Forum Index » Philosophy & Technique » Sleeping Wth Your Food in Black Bear Country


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Art ...
(asandh) - F
Re: Sleeping Wth Your Food in Black Bear Country on 03/19/2014 12:03:42 MDT Print View

for those angered about rule breaking and bear taunting ...
I'm not talking about days or weeks in the Sierra trying to expose them to things that will get them put down. I do respect bears too ...
I've always camped to avoid bears and been totally successful to date.
and yes I've been in the Sierra a bit, but not this particular area.
this is a 30 ish hour hike of the High Sierra Trail (west to east).
we may not even lay down for a nap but want a 5 hour option if things get fuzzy.

looking at the map I see that Kaweah gap is 10,700 and there are 10,500 options before that. anyone know this area well ?

if bears are an issue I'll do what needs to be done.

Edited by asandh on 03/19/2014 12:05:43 MDT.

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

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: Re: Sleeping Wth Your Food in Black Bear Country on 03/19/2014 13:43:16 MDT Print View

If you are on the High Sierra Trail, you will pass through Bearpaw Camp, pass over a stream, and then Hamilton Lakes on your way toward Kaweah Gap.

At the last time I passed that way, I took a camera pause at the bridge over the stream. By the time I looked back to my pack, probably 60 seconds later, the bear was almost on it. I scared it away easily. But they know that people are headed up to Hamilton Lakes, so they know where to hit. Besides, Bearpaw Camp probably isn't named by accident.

--B.G.--

jeffrey armbruster
(book) - M

Locale: Northern California
"Sleeping Wth Your Food in Black Bear Country" on 03/19/2014 13:43:20 MDT Print View

I think that it's a myth that bears don't go above 10,000 feet. Of course they do. Bears go where there's food. People camp at altitude; bears will follow if food is available.

Paul McLaughlin
(paul) - MLife
Re: Sleeping Wth Your Food in Black Bear Country on 03/19/2014 14:57:50 MDT Print View

Altitude has very little to do with it. Bears will go wherever they think they will find food. And anywhere along a well-traveled trail in a national park in the Sierra tends to qualify. If you were miles from any trail in an area that sees few human visitors you'd have a better chance of getting away with it. But in your scenario you will be close to the trail and thus close to habituated bears. So your lightest solution is hanging, but even that may not be legal depending on the spot. And for those who suggest the rock hang, I would never do that unless with an Ursack - squirrels can climb some serious routes.

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

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: Re: Sleeping Wth Your Food in Black Bear Country on 03/19/2014 15:45:33 MDT Print View

"And for those who suggest the rock hang, I would never do that unless with an Ursack - squirrels can climb some serious routes."

Squirrels can climb 5.9

They could climb even harder stuff, but they can't find good rock shoes to fit. Plus, they would have to wear two pairs at a time.

For sure they can downclimb on most ropes and cords unless they are slippery or unless you use a squirrel guard.

--B.G.--

M B
(livingontheroad) - M
food and bears on 03/19/2014 15:51:21 MDT Print View

Most of the sierra requires either:

Bear cannister
Bear-resistant container
Hanging by approved counterbalance method

Sleeping with food, isnt mentioned as acceptable in an regulation that Im aware of. Because there isnt a cannister rule, doesnt mean that there arent food rules. Check the regs.

I have slept with food a lot on the AT. Bears there dont worry me a bit. They want your food, but they will not challenge you to get it. Food is actually safer with you, than hanging for sure. You are safer with your food hanging. Your food, is safer with YOU.

Western bears may be more aggressive for whatever reason. Possibly less abundant natural food sources, droughts, less hunting pressure (national parks), allow them to have less conditioned fear of humans.

Just as bears normally wont challenge you for food in your pack during the day, they are unlikely to go after food in your possession, even at night. If it is a few feet away, they might.

Unfortunately, while extremely rare, the consequences for you could be serious if you get one with a bad attitude. The consequences for the bear, are however worse.

