7-Day Rations where Bear Canister Required

Posted by: wandering_daisy

7-Day Rations where Bear Canister Required - 06/22/08 08:59 PM

I just put together my food for my next trip - 7 days in the Sierra where a bear canister is required. I took some photos while I was packing my food. Beginners have asked about food, so here is one example of what to do.

1. Lay out food – six breakfasts, 6 dinners, 7 lunches

2. Weigh each packet and transfer to a spreadsheet that calculates nutritional value

3. Pack in bear canister (to see how it fits). Pack one day’s food at a time from bottom up.

Keep spices and stuff you use every meal on the top. I separate each day’s food with either a plastic bag or aluminum foil piece.

About half way up I put in my cook pots. On top I add the semi-perishables – cheese and margarine – I keep these in a cooler when I drive to the trailhead.

If it does not fit, I try again without the pots inside. If I keep the ready-made-meals in their original packing, I poke a small hole with a needle so I can squeeze out the air. Also, you do not have to fit your first day’s trail food (seen on top of the bear canister)– it will be eaten by your first night’s camp. The canister is the Bear-i-Kade Weekender and it weighs a hair under 2 pounds.

4. I go to my spreadsheet (a food database) and see what I have. I was light on calories (only 2,100 per day) and about a pound light on weight too. I also had too much protein and not enough carbs. So I deleted the tuna, added hummus, Cyotmax and one more trail bar. I now had the calories I needed and more carbs. Here is the ration list as finalized:

1.5 pounds food per day (9.2 pounds total food weight)
2,400 calories per day
As percent calories: 28% protein, 26%fat, 46% carbohydrate
As percent of weight: 34% protein, 13% fat, 53% carbohydrate

I can get 9-10 days food in this bear canister if I am extra careful with bulk – no using original packaging or any bulky shaped food (no macaroni- rice and cuscous pack better, Malt-o-meal is more compact than oatmeal. No trail bars. Small nuts pack down better than large nuts. No crackers. The bear canister will be full of food and no room for cookware. The one item I leave out for a few days is the butter and olive oil – the tub is just too bulky. Although freeze-dry food or food that you just add water is lighter, it is often bulky. In order to get all the food in the canister, I use regular (not instant) oatmeal. This requires a bit more gas to cook, but the gas cans do not have to fit into the bear canister. With 7-days food I have lots of room and can be relatively sloppy about the packing and take trail bars.

Other than the freeze dried food (I buy at Whole Foods) and Cytomax (from the bicycle shop), everything is from the regular grocery store.

7-Day Ration List (6 dinners and breakfasts, 7 days trail food)

Soups (1 per day) and spices 5.3 oz.
Tea bags (2 per day) 1.3 oz.
Ovaltine and Chi latte (one per day) 6.9 oz.
F.D. vegetables 2.1 oz.
F.D. tomatoes 1.6 oz.
Black beans 4.5 oz.
Cuscous 4.1 oz.
Rice 3.2 oz.
Mexican Rice Knorr side dish 6.1 oz.
Whole Wheat Pasta 3.1 oz.
Dried potatoes 6.8 oz.
Sharp cheddar cheese 5.7 oz.
Butter (some used for breakfast too) 6.7 oz.
Hummas 6.5 oz.
Hard Candy 2.2 oz.

Coffee = 1.2 oz.
Dry milk 3.3 oz.
Oatmeal, fd. Mango chunks, sugar 10.3 oz.
Malt-o-Meal, Mango chunks, sugar 10.3 oz.
Cashews 4.5 oz.

Cytomax 6.0 oz.
Emergen-C (one for each day) 2.4 oz.
Raisins 5.0 oz.
Dried apricots and pears 7.6 oz.
Wasabi peas 3.6 oz.
8-Pepper Jack cheese sticks 7.8 oz.
Almonds 8.9 oz.
Hazlenuts 3.1 oz.
4 Trail bars (variety of kinds) 8.1 oz.
Posted by: Tango61

Re: 7-Day Rations where Bear Canister Required - 06/22/08 09:25 PM

This is just the kind of stuff we need to see. It gives me lots of encouragement and great ideas rather than going the standard fd route.
What types of soups do you prefer and what types of trail bars. In one paragraph you say "No trail bars" so I'm confused. Do you mean prepackaged like Nature Valley or similar? If so, do you just take them out of the original boxes/foil wrappers and put them in baggies?


PS - Moderators - we might want to put a link to this in the Beginner's forum.
Posted by: Pika

Re: 7-Day Rations where Bear Canister Required - 06/23/08 06:05 AM

WD: I just finished the same exercise for an 11-day tour. Used an almost identical approach except I used a Bear Vault instead of a Bearicade to hold things. I only had to leave the first days pm snack and that night's dinner out. Almost needed a hydraulic press to get the last few items in. Putting little pin holes in the ziplock bags helps to bleed out some of the excess air. Thanks for the photos.
Posted by: wandering_daisy

Re: 7-Day Rations where Bear Canister Required - 06/23/08 09:00 AM

The trail bar problem is simply bulk. Because they are square. Anything square does not pack in a round canister very well. If you are willing to squish them into unrecognizable blobs, the problem is solved! Fruit and nut trail mixes really pack down better. On my 7-day trip I have room in the bear canister to use trail bars, but for a 10-day trip, I do not. Like Pika said, a pin-prick in any packaging will help it pack better.

