bear canister best practices?
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Linda Alvarez
(Liniac) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
bear canister best practices? on 07/20/2014 18:20:03 MDT Print View

I usually follow the "when in doubt, just throw it in the bear can" philosophy but I'm facing a very tight squeeze on my next trip and wondered what others do with some if the following scented-but-not-really-appetizing items:

1) esbit
2) purell
3) camp suds
4) DEET
5) first aid miscellany like hand wipes, topical pain relief gel, cortisone cream.

Do you store those items outside the can or inside?

Also, for those with backpacking experience with kids, who are shall-we-say not known for their pristine eating habits, what do you do with clothing that has been "dined in?" I am bringing dedicated sleeping clothes for inside the tent but would you put spilled on hiking clothes into a canister too or just stash with your backpack outside the tent?

The only bears we would potentially encounter are black bears, in the California Sierras--I recognize that a different level of safety may be called for in grizzly territory.

please note I am not particularly "bear paranoid" (I have never even *seen* a bear in 10 years hiking the sierras) but my daughter has some serious anxiety about them and I would just as soon not encourage any sort of brush with one!

Billy Ray
(rosyfinch) - M

Locale: the mountains
where? on 07/20/2014 19:18:16 MDT Print View

Would help if you would specify WHERE you will be camping. Bears are worse in some areas and a bit more cautions is in order for those areas.

Billy

jerry adams
(retiredjerry) - MLife

Locale: Oregon and Washington
Re: bear canister best practices? on 07/20/2014 20:00:24 MDT Print View

I don't think I'de put Esbit or DEET with my food because it might contaminate it

Linda Alvarez
(Liniac) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
generally and specifically on 07/20/2014 20:12:34 MDT Print View

Well for this specific trip I have coming up, we will be in Sequoia National Park on the popular Lakes Trail for a first backpack with my daughter. Camps are only in established sites (which I'm imagining has got to be on some enterprising bear's daily rounds!). I'm assuming marmots are probably an equal or bigger pain.

But I am also interested in what others do as a general practice. I hike at various locations in the sierras, from Yosemite down to Mineral King; most often in SEKI, usually on trails, usually avoiding the most crowded routes.

Ian B.
(IDBLOOM) - MLife

Locale: PNW
Re: generally and specifically on 07/20/2014 20:19:47 MDT Print View

I throw my cook kit with esbit in my bear bag due to the fishy smell along with my sunblock, hand sanitizer, unscented soap, toothpaste and toothbrush. I'd do the same if I had a canister and I could get everything to fit.

Billy Ray
(rosyfinch) - M

Locale: the mountains
Re: generally and specifically on 07/20/2014 20:28:02 MDT Print View

I really am not familiar with the Lakes Trail... probably because it is so popular... something I avoid. but my thought is that if it is that popular there may well be metal bear boxes/lockers for people to put things in overnight. Have you checked with SEKI?

As for general:
I don't put anything other than food in my bear canisters. the other 'suspect' things I put in odor proof (really resistant) bags and hope for the best. I have never had a bear after those bags, but I suppose it could happen... though I'm pretty careful to bring unscented everything. I agree with the above, I would not put DEET anywhere near my food... I really don't even put it on m skin as it is nasty stuff. AS for esbit.. I don't use it because it stinks so bad... I imagine a bear would feel the same... but you might post asking if anyone has ever had a bear eat their esbit. Purell: I don't use it but I would try to buy unscented... if the only scent is alcohol, I doubt the bears are interested... but not sure. AS for cloths with food on them ... well, I have not camped with kids so there again I'm no expert on this, but if you bring cloths that dry relatively quickly, then why not wash them and hang them up to dry each night... I have not had a bear after my drying cloths...but then, I don't spill a lot of food on them either.

Linda Alvarez
(Liniac) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
lockers on 07/20/2014 20:39:51 MDT Print View

(slaps forehead). Yes! come to think of it, you're right! There should be lockers there (I am unfamiliar with this trail too, for the same reasons you are). I still don't like to hike without a canister even where there are lockers -- too many things can go sideways on the way to your next destination, lockers can be full or not working. But, in this case since we're going all of 6 miles to the camp, it's probably a safe enough bet that I can plan on having that available for any overflow toiletries and sundries.

Still curious about others' general practices. Esbit I do usually leave in my cookpot and have never had a problem with animals but not sure if leaving e.g. hand cleaner out is a no-no or not.

Billy Ray
(rosyfinch) - M

Locale: the mountains
Re: lockers on 07/20/2014 20:46:35 MDT Print View

"(slaps forehead). Yes! come to think of it, you're right! There should be lockers there"

lol :)

I did a quick google and at least some people have written that there is a bear box out there on that trail at the designated camp sites... but I did not get that from SEKI... you could call them to make sure.

