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Using bear lockers for "extra" food on JMT
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Erik Dietz

Locale: Los Angeles
Using bear lockers for "extra" food on JMT on 07/24/2011 13:38:03 MDT Print View

Hi everyone,

I'm doing the JMT leaving in about ten days. This weekend I've been putting together my food and I'm just not able to fit all of it into my bear canister. I'll probably end up bringing less food but even then I doubt I'll be able to fit all of it in my bearikade. While this isn't ideal, I was thinking I could stay near bear lockers for the first 3-4 nights and use them to store my "extra" food until I get to the food in my bear canister.

I'm starting out of Cottonwood and I had planned on doing the following:

Day 1: Soldier Lake
Day 2: Crabtree
Day 3: Tyndall Creek
Day 4: Charlotte Lake

Is this against park regulations (illegal)? Any ideas or recommendations? Should I call and make sure the bear lockers are still in place?


Chris Morgan
(ChrisMorgan) - F

Locale: Southern Oregon
Re: Using bear lockers for "extra" food on JMT on 07/24/2011 14:35:00 MDT Print View

You might get hassled by a ranger, but he's more likely to not even notice, so long as you show him your bear can.

That being said, I'm running into the same problem (10 days, Duck Pass -> Cottonwood), and I think I'm going to use a BV500 plus a bear bag for the first 2 days. I'm not sure what the hanging options are like down that way, but it would be safer to have a 2 oz beanbag than a $100 fine. Note that the Rock Creek drainage and Rae Lakes both require cans:

My original plan was to use an ursack for the whole trip, and bear box it when I got to the can-required areas, but others didn't like my plan so much, and thought the Rangers could hassle me. Last thing you want is being told to leave the trail because a ranger doesn't think your bear system is kosher.

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

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: Using bear lockers for "extra" food on JMT on 07/24/2011 14:41:05 MDT Print View

Counting on bear boxes is kind of iffy.

1) You have to know exactly where they are _supposed_ to be. A number of bear boxes were damaged, so they were removed. Check the updated list and map.
2) You have to be able to find them.
3) You have to hope that there is room inside for your food.
4) You have to hope that other campers in the area will not pilfer your food.

Personally, I hate to be forced into camping near the bear boxes. Those places tend to be overused and busy with people and bears. To put it differently, what will you do if you can't make it to the next bear box?


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

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: Re: Using bear lockers for "extra" food on JMT on 07/24/2011 14:47:27 MDT Print View

"You might get hassled by a ranger, but he's more likely to not even notice, so long as you show him your bear can."

Rangers out on trail patrol tend to have a pretty good feel for bear canisters and how much food they hold (and how many days of travel that equates to). Normally, they can just glance at your pack size with its bulges, and they can tell if you have a bear canister or not. Once in a while, they will reach over and bang it with their knuckles to know that it sounds like a bear canister. If it all seems kind of wrong, or if your answers seem wrong, then they will ask to see the canister outright. That means unloading your pack out there on the trail until the ranger is satisfied. More likely, however, they prowl around in the late afternoon and early evening, just when people are setting up camp. Then, they want to see it. One ranger actually wanted to see the backpack dumped out so that he could tell that you didn't have a bunch of food extra that would not fit into the canister.


First Last
(snusmumriken) - F

Locale: SF Bay Area
I think you will be just fine on 07/24/2011 17:32:50 MDT Print View

You are bringing an approved canister and you are just using the bear boxes for overflow the first few days. I'll beg to differ with the above posters and say that you should be just fine. It doesn't hurt however to give the rangers a call and ask.

Here is a current list of the bear boxes in SEKI from the NPS website. That's a lot of boxes along your route. Even if one is full, broken or missing it won't be very far to the next one.

Once you have gone through the Rae Lakes area and have crossed over the bridge there will be no more bear boxes for an awfully long stretch. But by then your food will fit in your bear can.

After your next resupply at Muir Trail Ranch the resupply points are more numerous with MTR, VVR, Reds Meadow, Tuolomne and Yosemite Valley only a few days from each other and no issues with fitting your food in the bear can.

The many bear boxes along the trail in SEKI during the first few days is one of the advantages of doing the trail south to north. The other is that you won't have the sun in your eyes while hiking. The big disadvantage is having to deal with the high altitude right off the bat.

Good luck and have a great trip!

Jason G
(JasonG) - F

Locale: iceberg lake
can on 07/25/2011 15:24:29 MDT Print View

Is your trip only 4 days or are you trying to stay near bear boxes for 4 days?

if your trip is only 4 days you should be able to fit all your food in 1 can.. last summer i was able to fit about 6 days and the rest we just hung without any issue.. we defiantly hung the more awkward shaped food that didn't fit well in the bear can to maximize space.
We were only asked twice for our bear can and we were technically telling the truth when we said we had them..

Erik Dietz

Locale: Los Angeles
A bit longer on 07/25/2011 16:47:41 MDT Print View

Hi Jason,

My trip is 11 days until I resupply at VVR. I crammed 7 days of food in my bearikade and I have 4 days worth that don't fit. So the first four days I'm gonna have to stay near a bear locker. Unfortunate but I don't really have another option, that I can see at least.