My favorite soup is Kikoman Miso soup. It is super-light and has freeze-dried tofu. I also buy a pack of the dried seaweed (used in shushi) and add these to fortify the soup (I happen to like the taste of seaweed). Only problem is that it is expensive. I found the soup at WalMart for a good price. I live where there is a large Asian population so our stores stock a lot of Asian food. Not sure every WalMart would have it. I also buy large bulk bags of soup and pack individual servings in snack-sized zip-lock bags. Look in the soup section of any large supermarket. I like the cheese-brocolli soup. Just be sure to read the label so that it does not require a long cook time. Whole Foods also has a lot of dry soups in their bulk food bins.

Oh- another trick. With zip-lock bags, you can also get lots of air trapped inside. When you close the bag, just before finally locking, squish out all the air. I have also used a straw and sucked out all the air before sealing. The interesting thing is that any bag of food will pack better if it remains flexible. There are freeze-dried food that are shrink-wrapped in solid blocks and these do not pack well - leave too much air space.
Posted by: chaz

Re: 7-Day Rations where Bear Canister Required - 06/23/08 09:09 AM

Wow! I see I have much work to do. I'm planning a trip this fall to GSMNP and will need to use a canister. One thing you might try instead of putting pin holes in the baggies is to close the bag just leaving a little straw size opening. Put you lips on it and suck out the air. Kinda like a human vaccume seal.
Posted by: Pika

Re: 7-Day Rations where Bear Canister Required - 06/23/08 10:57 AM

The interesting thing is that any bag of food will pack better if it remains flexible. There are freeze-dried food that are shrink-wrapped in solid blocks and these do not pack well - leave too much air space.

I can definitely confirm that observation.

At one time, I thought it would be a great idea to vacuum pack my meals. So, I bought a vacuum sealer and some bag material and vacuum packed everything I was planning on taking for a five day bear canister trip.

Two problems: First, the vacuum packed items turned out to be analogous to 5" to 6" crushed rock; irregularly shaped and rock-solid. Because of their irregularity and unyielding nature, there were huge amounts of air space between packages and I couldn't get them in the canister. <img src="/forums/images/graemlins/tongue.gif" alt="" /> Second, the vacuum seal was fragile. Where the plastic was stretched over something sharp (noodle corner etc.) it was thin and prone to failure.

Because I couldn't fit all of the vacuum packed stuff into the canister I used ziplock bags for most of it; but not all. Later, on the trip, I learned about the "sharp noodle" part of vacuum packing. <img src="/forums/images/graemlins/confused.gif" alt="" /> Now, I only vacuum pack stuff that is going into resupply parcels and I wrap stuff in paper before sealing the package. The paper helps prevent the "sharp noodle" leaks. I discard the vacuum packaging and paper at the resupply point and then fit the resupply stuff into my pack. This assumes that they have garbage service of some sort; otherwise, I just carry the packaging with me to the next garbage can.
Posted by: frank

Re: 7-Day Rations where Bear Canister Required - 06/24/08 03:35 AM

One thing I do on shorter summer trips and always on winter trips is just bring miso paste and Seaweed. I make Miso soup a lot at home and always have a bag of both red and white in the fridge. That is one way to avoid the problem of MSG which a lot of the packaged soups have. Also the soup packet can get pretty pricey for what you actually get.

I buy these plastic 2"x2:" plastic containers at the$.99 Cent Store and put a blob of Miso paste in them. The containers are very lite and you get a pack of four for $.99.

As for other soups I make a lot of mine in bulk and dehydrate them. The Green's Cookbook has a really great Black Bean Soup (really a Black Bean Chilli) much better than anything you can buy in a packet. Also I make an Indian Dish called 'Rajma' which is made with kidney beans. I combine these with pre-cooked re-hydrated Quinoa to add carbs. 3.5 to 4 ozs of dehydrated Black Beans and 2 oz of Quinoa once rehydrated will swell to one pound of dinner.

Posted by: Keith

Re: 7-Day Rations where Bear Canister Required - 06/24/08 08:13 PM

Wonderful post, WD! <img src="/forums/images/graemlins/smile.gif" alt="" /> One question emerges . . .

Might your whiz-bang calorie-calculating spreadsheet be available??
Posted by: NiytOwl

Re: 7-Day Rations where Bear Canister Required - 06/26/08 08:50 AM

When you have hard items like food bars or liquids in rigid containers, pack them inside a baggie of something granular, like rice or couscous.

That's very good advice about poking a small hole in sealed packages. A loose bean bag consistency uses the available space best. Aside from allowing the air out during packing, it also prevents swelling due to altitude changes. I packed my cannister at 400 feet - when I opened it at 7000 feet, the contents began overflowing the container! I had to unpack, vent all the bags, then repack.

