Bear Resistant Food Container for backcountry hiking in the Rocky Mountains
Replies: 17 - Last Post: Jul 25, 2012 3:54 PM Last Post By: FlagStuff
Jul 24, 2012 1:38 AM
Bear Resistant Food Container for backcountry hiking in the Rocky MountainsFor those of you who are experienced in backcountry hiking in Colorado and the Rocky Mountains, do you carry a bear resistant food container for each camping trip ? Is it worth buying one ?
Is there a secondhand shop in Denver or Boulder that would sell them, or buy it when I come back to Europe ?
Thank you, Pierre
Jul 24, 2012 5:30 AM
Jul 24, 2012 5:52 AM
2I'm an experienced East Cost (non-grizzly bear) hiker and all the hikers I know (East Cost or Rockies), hang their food from trees whenever they are concerned about bears.
The odds of an actual bear strike are pretty small, but I'd much prefer them striking my food bag far away from my tent than striking my tent while I'm in it.
Jul 24, 2012 5:54 AM
3I hate carrying those #@!!%%## things, but some National Parks are now requiring that you do. I hang my food AND keep a clean camp. By the way, did you know bears like toothpaste just about more than anything?
On a couple trips in Alaska in known troublesome bear country I've even made a separate "cooking" camp at least 100 yards away from my "sleeping" camp, but that is extreme.
So, if in heavy bear country, have your meal, wash up, and hang all that stuff including your sweet smelling toiletries. Practice good camp hygeine (for example, carry a bandana and wipe your hands on it instead of your pants and put the bandana in with your food stuffs to be hung) and oF course, no candy bars in the tent for that late night snack.
If the Park Service makes you carry a bear cannister, well that's your choice. I did it twice now and never again.
Jul 24, 2012 6:20 AM
Jul 24, 2012 6:34 AM
5Some appalachian black bears have figured out the food-in-the-bag-inbetween-the-trees trick. Adult black bears can climb trees. They know that pulling the lines off of the trees will eventually drop the food bag on the ground. I don't know whether the black bears in the Rockies have gotten the e-mail yet. Sierra Nevada black bears have discovered that car doors and trunk decks are easily "removed." They can do it faster than most car theives.
I would suggest you ask the rangers where you plan to hike what the "best" bear/food safety strategy is in their area. The "bear proof" food containers are mandatory in some national parks now. There is a hefty fine for back country campers who don't properly protect their food from bears. Having one's camp or car wrecked by a bear is only funny when it happens to someone else. You can be fined for breaking the rules on top of having to replace your camping gear or pay for car damage.
Good luck and have a great time.
Jul 24, 2012 7:00 AM
6According to the Rocky Mountain National Park, back country camping guide
There are lockers in campgrounds.
While searching for bear canisters in Denver, I stumbled across this. Outdoors Geek That's a Lonely Planer review, but if you go to the website, you'll find that they rent bear canisters.
Jul 24, 2012 9:09 AM
7I hated bear canisters at first, but now I love them. L-O-V-E. I've made my peace with the extra 3 pounds I have to carry when using a bear canister, and what I've come hate is the daily ritual of finding and rigging a suitable tree hang, which is not always a trivial effort. With the cannister, you just stuff everything in there and toss it on the ground away from camp. I love that I can camp worry-free at or above the tree-line. They are required not only in some National Parks, but in all wilderness areas in California's Sierra Nevada, where bears have shown themselves to be very adept at defeating tree-hangs.
That being said, they are generally not required in most areas of the Rocky Mountains, with possibly a few exceptions such as mentioned above. Even though I like using the cannisters, I don't actually own one (where required, you can usually rent them quite cheaply), so I typically go with the hanging approach. There is a separate additional set of precautions I take in grizzly bear territory (generally, anywhere north of the Tetons), including having a separate set of "bedtime clothes" that I never cook or eat in, and making my camp kitchen a significant distance from the tent. The designated backcountry camps in Glacier and Yellowstone National Parks are set up this way, and include handy pre-set wires for hanging food. Out it the wilderness area, you'll have to figure that out on your own.
You can find out lots and lots about safety in grizzly bear territory here (including tested and approved canisters):
Jul 24, 2012 9:42 AM
8I always found Yosemite bears smarter than the average bear
Jul 24, 2012 10:30 AM
Oof. I'm never, ever going to "L-O-V-E" that extra poundage, but I, too, have "made my peace" with them since I do most of my backpacking in the Sierras where they are required. I'll second #7 in saying that they make choosing a location and setting up camp in the backcountry MUCH, MUCH easier in the mountains of the West, where finding suitable trees (i.e. not too big, close enough together) for hanging food can be very difficult, especially at higher elevations.
Whether to buy or rent depends on how regularly you plan to hike in bear country. New ones cost about $70, so if this is just a one-off trip it makes much more sense to rent. If you go backpacking every year, as I do, then it makes sense to buy. (I've had mine for 10 years, ever since I first visited Alaska, and it's good as new--they truly are indestructible.)
Try contacting the REI store in Denver to see if they rent. REI also has an excellent short article about canisters that includes a list of parks and wilderness areas where they are currently required.
Jul 24, 2012 10:53 AM
10Those Black Bears in Pennsylvania are smart, they can climb a tree and get the rope and the food, but thats the way I have hiked in the backcountry of that region, hanging my food. Now, those cougars are another matter...haha
Jul 24, 2012 11:14 AM
11I'd forgotten abou that REI list. It's useful. It quotes a naturalist "I've never seen it myself, but I've heard that some bears will walk out on a branch and make Kamikaze jumps at food bags to bring them down,"
I had a chat with a Yosemite biologist once about a study they did on bears & food. They did observe the kamikaze dive.
Before the canister era, the bears had learned about backpacks. Bears would try a fake charge in hopes that the person would drop the pack and run. They also had leaned how to open jar lids, instead of breaking the jars.
Jul 24, 2012 3:34 PM
12Yeah nutrax, A few years ago I took a raft trip down the Rogue River in Oregon. The bears had gotten so savvy around there that we packed up our stuff on a raft and anchored it 25 yards out in the river. That worked, but they still got our dishwashing fluid that we left in camp.
As an interesting aside, on that trip we saw a seal in the river up around Zane Grey's cabin - that must be fifty miles or more from the ocean and above some class III or IV rapids (although I've seen seals feeding on salmon just below Bonneville Dam on the Columbia too).
Actually the peskiest critters I've run into are deer. Chew on your backpack straps and boots (for the salt), sneak around at night waking you you up, and sometimes rummage through your cooking gear. But then, I like venison.
Jul 24, 2012 7:58 PM
Jul 24, 2012 8:09 PM
14#13, if you don't use bear canisters in the Sierra Nevada, you're going on either very short hike, or a very hungry one. In Glacier you're mostly required to use designated camps, which have wire-and-metal-pole bear hangs already set up, so the canister issue is moot there (mostly).
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