That said, IMO most people do such a poor job of hanging food, it would be in the best interest of the bears, if they just slept with it. It would lessen the bears chances of getting it.


A couple of years ago Mountain Crossings on the AT in GA kept tabs on food bags lost to bears reported by the thruhikers coming thru. ( The NFS instituted a bear can regulation shortly thereafter from March to June every year). At one point that spring the score was : Foodbags lost while hanging about 75 , foodbags lost while sleeping with food...Zero.

Anything less than a perfect hang from the perfect branch, is worse than no hang at all IMO.

Edited by livingontheroad on 03/19/2014 16:14:20 MDT.

eric chan
(bearbreeder) - F
squirrels on 03/20/2014 00:01:56 MDT Print View

squirrels can climb much harder than 5.9 .. ive seen rodents climb 5.11 slab easy

its always fun when a squirrel runs up your climbing rope towards you

as to bear ... a fed bear is a dead bear ...

dont feeda bears one way or another ...

IMO not having dead fed bears is probably more important in the grand scheme of things than REI "ULness", warranty "scamming", windshirt brethability or minute headlamp differences

thats all there is to it

;)

David Thomas
(DavidinKenai) - MLife

Locale: North Woods. Far North.
Re: Re: Re: Sleeping Wth Your Food in Black Bear Country on 03/20/2014 00:37:49 MDT Print View

>"By the time I looked back to my pack, probably 60 seconds later, the bear was almost on it. I scared it away easily. "

This has been my experience in the Sierra as well. Bears are brazen and very knowledgable about frequently used campsites at night and even frequently used rest spots in the middle of the day. I've seen many, perhaps the majority, of Sierra backpackers afraid to scare off a bear.

Grizzlies, I don't chase but I don't back down from them either (for a demonstration by someone with the ovaries to do so, here is BPL's own Erin McKittrick): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Iinv_5e_QGg

With black bears, I grab the biggest stick around and run at the bear, intent on how hard I will hit the bear when I get there. The black bear is not there by the time I arrive 7 seconds later. You don't need to have bigger claws or teeth, you just need to be the better actor.

"Wilderness Area?", Phooey! With trails, switchbacks, bridges, solar-powered outhouses, etc, etc? I wish they'd just put metal food lockers in popular campsites. The calories going to bears could be reduced greatly.

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

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: Re: Re: Re: Sleeping Wth Your Food in Black Bear Country on 03/20/2014 01:38:28 MDT Print View

"trails, switchbacks, bridges, solar-powered outhouses"

David, I guess you know that the solar-powered outhouses were removed from the Mount Whitney Trail years ago.

In parts of SEKI, metal food lockers were state-of-the-art about 25 years ago. Then NPS determined that they were concentrating too much backpacker use right around them, so they started disappearing again more recently.

--B.G.--

Dan Magdoff
(highsierraguy) - F

Locale: Northern California
bears in the Sierras on 03/20/2014 03:08:29 MDT Print View

I feel like I have definetly done my share of backpacking all over the sierras. Ive packed heavely in Yosemite, Dinkey lakes, Tahoe Area, Desolation Wilderness and Emigrant Wilderness to name a few. And have hiked very extensively in the John Muir Wilderness and Northern Kings Canyon area I have always used a bear can in the areas where it is required, but otherwise I have just hung my food. In the 20+ years and hundrends upon hundreds upon hundreds of miles hiked, I have never, once had a problem with a bear. I have seen plenty of bears on the trail, but as soon as they see me, they run away. I have NEVER had one in my camp (that I know of).

I think the most important thing isnt really how your food is stored, but your camp set up and preperation. Making sure to eat and sleep away from each other, not leave food scraps all over, clean up properly after meals.

Be smart and responsible and you shouldnt have any problems.

Just my two cents...

