How do you carry your BRC?

Posted by: willie1280

How do you carry your BRC? - 03/19/18 02:33 PM

I'm going to Lake Clark National Park in Alaska in the fall and they require BRC (Bear Resistant Containers). I'v never carried one before as we typically just hoist our soft sided food bags. So i'm curious if you carry them inside your packs or outside. Also curious if you invest in the soft bags they make for them for easier external carrying or not.

I'm leaning towards the Bear Vault style/brand vs. the Garcia.
Posted by: OregonMouse

Re: How do you carry your BRC? - 03/19/18 03:13 PM

I had to look this up because I had no idea what a "BRC" is. It's normally known as a bear canister.

Carry it inside your pack. If outside, it will cause problems with pack balance, particularly when full of food. You may, of course, need a bigger pack. The Bear Vault also makes a convenient stool to sit on in camp.

You might want to think about where you may want to backpack in the future. Does this park specifically state a hard-sided canister or just a container approved by the IGBC (Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee)? If the latter, check out the Ursack S29 (much lighter), unless you plan to backpack the Sierra Nevada or Olympic NP in future. The Bear Vault can't be used in one part of the Adirondacks.

Using an external bag or harness on the canister will make it easy for a bear to carry it off.

You may need to modify your food menu to avoid bulk. For instance, take rice or couscous (which is a form of pasta) instead of noodles. While I missed slurping noodles, the taste of my spaghetti using couscous was exactly the same. If you must take noodles or chips, smash them thoroughly and eat the the crumbs with your spoon. Repackage everything to make it more compact, and stick to flexible packaging.

I presume you've studied up on how to cook and store your food in grizz country!
Posted by: balzaccom

Re: How do you carry your BRC? - 03/20/18 10:14 AM

We've used a Bear Vault for many years. Works fine, and opens without a tool. OM makes a good point about packing it: it's a science once you get it down. Take the air out of every sealed package, limit the amount of packaging in general. Cram, cram, cram. If you are good, you can get food for two people for four days into the larger BV500. And since you can carry your first day's lunch and dinner in the pack and outside of the BV, that's a five day trip for two--ten days for one!

I carry mine upright in my pack. First I pack my sleeping bag and pad in the very bottom of my pack--since I won't every need that until the end of the day. On top of that I pack the BV500, upright, and slide the tent down next to it in the pack. I can usually wedge a few more things, like a fly rod or loose clothes, down alongside those. On top of those go my light things: clothed, raingear, puffy jacket, etc. Those I might need on the trail.

Outside pockets are for water, water filter, lunch, and the odds and ends bag I carry with mosquito net, bug spray, bandana, etc.
Posted by: wandering_daisy

Re: How do you carry your BRC? - 03/20/18 06:54 PM

You need to contact the NP permit office and ask for a list of specific approved bear cans. They may list it on their web site. Each jurisdiction has different approved brands. Most national parks will rent a bear can. This actually is the best way to go unless you plan on using a bear can a lot. So you may be limited by what they rent. Here in the Sierra they only rent Garcia and Bear Vault, with a very few Bearikades rented at selected trailheads.

If you can fit the bear can horizontally inside your pack it would be a lot better. Most men's large to x-large packs do this, but not most women's packs. The Garcia is more likley to fit this way than the Bear Vault, but the Garcia has much reduced capacity and is heavy. Another gripe about the Garcia is that a cook pot does not fit inside due to the narrow opening at the top. There are other brands out there that can only be purchased on the internet. I use the Bearikade- very expensive, but the best capacity for the weight. Not sure it would be approved where you are going.

On longer trips, I actually prefer to use my old external frame Kelty (with an extension bar), and simply strap the bear can onto the extension bar on the top. This really carries the weight the best.

I find that a bear can (totally stiff) vertical in my internal frame pack is quite uncomfortable. I finally got a woman's pack that I can get it in horizontally, and it really is much more comfortable. So for me it was not the issue of the vertical bear can taking up too much space, but it's discomfort.

If you plan to rent a bear can, you still may want to go down to your REI store and see what fits inside your pack. Perhaps even rent one for a day and fill it to see exactly how many days food you can get inside.

Lots of people buy a bear can for one trip and then never use it again, so you can often buy a used one.
Posted by: HPD

Re: How do you carry your BRC? - 03/20/18 07:23 PM

Had to use mine last year in Rocky Mountain NP. I don't like using it and I find that is doesn't let me pack efficiently. I have the large Bear Vault and strapped it on top of my Osprey pack with nothing in it and I thought it worked pretty well. Would post a photo but don't get how that works on this forum.
Posted by: wandering_daisy

Re: How do you carry your BRC? - 03/21/18 11:12 AM

When you live where you most often have to carry a bear can, you simply buy a different pack that works. Big gripe I have is that few packs are designed to carry a bear can- most annoying when they would just have to increase the girth an inch to make it work!

Seriously, I really hated my bear can until I got used to it. Now I even take it when not strictly required. It is so much easier for me than to try to hang the food. I think OM and I each lack the ability to throw a line effectively. My 7 year old grandson can throw better than me! Now that I have an internal frame pack that fits the bear can horizontally, it works quite well. My kids got me a Bearikade Weekender one Christmas, and it is worth every penny of its shocking cost.
Posted by: OregonMouse

Re: How do you carry your BRC? - 03/21/18 12:43 PM

The Bearikade unfortunately is not approved by the IGBC. Their testing grizzly bears managed to chew holes in a pilot model, and the Bearikade folks never submitted one for re-testing. Of course I didn't find this out until I had spent the $$$ for one! It is still accepted by the Sierra national parks, though.

I also have an Ursack S29, which is approved by the IGBC, so I'm covered one way or another. I use the Ursack except where a hard-sided canister is required.

The rules are so complicated--each jurisdiction makes up its own-- that you really do have to check with the individual park or forest!
Posted by: wandering_daisy

Re: How do you carry your BRC? - 03/22/18 02:06 PM

Bears are smart, and given enough time they will learn to get into almost any "bear-proof" container. Over time, what is approved will also change, as well the unique requirements of each jurisdiction at any point in time. So, unless you regularly use a bear can, I think it is better to rent than buy. I use a bear can so much and go out so much that the weight savings of the Bearikade is worth it, even if not approved by IGBC. Here in the Sierra, the Ursack has had a history of being approved at times, and not approved at others.

The latest method that bears now use, is to roll the can over a cliff to break it. The idea of a bear can is that the bear cannot pick it up, only can roll it around, so will get bored and leave it alone. You set it on the open ground. If you lock the bear can against rocks or tree trunks, it allows the bear to exert more force to break the can. Be careful to place your bear can where it cannot be rolled into a river or off a cliff! By the way, the regulators could care less if your food goes missing- they only are concerned that the bear cannot get into it and become habituated to people food.

For larger groups you can use electric nets. They weigh about 5 pounds so not efficient for the single backpacker. NOLS uses these for their courses. A solar battery provides the power.