I still advocate vacuum packing because it allows you to keep a your dried items a lot longer than if they are loose packed in bags. You can always vent a vacuum pack bag. I prep stuff months in advance, usually when the food item goes on sale.

The problem with vacuum sealing sharp dry contents requires a bit of pre-packing. Don't just throw the food in the vacuum bag. Put the food into an empty potato chip/breakfast cereal bag first, trim it to size, then that goes into the bag. You shouldn't have problems with noodles poking through now.

I like miso as well. Like Frank, I make my own. A heaping teaspoon of miso paste, mix in 1/4 tsp of soy sauce, then add 1/2 tsp of powdered dashi soup base. You should have a really stiff paste, which will keep without refrigeration at least a week, due to the salt content. The other ingredients are optional. Some dried green onions, dry wakame (seaweed), sliced and dried shitake mushrooms and freeze-dried tofu make it pretty authentic. Freeze-dried tofu is actually possible to do at home. The first time I tried drying tofu I just threw it in dehydrator. I got hard chunks of leather that never absorbed water - basically inedible. The trick is to freeze it, then put it in the dehydrator for 30 minutes, then back in the freezer for 2 hours, and repeat until dry. If you cube the tofu fairly small, it should only take the first trip through the dehydrator to get a nicely dried, crunchy product that rehydrates quickly.
Posted by: Jimshaw

Re: 7-Day Rations where Bear Canister Required - 06/26/08 07:26 PM


Ok I'm impressed. I have never put food on a spread sheet before. This is obviously the way to go, but then I NEVER consider the proportions of stuff in my food ever, why do it camping? <img src="/forums/images/graemlins/blush.gif" alt="" /> I simply fill the bottom of the pack with Ramen, add ten pounds of granola and powdered milk, coffee and choclate, and some beans to cook over a fire somewhere, oh and a can of USDA canned chicken. <img src="/forums/images/graemlins/blush.gif" alt="" />
I noticed a distinct lack of choclate. <img src="/forums/images/graemlins/tongue.gif" alt="" />

So as Pika says - hydrolics - most food will flow if pressed hard enough. So what if it starts out square. Oh geez this paints a sad picture for those of us who eat small animals - squished into a bear cannister. <img src="/forums/images/graemlins/shocked.gif" alt="" /> <img src="/forums/images/graemlins/tongue.gif" alt="" /> "Hey separate those squirrels with a piece of aluminum foil will ya? <img src="/forums/images/graemlins/blush.gif" alt="" />

I have to say that separating the days food with aluminum foil is excessive. Do you cook in the aluminum foil? <img src="/forums/images/graemlins/blush.gif" alt="" />
Wish I could go with you. <img src="/forums/images/graemlins/grin.gif" alt="" />
Jim <img src="/forums/images/graemlins/cool.gif" alt="" />
Posted by: lv2fsh

Re: 7-Day Rations where Bear Canister Required - 06/27/08 11:58 AM

I have the large bear vault and managed to get 4 days and 3 nights worth of food for two people in it along with medicine and toiletries. I have to get another one now if I want to take my dog into areas that require them. Where not required, I usually hang my food and have had no problems. We used basically the same method of repackaging and planning as WD. Although not quite as organized <img src="/forums/images/graemlins/grin.gif" alt="" />. But she has explained it excellantly.
Posted by: ecables

Re: 7-Day Rations where Bear Canister Required - 07/13/08 11:29 AM

Wonderful post, WD! <img src="/forums/images/graemlins/smile.gif" alt="" /> One question emerges . . .

Might your whiz-bang calorie-calculating spreadsheet be available??

Posted by: going rafting

Re: 7-Day Rations where Bear Canister Required - 06/03/09 12:59 PM

I'm planning a six night rafting trip and I take along a bear canister. If I can't fit everything into the canister, I leave some stuff out that's packaged well. Like a sealed bag of chips. After the first day the space isn't as critical.

I always take canned food rafting, and leave it out. Do bears get into cans?

Vacuum sealing grains for dinner is a good idea but not necessary. I like to add the salt/spices to the rice while I'm packing it.

I don't think I could ever plan this with a spreadsheet. I just take along a lot of stuff I think I'll want to eat and eat it. As long as I get a good hot dinner at night I'll be happy.

Posted by: MattnID

Re: 7-Day Rations where Bear Canister Required - 06/03/09 07:05 PM

I actually am not sure if bears can smell what is actually on the inside of cans, but they may be able to smell things that might smell good on the outside and decide to be curious about the contents. I however have not had any personal experience with bears bothering canned food since I avoid them on backpacking trips. Hopefully someone might know for sure.
Posted by: sarbar

Re: 7-Day Rations where Bear Canister Required - 06/04/09 01:59 PM

The issue would be with food odors on the outside - they would smell that. And it wouldn't be good for them to gnaw on metal ;-)
Posted by: MattnID

Re: 7-Day Rations where Bear Canister Required - 06/04/09 08:31 PM

I wouldn't be so concerned with them gnawing on it as much as 500-almost 2k lbs of bear jumping up and down on it, lol.