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Bear canister on SHR - two questions
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Hannes Horst
(Hochtourist) - F
Bear canister on SHR - two questions on 06/27/2011 07:14:09 MDT Print View

Hi Folks,

In August, I plan to make an attempt at through-hiking the Sierra High Route. For this trip, I will have to carry a bear canister. As I am from Germany where we killed off the last bear 200 years ago, I have zero experience with these things. Therefore, my first question is, which model can you recommend? In some older threads I found recommendations for the bearikade. Is that still up to date? If yes, is there a good but less expensive alternative?

My second questions is more about tactics. As I plan 10 to 12 days to get from King's Canyon to Red's Meadow, one canister might actually not be sufficient. On the other hand, at the time I reach Yosemite, where the canister is mandatory, there will only be food left for another week which should easily fit inside.
Now I was wondering, if things like unopened bags of pasta or vacuum-packed food are actually smell proof and, thus, could be stored directly in the pack instead of inside the container.
What is your experience regarding this issue?

Thanks in advance and regards from Germany

Bob Gross
(--B.G.--) - F

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: Bear canister on SHR - two questions on 06/27/2011 09:42:14 MDT Print View

There are several competing products in the realm of bear canisters. Some of the national parks actually list the approved models on their web sites.

You can go for minimum weight, maximum volume, and maximum price. I think the Bearikade meets this.

You can go for moderate weight, maximum volume, and moderate price. I think the BearVault 500 meets this.

You can go for minimum weight, minimum volume, and minimum price. I think the Bear Boxer meets this. However, it holds only about three days worth of food, so it probably is not what you are looking for.

There is also the Garcia. Maximum weight, low volume, and moderate price. Old tech.

All food whether opened, unopened, freeze-dried, canned, fresh, or otherwise must be stored inside the bear canister.


Stephan Doyle
Re: Bear canister on SHR - two questions on 06/27/2011 11:38:21 MDT Print View

10-12 days worth of smellables is A LOT for one bear canister. Bearikade can make you one that big, but you'll pay the big bucks and while resale value on those things is high, you might want to go for a for another model.

Most manufacturers will give you an estimate on their website of how much long you can be expected to last with their can (e.g. BearVault says 7 days on their big can).

Much more than food goes into a bearcan. All food (that you don't eat on the first day) goes in, no exceptions. Then you'll need to put in any "smellables" - basically anything that goes into or onto your body.

Paul McLaughlin
(paul) - MLife
Re: Bear canister on SHR - two questions on 06/27/2011 17:56:39 MDT Print View

I find I can get 12 days worth of food - about 18 lbs - into my Bearikade expedition, if I repackage the freeze-dried stuff and pack it very carefully and firmly. You won't get that much into anything else, as the other canisters are not as large as the expedition - though they are heavier. Were I in your shoes, I would get the bearikade, or rent one - check out their website to see how you can rent one. Any other canister will mean you have some of your food outside the canister at the beginning despite carrying a heavier canister.

As to smell-proof packaging, forget it. Even if your food was all in completely odor-proof packaging ( which it mostly is not) you and your gear will still smell like human and the habituated bears will know where to find you.

Since you are coming all the way from Germany for this wonderful trip, I suggest you get the best food protection you can, which to me means the Bearikade.

Bob Gross
(--B.G.--) - F

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: Bear canister on SHR - two questions on 06/27/2011 18:04:55 MDT Print View

Hannes, when you complete the SHR trip, you will be required to take some excess California black bears back to Germany.

The good news is that if you stay high enough along the SHR, there won't be that many bears. Black bears are mostly forest animals.


Steve S
(idahosteve) - F

Locale: Idaho
Re: Bear canister on SHR - two questions on 06/27/2011 18:08:45 MDT Print View

Hannes, when are you planning on starting your hike?

Hannes Horst
(Hochtourist) - F
Re: Bear canister on SHR on 06/28/2011 02:21:24 MDT Print View

Guys, thanks a lot for the info! It's good to get an overview over the different models. I understand that carrying food outise the canister is not an option. Well, I guess that means buying or renting the largest one available (Bearikade) and do everything to reduce food volume (eating less would be the easisest option, but doesn't seem desireable ;) ).

