Author Topic: Bear safe food storage  (Read 4209 times)

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Offline thefennas

Bear safe food storage
« on: May 09, 2022, 06:52:49 am »
I am from the UK planning a slow trip along the Great Divide in the summer/fall. Have read some guidance on bear safe food/other storage while camping in places without food boxes, but am looking for recommendations for the best set up. Cannisters look too heavy and bulky, so considering dry bags, possibly with "smell proof" liners such as Opsacs, ideally hung between trees or if necessary stashed a long way from the camp. Reason to consider Dry bags instead say of say Ursac bags is cost, weight and the ability to repurpose the dry bags outside bear territory. Coming from UK , so we are pretty clueless about bears apart form the obvious guidance that out there. Also best way to avoid surprising bears on the trail, eg shouting/bells at corners. In some parts of Europe people sing, but I just don't see the happening to maintain the sanity of my biking partner!

Offline HikeBikeCook

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Re: Bear safe food storage
« Reply #1 on: May 10, 2022, 07:45:44 am »
Bear safety is a process not just one thing. First of all Ursacs or bear canisters may weigh a bit and cost a bit of money, but what is your life worth?

Handling food before you get to bear country is equally important. Dedicate one pack for your food for the entire trip and do not put clothes or sleeping gear in it. Do a little research for setting up a camp properly in bear country using the triangle method.

Follow NPS advice so they do not have to clean up a mess and notify next of kin.

A bell on your bike may help, but situational awareness is the key. Encounters still happen, I believe a ranger was killed a few years back when his bike collided with a grizzly bear. There are some places that shortcuts are not worth it and health and safety are on the top of my list.
« Last Edit: May 11, 2022, 06:59:08 am by HikeBikeCook »
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Offline EGHama

Re: Bear safe food storage
« Reply #2 on: May 10, 2022, 10:37:07 pm »
Like a few others on this site, I've transitioned to cycling from hiking/backpacking. I remember being told that bears have the best sense of smell of any animal. For comparison, the average dog’s sense of smell is 100 times better than ours. A blood hound’s is 300 times better. A bear’s sense of smell is 7 times better than a blood hound’s or 2,100 times better than a human’s. Which may mean the bear can smell that still unopened package of beef jerky in your pocket from several miles away.  Great tips and links provided by HikeBikeCook. Be aware and careful in bear country, keep a clean site, and protect your food.  And properly doing these things also protects the bears.
On the hiking trail, I've used various bear hang methods to keep my food (and other smellys) out of reach.  But there have also been times (like above treeline) where there was no where to hang the food bag in the camp area.  Hauling the bear canister was the best option in this scenario. I know the canister is pricey, bulky and heavy, but as HBC says, "what is your life worth?"

Offline BikeliciousBabe

Re: Bear safe food storage
« Reply #3 on: May 11, 2022, 03:26:44 pm »
Encounters still happen, I believe a ranger was killed a few years back when his bike collided with a grizzly bear.
He was a USFS police officer who was mountain biking on FS land near Glacier National Park with his brother-in-law, IIRC.  I read a report and saw photos of the scene.  Based on all the evidence, it's believed he was bombing a descent, possibly as fast as 25 mph, when he came around a bend. It was estimated that he had only a couple of seconds max to react and thus was unable to avoid the bear in the trail.  Some injuries were consistent with doing a header over the bars, strongly suggesting a collision.  By the time his brother-in-law caught up, there was nothing he could do.

A woman was attacked and killed in her tent in Ovando, MT, last year.  She had been storing food in her tent but removed it when the bear's presence was discovered.  She removed the food but the bear later returned and attacked her.  IIRC, the bear, which was later killed, was suffering from an abscess in its face/mouth area.

Offline ray b

Re: Bear safe food storage
« Reply #4 on: May 11, 2022, 08:20:18 pm »
Right - important to remember, the unfortunate USFS officer has been the only casualty to a bear of someone actually riding a bicycle. Creaky cranks and other trail noise presumably keep the bears out of the way..., most of the time. The trick, as well noted above, is to not smell like something good to eat while you're trying to sleep.

I've bombed a few downhills with fresh grizzly scat in the middle of the trail. I assume my whoops and shouts helped keep the trail free.

As regards the cannister/bag debate..., lots in other threads. I've always been a bag guy - well except Alaska where they have no trees.

That said, a lot of the US national parks have started to require cannisters, and a whole market has developed with certification by the Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee. (To be certified, a food-filled canister needs to last in a grizzly bear enclosure and sustain at least 60 minutes of bear contact without failing.)

I saw an engineer last summer with a nice, lightweight cannister that fit well on his rack. See photo below. It takes the uncertainty out of where to store any food and toiletries in bear country. I looked into it further. Like everything else associated with our sport, I found a nice carbon fiber version I liked (at about 600 grams) for over $300....

By the time one get's south of Pinedale, Wyoming, the threat of big brown bears (grizzlies) gives way to the hassles of smaller brown bears (black bears) - and the bags don't need to be hung near as high (though the smaller bears do climb better). I've heard that javelina (native pigs) can wreck food-ridden camps in New Mexico, but I have never seen any sign of them. (But, I don't bait them, either.)

