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The necessity of a bear canister

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The necessity of a bear canister

Postby Brien » Thu Feb 05, 2015 4:44 pm

I've been backpacking off and on in the Sierras for probably 25 years and I've never used a bear canister. I've always put my food in a bag and thrown it over a tall branch away from camp. Even though I've never had a problem, I know my food storage isn't ideal. So I wanted to get some feedback from others on this technique and if it is adequate of I'm just running on borrowed time.

For lunch and dinner I only eat freeze dried meals that are sealed. For the mornings I pack coffee, creamer, sugar and oatmeal which I seal into individual meal packets with a food sealer. I also pack energy bars (not sealed). I put all my food in a dry-bag and host it at least 15' off the ground.

Is this food storage sufficient?



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Re: The necessity of a bear canister

Postby rlown » Thu Feb 05, 2015 5:10 pm

It depends on where you go. If you visit a place in the Sierra, that requires the can and you didn't take one, that would be completely illegal. If they stop you, you generally will be turned around and made to walk out.

If you go to someplace like lets say Trinity Alps or FS land that doesn't require a can, then what you do is probably fine as long as you trust your skill on hanging food properly.

If you do a search on the upper right hand area of the site for "bear canister" you will find a ton of discussion on the topic. This topic also should possibly be relocated to the Outdoor Gear Topic, but not my call.

And don't say Sierras again. It makes Markskor boil over. :)

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Re: The necessity of a bear canister

Postby Brien » Thu Feb 05, 2015 5:19 pm

Thanks for the info Russ. I didn't know there were some places it was illegal to go without a bear canister. I'll do a little more research.
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Re: The necessity of a bear canister

Postby rlown » Thu Feb 05, 2015 5:22 pm

well, the NPS (Yose, Seki) are a fine example where the can is required. And they ask you during the wilderness permit process on the can point if required.
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Re: The necessity of a bear canister

Postby Brien » Thu Feb 05, 2015 5:45 pm

So far I have two trips planned, Loch Levin and Lake Aloha. I don't recall seeing a bear canister required at either.
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Re: The necessity of a bear canister

Postby rlown » Thu Feb 05, 2015 5:53 pm

well, for Desolation Wilderness: http://www.recreation.gov/permits/Desol ... rkId=72202

BEARS AND FOOD STORAGE

Protect yourself by using bear canisters for food storage, or by hanging your food using the counterbalancing method.
Bear proof food storage containers are available for free rental from the Taylor Creek Visitor Center, LTBMU Supervisor's Office, or the Pacific Ranger District.


They don't say the require them, but that region has a LOT of hungry bears, and hungrier given the drought. Free rental at Taylor Creek. :)
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Re: The necessity of a bear canister

Postby AlmostThere » Thu Feb 05, 2015 6:17 pm

I always take a bear canister in the Sierra. I've had bears go after them, too, in areas where they are NOT required.

There are plenty of people who have "always" slept with, hung, or done nothing at all special with their food, but there are also plenty of people who have had their food stolen, their gear ripped apart, their canister made to disappear (this is also a thing - placing the canister correctly), their food bag torn down along with the branch.... The difference between the two is usually simple - along came a determined bear. And that was that.

There are plenty of rangers who can tell you the stories - lots of them in Yosemite. Sequoia rangers issuing permits were warning people not to leave their packs anywhere unattended, as there are bears on the popular trails that steal packs when you step off to take a leak.

So, yep, I do take a can, always, and will continue to do so since I prefer trips that are relaxing and drama free, instead of becoming another example of someone who underestimated a bear I'd never met yet.
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Re: The necessity of a bear canister

Postby austex » Thu Feb 05, 2015 10:08 pm

A bear can well placed and as heavy and as and $ conscious as a BearVault plus as much of a PITA (size/weight) it can be=peace of mind for a good nights sleep. *priceless* in any part of the Sierra. YMMV
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Re: The necessity of a bear canister

Postby Jimr » Thu Feb 05, 2015 11:40 pm

Cans make great stools, so If you must carry one, there is a spillover benefit. Saves wear and tear on $60 pants from not sitting on a granite rock.
OH yeah they make a great laundromat and dishwasher as well.
What?!
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Re: The necessity of a bear canister

Postby gary c. » Fri Feb 06, 2015 12:52 am

AlmostThere wrote:
There are plenty of rangers who can tell you the stories - lots of them in Yosemite. Sequoia rangers issuing permits were warning people not to leave their packs anywhere unattended, as there are bears on the popular trails that steal packs when you step off to take a leak.
.

