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#104437 - 10/07/08 09:12 PM How likely are bears to come after your food?
BasketballOSU Offline
newbie

Registered: 07/26/08
Posts: 8
In particular, what about areas with only a few interspersed black bears throughout a very large area, not common and no grizzlies?

What if you carry all "cold" food in ziplock bags, no cooking to release excess smells?

If you have, for example, peanut butter sandwiches, bagels, and pop tarts sealed inside ziploc bags, inside a food bag, inside your backpack, is that still going to release enough smells to attract bears to your camp site?

It seems like such a hassle to hang up all the food 100 ft from your camp every night, especially in areas where bears aren't super common...

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#104438 - 10/07/08 10:51 PM Re: How likely are bears to come after your food? [Re: BasketballOSU]
phat Offline
Moderator

Registered: 06/24/07
Posts: 4107
Loc: Alberta, Canada
Quote:
In particular, what about areas with only a few interspersed black bears throughout a very large area, not common and no grizzlies?

What if you carry all "cold" food in ziplock bags, no cooking to release excess smells?

If you have, for example, peanut butter sandwiches, bagels, and pop tarts sealed inside ziploc bags, inside a food bag, inside your backpack, is that still going to release enough smells to attract bears to your camp site?

It seems like such a hassle to hang up all the food 100 ft from your camp every night, especially in areas where bears aren't super common...


I hang my food even in areas without bears. - because usually it's other critters that get into it, and ziplocs don't stop 'em. I've never had food taken by a bear in the better part of 30 years in the boonies (I've had lots of encounters). I've had food messed with by skunks, raccoons, mice, ground squirrels, porcupines marmots, and gulls. I've participated in rescuing two motorirsts in the rockies whose cars were eaten by marmots (seriously! - they chew up the electrical and cooling lines to get the salt on them), and I've walked out sniggering at a buddy who got half a boot eaten by a porcupine (for salt) so we had to "improvise" with socks and tape. Every time I've had my food messed with is where I'm somewhere there are "no bears" and so I decide not to hang it or deal with it. Hang your food. it's not as much of a hassle as picking mice turds out of your breakfast.

and it can save a bear's life.. even if there aren't that many of 'em around. Taking a
chance and getting away with it means eventually someone doesn't, and you end up
with dead bears, conditioned bears like yosemite, and then hiking restrictions.
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#104439 - 10/08/08 06:10 AM Re: How likely are bears to come after your food? [Re: BasketballOSU]
Hector Offline
member

Registered: 12/20/04
Posts: 325
Loc: LA/ARK/TX corner
> It seems like such a hassle to hang up all the food
> 100 ft from your camp every night

How much of a hassle would you consider having to chase a hungry bear away from your campsite in the middle of the night? I find that bears are unpersuaded by arguments about how unlikely their presence should be.

Yeah, bear bagging can be a pain. So can claws in your abdomen, even if they're unlikely. You pick.

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#104440 - 10/08/08 07:45 AM Re: How likely are bears to come after your food? [Re: BasketballOSU]
Heber Offline
member

Registered: 12/31/07
Posts: 245
Loc: St. Louis, Missouri
I'm a recent convert to bear bagging. Bears are not at all common where I hike. But raccoons and various rodents are common. I'm more concerned about my pack getting chewed through by rodents than I am about bears.

I found that hanging a bear bag is an easy habit to get into. It's second nature now. I don't bother with the PCT method or anything. Just throw the foodbag over a branch and tie it off. I sleep better knowing that my food and my pack are safe.


Edited by Heber (10/08/08 08:08 AM)

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#104441 - 10/08/08 08:00 AM Re: How likely are bears to come after your food? [Re: BasketballOSU]
Pika Offline
member

Registered: 12/08/05
Posts: 1736
Loc: Rural Southeast Arizona
I protect my food by one means or another regardless of where I am hiking. Mice are the biggest problem but racoons, marmots, ringtail cats, pack rats and other critters have all chewed holes in my gear. I have only had a bear get into my food once and that was this summer in the Lyell Valley in the Sierra. I absent-mindedly left a handful of trail mix in one of the hip belt pockets of my pack. There is now a 2" hole in that pocket. (Note to self: patch the hole.)

