View Full Version : Bear Cannisters

05-29-2006, 18:52
Birdie and I are planning to hit the Sierra High Route in July of this upcoming summer (as there is still five feet of snow at 3000 ft here in Washington, it can't be summer yet) and, I think, are resolved (i.e, whipped) into carrying bear cannisters. The central problem is one of distance. Due to the off trail nature of the SHR, we are planning for something like 8-10 days for the initial push coming from Independence to VVR. Given good weather and easier than expected conditions, we might be able to speed this up a little.

For those of you who have actually used them, how many thruhiker days of food can you generally fit? I've read estimates from 4.5-7 days from users. However, many times these are from weekend backpackers, rather than the more minimalist distance hikers. Also, I'd rather get advice from people I know instead of random people on the web. The main model the FS has for rent is the Garcia one, which is, I think, about 600 ci.

While I'm pretty sure we could get away with just sleeping with our food, especially given the remote nature of the SHR, it seems the feds are serious now about bear cannisters. Also, we'll be moving through in July, whereas when we hiked the PCT in 2003, we came through in June when bears were lower down.

05-29-2006, 20:23
I too am interested in the response. I was going to purchase a cannister, but the Yosemite website says rentals are $5 for two weeks. That beats spending $65-$70.

05-29-2006, 21:48
yeah, the problem is the rangers and possible fines. I doubt you'll be sleeping anywhere were bears are attacking food bags. They usually do that where the hordes tend to camp. I have hiked the JMT 7 times and never had my food taken, and only hung it the first time. (till i learned from the locals that that was the way to lose it)
Now, i just sleep where no one else sleeps. I prefer the high country, up above treeline.
Since you are doing the high route, i'm pretty sure you won't have any encounters with bears as they hang out down near the trailheads. But of course, it's easy to see if you have a canister or not so you need to worry about the cops. Good luck in your choice.

05-29-2006, 23:09
I am down here in california and when I go up to SEKI I have to use to use Bear canisters. I started out with the Garicia and after a year I had a trip that required two canisters and The second unit I purchased was the bear vault. The bearvault has several advantages..its clear so its a lot easier to find that missing power bar. And of course its a lot lighter. There is a part of me that really hates carriing the canister.. they are heavy and bulky to pack, despite that I think carring one in High bear activity is probably a good idea. This happend to me 2 years ago in Sequoia national park

I stopped into the Mineral King ranger station to pick up my permit and there was a group picking up thier permit in line in front of me. This particular area of Sequoia is outside the "bear canister required area" but the rangers strongly encourage everyone to use one. When the ranger got to the bear canister part of his spiel the group leader said he had been hanging his food in the sierras for years(15 years?) and had never had a problem etc.

Long story short on day three of my trip I camped on one side of a lake and the group camped on the other. During the night I heard a noise and a quick sweep with my headlamp revealed nothing but in the morning my canistar had been tipped over and moved a few feet but otherwise unaffected. However during my breakfest the same guy who quoted his years of experience to the ranger came over to see if I had any food to spare because a bear had taken his. I had a little extra which I gave up but those three guys probably had two full days of walking with one day of food split between them.

For me its been nearly 25 years since a bear got my food but I realise that doesn't insure that it won't happen next trip.

The big news for US california Bear canister users is that the Sierra Interagency Bear group has conditionally approved the Ursack hybrid. If your a gram weanie the ursack hybrid is lighter than the bearvault and even with the liner is probably more packable than the hardsided canisters.

Clark Fork
05-30-2006, 00:41
For the scoop on bear cannisters check out:

Bear Barrel Polka (http://www.trailjournals.com/entry.cfm?id=128245)

Clark Fork in Western Montana "Where Seldom is heard a Discouraging Word."

05-30-2006, 01:23
I rented a Garcia in the Sierras late last summer and probably only got 4 days of food in it. One of the problems is the rangers ask you put all your smellables in it. Food, drugs, toothpaste, bug dope, cigarettes, fuel, etc. No could do, so I only put what food would fit and ziplocked the rest sleeping with it as I usually do.

By the time I got to TM from the Valley I was checked 3 times. I didn't make it as far as Whitney but, you'll probably get checked near there as well.

