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  1. #1
    Senior Member Ridefreemc's Avatar
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    Bear Canister and Sierra-Cascades ACA Route

    I never worry about this in the south and southeast (I hand a bag when bicycle and motorcycle touring, and hiking), but am wondering about on the SC route. I looked up some of the National Park websites and they say you must have one, but I've not read much about bicycle tourists doing so. Some of you have ridden the SC and I ask your opinion on carrying one or not (and a recommendation on one if so). I'm not interested in the Ursak because it is not universally approved, plus I can picture a bear taking that easily and stashing it somewhere I cannot find it once the bear realizes it cannot open it.
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  2. #2
    Senior Member staehpj1's Avatar
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    We didn't take one. None of the parks that I know of require one unless going into the back country to camp (not allowed by bike). In places where bears are a big problem the campgrounds all had bear boxes. There was one place where they say food had to be put in your vehicle, but we asked someone in a neighboring site to put our food in their car. A few other place we hung our food.

    I didn't/wouldn't take one but if you do the BV450 is fairly small and light and IMO more suitable for bike touring than a bigger one. It is at the best intersection size and price for touring, IMO.

    As far as the URsack getting carried off... They recommend tying it off to something so that shouldn't be a problem. Bears will play soccer with canisters and knock them around pretty far sometimes, so the canister may be more likely to get lost.

    Approval probably isn't an issue for bike touring unless it is combined with overnight hiking, so you might possibly want to reconsider the URsack if you decide to carry something.

  3. #3
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    As noted above there are park bear boxes in most critical regions.

    I have used the URsack on tour since it was first available. Has worked well on smaller critters as well as black bears. Used it on the Divide Ride without a direct Grizzly incident test in Canada, Montana or Idaho when wild camping. The newer versions are much better than my original one with the aluminum insert to minimize squashed food.

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    Senior Member mobile_simon's Avatar
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    It's mostly for backcountry hiking. You can rent them from the Ranger station in the parks.

    I brought a Garcia cannister with me when I biked from Alaska to Alberta. Never had an incident... but it worked fantastic as a chair.

    When you're in a popular place like Yosemite, bears know hikers are a source of food... and that's where you need one the most.
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  5. #5
    Senior Member Ridefreemc's Avatar
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    Thank you all. I was thinking that they would not be essential for bike touring, partly because no one really talks about it on this forum. I did see a post from 2010 for a guy riding in the Appalachians.

    Maybe the Ursack for packability and to keep varmints out, but if i go into the backcountry hiking I could rent a solid canister. I read so much about what a pain they are to pack. Plus they seem hard to open and you need two good hands. I may go as hungry as the bears, as I struggle in those situations (one hand does work so good). I can always try one out and learn before I go though.
    Last edited by Ridefreemc; 12-20-15 at 09:01 PM.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ridefreemc View Post
    Maybe the Ursack for packability and to keep varmints out, but if i go into the backcountry hiking I could rent a solid canister. I read so much about what a pain they are to pack. Plus they seem hard to open and you need two good hands. I may go as hungry as the bears, as I struggle in those situations (one hand does work so good). I can always try one out and learn before I go though.
    I've used them for backpacking, but not for bike touring. Almost all the organized campgrounds with bear issues also had bear-proof lockers available for storing food - but some of these were not mouse proof (so the Ursack would have been handy).

    I found the bear canisters that required a coin or screwdriver to be much easier to open one-handed than the type which didn't need any tool but instead used a firm push on a tab while turning the lid.

  7. #7
    Senior Member Ridefreemc's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by prathmann View Post
    I've used them for backpacking, but not for bike touring. Almost all the organized campgrounds with bear issues also had bear-proof lockers available for storing food - but some of these were not mouse proof (so the Ursack would have been handy).

    I found the bear canisters that required a coin or screwdriver to be much easier to open one-handed than the type which didn't need any tool but instead used a firm push on a tab while turning the lid.
    Thank you for that information.
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  8. #8
    Senior Member staehpj1's Avatar
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    More backpacking related than touring, but...

    I initially avoided the Bear Vaults because I found them hard to open even in the warm store, but the BV 450 was more the size I wanted and as a result was substantially lighter than all but the very expensive Bearicade ($288 in a similar size), so I bit the bullet and bought a BV 450 anyway. After living with the BV 450 a bit, I got used to the opening method and now find it OK, even with my arthritic hands. Worst case there is a way to use a credit card to release the catch if you can't press the tabs hard enough in the right spot.

