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Sierra Folks - What's your bear cannister of choice?
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Steve McQueen
(cpholley) - F

Locale: Minnesota Transplant
Sierra Folks - What's your bear cannister of choice? on 01/20/2008 19:17:23 MST Print View

Eventually I'll have to get over the whole Bear Cannister thing, cuz I really need to see the Sierras at somepoint soon. But what do you pack? Which one? And how big is your pack? If you care to share pack size, make/model, capacity, that too would be great. I'm really thinking for a 4-7 day trip.


Anitra Kass
(Anitraten) - F

Locale: SoCal
Sierra Bear Cannisters on 01/20/2008 19:46:41 MST Print View

I've hiked in the Sierra twice. Both were fairly early season (late June of 2005 and early July 2006) and I traveled a bit on snow at the higher elevations. In 2005 I carried the big, clear Bear Vault inside of my ULA P1 pack. I didn't see any bears (but my friends did, see BPL print mag Issue 8, the article "Bear Encounters" and Rob Rathmann's story). I saw one ranger who didn't ask to see my canister. I know that Bear Vault changed their lid for 2006 but I think the cannisters stayed about the same dimensions.

In 2006, I used the Ursack hybrid which was conditionally approved at the time (but I don't believe it is at this time). I used it inside my Golite Breeze. This was much nicer (=lighter) but I don't think it's an option if it's not approved. It might do the job (I know there is some controversy about testing procedures, etc.) but I think you could still get ticketed by a ranger and I try to avoid that kind of stuff. Hope that helps,

Ken Helwig
(kennyhel77) - MLife

Locale: Scotts Valley CA via San Jose, CA
cannisters on 01/20/2008 19:56:44 MST Print View

Bear Vault 1/2 size. I use my Ursack in areas that have no limitations like Emmigrant, Desolation, Hoover. Yosemite and SEKI I use a cannister. I use a Granite Gear Vapor Trail as well as Gossamer Gear Mariposa. 3600 CI for the GG and for the Gossamer Gear I think it is around 4000 CI?

Just be creative and you can make it work. Cannisters suck but the end results are that bears do not eat your food and they stay alive.

Brian UL

Locale: New England
Cannister confusion on 01/20/2008 20:11:03 MST Print View

Ive been wanting to do the JMT for a long time. Im in New England where I dont worry about bears at all, I usually just sleep with my food or hang it high enough so mice dont get at it. I WAS planning on using the ursack since I Hate the idea of carring a canister.
I understand it is only required in certain areas and some people get around the rules by hiking thru those sections and not stopping to camp. Is that feasible or am I just being a jerk if I try and do that?

Bob Bankhead
(wandering_bob) - MLife

Locale: Oregon, USA
Sierra Folks - What's your bear cannister of choice?" on 01/20/2008 20:29:06 MST Print View

Bearikade Expedition (the big one)

I've hiked in Yosemite NP in August of 3 different years. Each year, I've had rangers check both my permit and my bear can.

My pack is a 4200 cubic inch Mountainsmith Auspex. That big Bearikade stands vertically in the bottom of my pack.

Wandering Bob

Edited by wandering_bob on 01/20/2008 20:30:39 MST.

Ken Helwig
(kennyhel77) - MLife

Locale: Scotts Valley CA via San Jose, CA
sierra and cannisters on 01/20/2008 20:45:09 MST Print View

Brian you will hike a good portion of the JMT that includes or should I say all of the JMT with Yosemite and SEKI being the parks you travel through. You can use the lockers that are assigned but they get pretty far and few between. If you are someone doing the PCT I think there are ways of getting around it. The JMT is obviously much shorter but the problem that you might encounter is a backcountry ranger inquiring about a cannister in your pack. You will have to produce it or get escorted out with a fine. Now don't be a tough guy, those rangers also carry handguns and they have switched to a more of a police role out there (kind of kidding but also serious). If you plan your re-supplies to Tuolumne, Reds Meadow, Lake Vermillion (is that right? I forget) and Muir Trail Camp you should be able to keep the food load to a reasonable amount. Keep in mind that some of the places that you are hiking through are notorious for bear-human problems. Just my 2 cents. Have fun on the hike.

