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  1. #1
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    Question Best Bear Canister???

    A friend and I are planning a thru-hike of the John Muir Trail July 2013 and I'm looking into getting a [required] bear canister.

    Being from the East, I've NEVER hiked in any remote location like the southern JMT, nor anywhere in GRIZZLY country.....

    I've read information on the Ursack, BearVault BV450, and other's.

    I think the Ursack is obviously amazingly light weight - but would be most concerned about the smell of food being transmitted through the fabric and into my pack - making my pack a smelly and tempting item for bears. I keep my pack in my tent with me.

    The BV450 - clear blue base, black lid. I HAVE one. It seems crazy heavy (2lbs empty) but I've heard it's been banned in many bear locations because the bears can open it!

    Please - if anyone has a better suggestion, I'm all ears!
    Any updates on canisters that are banned along the JMT would be welcomed, too.
    Best bang for your buck/weight is appreciated!

    Thanks!
    …speak to the earth, and it shall teach thee… –JOB 12:8

  2. #2

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    Unless the Park Service and Forest Service have changed their policies recently, the Ursack is not acceptable for the JMT.

    I have a BearVault and used it on last year's section hike of the JMT. I didn't like the weight but I found it better than the ones rented by the Park Service in that it was roomier. As far as I know, BearVault's are acceptable in the Sierra. It was the Adirondacks where one bear - recently killed - learned how to open them.

    For more info, use the WB Search feature on the JMT and PCT forums.

  3. #3

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    I own a Garcia canister. I like the size and shape and it fits well in my pack. The opening to the canister is not my favorite. It is narrow and bags tend to snag on the rim of the opening. Other than that, no complaints, but a bear has never had its paws on it haha

    I own an Osprey Atmos 65 by the way.
    Out of step with the world...

    My trail blog:
    http://saladdaysonthetrail.wordpress.com/

  4. #4
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    I don't think the Ursack is a legal canister in the Sierra, but Bearvault is. BV is still not legal in parts of the Adirondacks (Yellow-yellow's cubs know how to open it). The lightest canister is the Bearikade, but it is very expensive.

  5. #5
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    Head over to the John Muir Trail group at Yahoo. Tons of really useful, current information monitored by very experienced, respectful and friendly people.

  6. #6
    Registered User colorado_rob's Avatar
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    The Berikade is the lightest, I believe. We used one on the JMT a few years ago. Well, my wife did. I carried a heavier Bear Vault. In the immortal words of Ferris Bueller, with respect to the Berikade: "they are so sweet... I highly recommend them, if you have the means". IE: they are expensive. but: you can choose the exact volume you want. Here's the link:

    http://www.wild-ideas.net/

  7. #7

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    Someone had what I thot was a great idea a while back. Instead of strapping on a bear vault to your pack, someone should invent a pack where the entire "bag" is a bear vault. Not the lightest way to go but it would be so convenient.

  8. #8
    Thru-hiker 2013 NoBo CarlZ993's Avatar
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    Ursack isn't legal as CookerHiker stated. The BearVault had been compromised by a bear in NY. I think that bear had since been killed. I know of no other area where Black Bears have compromised that canister.

    I hike a lot in areas where canisters are required or strongly recommended. I own the following bear canisters/Ursacks:
    - Garcia Machine: 42.3 oz; the original; narrow opening will 'bite' your hands sometimes when you load & unload it; need a coin or washer to open it.
    - Bear Vault: 38.2 oz; the 'old' model w/ the narrow lid; biggest volume canister; screw-top lid
    - Bear Vault Solo: 32.4 oz; 'new' lid; about 3 days worth of food or so will fit in it; not suitable for the JMT & the long resupplies
    - Bearicade: 29.2 oz; VERY EXPENSIVE but can be rented; made of aluminum on the end and a composite material used in sailing masts for the body; require coin or washer to open.
    - Ursack: 4 oz; original made with Kevlar or some other 'bullet resistant' material
    - Ursack Hybrid: 6.3 oz; newer one; unsure if it is the latest model; different material (military was buying up all the Kevlar-type material and they went with a different fabric).

    If I were to do the JMT again, I'd pick from either the full-size BearVault or the Bearicade. Probably go w/ the Bearicade.

    Note: When meeting NOBO PCT hikers this past summer on my Tahoe to Yosemite hike, many of them complained that they couldn't put all their food into their bear canisters on the longest resupply. They had to hang some food as well as canister it. If they did it again, some said that they would use the smallest bear canister (i.e. Bear Vault Solo) to be 'legal' and hang the rest of their food. This is a risky. The CA park bears are very smart and persistent in getting hiker food that is hung in the trees. Assuming you're hiking SOBO on the JMT (most do), you have a very long resupply from Muir Trail Ranch to Whitney Portal - ~115 miles or so (depending on which mileage guide you use). It is possible to bail out over Bishop Pass or Kersarge Pass and hitch to a town for resupply. I'd just deal w/ the long resupply if it were my decision.