    At a cost of less than $70, a empty weight of 2 pounds 1 ounce, and a capacity of 7.2 liters I find it the ideal choice for most of my backpacking. I can manage it in my small 45 liter pack and carry 5 days of food, and I prefer to try hard to avoid carrying more than that. I also own a Garcia but seldom use it.

    For the credit card trick check out the link below. I find I don't need it, but it is an option if you do have trouble opening the bear vaults.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QyEbLfL_lSU

    Edit: I forgot to mention that there is an even smaller canister (4.5 liters) available that might actually be a better choice for bike touring where you typically don't carry much food at a time. The Bare Boxer Contender 101 can be found for about $60. It looks like a baby Garcia an weighs about 1 pound 10 ounces. I have never used one but it looks like it might be ideal for bike tourists who can restock frequently and want to carry a canister.
    Last edited by staehpj1; 12-21-15 at 07:04 AM.

  9. #9
    Senior Member Ridefreemc's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by staehpj1 View Post

    For the credit card trick check out the link below. I find I don't need it, but it is an option if you do have trouble opening the bear vaults.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QyEbLfL_lSU
    That video is great in explaining what I'd have to drive 40 miles round trip to experience (only store around that has these)! And the kid does an awesome job too! Now, where is my library card????
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  10. #10
    Senior Member staehpj1's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ridefreemc View Post
    That video is great in explaining what I'd have to drive 40 miles round trip to experience (only store around that has these)! And the kid does an awesome job too! Now, where is my library card????
    I should mention that even with the credit card trick I recommend practicing at home until you are very comfortable with the procedure. Also expect the plastic to be stiffer when it is cold. If you do that you won't have a problem opening your canister. Also as the canister sees more use and breaks in it gets a little easier.

  11. #11
    Senior Member Ridefreemc's Avatar
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    Yes, otherwise I'd look like those poor hungry and defeated bears I am watching on Youtube! Also, I wasn't sure what people talked about with getting their food crushed in the Ursack, but now I see. There was a video of two Grizzlies munching away at the bag. Probably started out as a few nice meals, some toothpaste, sunscreen, and toilet paper and ended up quite an unpalatable mix. :0
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  12. #12
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    I woke up one morning to see a raccoon eating my toothpaste and skunks eating my Clif bars that the "coon" knocked off the table. I've used a vault since that trip.

  13. #13
    Senior Member Ridefreemc's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by gamecock View Post
    I woke up one morning to see a raccoon eating my toothpaste and skunks eating my Clif bars that the "coon" knocked off the table. I've used a vault since that trip.
    One of my experiences with raccoons was different. I was on an island in the Everglades and woke to a very sandy kayak (on top). I looked closer to find many little raccoon footprints. Fresh water is so scarce that they were walking across the top licking the dew off. Not bad if they didn't backtrack! We needed to protect our water bags and containers, as they would pierce holes in them and we'd be the ones thirsty. (Also saw a very large one swimming across a river).

    In Pensacola I saw a group of them sitting just behind a group of people that were gazing into a fire. One person had a bucket of KFC next to him, and the raccoon was reaching its hand/paw right into the bucket and pulling out chicken. The person never knew it.

    Anyway, not to hijack my own thread with raccoon stories, so I'll likely look at getting the BV450 for the ride/hike. I can keep it on my Bike Friday NWT front rack while riding, and then move it to the backpack when hiking.
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    I love my Bearicade (What is a Bearikade? : Wild Ideas), which comes in different sizes. Very light weight, easy to open with a coin, keep all critters out of your food, and doubles as a seat around a campfire. Of course, pretty expensive.

  15. #15
    Senior Member bikemig's Avatar
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    This is good information. I've found raccoons to be more of an issue than bears when it comes to going after food but bears are obviously potentially more dangerous. In the past, I've relied on tying my food up on a branch but the ursacks look like a good addition to my touring gear.

