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  1. #1
    Registered User Burly Buck's Avatar
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    Default Bear Canisters vs Bags

    I'm sure this has been covered before but during a cursory search I have failed to locate the information that I seek. In my preparation a thru hike one of my concerns is what to do to keep my wife and I safe from bears while hiking. We live in bear country and are planning to traverse Michigan next fall in preparation of our thru hike on the A T possibly in 2014. Some of what I've seen on line could be a comedy act or at best it looks like it takes considerable time to properly hang a bag. What is the popular opinion of those who have hiked?

  2. #2
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    Canisters are used mostly in areas with serious, ongoing bear issues or with no trees to hang from (not the AT). Where bears are unspoiled, people hang their food, or not.
    "It's fun to have fun, but you have to know how." ---Dr. Seuss

  3. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by Burly Buck View Post
    What is the popular opinion of those who have hiked?
    i always sleep with my food

  4. #4

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    I sleep with my food also. Only times I've had problems was when my food was elsewhere. If its required like the GSMNP then I hang my food.

  5. #5

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    I can't sleep with my food... I've read 2 many trail journals of the worst kind. I think you are safe most of the time with ur food in your tent but I wouldn't sleep a wink wondering if something hungry would want me to share my food with them. I always hang it up- it's nice when there are bear poles are available but when there's none, it's not too hard to hang it on your own. Depending on how tired you are at the end of the day, hanging ur food can be pretty entertaining for others around and it's easier to laugh then cry...

  6. #6
    Registered User TheYoungOne's Avatar
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    I hang my food PCT style, and try to double bag my food with, everything in large ziplocks then in the bear bag. I also try to hang it away from camp. I wouldn't use a canister unless there were no trees or if the area mandates it because of bear issues. Canisters are heavy.

    http://www.backpacker.com/skills-how...slideshows/162

  7. #7
    Some days, it's not worth chewing through the restraints.
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    I use a bear canister. It's required in the Adirondacks where I spend much of my time, and I've become accustomed to it, so I use it everywhere. Food stays dry and un-crushed, and I can just leave the can a few hundred feet from camp. It's never been bothered (even when used to stash food for a re-supply), keeps out everything (mice, chipmunks, bugs), not just bears. I can deal with the extra weight just fine, my pack still rarely weighs more than 25 pounds. YMMV.

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    Bear canisters fulfill regulations, are fool proof and convenient.

    Even if regulations require you to use a bear canister, you can probably get away without one...until you don't.

    Bear hangs can and do work, but it must be done right, otherwise you might as well lay your food out on a picnic table for the critters.

    The biggest problem with a bear hang is that it takes time to find a good branch, and then lines snag, and sometimes you get sticky hands from sap on the line. With a bear canister, it's just about as simple as putting on the lid and setting it down away from camp.




    Using an odor proof bag is a good idea no matter what you use. It reduces the risk of losing your food, and minimizes the number of scavenging critters nearby.

  9. #9
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    It was so nice when getting to camp after dark in light snow/rain and after eating in the tent and getting ready for bed just opening the tent fly and rolling the bear can out the door and re-zipping the fly.

    But I don't think I would ever use a bear canister unless it was required for a area, and even when it is I checked the fine vs the rental price. Bear boxes would be a much more sensible and controllable solution IMHO.

    One thing about bear canisters is that they fill fast - this is something newer backpackers usually don't understand, the other thing is once it fills up there is no more room.

    Bear bags OTOH used to seem like such a hassle, though perhaps after doing it so many times it has gotten easier and doesn't seem like a burden that it used to be.

  10. #10

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    I'm with Deadeye on this one. The first time I used a bear canister it was because it was required where I was hiking (before then I always hung my food). Since then I've come to prefer it for all backpacking trips for the reasons Deadeye mentions.

  11. #11
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    So, what do you all suggest for bagging, and roping? Sealed as best you can, and toss a 100ft line around a branch?

  12. #12
    Some days, it's not worth chewing through the restraints.
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    The bear canister's also a handy stool or roller massager! You can do laundry in it, or make a monster milk shake.