Anitra Kass
(Anitraten) - F

Locale: SoCal
Sierra Cannisters on 01/20/2008 20:53:43 MST Print View

I remember that Yogi had a section about bear cannisters in her PCT handbook and it appears that you could almost hike bear box to bear box but I vaguely remember there being a 50 mile section without a bear box. Doable but not likely for me to do.

I know some thru hikers figure that the 50 mile stretch was toward the end of their resupply period so they figured that it wouldn't be a big deal if a bear got their food but they would still steath camp and not cook in camp. I carried a bear cannister because I'd feel like a big jerk if they had to put down a bear because I didn't carry a cannister but I'd feel like an even bigger jeark because I have a degree in Recreation Management. I figure I should model the behavior I expect to see from other participants...right?

I would say please consider the bear if you are considering not carrying a cannister. Make sure the Bear Boxes are spaced in a way that you can get to them at night.

Oh yeah, PCT thru hikers are not exempt from carrying cannisters, it just so happens that a few think they can get a way with it since they are there in the early season and rangers aren't usually out and I've heard people say they camp high and the bears are still low, looking for food. I don't know how accurate that is.

Sorry so rambling,

Edited by Anitraten on 01/20/2008 20:55:26 MST.

Brian UL

Locale: New England
Re: sierra and cannisters on 01/20/2008 20:55:29 MST Print View

Thanks, I figured I would have to go with a cannister, mostly because its the right thing to do for the bear population. I just wanted somone who knew the area to make it clear, as I have heard about PCT hikers going without one. I guess more frequent resupply stops is the answer if you want to keep the weight off.

oh, sorry for the small thread hijack, Im interested to see what people are using as well!

Edited by MAYNARD76 on 01/20/2008 21:07:25 MST.

Kirk Beiser
(kab21) - F

Locale: Pic: Gun Lake, BWCA
Bearikade on 01/20/2008 21:18:24 MST Print View

If you're going to be using it several times, the Bearikade is the way to go. But it's expensive (just over 200 I think). Otherwise the Bearvault is a good canister. Just a little heavier. Get some grippy tape to put on the lid to make easier to open. I saw alot of hikers struggle opening it. I'm sure that there is a place that you could find to rent a BearVault or maybe even a Bearikade if you look hard enough.

I took a 60L Mountainsmith Phantom (2003 model) when I hiked on the PCT last summer (only 2000 miles, I'm lazy). And if I went again I think I can get down to the ULA conduit. I've trimmed the gear list alot. Getting a canister in there will be tricky, but I think it's possible.

Don't camp near Thousand Island Lake. There were 2 bear encounters there last year on the samee night (same bear). Including one that got into an Ursack with the approved liner. I heard the story second hand, but it sounded like the opening at the top was open just enough that the bear could get his tongue in there and pull the food out.

Technically it might be possible to hike bearbox to bearbox, but then you're entire schedule is based inconveniently placed boxes (either shorter or longer days than you want). Also a couple of thru-hikers got checked for canisters and didn't have one. They got lucky and only had to turn in a receipt that they bought one to avoid the fine. But even if you're technically allowed to not use a canister if you go bear box to bear box, you're going to have a hard time explaining that to a ranger. They expect every backpacker to have one. Not worth the hassle IMO.

Oh and there really is a significant problem with bears in the Sierra's (mostly heavy use areas). These bears are very, very talented. I was told a story about a bear that would jump out of trees trying to break the branch that the bear bag (not allowed) was hanging from. And all night long, the campers just kept hearing this loud crash and thump (imagine a 250 lb bear falling 10 feet onto a branch and then onto the ground). They told a ranger about this strange noise and he said that Kamikaze must be back in the area.

