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Topic: Bear canisters, Advice on buying, renting, and using bea< Next Oldest | Next Newest >
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PostIcon Posted on: Feb. 15 2013, 12:45 am  Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

We've never used bear canisters before. In California's wilderness areas, we've always hung our food high between two trees, or slept on top of it with our dogs and a handgun and never had any trouble at all.

But we're going to be hiking in Yosemite NP (Tuolumne to Yosemite Valley) this summer, and they require bear canisters, which I know nuthin' about.

I can't bring the dogs (or the .44) on the trail in Yosemite, so I'd better learn. What are thoughts, experiences, and advice?


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PostIcon Posted on: Feb. 15 2013, 12:54 am Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

Rent them there.  Cheap for a week.  With careful food choices, and smashing the packing job, you can get 6 days of food in them.  Other types can hold more, but why buy if you won't be using them several times a year.

Repackage all of your food into zip lock freezer bags, and add the boiling water directly into the bag.  Freezer bags are absolutely necessary for this.  Try it at home, in the kitchen sink.  Any brand of bag that does not hold boiling water will make you go hungry.

If there will be more than one per bear canister, make sure all of the food, except for day 1, fits inside, along with all other smellables.  TP, tooth paste, any soaps, everything has to go inside each time you are not immediately next to it and paying attention.  The bears will steal packs to get to anything that smells like food.  I highly recommend 1 bear canister per person, unless it is a very short trip.  


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PostIcon Posted on: Feb. 15 2013, 9:36 am Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

^I agree, with a few additional points. First, assess whether you will need it for only this trip or if it is worth investing in your own. If you don't foresee needing one again then rent, but if you think you might need one soon then it might be worth investing.

Whether you rent or buy, I'd suggest buying one from a place like REI where you can return it easily, one that is roughly the same size as the rentals, just to practice packing food in it and getting it in your pack.

The cans you can rent in YNP need a flat-head screwdriver or something that can act as one (a dime or something on a multitool) to open it.

If you do buy one for keeps, make sure it is on the list of approved bear cans: http://www.nps.gov/yose/planyourvisit/containers.htm.

As Zeke said, you need to pack all smellables in the can, not just food. Bug spray, sun screen, trash -- anything with a scent.

Place the can well away from camp. There are different philosophies on where to place it, some say on an open flat area, others say down in a crevice between rocks. Definitely well away from water and cliffs -- if a bear plays soccer in the middle of the night with your can you want to be able to find it. The key is to not let the bear get any leverage on it, let him roll it around and slobber all over it but eventually he will get frustrated and leave (hopefully even learn to not even mess with bear cans in the future). Definitely do not attach any straps or anything that would allow the bear to carry it off. But it is a good idea to put some bright paint or duct tape on the outside to help you spot it the next morning.

You bring up dogs and a gun relative to this discussion, so I assume you are thinking of ways to protect yourself and/or your food from bears. In YNP, don't worry about it -- only black bears in Yosemite, and as long as you pack all smellables in the can and place it away from camp the bears won't bother you, all they want is a snack. If a bear approaches your camp just stand up tall, draw small children close, yell at it, if you have poles in your hand hold them up over your head. Maybe throw some stones near it (but not directly at it). Just look big and sound scary and the bear won't want anything to do with you.


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PostIcon Posted on: Feb. 15 2013, 10:08 am Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

Some bears in Yosemite have rolled cans off things onto granite and gotten the food anyway. I always leave the can in a tree well - the depression left behind by a fallen tree. We've also stacked many 30 - 50 lb granite flakes on top of the cans so we hear the bears (they are very very quiet) when they are trying to get at the cans and we can then get up and drive them away by yelling and looking big.

If you do not want disrupted sleep, best practice is to avoid the very heavily impacted campsites, don't build a fire, get a mile or so away from the trail and set up a Leave No Trace campsite. Especially if you are on the JMT anywhere. That freeway of a trail has plenty of bears who have regular campsite-to-campsite routes.

Don't forget to clean out the car before you leave it for days in a trailhead. The majority of incidents with bears happen in parking lots.


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PostIcon Posted on: Feb. 15 2013, 10:41 am Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE


(JRinGeorgia @ Feb. 15 2013, 9:36 am)
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But it is a good idea to put some bright paint or duct tape on the outside to help you spot it the next morning.

We use reflective tape on the outside and a key finder inside.
You wouldn't believe how far they can roll them.