  16. #16
    imi
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    I bought a BV450 a few years ago. At first I was in two minds if the weight was worth it, but now I use it for so many things, keeping food from varmints big and small of course, but it keeps food from being crushed too.
    In camp I use it as a chair if the ground is wet, and for playing guitar (hard to do sitting cross legged), washing machine on rest days (put clothes in at night with a drop of shampoo and hot water from the shower, swirl around, then rinse out in the morning) and even as bidet ... ok, ok, you don't want to know about that!
    Bears have never stolen my food, so I guess that proves it works!

  17. #17
    Disco Infiltrator Darth Lefty's Avatar
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    Has anyone considered hard, latching luggage like on a motorcycle? $70-288 seems like an awful lot to pay for a box. Way more than the price of the food you might lose if the bear gets into it... I suppose if you were unsupported for a week and were packing your food the math would be different, but those of you talking about bear boxes in campgrounds are near enough to a store, aren't you?
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  18. #18
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    A bear cannister is required on some sections of the PCT

    Food Storage Map | Bears

    but if you are in a campground there will be food lockers provided. When I was in the Cascades this summer each campsite had bear proof food storage. I put everything in them except my valuables and a headlamp.

  19. #19
    imi
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    I often carry a lot of food, as I cook oats, beans and rice, pasta, etc as well as olive oil ... Minimum size is often 0.5kg or 1kg...
    Everything goes in thin 'dog ****' bags and platypus bottles, but even so after stocking up, I reckon I'm carrying 10 lbs of food (will weigh it sometime).
    But hey, I've got strong legs! *****JOKE***** (gotta be careful around here nowadays!) HAPPY NEW YEAR TO Y'ALL!!

  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by Darth Lefty View Post
    Has anyone considered hard, latching luggage like on a motorcycle? $70-288 seems like an awful lot to pay for a box. Way more than the price of the food you might lose if the bear gets into it... I suppose if you were unsupported for a week and were packing your food the math would be different, but those of you talking about bear boxes in campgrounds are near enough to a store, aren't you?
    It's not simply an economic issue (i.e., the cost of food lost vs. the cost of the protection). It's for your health. Bear gets into your food and goes looking for more, possibly in your tent. It's also for the health of the bear. Bears can easily become "addicted" to some human food due to the fat and sodium content. That makes them search out more. When they do, they can be considered "nuisance bears" and destroyed due to the potential threat they pose. For example, a few years ago officials at Glacier National Park destroyed a problem bear. Someone left food visible in the passenger compartment of their car. The bear broke into it to get the food. After that, he did it a few more times to cars which also had improperly stored food and was determined to be a threat so he was shot. As the old saying goes, "A fed bear is a dead bear." BTW...I would bet the average bear is intelligent enough to open most latches and strong enough to pry open a piece of luggage if he can't.

  21. #21
    Senior Member staehpj1's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by indyfabz View Post
    As the old saying goes, "A fed bear is a dead bear."
    For me that is the main reason I try to avoid feeding the bears, much more so than the loss of the food. On a bike tour the loss of food would usually just be an annoyance. Backpacking can be different, a few days into the back country it really starts to be a serious concern.

    Quote Originally Posted by indyfabz View Post
    BTW...I would bet the average bear is intelligent enough to open most latches and strong enough to pry open a piece of luggage if he can't.
    Yep, they can peel back locked car doors so most motorcycle luggage isn't going to do the job and it is probably heavier as well.

    As far as the cost... I don't consider $70 to be that high of a price given the need to design a low production product that has to go through testing and be certified. The $288 ones are worth it to those who are willing to pay to cut weight and in need of a big canister.

  22. #22
    Senior Member Jim Kukula's Avatar
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    We have lots of bears in the Catskills! Here is my bike with a Counter Assault Bear Keg:


  23. #23
    <riding now> BigAura's Avatar
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    Here's my LHT with BV-500 bear canister that I used on my Alaska tour. It's the larger one (vs BV-450), because I needed that volume for the Dalton Highway which is 10 days without resupply. Mine weighs 40.7 ounces. It's bulky and weighty but extremely convient vs hanging (which would be impossible in the Tundra anyway). Just load it up with food and smelly stuff then stash it away from your campsite. I judge how far away to stash it based on how much bear activity I observed in the area (sightings & scat).

    Last edited by BigAura; 01-04-16 at 07:54 AM. Reason: typo
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  24. #24
    imi
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    Bear Canister and Sierra-Cascades ACA Route

    Great set up Big Aura!
    10 days of food fit in the BV500? What are your staples?

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