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#148705 - 04/01/11 02:32 AM Bear Container or Hanging
MTvagabond Offline

Registered: 03/30/11
Posts: 43
Loc: Western Montana
I have been a food hanger for decades. Last year I learned the PCT method, which is pretty cool. But I'm wondering what people here think about bear containers.

Here's my issue:

The last few years of backpacking with my wife and child in bear/grizzly country made it a real inconvenience to deal with food. Here's the scenario. We arrive at a potential campsite after hours of hiking and want to look around. First things first: we spend 1/2 hour looking for an adequate tree limb (pine trees) to hang a bag, gather up our food/ scented items, and hoist them into the air. We relax for an hour or so, set up camp, and retrieve the bag for dinner. Make dinner, get ready for bed, hang the bag, sleep, get down the bag, eat, hang the bag, fish, get down the bag, eat, hang the bag,hike, get down the bag, etc.

I hate the idea of carrying a bear container if I'm not required to, but I think it would very convenient and allow for more time with the family. While I intend to teach my son how and why to properly hang a bag, it has been very time consuming on our last few major trips. I purchased a Bear Keg recently, but I'm debating on whether or not to take it back or use it. I haven't found many sources online that actually recommend or advocate using a bear container if not required, but I'm wondering what others think,... particularly people with kids.

Like I said, I've always been a hanger. The bear container seems right out of X files-- I want to believe (but don't want to carry it).
...then we might find something that we weren't looking for, which might be just what we were looking for, really. - Milne

#148711 - 04/01/11 10:17 AM Re: Bear Container or Hanging [Re: MTvagabond]
lori Offline

Registered: 01/22/08
Posts: 2801
It sounds like it's optional for you, and not mandatory, as it is for some of us.

I would send back the Bear Keg, and rent a Bearikade for your next trip. Try it out and see. If you like the Bearikade they will apply the rental fee toward the purchase.

Bearikades are the most expensive cans out there on the approved lists for places like Yosemite, yet they are the lightest cans for the volume they provide. Unlike Bear Vaults they have never been opened by a bear and they are very easy to open. Unlike Garcia or the Bear Keg, they are not heavy for their size and have a nice wide opening. You can also get them in custom sizes.

Or, if you rent the Bearikade by mail and want to consider budget you could always opt for a large version of the Bear Vault, or one of the other models with a similar locking mechanism to the Bearikade - Bare Boxer, Garcia and Bear Keg all open with a coin or some other slender item that slides in the slot - I've used the back of a knife.

A lot of us would suffer the nuisance of hanging or use an Ursack, if we could. Which is another option - you don't have to hang Ursacks, just tie knots, since the fabric's durability is the protective factor. Ursacks involve less expense as well. You just can't sit on them or use them as a washing machine as you can the cans.
"In the beginner's mind there are many possibilities. In the expert's mind there are few." Shunryu Suzuki

#148721 - 04/01/11 12:14 PM Re: Bear Container or Hanging [Re: lori]
oldranger Offline

Registered: 02/23/07
Posts: 1735
Loc: California (southern)
Seems like it is your choice - either extra weight or added convenience. Everything has its price.

#148726 - 04/01/11 12:39 PM Re: Bear Container or Hanging [Re: lori]
BrianLe Offline

Registered: 02/26/07
Posts: 1149
Loc: Washington State, King County
My inclination would be to use an Ursack with odor proof liner. In fact, I'll be hiking through Montana later this year and plan to do exactly that, FWIW, but I have no prior experience in that area (nor in Grizzly country in general, FYI).
Brian Lewis

#148733 - 04/01/11 02:33 PM Re: Bear Container or Hanging [Re: BrianLe]
OregonMouse Offline

Registered: 02/03/06
Posts: 6561
Loc: Gateway to Columbia Gorge
For what it's worth, Brian, in Wyoming's Wind Rivers (Bridger-Teton NF), it is required either to hang or to use a hard-sided container approved by the IAGBC. However, the hanging method suggested on the Bridger-Teton NF website will make anyone familiar with Sierra bears ROTFL! (OOPS--I just tried to look this up--the USFS has just completely changed its websites and I couldn't find anything about food storage regs on the new BTNF website. It may be there somewhere, but neither the site search feature nor google could find it.)

