Sleeping with food
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Christopher Plesko
(Pivvay) - F

Locale: Rocky Mountains
Sleeping with food on 09/03/2006 15:48:19 MDT Print View

My trips here in Colorado have some bear "risk" but I don't percieve it as a big deal. I may be wrong? No where has had posted food rules but they do have signs saying to put trash in the secure trashcans and for car campers to leave their food in their cars.

Nonetheless my current strategy is just to sleep with my food and trash in an odorproof sack using it as foot insulation. All my meals are freezer bag style meals and I'm just boiling water at night and a cup of tea in the morning. Stove is Esbit.

Am I tempting fate leaving rope and a minibiner at home or is this likely fine? I obviously prefer the simplicity and less weight of this method. I'm not camping near other people or other campsites where bear would have learned to look for food.

Douglas Frick
(Otter) - MLife

Locale: Wyoming
Re: Sleeping with food on 09/03/2006 16:24:10 MDT Print View

I always bring my Ursack (and odorproof bag) and stash it a safe distance away just on general principles, but there is about an 8 oz. penalty for the Ursack. I wouldn't want to wake to a bear nibbling at my toes, but I backpacked for years in the Olympics without taking any bear precautions, even when we camped in places with plenty of bear sign.

I'm also curious if 'best practices' are really only necessary in places with habituated bears. (Not talking about grizzly country, of course.)

Edited by Otter on 09/03/2006 16:24:52 MDT.

Dale Wambaugh
(dwambaugh) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Re: Sleeping with food on 09/05/2006 11:19:25 MDT Print View

Sleeping with food is a great way to get holes chewed in your gear by smaller varmits. A cavalier attitude towards food handling is how the bears in places like Yosemite got used to shopping from backpacks. It is our collective responsibility to take these simple precautions for the safety of the wildlife and those who will hike after us. It is an extension of leave-no-trace as well as having your trip ruined by losing your food or worse.

I've had more issues with mice and raccoons than bears, but bear-bagging keeps them out of my tent, pack and sleeping bag too.

Christopher Plesko
(Pivvay) - F

Locale: Rocky Mountains
sleeping with food on 09/05/2006 16:18:02 MDT Print View

Dale,

I asked the question because I'm not as experienced as many of you. I have never had to deal with bears nor have I done much (non-car) camping in my life prior to this summer.

If your food is in an odorproof sack then how do any animals know you have it? How is it safer hung from a tree in an odor proofsack vs in my bivy? There doesn't seem to be any sort of major bear issue here in Colorado but I'm sure there are other little critters and I don't want to be creating any issues in the future.

After I've been riding for 150 miles a day well into the night it's a lot easier to make sure all my trash and food goes into one bag and I keep it with me rather than find a place to hang it. What did RJ and crew do on their Alaska trip?

Chris

Edited by Pivvay on 09/05/2006 16:23:18 MDT.

Mitchell Keil
(mitchellkeil) - F

Locale: Deep in the OC
Re: sleeping with food on 09/05/2006 16:30:27 MDT Print View

"Crikey" As the now dead croc hunter used to say. There was a man who lived on the edge most of the time -- putting himself in harm's way to entertain us -- and fluke though it was, he is now a statistic. Please don't add your name to the list for a Darwin award. Sleeping with your food is just asking to become an snack to some bear. And as one poster stated, we owe it to those who come after us to not habituate wildlife to the presence of easy to gather human food and trash. We also owe it to the wildlife as well since the food we bring into the wilderness is not necessarily what wildlife should eat or become accustomed to eating. You may not have had a problem yet, but you are a walking (sleeping) invitation to become a statistic.

Christopher Plesko
(Pivvay) - F

Locale: Rocky Mountains
Re: Re: sleeping with food on 09/05/2006 16:41:29 MDT Print View

I'm not understanding the rational. If they don't know it's there, how is it easy? And in places where you can't bear bag, what then?

Also don't mistake asking for reasoning and discussion as disregard for information given. If I was not intending to learn and change my ways, I wouldn't have asked the question in the first place!

Mark W Heninger
(heninger) - F

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Re: Re: Re: sleeping with food on 09/05/2006 16:46:37 MDT Print View

Honestly, I doubt you can really deal with food in a way that eliminates odors for a bear or other varmints. The sack maybe sealed, but its prolly covered with smell from handling stuff.

I agree with Dale. Take precautions and be happy.

