Author Topic: Just the Bear essentials  (Read 10108 times)

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Offline Fooesboy

Just the Bear essentials
« on: July 03, 2011, 01:25:46 am »
Hi All,

My wife and I will soon be starting our first bike tour, I have been searching this forum for information on Bear country and have found the answers for almost all my questions (there is some great info on here).

What I am still not sure on is:

1) No food in the tent...... OK, so if we wish to have our handlebar bag in the tent for security does that mean that we cannot keep our snacks in it during the day?

We are riding a section of the ACA Pacific Coast from Crescent City (actually starting at Grants Pass, it's the closest place where we can drop off the rental car), and changing to the Trans America trail at Florence and ending our tour at Cody, Wyoming.

2) How much of this route do we need to be Bear Aware? We plan on camping as much as possible, do we need to hang our food all the time?

3) Should we be purchasing Bear spray, or is the TA too well traveled?

My wife is Swiss and I'm a Kiwi so therefore we do not have much experience with the American wildlife. I have read, and I am sure it is true that Bears pose a very small risk, I just want to make sure that we are doing all the right things as much for the safety of the Bears.

We are due to fly out in less than 2 weeks.

Thanks for your advice!

Chris










« Last Edit: July 03, 2011, 01:30:39 am by Fooesboy »

Offline tonythomson

Re: Just the Bear essentials
« Reply #1 on: July 03, 2011, 04:24:01 am »
Hi Chris
there are masses of sites giving you good advice - here is one http://www.nps.gov/kefj/planyourvisit/bear-safety.htm

Food & smelly stuff will attract bears and other animals that you don't want poking around in your stuff so hang it high away from your camp.  I know we all like the tranquillity of the outdoors but make some noise and let them know you are there.  Most are timid and wish to avoid contact.  Follow the instructions posted by thr Rangers after all they are the experts.
Mostly I hope you see these wonderful animals in their habitat and of course remain safe.

Ps I'm heading down under to ride Perth to Sydney in Sept don't suppose I need to worry about Roos quite so much  :D
Tony
Just starting to record my trips  www.tonystravels.com

Offline John Nelson

Re: Just the Bear essentials
« Reply #2 on: July 03, 2011, 01:42:30 pm »
Even if you do absolutely everything wrong, your chances of a bear attack are very small. Nevertheless, it pays to take precautions. The number one rule is nothing smelly in or near the tent. Become familiar with the "bearmuda triangle".

When in bear country, I prefer to eat somewhere far away from my campsite. One way to do this is to stop somewhere and eat (including washing up and brushing your teeth--toothpaste attracts bears too), and then bike farther before camping. If you do want to cook and/or eat near where you camp, do so a hundred yards from your tent if possible.

I keep all my food and toiletries in one pannier, inside odor-proof bags. If in bear country (which is a small subset of the places you'll be), hang the pannier from a tree a few hundred yards from your tent. If you have some snacks in your handlebar bag, transfer them to the pannier before you hang it. Try to keep your handlebar bag food inside plastic bags so that the smells don't transfer to the bag itself. If you got any food on your clothing, put those clothes in the food pannier as well. If you are cooking, put the clothes you cooked in in the pannier too.

Established campgrounds in bear country often have bear boxes. Those are great and are worth the price of the campground by themselves. Campgrounds in Yellowstone will all have them.

These are all extreme precautions, but are simple to do and give you a bit more margin of safety. Stop at ranger stations along the way and ask if there has been any recent bear activity.

I would not take bear spray. It's not legal everywhere, and you don't want to worry about whether or not it is. Bears will be a concern in the Clearwater National Forest (going over Lolo Pass from Idaho to Montana), in the Beaverhead Deerlodge National Forest (from Ennis Montana to Yellowstone) and in Yellowstone. I don't think they will be a significant concern elsewhere on your route.
« Last Edit: July 03, 2011, 01:44:47 pm by John Nelson »

Offline Fooesboy

Re: Just the Bear essentials
« Reply #3 on: July 04, 2011, 04:41:32 am »
Hi John,

Thank you very much for your reply, this was just the information we needed.

I was also wondering about deodorant..... If bears are attracted to toothpaste what about smelly cyclists who decide to have a "French Shower" before crawling into bed?