  13. #13
    Registered User Moose2001's Avatar
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    I've only used a cannister in the Sierras on the PCT. It is nice to not have to worry about your food but......it's also a pain to fit the food in the cannister and the cannister in your pack.(YMMV). Hanging a bear bag isn't that hard. Just takes a small amount of practice. For the AT, I would suggest 50 feet of lite cord. Store your food in an OR waterproof stuck sack. Attach the bag to the cord using a small clip or caribeaner. I always hang my bag from the haul loop on the bottom of the bag. That way if it rains, your bag doesn't fill up with water. Find a rock about the size of your fist and tie the rope to it. Locate a sturdy branch about 20 feet of the ground and toss the rock/rope over it (that's always the comical part!!!). Pull up the bag so it's at least 15 feet off the ground and 10 feet from the tree. Tie off the rope or use the PCT method. Go to bed and sleep well!
    GA - NJ 2001; GA - ME 2003; GA - ME 2005; GA - ME 2007; PCT 2006

    A wise man changes his mind, a fool never will.
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  14. #14
    Registered User colorado_rob's Avatar
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    I just returned from 10 days on the JMT where they are required, and I'm becoming more and more of a fan and seriously considering one for next year's AT attempt. The Berikade version is expensive but fairly light, and has so many uses on the trail. If I go this way, I'll be taking a 10" high version, 1 lb 12 oz, 625 cubic inches, that's big enough to hold 6-7 days of food for myself, perfect for the longest non-resupplied lengths of the AT. Already said earlier in this thread, but total protection against all varmints, handy "chair" in camp, mine fits easily and perfectly in my backpack (Osprey 46 liter). Yes, the 1lb-12oz weight is a huge downside, but subtract a couple/few ounces from that for your "normal" bear protection and other food storage and the total penalty is about a pound and a half. Still a biggie, but just might be well worth it for all the other conveniences. I'm still on the fence, despite everyone saying "don't being one, it's just not needed".

  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by Starchild View Post
    It was so nice when getting to camp after dark in light snow/rain and after eating in the tent and getting ready for bed just opening the tent fly and rolling the bear can out the door and re-zipping the fly.
    I'm going to try and state an opinion on this without the mother hens getting ruffled or putting me on "the list".

    I have slept with my food in my tent and I have cooked and eaten in my tent (vestibule) when the weather sucked.

    However...I think that if I was in an area with enough of a bear problem that required the use of a bear canister, I would avoid cooking or having food odors at my tent.

    Why would a problem bear pay attention to a
    canister when the spilled food and crumbs are at the tent?

    The trouble I have with campfires are the folks that carry a bottle in one hand and a Bible in the other.
    You never know which one is talking.

  16. #16

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    Quote Originally Posted by Lone Wolf View Post
    i always sleep with my food
    For 30 years I hung my food---well hung---but of late I've kept it in the tent vestibule. I bring a little white plastic mouse trap too and set it in the vesti next to the food bags and usually catch a rodent or two at most established campsites where I backpack. On the AT a bear canister is dead weight and unneeded so if you're worried just use a bear line and a carabiner, etc.

    Keeping food overnight in or near the tent is good in a sleetstorm and rainstorm or blizzard as the hung food bags tend to get ice encrusted and difficult to pack in the morning. And many food bags leak water in a bad rainstorm and this water always seems to seep into your ziplocked oatmeal. But would it surprise me to get my tent chomped on by a black bear looking for my food? Nope. But so far it's "my" food and the animals may perceive I'll defend it. Maybe.

  17. #17
    Registered User Ktaadn's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by WingedMonkey View Post
    I'm going to try and state an opinion on this without the mother hens getting ruffled or putting me on "the list".

    I have slept with my food in my tent and I have cooked and eaten in my tent (vestibule) when the weather sucked.

    However...I think that if I was in an area with enough of a bear problem that required the use of a bear canister, I would avoid cooking or having food odors at my tent.

    Why would a problem bear pay attention to a
    canister when the spilled food and crumbs are at the tent?

    I was thinking the same thing.

  18. #18
    T-Rx T-Rx's Avatar
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    I sleep with my food. I will use bear cables or poles if they are available. I carry my food in an ursack with the odor proof bags. So far no problems. I am hoping as Tipi Walter says it is "my food" and animals perceive that I will defend it.

  19. #19

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    On the Colorado Trail a marmot stole my friends whole supply of food while they were still several days out from the resupply. It was lying next to his head. Even after that though we still didn't hang our food.

  20. #20
    Thru-hiker 2013 NoBo CarlZ993's Avatar
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    Where it's not required, I hang my food PCT style. I tie a rock (or place a rock in a small stuff sack) and spin the line in a forward circle. I then can 'lasso' a limb quite a ways up in the tree. It beat throwing out your arm with repeated throws for a high limb.

    In areas where a canister is required, I'll use either my lightweight Bearacade or my bigger volume Bearvault depending on how much food or how long the resupply is. Doing the JMT, I had too much food for my canister. I kept all of my dinners, breakfasts, and as much of my lunch snacks in the canister. The remaining food (& other 'smellables' were hung in the food bag.

    Many of the PCT thru-hikers I talked w/ this summer (on my Lake Tahoe to Yosemite hike) wished they had used the smallest canister they could (being 'legal') and hang their remaining food. On long resupplies, they couldn't put their food in even the largest canister.

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