I'll note that, if staying in USFS campgrounds, the hosts often have bear-proof boxes for use by tenters - if boxes are not provided in the sites.

Have fun thinking about this, and realize that just by thinking about it, you've probably prevented any significant interaction with our Ursus arctos horribilis.

Now, let's talk about mountain lions....
« Last Edit: May 11, 2022, 08:40:53 pm by ray b »
“A good man always knows his limitations.”

Offline thefennas

Re: Bear safe food storage
« Reply #5 on: May 17, 2022, 10:49:18 am »
Thanks all for the replies: I have gone through the useful links and have now pretty much concluded to give an Ursac with related  liners a go and practice slinging a line between Scottish trees before we go!

Offline Westinghouse

Re: Bear safe food storage
« Reply #6 on: June 06, 2022, 02:11:06 am »
Yes it is highly advisable to prevent luring Bears into a camp. I know two people who left food in their tents. Both tents were destroyed. They were ripped wide open. Everything was scattered on the floor of the tent and outside on the ground. Anything edible was smeared around all over the place. And that was just raccoons in Florida. Raccoons are much smaller than bears. You do not need a bear sniffing around where are you are sleeping in a tent.

Offline Noel Brahimi

Re: Bear safe food storage
« Reply #7 on: January 19, 2023, 08:38:24 am »
When camping in bear country, it's important to properly store your food and scented items to keep bears from becoming attracted to your camp. One way to do this is to bring a slow cooker bread recipe and make bread in a bear-proof container.
There are a few different options for food storage while on a trip along the Great Divide, such as bear canisters, bear bags, and dry bags with "smell-proof" liners. Bear canisters are the most popular and secure method for storing food and scented items, but they can be heavy and bulky to carry. If you're looking for a lighter option, dry bags with "smell-proof" liners, such as Opsacs, can be a good choice. You can hang them between trees or stash them a long way from your camp. The advantage of using dry bags is that they are cheaper, lightweight, and can be repurposed outside of the bear territory.
To avoid surprising bears on the trail, it's important to make noise while hiking, such as shouting or ringing a bell. This will alert bears to your presence and give them a chance to move away before you arrive. Some people sing while hiking, but if you don't feel comfortable doing that, you can try other methods such as clapping or carrying a whistle. It's also important to be aware of your surroundings and keep an eye out for signs of bears, such as tracks or scat.
Lastly, it's important to remember that it's best to follow the guidance of the local authorities and park rangers, as they will have the most up-to-date information about bear activity and the best practices for food storage in the area you will be visiting.
« Last Edit: January 23, 2023, 04:08:36 am by Noel Brahimi »

Offline staehpj1

Re: Bear safe food storage
« Reply #8 on: January 19, 2023, 10:21:26 am »
I think I might consider an Ursak for the GDMBR. 

BTW, I just noticed that they now make a BV425 it might be a size that works for some touring riders since it will possibly suit the short distances between resupply that some of us have whan touring.  I live my BV450 for backpacking where a canister is required, but have never toured with one.  I have always managed to find bear boxes, hang food, or improvise something.  That improvising has been anything from putting my food in a nearby restroom, asking another camper to put in their car trunk where that was the camps recommended policy, or whatever.  In rare cases I just put it well away from camp and hoped it didn't get eaten.

In practice I have had more trouble with raccoons.  I accidentally left a power bar in a pannier pocket and a raccoon chewed it up, put it back, and zipped it back up.  By the time I discovered it days later the pannier had a permanent smell of power bar and that pocket was opened by raccoons many times and usually zipped back up after the contents were strewn around.

Offline jamawani

Re: Bear safe food storage
« Reply #9 on: January 19, 2023, 01:42:10 pm »
Fen -

Here is a list of Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee approved storage containers.
They are appropriate for the Northern Rockies esp. Glacier and Yellowstone.
If you are doing the Great Divide in Canada other regulations may apply.
Although the Ursack is on the list here, some parks and some specific area may required hard-sided.

Since you will be cycling on the GDMBR, you won't be in wilderness areas, per se.
But you will be in Greater Glacier and Greater Yellowstone - - and pretty darn remote, too.
In the park backcountry, there are often hanging poles - but those areas are closed to bicycles.
Rarely will you have poles or bear boxes on the GDMBR.

If you haven't had experience hanging your pack - the GDMBR is not the best place to learn.
It is a challenge to hang a pack properly - most people just make it a game for the bear.
Either too low or too close to the trunk or branch.
Not to mention burn areas or barrens where you can find good places to hang.

Please, never - - ever - - eat in your tent.
If you have eaten in your tent in Spain or in Holland, get another one.
Humans have the worst noses in the animal kingdom.
Bears have the best.


Oh, and about noise.
When I was in the Arctic cycling, a Slavey Dene man said to make raven calls.
In many native cultures the bear and the raven are opposite moities.
If you can make good raven calls, it serves to announce yourself.
And is not nearly as irritating as singing or jingle bells.

BTW - Do you know the difference between black bear and grizzly poop?
Black bear scat is small and rounded with mouse fur and berries in it.
Grizzly scat is larger, smells like bear spray, and has small bells in it.

Best of luck,
Jama - from Wyoming