I use an Ursack most of the time to save the hassle of hanging and to keep my pack and storage bags from getting chewed on. I always use a bear canister where they are required. Not protecting your food is, in my opinion, foolish and a bit irresponsible.
_________________________
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#104442 - 10/08/08 08:07 AM Re: How likely are bears to come after your food? [Re: Pika]
sarbar Offline
member

Registered: 07/15/05
Posts: 1453
Loc: WA
Quote:
I protect my food by one means or another regardless of where I am hiking. Mice are the biggest problem but racoons, marmots, ringtail cats, pack rats and other critters have all chewed holes in my gear. I have only had a bear get into my food once and that was this summer in the Lyell Valley in the Sierra. I absent-mindedly left a handful of trail mix in one of the hip belt pockets of my pack. There is now a 2" hole in that pocket. (Note to self: patch the hole.)

I use an Ursack most of the time to save the hassle of hanging and to keep my pack and storage bags from getting chewed on. I always use a bear canister where they are required. Not protecting your food is, in my opinion, foolish and a bit irresponsible.


Pika is quite right - it often isn't bears you need to fear. Rather chipmunks, birds, mice, rats, marmots.....

Sure you can be lazy and not protect your food. But why take the risk? For $60 get an Ursack like many of us. No hanging needed and it weighs not much over a heavy duty stuff sack.

Also, while bear canisters are heavy and overkill, they do work well. And one can sleep in utter comfort.
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#104443 - 10/08/08 08:15 AM Re: How likely are bears to come after your food? [Re: sarbar]
Heber Offline
member

Registered: 12/31/07
Posts: 245
Loc: St. Louis, Missouri
I'm going to disagree a bit here. I'm not saying that an Ursack isn't safe from critters. But I think even if I had one I would hang it.

For me the issue is one of peace and quiet as much as anything. If I spend all night listening to critters ATTEMPT to get into an Ursack then I still lose a night's sleep even if I don't lose any food.

Sound sleepers may not have this problem. I'm a light sleeper and for me a raccoon messing around in my camp can really ruin my sleep, even if he goes away hungry.

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#104444 - 10/08/08 10:55 AM Re: How likely are bears to come after your food? [Re: Heber]
sarbar Offline
member

Registered: 07/15/05
Posts: 1453
Loc: WA
Quote:
I'm going to disagree a bit here. I'm not saying that an Ursack isn't safe from critters. But I think even if I had one I would hang it.

For me the issue is one of peace and quiet as much as anything. If I spend all night listening to critters ATTEMPT to get into an Ursack then I still lose a night's sleep even if I don't lose any food.

Sound sleepers may not have this problem. I'm a light sleeper and for me a raccoon messing around in my camp can really ruin my sleep, even if he goes away hungry.


You don't hang Ursacks! That defeats the purpose. They are tied off to a tree at the base. If an animal does attempt to get in, as they tug, the Kevlar ties get tighter (figure 8 knot at top of bag). If you hang a Ursack like a bear bag you might as well just use a stuff sack.

Bear bagging blows and sucks in my view - and very few people do it correctly in the end (hence why bears treat bear bagging like fun filled pinatas).
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#104445 - 10/08/08 11:49 AM Re: How likely are bears to come after your food? [Re: sarbar]
Heber Offline
member

Registered: 12/31/07
Posts: 245
Loc: St. Louis, Missouri
Quote:
If you hang a Ursack like a bear bag you might as well just use a stuff sack.


I never said I hang Ursacks. I'm not advocating hanging Ursacks. The question from the original poster wasn't about the proper use of an Ursack. It was about whether you should hang your food. I'm just saying that an Ursack down low will only keep your food safe. It won't keep critters from trying to get to your food and that's noisy and annoying.

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#104446 - 10/08/08 12:51 PM Re: How likely are bears to come after your food? [Re: Hector]
BlountCountyBackpacker Offline
newbie

Registered: 08/06/08
Posts: 9
I have thought a lot about this. First of all I always use the bear hangs in the smokies and am careful not to have food in my tent. However, I think that there is an extreme amount of paranoia over this particular topic. I suppose if you cook then food smells are gonna be all over your clothes. I do this and then I sleep in those same clothes!!!! So I would guess I am at risk of being clawed in the middle of the night unless I change into freshly laundered clothes and hang the others. I believe the reason the paranoia exists is because the park services are constantly having to plaster warnings everywhere in order to keep the 3% of stupid people from leaving food left blatantly unnattended. All of these warnings cause reasonable people to be more frightened. I am wondering how many of you have had a bear attempt entry into your tent/tarp/hammock in an aggressive manner (as we are so often warned about)? Did you have or not have "smelly" items in your tent (besides yourself) and if so what were they?