They'll let you have the canisters for over 2 weeks, just make sure to tell them when you'll think you'll finish and add a couple days. Stick a label on it and mail it back.

Never did see a bear, but heard they were around.

05-30-2006, 06:42
I rented a Garcia in the Sierras late last summer and probably only got 4 days of food in it.

What did it cost Sly? $5 + return postage?

06-02-2006, 19:05
Well, in a normal sized bear canister I have stuffed about 9 days worth of food for ONE person. Now this is after some huffing and puffing and eliminating of some food types that take up too much space per calorie (such as crackers). If I had a big appetite I wouldn't count on the thing holding more than 7 days of food. For 2 people that translates to 3.5-4 days.

When I end up with a bit more food than will fit in my canister, when I pack up at night I put the MOST important food in the canister and leave out the less important (again, usually the bulkier/fresh food). Forget the toothpaste, etc., that ain't gonna happen for at least a couple of nights out.

My experience is that the rangers check to see that you have a canister, but they don't make you empty your pack to prove that ALL of your food fits into it.

06-02-2006, 23:35
this is a nice article on how to pack a bear canister


I did an 8 day last yr in the Sierras and I used the Garica bear canister. That is one heavy pc of gear :eek: .
This yr I am going back to do a 5 day trip in Yosemite but luckily a friend is letting me use the bearikade.
We never had a Ranger stop us to check if we had our canisters. I was able to stuff 6 days worth of food in it. We had bear lockers for two nights so they help a lot

06-02-2006, 23:51
What did it cost Sly? $5 + return postage?

Yup, $5 at the Toulemne Meadows Backcountry Ranger Station where I picked up my permit.

06-03-2006, 17:34
Great topic - thanks. Oliander, I hope you're right about the 9 days.

Less than 3 months until I hit the JMT!

06-14-2006, 15:36
You can rent the Expedition Bearikade (http://www.wild-ideas.net/products.html) canister. It's 900ci (rather than the typically 650ci) and still weighs less than the 650 models at 2# 5oz.

06-15-2006, 11:14
Is it certified by the Park Service as an acceptable container?

06-15-2006, 13:54
Yep, the 650ci Bearikade is on the list. I don't see why the bigger 900ci, or the smaller (Scout) 500ci wouldn't be as well.

These are what most folks refer to as the "OMG that's expensive" bear canisters.

06-15-2006, 13:55
Yep, it is on this list...


06-15-2006, 14:05
THere is also the Ursack. It is CONDITIONALLY APPROVED (e.g. being tested this year) for the Sierra area.

From http://www.ursack.com/home.htm
The Sierra Interagency Black Bear Group (SIBBG) has unanimously approved the use of the Ursack Hybrid in the previously restricted ares of the National Parks and Forests in the Sierra: Yosemite, SEKI, Inyo, Devil's Postpile, Stanislaus.
We have not heard from other areas that may not allow Ursack, but we anticipate that they will fall in line with SIBBG. Specifically, this means that the Hybrid, which is the Ursack with our heavy duty aluminum liner, has been conditionally approved for use in those areas.
Conditionally approved means that it has passed all zoo and wilderness testing by rangers, but still must successfully get through the summer of 2006 with actual use by campers. If we pass that test, then the Ursack Hybrid will have full approval. The difference to our customers is inconsequential since even containers that have received full approval can be later banned if bears figure out how to get into them. The Ursack Hybrid weighs about 20 ounces and holds about 650 cubic inches. The aluminum liner is removable for use in areas where it is allowedLooks to be lighter than bear canister and far less bulky.

With any luck it will be approved for next year.

Clark Fork
06-22-2006, 11:58
You can rent the Expedition Bearikade (http://www.wild-ideas.net/products.html) canister. It's 900ci (rather than the typically 650ci) and still weighs less than the 650 models at 2# 5oz.

If you use the Bearikade, take a galvanized or brass washer the size of a quarter and tie it with a string to your pack of jacket zipper pull. Just the thing to keep handy for loosening the set screws that hold the cover on.

I have an orange stripe around mine to make finding it easier if the bears go night bowling with it.


Clark Fork in Western Montana "Where Seldom is heard a Discouraging Word"