.

    And as for long trail that I frequent most often, I think it would be really unfortunate to install highly visible man-made infrastructure along the CDT, even if it were allowed within the wilderness areas. The camping is so dispersed along most of it that it just doesn’t represent a problem to most of us. Maybe it’s more of an issue along the ant-trail known as the Colorado Trail. :-)

    It seems to me that for the foreseeable future, people camping in heavily visited areas will need to take responsibility for their food.

    #3751248
    jscott
    BPL Member

    @book

    Locale: Northern California

    “a chicken in every bear canister” wouldn’t really work as a political slogan. It would get votes here though!

    #3751253
    Murali C
    BPL Member

    @mchinnak

    Dan – just curious. What do you use for food storage in the CDT sections that have grizzlies or black bears?

    #3751261
    Dan
    BPL Member

    @dan-s

    Locale: Colorado

    Murali: I guess this is not for everyone, but I make a conscious effort to avoid places that I would be likely to encounter other people, and therefore habituated black bears (there are no grizzlies near me in Colorado). I’m generally in isolated areas and often above timberline, and with one or more digs. So my experience is probably not representative, and shouldn’t be used as a model.

    #3751265
    jscott
    BPL Member

    @book

    Locale: Northern California

    Murali…people don’t just hike the JMT. There’s thousands of miles of other trails and off trail in the Sierra. Peppering all of that terrain with bear lockers is simply not feasible. Moreover, rangers want to encourage dispersed camping. They think that people carrying effective food protection leads to less impact on the environment. Bear lockers encourage group/mass camping in their vicinity. that definitely degrades the environment around those campsites.

    So…like it or not, everyone needs to carry a bear canister in the Sierra. I don’t know that caring about feeding bears indigestible plastics that strangle their stomachs and intestines until they die is “noble”. I don’t want to do that however, and I’m basically a selfish bastard. So, again: the Bearikade is the lightest effective option in that regard. It puts me out the least in order to meet the requirements, and yes, keep plastics out of bears’ stomachs.

    all of the ‘others and druthers’ are meaningless if tomorrow, when I want to go for a hike, I have a set number of options that work. All I can do is choose among them.

    I understand that you’re making a series of proposals for consideration. That’s a good thing.

     

    #3751338
    Morgan S
    BPL Member

    @captainat

    Another P.S.  Last year, ATC, in partnership with The Georgia Appalachian Trail club, the Green Mountain club, the Appalachian mountain club, AMC Mass and the USFS began a bear canister loaner program, one in Georgia and one in Vermont/New Hampshire/western Massachusetts. Both locations have numerous hikers, including thru-hikers, take advantage of the programs.

    #3751342
    rubmybelly!
    BPL Member

    @sleeping

    Locale: The Cascades

    “So my experience is probably not representative, and shouldn’t be used as a model.”

    Though perhaps the way you go about it (backpacking) should be contemplated as a model…

    #3751344
    Dan
    BPL Member

    @dan-s

    Locale: Colorado

    Dogs, by the way, not “digs”.  :-0

    #3751353
    AK Granola
    BPL Member

    @granolagirlak

    “no one takes a bear can unless they are forced to by the parks”

    Sorry, but that’s just not true. If I know I am in an area with lots of bears, I will absolutely take a bear canister. And they aren’t required pretty much anywhere here in Alaska, except Denali. If there are fewer bears in the area I’ll take an ursack. But I have used a canister numerous times where not required. They’re just great peace of mind. I can lighten my load in other ways.

    #3751356
    Murali C
    BPL Member

    @mchinnak

    It will greater peace of mind with my food in a bear locker:-) Without having to worry if my bear can is still around where I left it when I go looking for it in the morning! Or wondering if my Ursack is all smushed with bear spit! Just because it has not happened to you yet doesn’t mean it is not going to happen. We know Ursacks have been compromised. We know bear can’s have been broken into or have gone missing. Just a matter of time I say!

    I know I am not going to win this argument!

    I should just buy the Nuntak Bear Ears and carry my can everywhere and hope for the best.

    Till then I will dream of a world where there are bear lockers everywhere:-) Or no bears!

    I actually felt safe sleeping with my food on the AZT this April! Maybe the bears respect personal space:-)

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