Edited by BlountCountyBackpacker (10/08/08 01:04 PM)

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#104447 - 10/08/08 02:02 PM Re: How likely are bears to come after your food? [Re: BlountCountyBackpacker]
Hector Offline
member

Registered: 12/20/04
Posts: 325
Loc: LA/ARK/TX corner
> All of these warnings cause reasonable people to be more frightened.

I think there's confusion here.

There's no need to be frightened. Simply hang or otherwise secure your food supply and go to sleep. Otherwise, you may indeed get a scare. You don't even need a bear for a scare from improperly secured food -- raccoons have kept a lot of people up at night, as someone else noted. And yes, if you spill food on your clothing, you shouldn't be sleeping in them in bear country -- they go in the bear bag/canister, too.

It's unreasonable not to take elementary precautions. You're statistically unlikely to become a gunshot victim. That doesn't mean you should stand in front of the targets at your local shooting range or wear a deer antler hat while hiking during hunting season -- or not properly secure your food. Maybe you can switch into the adjoining lane without checking to see that it's empty most of the time. Doesn't make it safe or reasonable. On the other hand, I'm not your momma. If you don't want to secure your food and you aren't camped near me (you won't be :-), that'll be between you and the wildlife. The bear you habituate to humans as an easy source of food may not thank you when the forest service shoots it, though.

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#104448 - 10/08/08 02:10 PM Re: How likely are bears to come after your food? [Re: sarbar]
Hector Offline
member

Registered: 12/20/04
Posts: 325
Loc: LA/ARK/TX corner
> Bear bagging blows and sucks in my view

I so agree with that. Where I walk, there are a lot of trees growing in poor soil. Lots of trees fall, and they tend to take out the tender lower limbs on young trees. So most trees that are old enough to have limbs large enough to hang a bag from have no limbs low enough. It can take some looking to find a good hanging tree.

On the other hand, I don't like the alternatives. I don't want to listen to things trying to get into an Ursack tied to a tree, and I don't want to carry the extra weight of a bear canister (though I reconsider it every year after hanging bags night after night). So I muddle on. Even without bears around I'd hang my food because raccoons are clever and evil little critters from 4377.

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#104449 - 10/08/08 02:43 PM Re: How likely are bears to come after your food? [Re: BlountCountyBackpacker]
Pika Offline
member

Registered: 12/08/05
Posts: 1736
Loc: Rural Southeast Arizona
Quote:
I am wondering how many of you have had a bear attempt entry into your tent/tarp/hammock in an aggressive manner (as we are so often warned about)?


In over 60 years of backpacking in bear country, I have never had a bear try to get food in a tent with people in it. Moreover, I have never been near such a thing in all those years and I have been around some pretty sloppy campers. I am not saying it does not happen but I have never been around when it has. Personally, I don't keep food in my tent but I am sure that I carry food odors with me, especially when I have been out for a while; I just don't think bears are drawn to mixed human/food odors, even in the Sierra.
_________________________
May I walk in beauty.

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#104450 - 10/08/08 04:03 PM Re: How likely are bears to come after your food? [Re: BasketballOSU]
Trailrunner Offline
member

Registered: 01/05/02
Posts: 1835
Loc: Los Angeles
It's not just about preserving your food. It's about protecting the bears. The old saying is "a fed bear is a dead bear". It is worth the "hassle" to protect them?

It sounds like you're debating whether you should hang your food because of the (perceived) low probability of a bear encounter. You may be venturing into an area where the overall density is very low. But you have no way of knowing whether or not you're camping where those few bears are actively foraging. In those areas the density of bears is high. Why take the chance?

Following your line of logic, why should you fasten your seat belt while driving in the early morning hours when fewer cars are on the road?

Remember, Mr. Murphy is always lurking around the corner.
_________________________
If you only travel on sunny days you will never reach your destination.*

* May not apply at certain latitudes in Canada and elsewhere.

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#104451 - 10/08/08 04:32 PM Re: How likely are bears to come after your food? [Re: BlountCountyBackpacker]
dkramalc Offline
member

Registered: 09/19/03
Posts: 1070
Loc: California
Quote:
I am wondering how many of you have had a bear attempt entry into your tent/tarp/hammock in an aggressive manner (as we are so often warned about)? Did you have or not have "smelly" items in your tent (besides yourself) and if so what were they?


Maybe not "aggressive", but:

Years ago in Yosemite when I stupidly left my toiletries (toothpaste, campsuds) at the foot of my sleeping bag, I was awakened in the middle of the night by a big nose poking at my feet through the tent walls, and the sound of loud sniffing. I yelled and heard something very big heading away. In the morning there were 2 sets of bear prints outside the tent in the snow (baby and mama).