James Marco
(jamesdmarco) - MLife

Locale: Finger Lakes
Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Sleeping Wth Your Food in Black Bear Country on 03/20/2014 04:23:20 MDT Print View

Assuming we will have some sort of problem, every trip out increases the odds that we WILL have a problem that trip.
Here is an easy demonstration:
Like Russian Roulette with a five shot pistol: 1/5, 1/4, 1/3, 1/2, absolute.
Assuming we survived the first shot, your odds have changed. you have 4 unknowns one of which has a live round or 1/4...
Logic dictates that you will reduce your odds of survival with every shot taken, assuming we survive. Go first, your odds of survival are better than going last. In any finite system, sooner or later you hit the absolute certanty. Overall, you always have a 1/5 chance at the start, however. But from within the system, the odds change. Only in an infinitly growing system do your odds stay the same.

Dave Grey
(dapperdave) - F
Where's the problem? on 03/20/2014 04:48:22 MDT Print View

Art,

There are plenty of Bear Lockers along the HST, why not sleep next to one of them?

Dave

Buck Nelson
(Colter) - MLife

Locale: Alaska
Re: Re: Re: Re: Sleeping Wth Your Food in Black Bear Country on 03/20/2014 05:26:04 MDT Print View

Well, Sleeping with your food in bear country is a lot like playing Russian Roulette five times with a five shot pistol. It is not a matter of "if", more a matter of "when."

Sorry, but that's not even close to true. There is likely no danger in the outdoors more wildly over-rated than bears.

As far as I know there hasn't been a person killed by a wild bear in California since the 1870s.

I have slept with my food in bear country many hundreds of times. There are places I won't, and one situation I won't is where it's illegal. In those places it tends to be illegal for good reason. Following the rules saves people's food, gear and the lives of bears and reduces the minimal risk for people even more.

Jon Fong
(jonfong) - F - M

Locale: FLAT CAT GEAR
Re: Sleeping Wth Your Food in Black Bear Country on 03/20/2014 08:01:04 MDT Print View

farside

Marko Botsaris
(millonas) - F - MLife

Locale: Santa Cruz Mountains, CA
Re: Re: Sleeping Wth Your Food in Black Bear Country on 03/20/2014 09:48:17 MDT Print View

"squirrels can climb much harder than 5.9 .. ive seen rodents climb 5.11 slab easy"

Thanks for this Eric (and Bob), it made me crack up. It was before my morning coffee and I was just imagining a snippet of conversation overheard from some dirtbaggers at camp 4 under the heading - things climbers argue about when they aren't climbing.

@James, Jacob Bernoulli is spinning his grave at your probability analysis. Plus, as anyone who has played Russian roulette the RIGHT way (and won) would know, you are supposed to spin the cylinder each time. There is some sort of very culturally inappropriate joke in there about "Polish" or "Newfie" Russian roulette. I think that is on the same page of the encyclopedia with David's playing chicken with bears. :-)

I think Buck and Dan do have it right - stealth camping (even if you have a bear can) really does work most of the time.

Edited by millonas on 03/20/2014 10:31:14 MDT.

Tom Kirchner
(ouzel) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest/Sierra
Re: Sleeping Wth Your Food in Black Bear Country on 03/20/2014 17:35:45 MDT Print View

"any perceived issues ?"

Always a possibility of a bear sniffing around, but you should be fine if you are careful about handling your food and where you eat it. A very lightweight insurance policy would be to put your food bag in a nylobarrier odor proof, or nearly so, sack and seal it well. If you do that AND keep it inside your bivy bag, I'd say no worries. I do it all the time, except for the bivy part. The lower you descend the HST toward Upper Funston Meadows, the more likely you are to encounter a bear, but I don't see it as a problem unless you do something stupid, which I doubt a guy of your experience will.

Mike W
(skopeo) - F

Locale: British Columbia
Sleeping Wth Your Food in Black Bear Country on 03/21/2014 01:24:33 MDT Print View

>> As far as I know there hasn't been a person killed by a wild bear in California since the 1870s. <<

That may be true but there have been a dozen non-fatal bear attacks in California since 1980. I don't want to be killed or mauled so the non-fatal statistic doesn't make me feel any better.

A bears sense of smell is so incredibly good, it will know you have food even at a significant distance away (especially if it's down wind of you).