Dale Wambaugh
(dwambaugh) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Re: sleeping with food on 09/05/2006 16:57:08 MDT Print View

"I asked the question because I'm not as experienced as many of you. I have never had to deal with bears nor have I done much (non-car) camping in my life prior to this summer."

I was trying to answer your question, not trying to jump you. Regardless of how tired you are, be responsible with your food in the wilderness. If you have a bear bag system and try it a few times before you go out, it only takes a couple minutes to hang your stuff. Go to your local park with your bear bag system and make a fool out of yourself getting the line over a tree. Search the web for the "PCT system" and you will find nice diagrams of how to hang your stuff with a bag, a little line and a mini-carabiner. In fact BPL has it: http://www.backpackinglight.com/cgi-bin/backpackinglight/bear_bag_hanging_technique.html

IMHO, we should hang our whole pack. Animals are attracted to the salt from our perspiration, food, deodorant, soap, etc. I think odor proof bags are a great idea, but just the smells from handling are enough to attract the lil' beasties. I warned my daughter about cosmetics when camping at the Olympic National Park beaches and the raccoons are a ROYAL pain out there. Sure enough, they UNZIPPED her pack and sampled all kids of cosmetics-- anything that smelled good. It was lovely waking up at 3:00 AM with a couple raccooons having a fight in the tree over our tent, let alone having one walk up in full daylight and try to steal food.

I have a pet theory that the animal that have become habituated to human food have become habituated to the smell of humans too. If they smell your feet from 1/2 mile down the trail-- and they can-- they know that with the smell of human BO is also the good possibility of a meal. The odor proof sack *might* keep them from finding your stash once they have found you. Hunters go through this all the time, working to stay downwind and use scent masking products. Those deer who learned what a sweaty hung-over hunter smelled like went on to reproduce. Pure Darwin :)

It's a lot more fun to watch a bear *try* to get your bag down than it is to watch them take off with all your food and you are two days out. It takes a LOT of huckleberries to make a breakfast! And ten times more fun than waking up with a 400 relative of a hog that wants to get as fat as possible before the snow falls.

But I don't hike with him any more..... <grin>

David Bonn
(david_bonn) - F

Locale: North Cascades
Re: Re: sleeping with food on 09/05/2006 17:20:31 MDT Print View

Even if a bag is odor-proof that doesn't mean a curious animal won't chew on the bag to see what is inside. At a lot of popular campsites animals (a lot of different kinds of animals) have learned that good things come inside plastic and nylon bags. I've personally had things as unlikely as tarp guycords and webbing pullouts on a tent chewed in various places in Washington State. Pretty much *anything* you are carrying might get nibbled on.

You can probably limit your risk of mangled gear and lost food, a bit, if you stealth camp. But probably not without quite a bit of judgement and experience. And experience is usually acquired through bad judgement.

On a more humorous note, a friend of mine observed a flying squirrel going after his safely hung foodbag. I wish he got a photo -- those little buggers are cute.

Edited by david_bonn on 09/05/2006 17:25:56 MDT.

Eric Noble
(ericnoble) - MLife

Locale: Colorado Rockies
Re: Sleeping with food on 09/05/2006 17:34:45 MDT Print View

In answering Christopher, I feel we are avoiding a big part of the answer he is looking for because it is not so easy. What if there are no trees? For the Arctic 1000, Ryan et al slept with their food, was this folly? I wouldn't have done it. I would have piled some rocks on my food a short distance from where I was sleeping. What if there are no rocks, do you bury your food in the sand? The group on the Arctic 1000 are far more experienced than I am. Why did they choose the approach they did?

The odor proof bags are quite good when properly used. As a test I left it on the floor for a week and my Lab didn't bother it. That certainly does not mean a bear wouldn't. Don't you just have to drop below the background odor? Before you get the wrong idea about me, I do error on the side of caution and hang my food when I can. But I feel I still have more to learn about this subject.

David Bonn
(david_bonn) - F

Locale: North Cascades
Re: Re: Sleeping with food on 09/05/2006 17:43:22 MDT Print View

For the Arctic 1000 I'd argue that in a really, really remote region where the animals aren't very habituated to humans and you are moving camp every day your risk of animal problems is much, much lower.

From an animal's perspective, if mysterious strangers come one evening and stay briefly they won't have time for their fear of something large and strange to overcome their fear of starving if they don't eat enough.

