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Bear Canisters

September 26th, 2009

You need to take some precautions with your camping and hiking gear if you’re camping in bear country. Bears have a tremendous sense of smell, and they are so strong they can rip out a car window or tear off a car door a lot easier than you might think. Don’t store any food inside your vehicle or tent.  Bears have learned how to get to food caches suspended from tree branches, so this old backpacker trick is no longer safe, either. Most parks recommend these bear canisters for all food, and some even require them. If you’re going camping in an area with bears, don’t take any chances.

What is a bear-resistant food canister?

Bear canisters are light weight (less than 3 pounds), cylindrical, high impact plastic, aluminum or carbon fiber containers designed to fit inside or on the outside of your pack.  One canister of this size can hold 5-6 days of food for one person or up to 3 days worth of food for two people.

Canister use is now required by many park agencies, including Yosemite, Kings Canyon and Inyo National Forests.

Reminders on using canisters

Besides being careful to lock all bear attractants in the canister you should store the canister a safe distance from your camp – 100 feet. However, do not hang them from a tree since ropes or bags attached to the canister will enable a bear to carry it away, possibly out of sight.

Remember, when you are using a canister ALL scented items – food, toiletries and garbage – must fit inside the canister throughout your entire trip unless you are in attendance or actively preparing your food.

  • Carry the first two meals outside of the canister: lunch and dinner.
  • At the trailhead, make sure that ALL food, trash, toiletries and scented items will fit inside the canister the first night.
  • Put the canister and your kitchen at least 100 feet from your sleeping area.
  • Leave the canister on the ground.  Do not hang the canister from a tree.
  • Never leave canisters open and unattended, rather leave them locked unless actively retrieving items or putting them away.
  • Likewise, never leave backpacks unattended along the trail while making a pit stop.
  • Remember to check pockets of clothing and backpacks for any forgotten scented items and place them in your canister.
  • When it is time to eat, take out only the foods that you need for the meal, repack the remaining contents, and re-lock the canister while cooking and eating.

Popular and approved models include:

Garcia Machine Backpacker’s Cache
Bear Vault

Additional resources: http://www.wcs.org

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