Billy

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

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: generally and specifically on 07/20/2014 20:54:56 MDT Print View

"the popular Lakes Trail"

At the last time that I checked, Emerald Lake had two bear lockers, and Pear Lake also had two.

I also use Esbit fuel. I would think that a black bear might sniff at it, but it is unlikely to eat it because it smells so stinky. I've never had any animal go after my Esbit cubes.

--B.G.--

Ian B.
(IDBLOOM) - MLife

Locale: PNW
Re: Re: generally and specifically on 07/20/2014 23:47:27 MDT Print View

I've had animals, boar and fox, run off with things such as trip flare type booby traps after raiding our rucks. We're talking about animals that eat and dig up feces so nothing's off the table as potential food. On the other side of the coin, I've slept with all of my food 100s of times in black bear country and have never had a problem from them. From boars and foxes yes but not bear.

Not recommending that you forgo bear canisters but I'd get everything in that you can and either bear bag or use your best judgment on the rest. If you search the old BPL articles, there's a good one from about a year ago where drug dogs (whose sense of smell is hundreds times less sensitive than that of a bear) were able to find dope in "odor proof" bags so I wouldn't rely on outfoxing their noses.

Tony Wong
(Valshar) - MLife

Locale: San Francisco Bay Area
Re: bear canister best practices? on 07/21/2014 13:10:25 MDT Print View

Linda,

I have only backpacking in the Sierras and always have a bear canister and I cook with esbit.

I also carry soap/camp suds and deet.

If I have room in my canister, I will put esbit in there in a ziplock bag or two to keep the smell away from my food. MSR Kettle if there is room with my Esbit inside the kettle.

If I am tight on space, then none of the things you have listed has gone into the canister and I have not had any problems.

What bear would think that esbit smells like food???!!

I often have slept with my Kettle next to my bivy filled with filtered water, ready to go for my breakfast.

That said, I do use sand and gravel to scrub my kettle spotlessly clean each night with water. Often without soap, unless my food was particularly greasy.

My med kit has always been inside my bivy with me, along with my deet, baking soda for tooth paste, and soap for washing my hands after rest room breaks.

Right or wrong, I tend to think that these don't smell like food to bears or animals.

So far, I have not been eaten like a bivy burrito.

P.S. I do realize that proper backpacking procedure is to have your campsite setup as a Triangle. Cooking done at one point, food storage with cook pot and scented items at the other point, and your sleeping/campsite at the 3rd point of the triangle.

I do make a point of cooking at a separate location and storing my canister at another location and sleeping at different location....I just cheat with the small stuff listed above.

Tony

jeffrey armbruster
(book) - M

Locale: Northern California
"bear canister best practices?" on 07/21/2014 14:27:39 MDT Print View

Just wondering Tony why you don't leave the baking soda and soap etc. outside of your bivy? I mean, if a bear doesn't want to eat these things, it won't. But if it does, and you're there too, well...

Personally I do count baking soda as food. I certainly think that a bear would go after tooth paste.

Tony Wong
(Valshar) - MLife

Locale: San Francisco Bay Area
Re: "bear canister best practices?" on 07/21/2014 15:16:36 MDT Print View

Jeffrey,

Good question and point.

I tend to be a bit anal and I have this fear of some small creature making off with any of my stuff.

So I find that I have plenty of space above my head in my over sized MLD Soul Side Zip.

In fact, I have the ability to put all of my gear inside my bivy while sleeping....short of my bear canister, hydration system, and cook pot....well, I probably get some of those in there, but I put a small to medium size rock on top of my pot and the hydration setup next to it with the bite value inside my bivy or hanging above me on my hiking poles that are arranged in an "X" over my bivy so I can tie out my head net on my bivy.

I like the idea of having breakfast in bed in the morning, so I just get up and grab my bear can, slip back in my bivy under my quilt and have breakfast in bed.

I did have a small creature chew on my bite valve once.

Anyway, that is how I do it....does not mean it is the right way, but so far I have not been eaten by a bear or had anything sneak up to my bivy to get at my stuff.

P.S. I also have very good life insurance. My Ex-wife to be probably would appreciate my dying as she will continue to be the beneficiary of my policy. This might explain why she like to staple raw strips of bacon to the front pocket of my pack when I went out on trips......

Tony

Edited by Valshar on 07/21/2014 15:18:26 MDT.

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

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: bear canister best practices? on 07/21/2014 15:29:45 MDT Print View

The conventional wisdom is to place your bear canister away from where you sleep. There are different ways of looking at that. You don't want the bear to come sniffing at your bear canister and then start sniffing you. On the other hand, if the bear canister is close enough to where you sleep, then you might wake up to scare the bear off by shouting.

For me, the optimum distance for sleeping bag to bear canister is the maximum flash distance for my camera. I want to get the flash shot first and then shout to scare the bear off.

--B.G.--