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by colorado_rob View Post
    The Berikade is the lightest, I believe. We used one on the JMT a few years ago. Well, my wife did. I carried a heavier Bear Vault. In the immortal words of Ferris Bueller, with respect to the Berikade: "they are so sweet... I highly recommend them, if you have the means". IE: they are expensive. but: you can choose the exact volume you want. Here's the link:

    http://www.wild-ideas.net/
    +1...I went to the Sierras in 2007 and bought a Bearikade for that trip. It's a great canister that's fairly light, and makes a nice chair. I actually use it some here locally when I'm feeling lazy, and it'll get used again in the Sierras as I have a future trip planned there.

    Wild Ideas didn't have the custom sizes available when I ordered mine years ago, and I would have loved to have gotten one about an inch taller (I have the standard Weekender that's 10.5" tall). If you decide to go the Bearikade route I would recommend making a tube out of something, determining the tallest canister that you can fit in your pack with all your other stuff, and ordering that size.

  10. #10
    Registered User wcgornto's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Berserker View Post
    +1...I went to the Sierras in 2007 and bought a Bearikade for that trip. It's a great canister that's fairly light, and makes a nice chair. I actually use it some here locally when I'm feeling lazy, and it'll get used again in the Sierras as I have a future trip planned there.

    Wild Ideas didn't have the custom sizes available when I ordered mine years ago, and I would have loved to have gotten one about an inch taller (I have the standard Weekender that's 10.5" tall). If you decide to go the Bearikade route I would recommend making a tube out of something, determining the tallest canister that you can fit in your pack with all your other stuff, and ordering that size.

    I have a Bearikade that is in between the Weekender and Expedition. It will fit horizontally in my pack. They don't advertise it on their website, but this was not exactly a custom order, as they had some of this size in stock. You just have to ask by phone or email. The price was also in between the Weekender and Expedition.

    For those who don't want to pay the proce for a Bearikade, they will rent you one for a JMT thru hike for considerably less.

  11. #11
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    No griz in CA, except in zoos and on their flag.
    "It's fun to have fun, but you have to know how." ---Dr. Seuss

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by CarlZ993 View Post
    Note: When meeting NOBO PCT hikers this past summer on my Tahoe to Yosemite hike, many of them complained that they couldn't put all their food into their bear canisters on the longest resupply. They had to hang some food as well as canister it. If they did it again, some said that they would use the smallest bear canister (i.e. Bear Vault Solo) to be 'legal' and hang the rest of their food. This is a risky. The CA park bears are very smart and persistent in getting hiker food that is hung in the trees. Assuming you're hiking SOBO on the JMT (most do), you have a very long resupply from Muir Trail Ranch to Whitney Portal - ~115 miles or so (depending on which mileage guide you use).
    It was tight, but my wife and I managed 9 full days with 700 cubic inch bear canisters on the JMT. No need to put the first day's food in the canister, plus we used one well-hidden (from Rangers) double-OPsak to hold another full day's worth, so basically we got by. By the way, on our 2nd JMT trip, we got lazy one night and left some food in our packs, in old OP sacks, hung from a tree, not nearly high enough, long story short: A bear ripped my wife's pack to shreds and made off with an OP sack worth of drink mix and coffee. Yikes! My point: use very strict Bear discipline on the JMT!

  13. #13

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    Quote Originally Posted by Feral Bill View Post
    No griz in CA, except in zoos and on their flag.
    Wow - I didn't know that. For some reason I was convinced that Yosemite had Grizzlies but looked it up and you are 100% correct. I'm from the east so what do I know. The only place out west I have ever hiked is in Idaho for a couple of day hikes. Are the black bears in Yosemite much more aggressive?

  14. #14

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    Unless the Park Service and Forest Service have changed their policies recently, the Ursack is not acceptable for the JMT.

    Ditto. That includes the original as well as hybrid w/ inner metal lining models.

    As far as I know, BearVault's are acceptable in the Sierra.

    Ditto. You should check up on that with the Backcountry Office though.

    It seems crazy heavy (2lbs empty)

    They all seem crazy heavy to me too but with smart hungry foraging bears and not so smart humans engaging in not so smart behavior problems arise.

    As Feral Bill said Grizzly bears are no longer found in CA. Humans exterminated them there when the last one was shot in 1922. There are only 5 or 6 states where they still exist usually in National Parks or in isolated pockets. Yes, Rasty that may surprise some but given the once hostorical range of Grizzly bear populations(they once existed east of the Mississsippi and in some of the southern states) and human centric thinking that places human desires as the basis for all things considered it's not surprising at all.

    ColoradoRob and Carl gave you a good run down on the bear canister specs of what's legally acceptable on the JMT. I have a Bear Vault Solo BV 450 that I can cram 6 days of trail food into so exactly how much you can fit in it depends on things like volume of your food, avg daily calories desired, reducing unnecessary packaging, etc. In bear country or in areas experiencing negative bear/human interactions, like in the Sierras, where a canister is legally required, what food I can't jam into my canister I'll store in a odorless WP OPsack, which usually just amounts to that day's food.