I use my Ursack in conjunction with an OP Sack. For trips over 6 nights, my dog Hysson has his own Ursack and OP sacks--one OP sack on each side of his pack because even I can smell his dog kibble through a freezer bag. This is technically illegal in the Wind Rivers, though, but nobody called me on it--possibly because I like to "stealth camp" well off the trail and away from popular areas. I do take 40 feet of cord so I could hang the Ursack if someone got on my case. In the meantime, the cord is a dog tie-out or a clothesline, so it's not useless weight. I can't throw (triggers my arthritis) and never could hit the side of a barn when inside it, which is why I use the Ursack instead of hanging.

I've noticed from the photos in her book that Wandering_Daisy uses a bear canister in the Winds. I personally will not carry the extra weight for an 8-9 day trip if the canister isn't legally required. Even the Bearikade equals the weight of 2 days worth of food for me. The bear canister makes a nice stool to sit on, though!

To the OP: I always understood that you only need to hang the food at night and any time you are not right there with it (i.e., leave the campsite). That's what I've done. Of course, Murphy's Law dictates that as soon as you have hung the bag/tied the Ursack to a tree/closed the bear canister, you always remember something you need from it or to put into it! And I've never really been more than on the fringes of grizzly country, and rarely backpack in national parks.

If you don't mind the extra weight of the canister, it is a bit more convenient. But do get the Bearikade, which is lots lighter.

Edited by OregonMouse (04/01/11 02:49 PM)
May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, leading to the most amazing view--E. Abbey

#148742 - 04/01/11 03:59 PM Re: Bear Container or Hanging [Re: OregonMouse]
wandering_daisy Offline

Registered: 01/11/06
Posts: 2797
Loc: California
First check your local regulations. Do not buy any bear can that is not approved for the area you will use. I have heard by word of mouth (not verfied) that in Montana the Bearikade is not "approved". I resisted using a bear cannister for years until my kids bought me the Bearikade. As I started using it more in areas where it was required I got used to the convience. If not required, on short trips (2-3 days) I hang because if I were to loose all the food I could still manage. On longer and more remote trips, I prefer to take the bear cannister. The bear can is also waterproof, really a nice feature.

As for weight, if you hang you still have to have cord and bags and they weigh something. My hanging set-up weighs 8 oz. Very thin cord is hard to handle and can damage trees so I use a heavier cord than "minimum".

Last year I bought an Ursack. This is now what I will use when there are no hard-sided can requirement.

#148750 - 04/01/11 07:39 PM Re: Bear Container or Hanging [Re: oldranger]
MTvagabond Offline

Registered: 03/30/11
Posts: 43
Loc: Western Montana
Yeah, it does seem like I have to figure out the trade-offs and go from there. If it wasn't for the fact that I've been having a hard time finding a good limb, it would probably be a non issue. The last several outings we traveled mainly through doghair stands of pine, which are useless to hand from. On one trip, we camped somewhat near a couple who had a bear canister. I found myself a bit envious looking at them enjoy the view while I trudged off to find a good limb. After a LONG time searching, I found a decent older tree that was very far away from camp.

I like the idea of renting one to try it out. I'll have to check with the forest service in my area and see if they offer this. Right now I don't believe bear canisters are required anywhere I might be hiking, so I'm not sure if there is a big rental market here. I looked into other brands like the Bearikade. I guess one of the main selling points for me was that the bear keg is made here in Montana. But I would welcome a little less weight (it's kind of a wash- any weight I lose from my pack this year because my son carries more just gets replaced with the bear container).

I'm still torn, but thanks for the great ideas everyone. I might have to revisit the Ursack too. Seems like that might be a good compromise for me.
...then we might find something that we weren't looking for, which might be just what we were looking for, really. - Milne


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