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Sleeping with food
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jonathan hauptman

Locale: A white padded room in crazy town.
eating ash on 09/21/2006 12:18:37 MDT Print View

While electric bear bags are an interesting idea, it would only take one small spark to set your food a burnin!!! Like a looney tunes episode. Burning bear bag, crying human, and pointing laughing bears!!!

kevin davidson
(kdesign) - F

Locale: Mythical State of Jefferson
bring sackcloth to go w/ those ashes on 09/21/2006 13:08:01 MDT Print View

Don't Ash.

Linsey Budden

Locale: pugetropolis
hanging efforts twarted on 09/23/2006 15:18:46 MDT Print View

While certainly still a novice backpacker, I just returned from a section hike on the PCT where we noticed a decided absence of suitable bear bag hanging limbs thru the entire North Cascades. The trees grew short downturned limbs that left us wondering how anybody hung food. We had odor proof bags for all food, garbage, and toiletries. Half the food was Ursacked (which the trees would accomodate) and half in the unhung bear bag usually kept near our feet. We did avoid cooking in mostly stealth camps and luckily had no incidents of any kind. Perhaps a line could've been strung between trees, but this seemed beyond our scope.

Colleen Clemens
(tarbubble) - F

Locale: dirtville, CA
Re: Re: Re: Re: Sleeping with food on 09/27/2006 10:28:32 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?"

i alternate between hanging, my Ursack, or my canister, depending on where i'm going. in my local forests (southern California), i hang or carry an Ursack, depending on whim and trip location. the bears locally are pretty mild. in the Sierra, i've twice had to fend off bears who were intend on seeing if i had any goodies. so i carry a canister there wherever it's legally required, or rely on a route with bear lockers.

when i head for the desert, it's the Ursack, because rodents and very smart crows/ravens are the problems there. i've seen holes chewed in packs (and any plastic bag, with food in it or not, is an invitation to chew) by rodents (mice, rats, squirrels), and once in the Grand Canyon we saw a flock of ravens settle into the campsite next to ours while the occupants were away. we didn't realize it, but the ravens were actually opening zippers and pecking holes in their packs. our neighbors told us later that they pecked through every plastic bag they found.

in high alpine areas, Marmots become a different kind of problem. they will absolutely chew up anything that is soaked with salty sweat. lost a pair of hiking poles to one once, the little bugger.

i'm digressing. where i hike, especially in the Sierra, sleeping with your food is asking for trouble.

i think most folks here are asking that you not contribute to making problems in the future. if a bear gets hold of your food, it becomes conditioned. conditioned bears lead to bear shootings, mandatory canister policies, and bigger PITAs for everybody. if you're heading out where humans are raely found, you may be able to get away with the sleeping technique. i wouldn't do it, but then i'm conditioned to marauding bears, so i'd probably lay awake all night listening for that telltale snorting.

(RobertM2S) - M

Locale: Lake Tahoe
Re: Sleeping with food on 09/30/2006 17:34:40 MDT Print View

Andrew Skurka takes a backpack full of Balance Bars, can bears smell these?

Linsey Budden

Locale: pugetropolis
sleeping with food on 09/30/2006 19:33:54 MDT Print View

Are Balance Bars really food?

(RobertM2S) - M

Locale: Lake Tahoe
Sleeping with food on 09/30/2006 19:51:47 MDT Print View

Next you'll criticize my habit of eating the cambrian layer of pine trees. Real backpackers are tough.

David Bonn
(david_bonn) - F

Locale: North Cascades
Re: Sleeping with food on 10/01/2006 00:21:24 MDT Print View

Cambrian layer? I didn't know they had trees back then (500-odd million years ago). You probably meant cambium, which is a spring food for bears that I suppose humans could eat too.

(RobertM2S) - M

Locale: Lake Tahoe
Re: Sleeping with food on 10/01/2006 17:00:00 MDT Print View

I was referring to the petrified wood I take in my pack for food. Real backpackers are REAL tough.

Paul Tree
(Paul_Tree) - F

Locale: Wowwww
John Lovell - you rebel you! on 10/02/2006 10:07:24 MDT Print View

Let's get it straight - except in Grizzly country (Alaska, Yellowstone, and Montana in the US), "bear protection" is all about protecting THE BEARS. It's nice to play Olden-Times but if you really care about Nature and Bears, then you will take a few precautions.

All yall worried about your tours being prematurely ended - well consider the arc of life of a bear that gets human food a few times. It usually has a bad ending - either killed as a nuisance or hit by a car. Wherever you're from, it's not really cool for the tourist to go killing the locals. Which is the stage you are setting when you dont take the proper care.

Many visitors to bear habitat say they have never even seen a bear ("and I've been coming out here since nineteen-blah-blah-blah"). Well, from the perspective of the bears, they have probably smelled you a few times. All it takes is a couple scores for them to get addicted, and with the numbers of people out there, it all adds up. I've never had a car accident, but still have car insurance..

If you haven't seen them, that might mean that they are the Good Bears, not yet ruined by habituation to humans and human food. That bit of wildness is Worth saving!!!

Don't let your laziness or weakness lead to the trashing of the last wild places.

Or go ahead you gapers, just don't pretend that you are some primaeval child of nature who simply must be free to do whatever. And don't go where I go.

Edited by Paul_Tree on 10/02/2006 10:09:10 MDT.