I will never ever ever do that again. It could easily have ended up as an injury for me, and subsequently death to a bear, just because I was too dumb and lazy to haul the food bag down again and put my toiletry kit in it. Plus it scared the bejeezus out of me and ruined a good night's sleep!

I believe we have the responsibility to make sure that bears are not able to get at our food and develop bad habits that lead them to being trapped and killed as nuisances. If we're not willing to accept that responsibility, it shows very little respect for the bears and doesn't speak well of our presumed love for nature.

P.S. From what I've read, food smells on clothing are more of an issue in grizzly country. I've never worried about that in black bear territory.
_________________________
dk

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#104452 - 10/08/08 04:35 PM Re: How likely are bears to come after your food? [Re: Trailrunner]
BlountCountyBackpacker Offline
newbie

Registered: 08/06/08
Posts: 9
I am 100% for bagging and hanging food even outside bear country for my protection and the bears. If the post is asking how likely is a bear to come after your food if it isn't hung then I would think it is likely to happen.

I just find it weird to be laying there worrying about deodorant I forgot to hang while smelling like beef stroganoff. <img src="/forums/images/graemlins/smile.gif" alt="" /> I am surprised to hear that black bears can't smell the food on clothing as easily. You do learn a lot on this forum which is why I like it.

Thanks for the story dkramalc that would have scared the crap out of me too! It is nice to hear real experiences like that.


Edited by BlountCountyBackpacker (10/08/08 04:50 PM)

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#104453 - 10/08/08 06:44 PM Re: How likely are bears to come after your food? [Re: Heber]
sarbar Offline
member

Registered: 07/15/05
Posts: 1453
Loc: WA
Quote:
It won't keep critters from trying to get to your food and that's noisy and annoying.


Ear plugs might be a thought - seriously! Or for me? I just park my Ursack out of camp. One morning I woke up to my bag covered in Chipmunk poop but they didn't win <img src="/forums/images/graemlins/smirk.gif" alt="" /> They can go at it all night for all I care - I don't hear it.
Many nights I fall asleep with my headphones in my ears, classical music playing quietly on my Ipod. Or failing that....I try to camp near running water. It cuts down on the noises animals make.
_________________________
Freezer Bag Cooking, Trail Cooking, Recipes, Gear and Beyond:
www.trailcooking.com

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#104454 - 10/08/08 07:36 PM Re: How likely are bears to come after your food? [Re: Hector]
Tango61 Offline
member

Registered: 12/27/05
Posts: 931
Loc: East Texas Piney Woods
Quote:
raccoons have kept a lot of people up at night,


This reminds me of a time that some food was left out (not by me!) and some of it ended up on the ground. A skunk and a raccoon got into it. Guess who lost? ME!!!! The skunk sprayed right outside my tent and the wind brought it right into the tent.<img src="/forums/images/graemlins/mad.gif" alt="" /> My eyes were burning and I could hardly breathe. Needless to say, that was a very long night. <img src="/forums/images/graemlins/frown.gif" alt="" />

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#104455 - 10/09/08 10:02 AM Re: How likely are bears to come after your food? [Re: BasketballOSU]
Berserker Offline
member

Registered: 05/10/04
Posts: 493
Loc: Lynchburg, VA
Lot's of good advice has been given here already. I'll chime in with my opinion. There are plenty of people who sleep with their food in their tents in black bear country and do not have a problem. I used to do this regularly myself. I personally don't condone that method, but it seems to work for others. I myself am a hanger...I like to hang my food from a tree branch using the PCT method.

There seems to be much controversy over hanging. People don't like doing it, they can't do it, or whatever. Depending on location I personally don't see the issue with hanging food (unless the person has a physical limitation that would not allow them to run the line). Each type of terrain poses it's own problems, and I am only going to address that which I am quite familiar with...the East coast...primarily the SE. Around here there are not many places that come to mind where I have not been able to find a tree where I can get my food bag at least 9 - 10 feet off the ground.