The Sierra's are probably the most amazing place I've ever been. It's a great place to take a trip.

Mark Verber
(verber) - MLife

Locale: San Francisco Bay Area
Re: Sierra Folks - What's your bear cannister of choice? on 01/20/2008 22:18:53 MST Print View

I have used the bearvault solo, a bearikade weekender, and a ursack. Typically them were using in a granite gear vapor trail (typically around 2700ci with the roll top cinched down). The bearikade was carried vertically in most packs. I can cram 8 days of food into it if I select food for low volume. IMore normal for me is 4 days of food plus run for all my cooking gear and other smelly items. ve never tired to really stuff the bearvault solo... it was used on a few three day trips where is was adaquate.

Albert K.
(archer) - F

Locale: Northeastern U.S.
Bear Vault on 01/21/2008 08:37:58 MST Print View

Not directly on point, but I've spent lots of time in Shenandoah NP, which is chock full of black bears (saw 3 on my last trip).

I've used the large Bear Vault for the last two years there. Never an issue. I like that it's clear - I can dig through it w/o dumping everything out.

I've used it in an Osprey Exposure 66 and a SMD Starlite. Unlike most, I like the canister upright vs. horizontal. Things don't seem to slide around when it's upright, and any movement within my pack bugs me.

Mike Klinefelter
(mjkline) - F

Locale: Southern California
Bear Box Locations on 01/21/2008 08:40:03 MST Print View

I believe that the bear regulations are oriented toward food storage while camping, not while hiking. There are bear boxes located in the backcountry of SEKI along the JMT for food storage while camping. These are all within pretty easy hiking distance of one another. North of SEKI, bear boxes are only located in developed areas (i.e. Reds Meadow, Devils Postpile, Tuolumne Meadows) and in Little Yosemite Valley. There are several maps and lists online that show the locations of these boxes. Some research into the facts would be a good idea before going into the Sierra. A good place to start is the SEKI Bear Management webpage found HERE and the SIBBG website at SIBBG . There are links to list of where bear box locations are. Here's a quick link to a list of bear box locations throughout the Sierra, BEAR BOX LOCATIONS.

There are areas along the JMT where bear canisters are not required for food storage, they are only recommended. There was an excellent map that was produced by the USFS last year (2007) showing all the regulated areas and bear box locations and trails in the Sierras. It was a great overview map in geneal of the Sierra. I was going to provide a link here, but the map has vanished. Here is a link to an article about the map, BEAR BOX MAP. Fortunately I downloaded the map so I do have a copy of it.

One last thing. The Bear Box location in SEKI are generally in heavily used areas that will be very crowded with people during the peak season. Unless you like camping in the backcountry with crowds, I wouldn't plan on using them. Using a bear canister provides a degree of freedom and safety (for both people and bears) while traveling in the Sierra. The main bear canisters available are 9" or less in diameter. Depending on the height of the bear cansiter and the size of your pack, you may be able to fit the cansiter in sideways in the bottom of your pack. If not, as long as your pack is greater than 9" in diameter, the cansiter will fit standing upright. In my Vapor Trail long, it's not quite big enough to fit the Bearvault BV400 sideways in the bottom, so I have to stand it upright.

Hope this helps.

Ken Helwig
(kennyhel77) - MLife

Locale: Scotts Valley CA via San Jose, CA
bear boxes on 01/21/2008 08:49:05 MST Print View

Managing your food while hiking is of concern too. Try to explain to a ranger that all of your food and pack was taken by a bear. You will get a fine. Sure, I do take out my first nights meal and luch to make more room. But I am also at risk. Bear boxes are good but hard to hike and use them.