    Last time I checked, which was a while ago, the Garcia Machine and Bear Vault models were rented out by the NP service at both the northern and southern termini of the JMT. You can pick up or drop off your rented canister at either terminus. It's relatively cheap too, like $5 or $10 for the duration of a JMT thru-hike. Last time I checked, the park service didn't have an abundance of the lighter wt Bear Vaults though so check up on that by getting the most up to date canister info by calling the Backcountry Offices and possibly reserve the specific sized one you want, if you choose to rent one. This service could come into play if one of the members of your hiking party rents one and you bring the one you already own.

  15. #15
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    The only other canister not mentioned above is the bare boxer. It is the smallest and lightest and would be the choice of those faking compliance by having a canister but not holding all their food in it.

    Without going into a lot of detail.... Do yourself a favor and learn where canister are required and where they aren't. Also, you can avoid space issues with smart resupplies. No need carrying all your food up from the valley. If you resupply smartly you can be both legal and not carry multiple canisters.

  16. #16

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    I might have bought a Bare Boxer 101 in addition to a Bear Vault BV 450 if they had been available when I decided to purchase the Bear Vault. But there are tradeoffs. You do get a lighter and less volumous approved canister in the Bare Boxer(about 26 oz and 275 cubic inches compared to about 33 oz and 450 cubic inches with the BV 450) but a BIG issue for most JMTers is that the Bare Boxer simply isn't going to hold many days food! Even with someone like myself, doing bigger than avg mile days with a willingness to resupply more often(which can entail lengthy treks off the JMT)and does quite a bit of repackaging of food to save wt and selecting foods that are high in cals but lower in volume, I still can't get more than 4 days food in a Bare Boxer. And, that's me. I don't think most JMTers are going to go to the extent that I do to reduce trail food wt and volume of it. I'll save the Bare Boxer for shorter trips like 3 or 4 days or where the resupply logistics make it sensible to use one and ditching the few ozs in the process.

    You don't want to fake compliance. Rangers are stationed on the JMT AND they DO check to make sure you have an approved way to safeguard your food from bears. They will notice you have a JMT thru-hiker permit and be well aware that you have been made aware of the need to carry your food in an approved canister. When you sign for your JMT thru-hiker permit a ranger will carefully verbally read over the rules and you will have to acknowledge awareness and compliance of the rules. If they catch you with a JMT thru-hiker permit and not abiding by the rules you stand a good chance of being fined and/or being escorted from the JMT. DO nOT be an ahole to the rangers and they will probably not be an ahole to you.

  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dogwood View Post
    You don't want to fake compliance. Rangers are stationed on the JMT AND they DO check
    + 1 on the "don't fake compliance", but for a different reason: There are Bears along the JMT, and they are, er, Smarter than the Average Bears (see my earlier post). That being said, two JMTs, we've seen rangers a few times, but have never been checked for canisters (we carry ours inside our packs, so there is no way the Rangers knew we had them). But as DW said, be nice to them, as they are certainly nice to us. Bear canisters are required the full length of the JMT.

    275 cubic inches? That's 3-4 days of food, tops. And the 500 cubic inch Berikade is only 28 oz, twice the volume for only 2 additional ounces. I'd personally go for about 700 cubes for the JMT, given the long distance between resupply for the southern half. A 700 cube Berikade is right at 32 ounces even.

  18. #18
    Registered User colorado_rob's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rasty View Post
    Are the black bears in Yosemite much more aggressive?
    To you, no. To your food, YES. Sorry, I keep harping on Bears along the JMT; we sure did have an exciting 2am "adventure" with one a couple months ago. I'd post a pic of my wife's shredded pack if I knew how to on here.

  19. #19

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    Absolutely right Colorado Rob. Well made points. Ah smarter den dah avverage bear hey Boo Boo.

    I have always kept my canister inside my pack which is why I may have been checked more often.

  20. #20
    Thru-hiker 2013 NoBo CarlZ993's Avatar
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    Years back, I did a longish hike along the JMT w/ my wife going SOBO. We resupplied early & as often as we could: Tuolumne Meadows (day 2), Reds Meadow (day 5), and Vermillion Valley Resort (day 8; should have resupplied later @ Muir Trail Ranch). We used one Garcia Machine canister for the first two resupplies. We picked up our additional bear canister @ Vermillion. We still couldn't get all our food in both canisters. The first night out of Vermillion, we lost all our food that wasn't in a canister (mostly bulky dehydrated fruit that I was really looking forward to on the trail).

    California Park bears are really smart and determined to get your food. I had a Ranger tell me that he observed a 'perfect counter-balance' hang in a tree. A bear tried to get the food but couldn't reach it. So, the bear chewed on the branch for about an hour. The branch gave way. The bear got the food and ran away. This was when the canisters were 'highly recommended' but not required.

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