Dale Wambaugh
(dwambaugh) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Re: Re: Sleeping with food on 09/05/2006 20:02:26 MDT Print View

"The odor proof bags are quite good when properly used"

With such a light, inexpensive product, why not! I am of a mind that any plastic bag is a neon sign that says "EAT HERE" to any habituated animal. I'll go for a black bag hung up as high as I can get it. The piled rocks idea makes sense to me. A bear can is great for groups, but what a pain going solo.

I'm still for an electic fence option. A black box the size of a radio could be made that would nail Yogi but good (a photographic flash is a good example of size and weight). A light metal mesh bag with a charge would do the trick and it would be effective on small and large varmits.

Christopher Plesko
(Pivvay) - F

Locale: Rocky Mountains
Re: Re: Re: Sleeping with food on 09/05/2006 21:16:39 MDT Print View

What about when you're in the middle of nowhere and there's no where to hide? What if you're stopping for lunch? What about a 15 minute nap? What about a 3 hour nap? What if you're above treeline or in the desert with no trees? Again, what did they do on the Arctic 1000? What about the unsupported JMT attempt?

My clothes and pack are covered in salt lines in the heat and I'm lighter sweater and get away with much less water than most. My pack is part of my sleeping insulation so I'm hesitant to hang it. Do you hang all your clothes? What about my helmet? Do you rinse off 200 yards from camp before bed? Where is the line?

One of the races I'm doing next year has had maybe five finishers ever. It's pretty remote even for Colorado/Utah and has little traffic other than the occasional cow herd. The Colorado Trail has much more traffic compartively. Lost food in the former can be very bad.

I know that it comes down to making your own choices because it's your food and your life. I intend to start hanging my food for practice and good practice. But what about all those nonstandard situations? What do you do then?

More food for discussion?

Eric Noble
(ericnoble) - MLife

Locale: Colorado Rockies
Re: Sleeping with food on 09/06/2006 10:23:25 MDT Print View

On the Arctic 1000 they "slept with" their food. After re-reading parts of the site I understand why. They could not afford to loose their food under any circumstance and they were prepared to defend their food. If the food were kept some distance from them it could be gone before they had a chance to defend it. I put "slept with" in quotes because its meaning is unclear. If sleeping with your food means your food is inside whatever you are inside, or it is in contact with you, I would recommend against this. I am guessing that "slept with" meant that it was within arms length. This, by the way, is the approach that Ray Jardine mentions in Beyond Backpacking. He says that a hoisted bear bag is like a billboard for scavengers. Your food is now up in the prevailing breeze where the smell can be carried far and wide. For me, it is clear that bear bagging is not always the right answer. It's not allowed in Yosemite for a reason. I am not against it and usually do it, however.

My handling of food varies with the situation. The only constant in my case is the odor proof bags. If the smell of my food is below the background smell then the animal has to look for it. It's presence is not advertised, making it harder to get. I am now very mindful of smells.

Now that my food is harder to find because it is hard to smell, I can do other things to make it more trouble than it is worth. If I can, I suspend it off the ground. I sleep in a hammock, so I am suspended as well. Absolutely nothing touches the ground when there are trees. If I stop for a nap I will likely use the hammock, my pack, with the food in it, will be hung from the line holding the hammock up. If there are no trees then you have to get a little more creative. I will try just about anything that is not more trouble than it is worth, and makes it harder for animals. Rocks, bushes, a ledge or a crack in a cliff are all options. I might even bury my food in the sand. I've never had to do that, so I don't know...

If I could, I would never eat where I sleep. I am often with scouts so this is not always an option. If I am in a campground with others, my food just needs to be harder to find and get than the food of those around me. My fellow campers often set a low bar. If I am going though the trouble to surpass those around me it is usually easy to go the extra mile.

If I stop to eat or nap I want my food close so I can defend it. As the length of the trip and it's remoteness increases the importance of not loosing your food increases. Keeping your food close and being able to defend it is important. Does that change for shorter trips? I don't know. Common wisdom is to keep your food away from you. Does that just encourage animals because they don't have to overcome their fear of you to approach your food? Does requiring the use of organized camp sites contribute to the problem? I think it does.

The Ursack is something I am very interested in. It seems to be a very easy way to keep your food safer and seems to work everywhere. The weight may very well be worth it.

This is an area where I am always learning. Each place you go has different animals and animal behavior. The bears in Yosemite are certainly different than the bears in Colorado. In my experience they are largely a non-issue here. I have never lost my food to an animal so I have either been lucky for years or I'm doing something right.

Edited by ericnoble on 09/06/2006 12:35:32 MDT.

