Given the choice of carrying a big approved bear canister needed to carry all of your food for a trip and carrying a smaller (easier to carry) approved canister and 3+ days of food "unprotected" what would you do?
Remember that this is hypothetical so that when the rangers stop me on the trail I have an approved canister with me.
I am thinking that I may need to hang the extras until I eat my way down to only the canister. I am looking at a 158 mile leg without a food drop and I want to stop and enjoy the scenery without the need to do eight 20 mile days on 3,000 calories a day.
How do you "risk" 3-5 days of your food supply without resorting to a 900 cubic inch "keg"?
First of all, you can get at least 11, 3000 calorie-days worth of food in the large Bear Vault. I know this for a fact having just done it. Look at the section on Food in this forum. There is a thread by Wandering Daisy on how to approach the problem with some good recommendations. You have to choose your meals by dry volume rather than taste and put a lot of effort into packing; but it surely can be done. The same amount of food (or more) can be put into a Bearikade but not the Garcia.
If, for some reason, you can't squeeze all your food into the canister, at least consider taking an Ursack with you for the remaining food and use that as recommended. While a bear might crush your food by chewing the sack, they have not been shown to actually be able to eat it.
I'm sure you already know this; but the purpose of using bear canisters is not so much to protect your food for you as it is to keep the bears from getting it and becoming habituated to backpacker food. In other words, cannisters are required to protect the bears, not to protect you. An acquaintance of mine was heavily fined in SEKI for failing to properly store his food. <img src="/forums/images/graemlins/frown.gif" alt="" /> He did pretty much the same thing you are hypothetically proposing. The main thing is to keep the bears from actually getting a meal. They are really good at getting hung food, at least in the Sierra. That is why I recommend an Ursack for the short-term food storage problem you are facing.
Someone once recommended that a person keep an accessory Ursack or food bag out of sight under the bear canister in your pack so a ranger won't see it if he/she decides to inspect; bag storage is not approved by the authorities. Please note that I am not recommending this, I'm just mentioning it.
What do you do with the can once in camp? Is it hung? Is there a scent that can mask the food smell and deter bears? I'm planning a 3-4 day Smoky Mtn. trip this fall and need info as to what I should do.
The can, once you are in camp, can be your camp stool. You can't leave the food unattended however. (regurgitating the rules from the park service here)
Once you're done with washing up and personal hygiene and dinner, the soap, deoderant, toothpaste, toothbrush, food, trash, everything else that has a scent that might appeal to bear down to the chewing gum and the lip balm, goes in the can, including (if you're me) the sit pad you spilled part of dinner on <img src="/forums/images/graemlins/shocked.gif" alt="" /> . The whole thing must be put 100 feet minimum from your camp, hopefully not near a cliff, steep hill, river, or lake that a bear could knock it into. Hanging a can would defeat the purpose; tying a rope to it gives the bear a nice handle to carry the whole thing off.
Ideally one would have the triangle approach - 100 feet from the tent you set up the kitchen; 100 feet from the kitchen and the camp, you have the bear can with the lid properly fastened. The smell of cooked food on the tent can draw a hungry critter.
You can use an odor proof sack (OP sack is made by the same folks that give us the Aloksack) but bears recognize food containers by sight these days, which is why you get a ticket for leaving a soda can in your car at trailheads in some places. Bears will see a bag or can or cooler in a back seat and rip a door off the car even if there's nothing in it. Some folk put the food in an OP sack to carry in the pack and carry the can empty at the top of the pack (redistribute weight the way they want it) and put the food in the can at the end of the day. Keeps the food odor off the pack, which doesn't fit in the can.
Loc: Lynchburg, VA
Are you using a bear can in GSMNP? If so, just make sure you keep it shut and latched when you are not actually eating any food, and you'll be fine. It doesn't matter if it's sitting around camp. You can haul it off and hide it somewhere before you go to bed if leaving it near camp bothers you. I picture bears in the SE stopping and scratching their heads when they see a bear can cause 99% of people around here don't use them. Also, if you are in a designated camp spot like you should be in GSMNP, most of them have bear cables. I can't say for sure that all of them do though, but if they are available then you can hang all your stuff off of them and you shouldn't need a bear can.