Chris

Offline staehpj1

Re: Just the Bear essentials
« Reply #4 on: July 04, 2011, 07:48:19 am »
I never take food into the tent, but don't worry that I have earlier had food in the handlebar bag that goes in the tent.  I don't take in toiletries, but also don't worry if I smell a bit of toothpaste, deodorant, or bug spray.

As far as bear spray I don't carry any.

I'd have to guess, based on the folks I have observed, that the large majority do similarly and have no issues.

My observation is that the places with the biggest bear problems are campgrounds in Yellowstone, Sequoia, Yosemite, or similar places and they tend to have bear boxes.

Offline bogiesan

Re: Just the Bear essentials
« Reply #5 on: July 04, 2011, 05:44:47 pm »
I was also wondering about deodorant..... If bears are attracted to toothpaste what about smelly cyclists who decide to have a "French Shower" before crawling into bed?
Chris

Use of deodorants on bike tours is discussed elsewhere, you might try a search. My experiences backpacking convinced me a dash of rubbing alcohol prevents most bacteria growth under the arms. A splash on my jersey helps keep the odors under control but the volume of sweat is unmanageable in heat or humidity.

In many parts of the USA, bears and raccoons are habituated to everything associated with humans because the presence of noisy and smelly humans means abundant and easily acquired food is always available. These critters are strong, very clever and armed with sharp claws and teeth. They have also discovered that, unlike other animals, humans will not fight very hard to protect their food. This has emboldened many campsite-habituated marauders.

I think you research will indicate most bear encounters are the direct result of stupidity. Your chances of an uncomfortable or dangerous encounter are low and can be reduced to almost nothing by proper precautions, all of which have been mentioned or you have already discovered. In Idaho, we hang bear-proof containers high in trees. But a good bear tree is not always convenient.

david boise ID
I play go. I use Macintosh. Of course I ride a recumbent

Offline Fooesboy

Re: Just the Bear essentials
« Reply #6 on: July 04, 2011, 09:54:15 pm »
Thanks for all the great help, all pretty much what I was thinking just nice to get confirmation that I am on the right track!

Back to trying to sort everything out!!!!!

Chris

Offline paddleboy17

Re: Just the Bear essentials
« Reply #7 on: July 05, 2011, 01:25:09 pm »
Racoons are more likely to be encountered, and the camping protocols for dealing with bears work for racoons as well.  Just hang your food up in the tree. 

You might want to consider wearing bells to alert bears that you are coming.  I frequent where black bears live, and I get details about black and grizzly bears confused, but I believe bells are a good idea if you might surprise a bear.

As for pepper sprays, I think you are more likely to have a dog encounter and my might want to gear up for a dog encounter.
Danno

Offline ChromolyWally

Re: Just the Bear essentials
« Reply #8 on: July 05, 2011, 07:19:44 pm »
I live in the forest outside of Grants Pass.  Have never seen a bear around here, although I know they are around.  Have found scat on our property, but only once in three years.  Rode the Pacific Coast a few years ago - zero bear encounters.

Sounds like you are planning on taking Hwy 199 to the coast from here.  Be aware that much of the California section is shoulder-less two-lane road with lots of turns and a good amount of truck traffic (55 mph).  Can be done but it won't be relaxing by any means.  I wouldn't want to try it myself.

« Last Edit: July 05, 2011, 07:37:42 pm by ChromolyWally »

Offline HONDO

Re: Just the Bear essentials
« Reply #9 on: July 07, 2011, 06:55:35 pm »
Excellent advice, however I just read that a man was killed this past wednesday by a mother grizzly on the Wapiti Lake trailhead in Yellowstone near Cody. I believe that area has since been closed off until further review. The bear was not considered a predatory bear and therefore is roaming free. Apparently the couple were 100 yards away when they encountered the bear, began walking away but she spotted them as a threat to her cubs and chased them down. As horrific as this is you still have to remember this is the first fatality since 1986 if I recall. Just use caution and take the advice of people on the blog. Dont over react, just be cautious in bear country.

Offline tsteven4

Re: Just the Bear essentials
« Reply #10 on: July 07, 2011, 07:53:48 pm »
Quote
Be aware that much of the California section is shoulder-less two-lane road with lots of turns and a good amount of truck traffic (55 mph).  Can be done but it won't be relaxing by any means.  I wouldn't want to try it myself.