Brian Lewis
(brianle) - F

Locale: Pacific NW
Strap to top of pack on 01/21/2008 08:50:22 MST Print View

I have a GG Mariposa Plus, and will attempt a PCT thru-hike this year (NOBO). To test out the bearcan situation, I did a trip last year where I strapped the bearcan on the top of my pack. It will fit inside, but for me at least, this took up way too much of the available volume.

I own two bearcans, an older model BearVault (BV200) and the traditional black Garcia. You can buy a canvas cover for the Garcia, and I made one for the BV200. In both cases I felt that I needed a cover that fit or strapped very tightly to the can as otherwise the smooth plastic bear can would inevitable slip out, likely at the worst possible moment, to be lost in a canyon or cracked open or both ...

Strapping on top is kind of a PITA, because you have to take the can off and put it back on again in order to get access to the main body of your pack. Oh well! It works, and it's what I'll be doing.

I guess as a minor added bonus, no need for rangers to ask, they'll be able to see the sucker prominently displayed !

P. P.
(toesnorth) - F

Locale: PNW
Re: Bear cannister on 01/21/2008 09:50:20 MST Print View

I own both the solo bearvault and the larger 400. The new models are easier to open than the old version.
Mine have been tested with 10 black bears so far. I fill them with smelly goodies and leave them in my yard in late summer when the bears come to harvest our fruit trees.
The vaults are usually carried upright in a granite gear vapor trail.
I used the bearikade and ursacks before I bought the bear vaults and I prefer the Bear Vaults.

Edited by toesnorth on 01/21/2008 09:51:20 MST.

David T
(DaveT) - F
. on 01/21/2008 11:55:15 MST Print View


Edited by DaveT on 11/19/2014 22:31:15 MST.

Eric Blumensaadt
(Danepacker) - MLife

Locale: Mojave Desert
Garcia BearVault on 01/22/2008 11:10:32 MST Print View

I like the Garcia BearVault. It's got a grizzly-proof lid and I've taped 4 D rings to it with Gorilla duct tape so I can strap it more securely on my pack. I really dislike carying the beast but in the Sierras I have no choice. It means I must use my 7+ lb. Dana Designs Terraplane pack instead of my 3+ lb. REI UL60 pack. C'est la vie. (or as we Americans so charmingly put it "$#!t happens")


Ryley Breiddal
(ryleyb) - F - M

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Bearikade on 01/22/2008 17:29:20 MST Print View

I rented a Bearikade directly from Wild Ideas for my PCT thru hike this past summer. I put it upright in the bottom of my SMD Starlite pack and it did fine. It's light enough that I didn't really notice it (although the 9 days of food I crammed in it was certainly noticed :)


Locale: Greater Gila
Ranger fines on 01/22/2008 17:54:24 MST Print View

Sorry for going slighly off topic with this. But, what exactly is the fine system for not having a canister in SEKI or Yosemite? Is it just a fine, or is it a fine in addition to being escorted out of the park? I'm sure that this varies according to the ranger and his/her mood, but I'd like to know if they really ever do force people to leave the trails because of the lack of a canister. I can understand the punishment, but would like to know if it's happens enough to be worried about.

Denis Hazlewood
(redleader) - MLife

Locale: Luxury-Light Luke on the Llano Azul
Re: Sierra Folks - What's your bear cannister of choice? on 01/22/2008 18:57:23 MST Print View

I've owned almost every brand and still have a Garcia and two Bearikades, one of their original size: 10" and a newer 8". The Bearicade is the only one I ever use. I can get 7 days food in the 10", with room to spare.

I don't ever carry one unless it's absolutely required. In almost 40 years of backpacking, from Sequoia NP to Mt. Shasta, I've only had bears in camp once. That was at the Lost Lakes, in the Mokelumne Wilderness in 1995. They were gone the last time I was there in 2004. When I do use the cannister I put it in the bottom cylinder of my LuxuryLite pack with my tent and pad. The Lost Coast is where I use it the most often.

Edited by redleader on 01/22/2008 19:10:13 MST.