@Bob: Alright, let's see whether Lufthansa accepts bears as a "personal item" to take along as cabin luggage. In any case, it wouldn't hurt to have more predators in German woods as we are having a bit of a problem with excess wild boars.

@Steve: I am planning to start Aug. 15th.


Manfred Kopisch
(Orienteering) - F
Bear Canister on SHR on 06/28/2011 09:19:01 MDT Print View

Hallo Hannes,

I would recommend to take the Bearikade. I manage to get 10 days of food into mine. It seems like you are planning on 10 mile days, since it is roughly 115 miles to Reds Meadow on the SHR. Even if you take 12 days to get there, you will be fine with a Bearikade, because at you planned pace you can store food outside of the bear canister for the first three days. Just make sure you hang it properly.

Here is a map that shows bear canister requirements As you can see you are required to have a canister starting at Potluck Pass, when you go into Palisade Basin. That is roughly after 35 miles on the SHR. So the first three days you will be fine even if some of your food doesn't fit into the bear canister at first.

Viel Spass!


Bob Gross
(--B.G.--) - F

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: Re: Bear canister on SHR on 06/28/2011 14:00:52 MDT Print View

"In any case, it wouldn't hurt to have more predators in German woods as we are having a bit of a problem with excess wild boars."

Black bears adore wild German pork with a little k r a u t on the side.

Hannes, a blind person is often allowed to have a service animal to help guide. Tell Lufthansa that the black bear is your service animal, and have it on a leash.


Mary D
(hikinggranny) - MLife
Bear canister on SHR - two questions on 06/28/2011 14:59:50 MDT Print View

It takes compact food, removal of excess packaging and a lot of squishing and compact packing to use a bear canister.

Use compact food: Try for calorie-dense foods. Either squash your noodles to a powder (try a hammer) or, preferably, use cous-cous (a really compact form of pasta, available in both white and whole-wheat versions) which has far less volume than even the most broken-up noodles.

Remove excess packaging: Repackage freeze-dried foods into plastic freezer bags. Use foods that don't rely on packaging to keep their shape (they're going to be broken up anyway). When sealing the freezer bags, remove as much air as you can. However, don't use vacuum seal because that turns your food package into a hard brick--you want your food packages soft and squishy and conformable to other packages and the shape of the canister.

Packing: You don't want to have to go way down in the canister for the first few days (getting the food back in will be a lot of work!). Therefore, plan to have all the food for the first three or four days in the top part of the canister. Put in a small layer of food at a time, pushing hard to eliminate space. Keep adding the food in thin layers, squashing it down hard after each layer.

Remember that the first day's food--lunch/snacks and dinner--do not have to be in the canister. As long as everything is stored in that canister after dinner, you're fine.

Hannes Horst
(Hochtourist) - F
Re: Bear canister on SHR on 06/29/2011 01:31:04 MDT Print View

@Manfred: Thanks for the map link - the strategy you suggest sounds good to me. My plan is to make ~ 12-13 miles a day. But I'd like to allow for 2 extra days, just in case I am slower than anticipated.

@Mary: Indeed, packing the canister will need some getting used to. Thanks for your advice!

@Bob: Excellent idea! I am picturing it right now. :-)

Bob Gross
(--B.G.--) - F

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: Re: Bear canister on SHR on 06/29/2011 02:05:24 MDT Print View

When I first started using bear canisters over ten years ago, I didn't know what I was doing. My food for each day was taking up more than 200 cubic inches of volume. That doesn't work. I had to practice and practice, and along the way I found which forms of food are easier to pack. Either they are simply denser, or they have thinner packaging. With some food types, you can wait until the last day before you start, rip the food out of its normal packaging, re-wrap it with a tiny bit of plastic wrap, and away you go.

Oh, one more thing about Lufthansa. They don't allow black bears in First Class.