Dale Wambaugh
(dwambaugh) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Re: Re: Re: Re: Sleeping with food on 09/06/2006 13:56:47 MDT Print View

"What about when you're in the middle of nowhere and there's no where to hide? What if you're stopping for lunch? What about a 15 minute nap? What about a 3 hour nap? What if you're above treeline or in the desert with no trees? Again, what did they do on the Arctic 1000? What about the unsupported JMT attempt?

My clothes and pack are covered in salt lines in the heat and I'm lighter sweater and get away with much less water than most. My pack is part of my sleeping insulation so I'm hesitant to hang it. Do you hang all your clothes? What about my helmet? Do you rinse off 200 yards from camp before bed? Where is the line?"

Indeed. I don't do deserts, but it seems that rodents would be the problem there. An Ursack would handle that.

Do I hang my clothes? If I hang my pack, sure. Naps? I'm more worried about nocturnal goings on.

I don't rinse off before camp. My pack, dirty clothing and shoes are smelly enough to make that a waste of time (animal wise).

Interesting points made on the Artic 1000. With three guys they would have a good chance of waking the others up. And the bears there are a much different case than a black bear. I guess that's why dogs were domesticated along the way-- burglar alarms.

My other idea for a light anti-bear device was a pointed cover for your food. Rather than making it bullet-proof, make it POINTY. Something with a metal mesh net and sharp spikes sticking out in all directions won't get bitten, pawed, or sat on-- not for long :) A design that would allow the spikes (needles?) to lie flat when stowed would be great: a porcupine for your food.

Eric Noble
(ericnoble) - MLife

Locale: Colorado Rockies
Re: Re: Re: Sleeping with food on 09/06/2006 14:33:12 MDT Print View

"I'll go for a black bag hung up as high as I can get it. "

Dale, why a black bag?

There was a thread a while back about electric fences. I haven't had enough problems to warrant that approach. The voltage necessary to dissuade a bear would be significant, and would be overkill for a chipmunk.

Your porcupine bag idea is interesting. Too bad bears don't have metal dental fillings, aluminum foil would be effective :).

Edited by ericnoble on 09/06/2006 14:56:01 MDT.

Dale Wambaugh
(dwambaugh) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Re: Re: Re: Re: Sleeping with food on 09/07/2006 07:40:02 MDT Print View

"why a black bag?"

The nose gets them close and the eyes take over from there. Bears don't have great eyesight but they aren't blind. They might smell my food stash, but they still have to figure out which tree to climb to get to it. At night the black bag is just one no-cost and no weight option that might help. I have a large GoLite Landlubber black silnylon bag that can hold a lot of smellies.

As to eletric fences, I think an electrically charged bag is more the way to go. I'll bet it doesn't take too much to convince a bear when the contact point is lips or nose. A simple light metal mesh or chain mail type bag with a charger abou the size of a photographic flash unit could develop enough energy to make it unpleasant to a bear. It might make a chipmunk do a backflip but I doubt it would do any permanent harm. It could still be hung as well.

Eric Noble
(ericnoble) - MLife

Locale: Colorado Rockies
Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Sleeping with food on 09/07/2006 15:50:25 MDT Print View

Thanks Dale, that makes sense. In the context of your post above you seemed to imply that bears are not habituated to black bags. I hadn't considered the color of my smellable bag. It's currently a white grocery bag. I haven't seen camouflage grocery bags. I would be a tragedy, all those people losing their food on the way home from the store :). I also use an Ursalite bag but it is white on the top and bottom. Hmm, something to think about.

The electric bag idea is interesting. Batteries are still a problem. I wonder if the rangers in Yosemite have considered something similar. Not that hikers carry it, but that the rangers leave a few around the camp sites as decoys.

Einstein X
(EinsteinX) - F

Locale: The Netherlands
Only one thing to add..... on 09/08/2006 11:17:22 MDT Print View

Glad i am in Europe :D

Eins

John Lovell
(lovellj) - F - M
I'm w/ Plesko on 09/21/2006 06:32:52 MDT Print View

I live in Colorado also. I rarely sleep in regularly used spots. I sleep with my food at my side in an odor proof sack and have never had a problem. It's all about using common sense, which by the way is not very common anymore. People tend to make everything too technical and if you are not doing it their way, you are doing it wrong. The whole point of getting out there for me is to get away from all the rules and regs and do things the way I want to do them. If I get eaten by a bear...that's my problem. It fires me up when people try to run other people's lives.