I personally think the primary problem with hanging food has to do with the technique of running the line. I am not overly athletically inclined, and I can typically get my line over a branch in 5 tries or less. I usually look for a small rock, and just tie it directly to the end of the cord. Then I make my tosses using an underhanded throwing motion. I just stand under the branch, lob the rock up there, and quickly move out of the way (in case I miss). My buddy that I normally hike with refuses to go underhanded. He likes to throw over handed. I have seen him tangle his line up on multiple occasions when throwing this way. In my opinion, the underhanded method is much easier and more accurate as the rock just goes straight up rather than at an angle (as it would with an overhand throwing motion). Using the under handed throw I have even been able to snake the line between multiple branches and hit a spot without tangling it or snagging it on anything.

Ok, that was my "soap box" on the technique of hanging food. To each own...do what works for you.

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#104456 - 10/09/08 03:55 PM Re: How likely are bears to come after your food? [Re: Berserker]
Folkalist Offline
member

Registered: 03/17/07
Posts: 374
Loc: Fredericksburg, VA
Like Berserker, I have no problem finding appropriate trees for bear bagging in the areas of Virginia where I hike (the entire west side). CamperMom helped me out by suggesting I throw the rock backwards over my shoulder and I do really well hooking a limb that way.

Gotta hang the food and smelly stuff or use an Ursack or bear cannister. It's just not worth the risk to you, your equipment and most importantly the poor bear not to do so.
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#104457 - 10/09/08 04:15 PM Re: How likely are bears to come after your food? [Re: BasketballOSU]
wandering_daisy Offline
member

Registered: 01/11/06
Posts: 2752
Loc: California
I have encountered bears on the trail, not in camp. I primarily use a bear cannister (because it is required). I do not set it 100 feet from camp - more like 25 feet within my view. I am quite particular about a clean camp, not only for reasons of bears, but because I like being clean. I wash my clothes regularly and wash my face and hands before bedtime. I have had a bear sniff my face once when I was sleeping next to my car at the trailhead. I have never had a bear get near my bivy sack or tent out in the mountains, but I make a point of NOT camping in well used campsites. I sleep with earplugs and do not worry about my food or safety. Worrying does not do any good. I also sleep with a loud whistle around my neck so if a bear ever were to "kiss" me again, I would blow the whistle loudly! I think if you camp at regular campsites along a well used trail (like the PCT) you will have a good chance of having a bear come in. I do not think the probability of a bear encounter in this case is overblown, but perhaps the danger of it is overblown. Black bears are after our food, not us and simply want to defend themselves if they feel threatened or are surprised. No matter how many times I have a bear encounter on the trail, they are still very scarey! Nothing to take too lightly. I certainly do not want to antagonize them.

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#104458 - 10/09/08 04:41 PM Re: How likely are bears to come after your food? [Re: Folkalist]
CamperMom Offline
member

Registered: 01/04/02
Posts: 1186
Loc: Eastern MA, USA
I'm glad that tip is working for you. I think I got it from Coosa, who may have heard it from Pog. That is one of the great things about Internet groups. We can share so many great ideas and use the ones that suit us best.

CamperMom

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#104459 - 10/09/08 06:59 PM Re: How likely are bears to come after your food? [Re: Folkalist]
chaz Offline
member

Registered: 10/22/07
Posts: 1149
Loc: Tennessee
Backwards over your shoulder huh? Sounds like a Harlem Globtrotters shot to me. <img src="/forums/images/graemlins/grin.gif" alt="" />
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#104460 - 10/10/08 05:59 AM Re: How likely are bears to come after your food? [Re: Tango61]
Hector Offline
member

Registered: 12/20/04
Posts: 325
Loc: LA/ARK/TX corner
One night when I was motorcycle camping, I woke to find a raccoon stuck in this barrel-shaped bag/rest I had on the back seat, head and forelegs inside, rear legs and tail outside. I'd left some hot dog buns in the bag, and the darned coon sniffed them out, then got stuck. First I had to convince myself not to kill it (I've developed a nasty dislike for raccoons over the years), then I had to let it go without getting eaten myself in the process. I hope it was humiliated. I think they might be smart enough.

I always, always secure my food properly now. I'm old and I need my not-quite-so-ugly sleep.

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#104461 - 10/10/08 04:55 PM Re: How likely are bears to come after your food? [Re: chaz]
Folkalist Offline
member

Registered: 03/17/07
Posts: 374
Loc: Fredericksburg, VA
Te he he. At 5'3" I don't think I'll be going out for basketball anytime soon! CamperMom had mentioned that she had read something about how women are built different from men and this type of throw might work better. I'll admit I haven't used it that much, but so far it does work better for me.

Great, Chaz, now I have the Globe Trotters theme song stuck in my head . . . <img src="/forums/images/graemlins/crazy.gif" alt="" />
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