I can just imagine the airline security officer getting ready to frisk a black bear. "Oh, sir, I'm afraid that you will have to remove the fur coat."


Hannes Horst
(Hochtourist) - F
Re: Re: Re: Bear canister on SHR on 06/29/2011 13:48:34 MDT Print View

Yeah, I will have to learn packing. I already try to avoid bulky food on normal trips. But of course, usually the constraints are not as bad as with the canisters. Let's see how I will feel when first trying to get everything inside...

Thanks for the first class advice. But I don't think there is any harm in that. The bear wouldn't enjoy the extra entertainment anyway. And probably wouldn't care about the extra food (as long as there is pork with Kraut on the side also in coach). And as the Yosemite rangers show us in this lovely video, they actually fit into quite confined spaces:


Matthew Zion
(mzion) - F

Locale: Boulder, CO
Re: Interpretation on 06/29/2011 13:56:00 MDT Print View

You're required to have a canister so take the smallest/lightest one so you can say you have one but carry a Ursack to supplement the volume. I think you'll be more concerned with rodents on the Highline than bears...

edit: This is based on my opinion that bear canisters are BS, so take w/ a grain of salt.

Edited by mzion on 06/29/2011 13:59:15 MDT.

karl hafner
(khafner) - MLife

Locale: upstate NY
bear food storage canisters on 06/29/2011 14:40:26 MDT Print View

I don't know all the names of the different bear food canister's so I'll describe them as I go along. The old what I call original one that was black and looked like a barrel and needed a key to open I would avoid. I have watched squirrels chew into them within one hour of time. Once a squirrel is in your food is gone and what the squirrel won't take the bears can now get. This happened to my group last year. Their is one that I say looks like a clear cookie jar and has a screw top lid. That should be avoided too. Some bears can pop the lid off. The best is the one with the carbon fiber sides and aluminum ends. It is light and works well but costly. I have used the bear bags but these can't be used in certain parts of the country. The bags have keep the mice and squirrels out. Enjoy the trip.

Ken Helwig
(kennyhel77) - MLife

Locale: Scotts Valley CA via San Jose, CA
Re: bear food storage canisters on 06/29/2011 18:16:57 MDT Print View

Matthew...why is carrying a cannister BS???? Do you realize that a habituated bear is a DEAD bear??? Here in Californina there are areas that we have to carry a cannister. Honestly, I don't mind the extra weight or the extra volume that I have to carry. Yosemite and SEKI have some pretty smart bears. I guess in CO you just leave your food out for them to eat. Nice forward thinking there

Joseph Reeves

Locale: Southeast Alaska
Ursack on 06/29/2011 18:49:16 MDT Print View

I'd suggest you use an Ursack instead of the rigid bear canister. They are lighter and if used properly just as tough as a rigid canister. We use them exclusively in Southeast Alaska where we have both black and brown bears. Take a look at this website

Aaron Benson
(AaronMB) - F

Locale: Central Valley California
Re: Bear canister on SHR - two questions on 06/30/2011 08:54:12 MDT Print View

Approved canisters in SEKI. Just an FYI, for those who don't know:

Matthew Zion
(mzion) - F

Locale: Boulder, CO
Re: Canister on 06/30/2011 10:10:46 MDT Print View

"Matthew...why is carrying a cannister BS"

I'd prefer to avoid a forum flame war -- I fully understand the canisters purpose. A blanketing policy of "idiot-proofing" backcountry travel. Yes I understand that the rule is in place to protect bears. My argument is that they are not always necessary. I didn't suggest the OP not using some form of food protection. And yes, here in CO I spoon with my food bag at night.

Ken Helwig
(kennyhel77) - MLife

Locale: Scotts Valley CA via San Jose, CA
Re: Re: Canister on 06/30/2011 18:44:06 MDT Print View

and I agree that cannisters are not always nescessary, but there are a lot of also idiots out there that force us into a blanket statement for the better.

Sorry, I was not trying to flame you, if my tone was aggresive than my apology