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PostIcon Posted on: Feb. 15 2013, 11:40 am Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

^Key finder -- great idea! But how many grams? ;-)

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PostIcon Posted on: Feb. 15 2013, 12:53 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

Especially for that very popular corridor proper smellables storage is a must. The park's webpages are informative:
http://www.nps.gov/yose/planyourvisit/bearcans.htm

For that route the Garcias the park offers for rent are fine, unless you're doing an eight day loop out and about before reaching the Valley anyway, just remember to have a quarter or some other item available to work the fasteners.

Look closely at what is required to be stored in the can: many people get unpleasantly surprised at the first night's campsite when they realize everything required to be packed can't be: leading to "taking a chance" and with Yosemite bears that can open a car door by using the latch, NOT a good idea. Something like 80% of backcountry food rewards have been recorded as involving people carrying canisters...

First off note the requirement is for food storage in camp when not moving and at night: so all the food for the first day doesn't have to fit in the can. Then depending on your route there are some differences. Sunrise, Cathedral or Rafferty straight over Tuolumne Pass or Vogelsang on into the Lewis or Fletcher drainages and everything but that first day's food has to be containable in the canister but if you go out of Rafferty and plan a first night at the Vogelsang backpacker camp then the second day's food can be stored in the provided steel lockers, freeing up more space.

The rental cans can be returned 24/7 at any of the drop boxes scattered around the park, there's a drop box on the porch of the Valley Wilderness Office.
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PostIcon Posted on: Feb. 15 2013, 1:01 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

One thing that I've found extremely helpful when using a bear canister is using a vacuum sealer to pack my food.  I remove the food from its original packaging and vacuum it down.  It saves a great deal of room inside the canister.

One thing you don't want to do is vacuum seal any liquids...  TRUST ME!  Terrible incident with some single serving barbecue sauce...


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PostIcon Posted on: Feb. 15 2013, 1:46 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE


(JRinGeorgia @ Feb. 15 2013, 11:40 am)
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^Key finder -- great idea! But how many grams? ;-)

34 grams but worth it!   :D


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PostIcon Posted on: Feb. 15 2013, 9:03 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE


(retired reddog @ Feb. 15 2013, 1:01 pm)
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One thing that I've found extremely helpful when using a bear canister is using a vacuum sealer to pack my food.  I remove the food from its original packaging and vacuum it down.  It saves a great deal of room inside the canister.

One thing you don't want to do is vacuum seal any liquids...  TRUST ME!  Terrible incident with some single serving barbecue sauce...

I recommend against vac sealing with bear can'd food. Why? it forms hard irregularly shaped bricks that waste air space.

The real trick to maximizing space in bear cans is to use freezer bags and free flowing food - couscous, rice, dried veggies, things that mold together and don't get damaged by squishing. Trail mix, small pasta, granola, soups - all of it gets repackaged into freezer bags of pint, quart or gallon sizes. The first night's dinner bag gets re-used as a trash bag for the rest of the trip, and if done properly, you can get all trash for a five day trip in it.

Layer in bags of food. Leave a couple inches of space at the top of the canister for hygeine stuff and trash. Jam in cheese sticks, bars, and utensils in amongst the food, jam in the bag of travel size toiletries, jam in the bag of used TP (YES, they want you to), Jam in the bag of trash, close the lid.

If it has a smell it goes in. Chapstick, sunscreen, you name it. Stove fuel and water, don't bother. They don't smell appetizing.

I spilled oil on my sit pad once. I got it in the #$%^ can. I didn't want to pick up bits of sit pad for hours.

Used TP - put a ziplock in the pack for clean TP or wet wipes, put a ziploc in the ziplock with the clean TP for the used stuff. PLEASE don't leave it out there and really do bury the rest as deep as they say, six inches. You'll do every hiker who comes along behind you a huge favor and improve their wilderness experience.


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PostIcon Posted on: Feb. 15 2013, 10:35 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

This all seems like good useful info, and I appreciate the info. Some of it, of course, I'm already very familiar with, as I've backpacked, ww kayaked, rock and ice climbed, xc skied, horseback pack trips, done winter mountaineering, wilderness archery, shotgun, and rifle hunted, and fished for a very long time with no bear incidents in many sightings on the trail and around camp.

The .44 was a sidearm for Alaska archery caribou; never saw a grizz and it was not unholstered on the trip.

I've restricted my backcountry travel mainly to federal wilderness, not parks, and therefor I just haven't dealt with bear canisters, so I thought I'd ask.