I pulled this off the American Bear Association website.

"A bear has been known to detect a human scent more than fourteen hours after the person passed along the trail"

So I would assume that if you carry your food to your tent, you have left a very nice "invisible but smelly trail" right up to your shelter. Not something I'm going to do!

Derek M.
(dmusashe) - M

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Really?.... Really? on 03/21/2014 01:29:10 MDT Print View

Are we really having this conversation? Really?

Just to be clear here: we are talking about forgoing the simple act of securing your food against bears (and other wild animals, by the way) in known bear country-- places where bears have been empirically shown to specifically target hiker food.

And all this over what? 1oz of weight for 50' of ultralight spectra cord like Z-Line and 5 minutes of time to find a suitable branch and hang your food?

I'm sorry but if one can't bother to take these simple precautions then that person is just being lazy. Let just call this for what it is... Reckless laziness.

I'm not directing this at anyone here in particular, I'm just saying...

Edited by dmusashe on 03/21/2014 01:41:14 MDT.

Marko Botsaris
(millonas) - F - MLife

Locale: Santa Cruz Mountains, CA
Re: Re: Re: Re: Sleeping Wth Your Food in Black Bear Country on 03/21/2014 11:14:23 MDT Print View

"Grizzlies, I don't chase but I don't back down from them either (for a demonstration by someone with the ovaries to do so, here is BPL's own Erin McKittrick): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Iinv_5e_QGgGrizzlies, I don't chase but I don't back down from them either (for a demonstration by someone with the ovaries to do so, here is BPL's own Erin McKittrick): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Iinv_5e_QGg"

This is a pretty interesting video. I probably would have peed myself, let alone carefully filmed the encounter. Still it is pretty obvious there is nothing else to do. Maybe I missed it, but it didn't even sound like there was that much stress in her voice. Guess she was very experienced.

It was interesting when the bear suddenly took off running. I guess once it crossed the threshold between thinking "food" and "not food" evolution just told it "if it ain't good then don't stick around to find out if it is bad". On the other hand, the fact that it was so clearly thinking "possible food" right up to then is very humbling.

I think I have seen too many Hollywood movies because when the bear suddenly ran off I expected for them to briefly bask in their victory before turning around to realize the the bear was scared off my a much bigger bear behind them. :-)

Black bears don't bother me much, but grizzlies are too awesome to ignore. I know it is about %99.9 psychological, but when I was backpacking solo in Yellowstone for a few days it felt very primal. Probably next time I will go with a group... maybe of older, slower folks.

Edited by millonas on 03/21/2014 11:15:41 MDT.

Bob Shaver
(rshaver) - F

Locale: West
between a rock and a hard place on 03/21/2014 11:20:20 MDT Print View

I backpacked a lot in the Sierra in the early 1970s and aggressive bears or bears at high elevation were just not a problem. OK, things are different now. Nowadays I backpack a lot in Idaho, where bears at elevation are just not an issue. I generally hand the food in a tree, in recent trips in the Uintas, Winds, White Clouds, and Sawtooths.

My problem now is I have diabetes, and when hiking hard I can go to sleep and wake up with super low blood sugar. I need to eat something quick, and the perfect food for that moment is yogurt covered raisins. I know that eating 10 of them will be about right, or 10 more if I'm still hungry. I've been risking having 20 raisins in my tent, and its been ok so far. I'm going on a canyon hike in So Utah next week, and I've heard there are bears there. its a seldom visited canyon, so the bears are not likely to be aggressive. So if you had to have a small amount of food handy, what is the best way to do it?

Even without food in your tent, you have food smells on your clothes and body, plus possibly mint toothpaste, and deodorant, so its impossible to be "pure" in your bear attraction quotient. How could you keep your BAQ as low as possible, while having some food in your tent? At Philmont they have you have a different change of clothes for sleeping and for cooking, and have your kitchen far away from your sleeping place. I doubt many hikers go to that extreme.

Edited by rshaver on 03/21/2014 11:20:52 MDT.