I saw this happen on a Yosemite trail. My friends and I were coming down the trail from Sunrise Creek. As we reached the Half Dome junction we saw a bear walk really fast up to 4 packs standing upright about 10ft off the trail and started to grab one. We yelled and held up our trekking poles and he turned and just lumbered off. The 4 guys that owned the packs were only another 10ft off the trail taking a pee. The rangers told us that that bear had been hanging out at that trail junction for a couple weeks snagging packs when hikers took them off for a break before starting up the trail to Half Dome.
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Re: The necessity of a bear canister

Postby AlmostThere » Fri Feb 06, 2015 7:33 am

There are pack stealing bears in Tuolumne Meadows, near Eleanor Lake, over on the High Sierra Trail, Hetch Hetchy...

Also the cars are not safe. Ranger told me about a female bear that would find unlocked car doors, climb on in, tear apart the interior looking for crumbs and trash and food, slide out the door again in such a way that her weight tipped the car, then it would bounce back and shut the door. Not a mark on the outside but the inside looked like Edward Scissorhands had a seizure.


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Re: The necessity of a bear canister

Postby markskor » Fri Feb 06, 2015 10:12 am

Feel a rant coming on here!

Been backpacking our Sierra well over 40 years - easily over 2500 bag nights out and still going strong - (alas, only 87 days last year and unfortunately, didn't see one bear backcountry...Ever wonder why?).

For years, had many of the same thoughts as the OP posted here above: "I never lose food/always hang successfully/carefully/no need for any can /silly /heavy /too large /bulky."...Sound familiar?). I've slept with my food, double hung my food, single hung my food (PCT method), used fixed overhead steel cables, cables that lowered, bear boxes where available, submerged food underwater, and even used the gallows/long stick method once seen in Tuolumne. Back then, we saw bears nightly. Then came the bear canister.

Bears quickly learned that the mere sight of a can in camp meant futility - ain't getting anything there. Soon enough bears learned to stay away - a waste of energy. Soon enough, no longer did bears make nightly visits anymore in the dead of night, obviously looking elsewhere for their main sustenance. We slept better too. We learned and the bears learned...(took 20 years or so)... to co-exist Sierra without having to interact in a dangerous manner backcountry.

Today, my Bearikade comes along every-time now, not only for my own food's safety, but more so for he bear's safety as well as the safety of all the other backpackers who came before and after me. Before the can, we always actively protected our food/ slept within earshot of our food stashes/worried a lot. You collected "ready" rocks to throw, set complex noise traps to alert us, stayed up for hours after being visited...generally we expected bears anytime in campsites. Bears learned, how to foil our efforts, and soon lost their fear of man/acclimated - some/many then were put down for getting too familiar. "A fed bear is a dead bear."

Today, some misguided backpacking individuals do not feel the need to carry/ have abandoned using/ won't carry a can since: Haven't seen a bear, never lost anything to a bear, not going anywhere near where a bear lives, going too high, know how to hang, think bears are no longer the active threat of 20 years prior, hiking ultralight and weight is a major issue, just passing through a designated bear-can-zone and willing to risk it, the rules are nebulous and unenforced anyway, will use an Ursack instead, willing to hang even though illegal, will sleep with food and hope, bears are not dangerous... stupidity, selfish entitlement, or ignorance.

(You could also add something here about small critters being the bigger pest.) Bottom line though - use of the bear can saves lives - bears and ours. The writing is on the wall. Areas Sierra (and elsewhere) where cans are a "must have" are expanding. The numbers of backpackers are increasing...bears are thriving too.

Carry a Can!
Mountainman who swims with trout
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