Any more suggestions, keep em coming. :)


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PostIcon Posted on: Feb. 15 2013, 10:42 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE


(waterdog @ Feb. 15 2013, 10:35 pm)
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This all seems like good useful info, and I appreciate the info. Some of it, of course, I'm already very familiar with, as I've backpacked, ww kayaked, rock and ice climbed, xc skied, horseback pack trips, done winter mountaineering, wilderness archery, shotgun, and rifle hunted, and fished for a very long time with no bear incidents in many sightings on the trail and around camp.

The .44 was a sidearm for Alaska archery caribou; never saw a grizz and it was not unholstered on the trip.

I've restricted my backcountry travel mainly to federal wilderness, not parks, and therefor I just haven't dealt with bear canisters, so I thought I'd ask.

Any more suggestions, keep em coming. :)

I guess it depends on where you hike.

We don't hike in National Parks very often but around here, though not required, it is prudent to use a canister.  

I'd rather keep them out of the food than shoot them for getting into it.   :;):


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PostIcon Posted on: Feb. 15 2013, 10:55 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE


(toesnorth @ Feb. 15 2013, 10:42 pm)
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I guess it depends on where you hike.

We don't hike in National Parks very often but around here, though not required, it is prudent to use a canister.  

I'd rather keep them out of the food than shoot them for getting into it.   :;):

Yeah, me, too. I would be distraught if it came to that. I think of Muir's quote:

"Bears are made of the same dust as we, and breathe the same winds and drink of the same waters. A bear's days are warmed by the same sun, his dwellings are overdomed by the same blue sky, and his life turns and ebbs with heart-pulsings like ours and was poured from the same fountain..."

We've always hung our food HIGH between two trees FAR apart and never had any stolen. On horse pack trips, we use a long steel cable high between trees, and counter-balance the bags and boxes. Or slept on it with the dogs without any problems. The few bears that were overly curious got run off by dogs, pots and pans, and rocks. Never even unholstered the six-shooter.

But the funniest thing I saw was Leon, a Yosemite CCC mule packer, terrorize a camp stalker in Hetch Hetchy with a chainsaw and a skillet full of gasoline on fire! Sent a bear with two ear tags to school on raiding camp kitchens.


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PostIcon Posted on: Feb. 15 2013, 11:32 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE


(waterdog @ Feb. 15 2013, 10:55 pm)
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We've always hung our food HIGH between two trees FAR apart and never had any stolen. On horse pack trips, we use a long steel cable high between trees, and counter-balance the bags and boxes. Or slept on it with the dogs without any problems. The few bears that were overly curious got run off by dogs, pots and pans, and rocks. Never even unholstered the six-shooter.

But the funniest thing I saw was Leon, a Yosemite CCC mule packer, terrorize a camp stalker in Hetch Hetchy with a chainsaw and a skillet full of gasoline on fire! Sent a bear with two ear tags to school on raiding camp kitchens.

:D
I've done my share of hanging food and I still do it occasionally but a bear canister is just way easier.
I often put a pot or something on top so I can hear if my canister is getting molested.  It's good to know what's going on around camp.


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PostIcon Posted on: Feb. 15 2013, 11:47 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

I'm thinking a 6' streamer of reflective survey tape attached to the canisters. Too weak for the bear to drag it around by, but may be helpful after a 3:00 AM soccer tournament.

And yeah, Leon and Sweet Pea, one of the other mule packers, were full of surprises . . .


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PostIcon Posted on: Feb. 16 2013, 12:39 am Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE


(waterdog @ Feb. 15 2013, 11:47 pm)
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I'm thinking a 6' streamer of reflective survey tape attached to the canisters. Too weak for the bear to drag it around by, but may be helpful after a 3:00 AM soccer tournament.

And yeah, Leon and Sweet Pea, one of the other mule packers, were full of surprises . . .

Reflective tape works well and the key finder has been helpful.

I was really impressed with the abuse that Bear Vaults can endure.

Sounds like you have some good stories to tell...................


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PostIcon Posted on: Feb. 16 2013, 6:22 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic.  Ignore posts   QUOTE

Last time I used a bear canister, out in California, I actually hung the bear canister in a tree. Paranoid? Probably. But I had brownie baker muffins in the in there. That's some serious stuff.
ha ha.
Creature of habit I guess, but the local bear here and very very clever and can get to just about anything if you're not careful.
I once hung my bag out in a tree I had to kayak out to, and a bear still managed to carry it away in the middle of the night.
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