I couldn't agree more.  We rode from Grants Pass to Crescent City on 199 last year.  The California section was by far the most dangerous road we traveled between Portland, OR and LA.  I nearly ended up squished between the flatbed trailer of a semi rig and a rock wall next to the road.  It was so close I felt I had to pull my elbows in.  This involved a professional truck driver who made a very poor decision to pass on a corner with oncoming traffic.  But if you live through that Jedediah Smith Redwood State Park is very very nice.

Offline ChromolyWally

Re: Just the Bear essentials
« Reply #11 on: July 08, 2011, 07:16:01 pm »
As horrific as this is you still have to remember this is the first fatality since 1986 if I recall.

It was the first grizzly-related fatality since 1986 within Yellowstone's boundary.  But there have been other fatalities outside of Yellowstone, including two last year in two separate incidents outside of the park's boundary.   One of those happened just days after I left the area.  I know it's unlikely to be attacked by a grizzly, but they still make me nervous.

Offline happyriding

Re: Just the Bear essentials
« Reply #12 on: July 09, 2011, 04:31:59 am »
Last summer, I carried a bear canister on that section of the TransAm:

http://www.rei.com/product/768901/bearvault-bv450-solo-food-container

It fit nicely inside one of my Ortlieb BikePacker Plus rear panniers.

It is my understanding that hanging your food no longer works; bears have learned all kinds of ways to get it down.  The only approved storage method in US National Parks(?) is a bear canister like above, which you just set on the ground.  Supposedly there is one bear on the East coast that figured out how to open it.  I found it hard to open--even after reading about the "trick" to open it--so I think it is quite a feat for a bear to have figured it out.

But for a cyclist, it is not the worse thing in the world to lose your food to a bear.  There is usually a town nearby where you can resupply.  However, if your pannier gets ripped apart that is much more bothersome.  I discovered that all the hiker/biker campgrounds in bear territory along the TA had bear boxes.  A bear box is a metal box next to your campsite which you can store food in.  Bears know they can't get into them.  Bear boxes aren't huge, and you have to share them with other campers, so it's not like you can put all four panniers in them.  

The only reason you would need a bear canister is if you have to stealth camp, which I did once.  I put my bear canister 100 yards from my tent, and I hung one pannier nearby the canister.  I thought I would stealth camp more, but it is a real pain in bear country.  In fact, I even stopped cooking entirely at the campgrounds--it was just too time consuming.  Instead, I bought sandwich meat, bagels, turkey jerky, milk, nuts, fruit, carrots, and cookies to eat for dinner and the next morning's breakfast.

I kept all the things with smells in one rear pannier: toiletries, food, cook set, sunscreen, and baby wipes.  I did keep Cliff bars inside a plastic ziploc bag inside my handlebar bag, which I made certain not to forget about when camping.  I dutifully transferred the plastic bag containing my Cliff bars along with my food pannier to a bear box when I arrived at a campground.  At most campgrounds, you are not allowed to leave *anything* on picnic tables.  You have to eat, and then clear the picnic table completely.  Supposedly, anything left on a picnic table will draw bears into camp.

The news of the bear attack "in" Yellowstone last summer spread rapidly among the touring cyclists.  I think it is fraudulent for the news services to now claim that the latest attack was the first death in Yellowstone since 1986.  If someone gets killed by a bear 10 feet outside of Yellowstone, it is still "in" Yellowstone as far as the public is concerned.  I met a French cyclist in Yellowstone, who flew into West Yellowstone, and he rented a bike to spend a week sightseeing in Yellowstone, and he saw 5 bears.  One bear ran across the road in front of him.

I suggest you read a book on bear attacks.  It will frighten you, but it will also teach you some things you can do.






« Last Edit: July 09, 2011, 04:57:10 am by happyriding »

Offline jamawani

Re: Just the Bear essentials
« Reply #13 on: July 09, 2011, 01:51:00 pm »
The solution -
Is to always tour with a younger, tenderer person.

Offline driftlessregion

Re: Just the Bear essentials
« Reply #14 on: July 09, 2011, 08:58:07 pm »
Yeah, but they're faster than us old guys.