I have been backpacking 40+ years in the Sierra Nevada and have never lost food to a bear. I had been hanging my food for the last 20 years or so and have been able to find the right branch at the right height so that the bears always went for someone else bag before mine. When I am above treeline I usually cliff-hang my food.
I had an Ursack then got the aluminum liner. I used the odorproof liners and never had a problem. Now that the Ursacks are no longer "legal" where I am headed (I am starting below Mt Whitney on the PCT and hiking north along the Muir Trail) I need a new modern way.
I was going to get the Wilderness-Solutions Palisade EST to replace my old ways but was informed a) first that It had not been tested yet and then b) had failed "sight inspection" whatever that is. I had held out high hope for this device for use in the Sierra backcountry this season.
To prepare for this trip I bought a brand new "large" BearVault and when I went to pack it into my new lightweight pack found out that the canister would not go in the pack sideways but only north and south (and just barely at that). The straps on my pack are not long enough to allow me to carry it on the outside either.
Yesterday I trundle back to REI and get the small BearVault (after it had been out of stock for some time) and buy it with the idea of returning the large one. Last night I set about working on the problem of not enough space for the food. (The JMT trip is one month away.) I am seriously thinking of getting a small (450 cubic inch) Palisade EST "as an experiment" to take along with the legal BV450 and test it out in real world conditions. This way I have a "legal" canister to fulfill the letter of the law and also have a real deterrent even if it is not legal. If I am stopped by the backcountry police I show them the red top of the BearVault and wander off on my merry way.
..........or do I just hang the extra food and eat my way down?
PS I keep looking at the Palisade EST and with the array it is possible to "protect" 2700 cubic inches of food at a weight penalty of 28 ounces. It is an ethical problem for me when my critter protection weighs twice as much as my tent!
Since you already have an Ursack, why not a combination of small Bearvault and that (w/o liner)? You're an experienced hiker and certainly know how to do this in a way that protects both you and our ursine pests.
I always have a bit of overage with my bearikade on weeklong trips, so night 1's dinner and some snacks are stowed in the pack out of necessity.
Just my 2 cents - get the canister that will hold all of your food. I dont think there is a enough weight difference between the small canisters and the big ones to be worth the hassle of dealing with any food that doesn't fit. I have a Bearvault which is a few years old and no longer approved for certain areas - I'm planning to get the big Bearikade to replace it. Expensive, I know, but worth it since I have never heard of any failure, ever, anywhere, with a Bearikade, and they hold more food per ounce of canister than any other. Having lost food to a bear after a textbook- perfect hang, and having camped where I didn't really want to just to have a good hanging tree, and having my stuff sack chewed into by squirrels and such, I now carry a canister even in areas whre I don't absolutely have to, becuase it just makes life so much simpler. And I have a nice campstool to boot.
just another hypothetical situation I wasn't there and it didn't really happen. <img src="/forums/images/graemlins/blush.gif" alt="" />
In all the years I've BPk in the Sierras, I have never lost food to a bear, never hung anything but my food and garbage, and then generally 6' off the ground to keep squirrels out. I always sleep next to my pack with all of my stuff - first aid, toothpaste, etc in the top pocket. I have slept, on a cold night, with my food in my tent while sleeping in the home territory of a wild bear who visited my campsite at night - no problem.
Its important to "mark your territory" in bear country - a few cups of coffee in the evening will facilitate this. <img src="/forums/images/graemlins/tongue.gif" alt="" /> Bears are opportunistic and "cat burglarish". They follow a set path through all the known best places to find food. <img src="/forums/images/graemlins/blush.gif" alt="" /> If you camp in a spot away from where they expect to find people, they won't bother you. <img src="/forums/images/graemlins/tongue.gif" alt="" />
Of course natl parks are different, and I avoid them.
Oh yes - this is just another reason why tiny packs are worthless except for overnights. Jim <img src="/forums/images/graemlins/cool.gif" alt="" />
These are my own opinions based on wisdom earned through many wrong decisions. Your mileage may vary.