Doug L
(mothermenke) - F

Locale: Upstate NY
habituated bears and bear bags on 10/16/2006 09:41:58 MDT Print View

Just wanted to comment on a somewhat funny paradox about habituated bears and using bear bags. I have spent quite a bit of time in the eastern high peaks region of the Adirondacks, where the bears there have apparently gone to food-stealing graduate school. The funny thing is that they almost always go for food that is hung. I have passed leantos where foolish (but well-intentioned) hikers have left food for others on the shelves of the shelter. The resident bears didn't bother checking the shelter and instead focused their energies on anything that was hung from a tree. They've gotten so used to people hanging their food that they seem to take for granted that there is no food on the ground.

However to illustrate the olfactory ability of black bears: My friend had parked his car at the Adirondack Loj for an overnight trip. When he returned the next day a black bear had broken the window open and had eaten the five individually wrapped atomic hot candies that had been left in the dash console.

All that being said, it is pure laziness if you don't hang food even in non-habituated areas. The situation is so desperate in the adirondacks that canisters are now required in the eastern high peaks area and one ranger I talked to said that the bears had begun to ignore the rubber bullets and tear gas shot at them and regularly return to certain camping locations.

Sarah Kirkconnell
(sarbar) - F

Locale: In the shadow of Mt. Rainier
An Ursack is your friend in most areas on 11/15/2006 23:17:08 MST Print View

I have been a happy Ursack fan for over 5 years. It was one of my first lightweight gear buys. In my hiking group we have one of every Ursack ever made-and that includes the funky sacks they were making when they were running out of the orginal fabric. Basically we have a museum ;-)
Anyhoo, for cost and weight, an Ursack is a great deal.
Yes, they are not allowed everywhere. But most places in the US they are fine to use. They allow you to safely park your food in high alpine areas, and to not have to bear bag ever again.
You'll sleep better, and you'll know you are keeping human food away from all teh animals! People think about bears, but honestly? It is the racoons, squirrells, chipmunks and birds I despise!
(I do own a canister, a Bear Vault Solo, for when I hike on the Olympic NP coast.)

paul johnson
(pj) - F

Locale: LazyBoy in my Den - miss the forest
Re: An Ursack is your friend in most areas on 11/16/2006 02:55:38 MST Print View

Sarah, i've read other's comments that rodents have chewed a small hole in an Ursack. what's your take on this?

Sarah Kirkconnell
(sarbar) - F

Locale: In the shadow of Mt. Rainier
Re: Re: An Ursack is your friend in most areas on 11/16/2006 09:43:32 MST Print View

In those 5 years and countless trips later, I have watched many a rodent dance, climb and *BEEP* on my Ursack (quess that is how they get back at us). But no holes or chew areas to date. I don't use OP sacks in mine either. Now, I don't usually leave my Ursack in "normal" areas for food (I like to go cross country when I am allowed). Nobody else in our group has had chew areas either.
It may be though, that we don't camp in areas with rats or mice that are habiuated. I have no desire to ever sleep in a shelter if I can help it ;-)

Douglas Frick
(Otter) - MLife

Locale: Wyoming
Re: Re: Re: An Ursack is your friend in most areas on 11/16/2006 19:36:44 MST Print View

>But no holes or chew areas to date.

Ditto. I had a bunch of rat-raisins on my Ursack when I last hung it on a bear wire, but no damage. I suspect a regular silnylon bag would have been safe up there from bears, but the critters who have perfected their high-wire act would have had a free meal.

Roman Dial
(romandial) - F - M

Locale: packrafting NZ
Re: Re: Sleeping with food on 11/16/2006 20:00:28 MST Print View

I don't get on often enough to keep up with all the great discussions at this site - and this topic is a favorite.

As one of the "Ryan et al", when I say I sleep with my food, I mean I physically put my head on it --bears also sleep on their kills, btw. I do not leave food alone without me because any numebr of animals from voles to ursids will steal it.

Most of you have more experience with habituated bears -- the kind that break into cars to steal food.

But my feeling is that a bear has to be pretty bold to confront me directly for my food, just as a thief has to be very bold to confront me directly to steal from me.

If I am sleeping in a seedy third world hotel I don't keep my wallet in the hallway.

Mike Barney
(eaglemb) - F

Locale: AZ, the Great Southwest!
Re: Re: Re: Sleeping with food on 11/16/2006 20:14:45 MST Print View

Wow, you're reminding me of two incidents the same night 5 years in northern Arizona. "Everyone else" had their food outside their tents in bags, save the occupants of 1 tent and 1 shelter.

Both ended up dealing with family of skunks, who really didn't care who's food it was or where it was in the tent. They were not afraid of people. The guy in the wilderness shelter ended up with a skunk literally on top of him and his food.

No one was sprayed or bitten, but there clearly are threats that fit somewhere between bears and ants that may not follow the logic in your post.

Further, I'd hate to find out up close and personal that a particular bear was hungrier than fearful of humans.


Roman Dial
(romandial) - F - M

Locale: packrafting NZ
Re: Re: Re: Re: Sleeping with food on 11/16/2006 20:55:40 MST Print View

Yes we had a skunk incident in arizona once as well. We did not get sprayed but the animal did its head stand -- striped skink?

We we simply sleeping outside in a campsite that was of course hfairly well used.

Your skunks and our skunk and everybody's raccoons, bears, insects, deer, and all the rest are foraging because they know that there is food available at the camp sites. Look for the wrappers and other garbage at these sites.

Just as many country folk do not lock their doors for fear of thieves and city folk do, campers in often used campsites must carefully hang their food or otherwise protect it from bold thieves.

We recently hiked around Mt Ranier and hng our food every night on the provided poles. We had to! The bears are literally waiting for the hikers to arrive -- like your skunks no doubt.

Clearly, one solution does not fit all situations. What seems best are people who can tell one situation from another, balance the risks and the benefits accordingly, and continue on walking from their teens to their eighties.