I now carry a canister even in areas whre I don't absolutely have to, becuase it just makes life so much simpler. And I have a nice campstool to boot.
This is exactly the way I feel about it. Yes, I am carrying an extra 2.5 lb. but I have never lost food to any critter and have not had to hassle with a hang. Even with the bear can (currently a Garcia) I am at 20 lb before water and food and that includes my new Sling Light chair. It is worth the convenience to me to carry the extra weight.
Minimize what needs to go into a bear canister. I think we all take too may "personal hygiene" products. I only take exactly the small amount of sunscreen I will need on each trip. For short trips, I find brushing and flossing (without toothpaste) works for a few days. No need for soap. Deorderant- forget it- you are going to smell anyway! If you take toothpast, a small travel size lasts 10 days.
Minimize the bulk of what needs to go into the bear cannister.
On trips longer than 10 days (what I can squeeze into my bear cannister) I (theoretically) would counter-balance hang the non-smelly extra food (sealed in a special smell-proof bag) until what is left fits into the cannister. This would be a rare case, because honestly, I do not like to carry more the 10-days worth of food anyway! If you have to resort to this, definitely camp far away from the trail in a spot that is off the beaten path and has NO bear signs within several miles.
Also, if you ever carry out food at the end of the trip, you probably take too much. Perhaps it is a good idea to simply not take anymore food than will fit in the cannister. Eat a little less.
By the way, Bear-i-Kade makes a very large cannister thay call the "expedition" and I hear you can get 12-15 days food into it. Seeing that the smaller "weekeneder" costs $270 the larger one may be well over $300!
It is a difficult transition if you are used to not using a cannister, but after a while, it really is not too bad.
I am counting the full cost, including shipping. I may be a little off - I know it was at least $250. Shipping is getting amazingly expensive! My children got it for me as a gift. Although expensive, I am completely satisfied with it.
Loc: Gateway to Columbia Gorge
By doing lots of squeezing, I was able to get 3 1/2 days' food for 4 people into a Bear Vault 400 for a trip to Shi-Shi Beach on Washington's Olympic coast last year. Bear canisters are required there because of the aggressive raccoons (they've been known to leap on people's packs and tear them open).
You need to repackage prepackaged foods and squeeze out as much air as possible. And you need to concentrate on low volume, high-calorie foods.
This year, I'm taking a Weekender (my son is carrying the BV 400) so we can roast marshmallows over the fire (allowed on the beach below high tide line). The two oldest grandkids (6 and 8) are coming on the trip. Look for a report in the "Hiking with Kids" section in a couple of weeks.
May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, leading to the most amazing view--E. Abbey
Loc: Lynchburg, VA
Oh yeah you're right...I didn't think about that. I bought mine last year before the gas prices got totally out of hand, and I think the shipping on it was quite reasonable back then...like around $10 - $15.
Loc: Meadow Valley, CA
I just packed my Garcia Machine canister with nine days of food to make sure it will work before starting my trip later this coming week. Last weekend, I just set most of my food in the canister and the bag of jerky was sticking way out of the top and I still had three dinners and some bars to add. Yikes! Tonight, I repacked all the dinners, ramen also and put all the bars on end at the bottom. On the down side, I don't even have 2,000 calories a day, but plan on taking the first days food out and adding some dried fruit and a few more energy bars as a few of my days will be hard, hiking off trail up over some ridges in SEKI on a loop trip. I only have around 15,000 calories now. On the plus side, I try to make my days destination before lunch. If I was putting in some big miles, I would really be dying by the time I made my destination. Almost forgot, I need to add some Gookinaid to sip on, on my hard days. Next gear purchase, a Bearicade I guess if I do any more long, hard trips.
For those who are "ouching" about the Bearikade prices - we said ouch, too. but we bought one five years ago and have used it multiple times every single year since. it may possibly be the only piece of gear from 5 years ago that we are still using. If you buy a Bearikade, you will never regret it. I do love the visibility that the BearVaults provide, but for me they are a hassle to use (impossible for me to get the lids off!), and with periodic failures and lid re-issues you have to decide if the uncertainty is worth it. I am a shameless proselytizer for the Bearikades.