My wife and I are planning a trip through Alaska, Canada and the US and have been told and read about storing food up in the trees or in bear canisters, but considering the difference in small cheeky wildlife you seem to have over there, we are wondering what you folks do with your panniers etc at night when you are in the tent sleeping?
When we rode around Australia we just left the panniers on the trikes and covered them up with a small tarp, and made sure we had closed up the Bob trailer bags.
Thanks in advance.
Anything that has had food in it should be hung up good and high and a ways from your camp. A black bear will rip everything apart if he thinks there is food in there. This includes your tent.
Exactly. Include items such as sunscreen, toothpaste, "smelly" lotions etc in the hang bag (or canister). Read up on keeping a "clean" camp. Suggestions include: never cook where you will camp-stop&cook, then continue on to camp. Never sleep in clothes you have cooked/eaten with. If you have a tent that you have previously eaten in, get a new one.
There is a difference between black bears that are used to people (habituated?), and those that are not. Habituated bears know "all the tricks" to get your hanging food, and only storage lockers&approved food canisters can stop them.
I have no grizzley experience, but would like to see one in the wild (from a long distance). I've seen black's on several occasions (way to close actually)-and they are amazing creatures. Incredibley crafty as well.
A good habit is to have one waterproof bag, like a drybag, the type used for water sports and keep all your food and toiletries and other things with a scent like shampoo, toothpaste, hand cream, lubes etc in it. Prepare all meals far from where you plan to camp, hang you food bag as high as you can and at least a meter below a limb and as far from where you prepared your meal and as far from where you are going to sleep. Donít camp at picnic sites, as bears and other animals will include that spot in their rounds. Never keep any food or scented items, as mentioned above, in your tent. And if you do wake up in the middle of the night with something moving about just talk in a loud authoritative voice and Mr. bear, racoon or thief will probably move on. If not, stay in your sleeping bag, on your belly, with your hands over your neck.
Have a great trip!
If you are in bear country, yeah, you need to hang your food or put it in a cannister. Given that you are towing BOBs, the cannister seems like a great idea, since it's quite safe and easy. Finding an appropriate tree and hanging your food high enough can be difficult. There is info on how to do this online somewhere, I am sure.
I make sure I limit my food storage to 2 of my 4 panniers, to make it easier to isolate the food-y stuff when you have to hang/store it.
Black bears just want your food, and mostly aren't going to hassle you. Grizzlies... personally, in griz territory, I prefer being in developed campgrounds with installed food storage containers ("bear boxes" - big metal lockers for your food).
As for other cheeky critters, raccoons can be a drag, but they won't go in your tent if you are in there. I just brought my panniers in the tent with me when I was solo, but that might not work if there are 2 of you in the tent. In that case, act like there are bears. I woke up in Oregon one night, in a campsite, to some noises.... peeked out of the tent to see 3 raccoons digging into the panniers on the bikes, one with it's head buried in a handlebar bag. "cheeky" for sure....
I always read that food and toiletries should be high above the ground. So what about smelly socks and other dirty smelly clothes? For instance, wouldn't it be a bad idea to keep the clothes that you had on while cooking in your tent? So basically you shouldn't have anything in your tent? Whatabout stuff like lubricants for the bike? Don't they give off an odor? Or quess what I'm asking is how do you determine what smells attract bears and what smells don't ?
I worked in a bear ridden campground a few years ago, so I'll chime in. The dry bag idea is not suggested my bear experts, they can smell thru it. As far as bike lubes... give the bears a little bit of credit. Once they lick a chain they may actually like the taste but not the nutritional value of steel. They willl probably move on to something more interesting. Hanging the bottle of bike lube wont hurt. I have heard of bears chewing the salt off of shirts and socks. For that matter porcupines, marmots (ground hogs/woodchucks), and many other small animals like salt as well and are a bigger isssue with salt than bears. For SanitHo's question... You don't know what they will like, its all personal, and there are many different bears out there with many different tastes.
The best advise is to follow the guidelines in the area. If they claim there is a minimal bear threat then hang all food bags, pots and toiletries, garbage (or bear box if available). If the area suggests bear canisters, then concider renting or buying one. Its all a trade off of convenience versus bear safety. On the Appilacian Trail for instance, the entire trail is in bear country, but unless suggested otherwise, we mainly hung our food to protect from mice (and I got my food bag broken into by a mouse from a bear pole). Speaking of mice, don't close up your panniers, unzip every pocket you can. If they want in, they will chew a hole to get in. Check around with the local athourities, parks, bike shops, backpack outfitters/stores for the best technique for the area you are going thru.
Another tip would be to avoid big campsites... wild animals around these know how to get food from campers and are less affraid of humans. Personally, the main precaution I take (I live in the East where we only have black bear) is not to bring any food in my tent.
I always read that food and toiletries should be high above the ground. So what about smelly socks and other dirty smelly clothes? For instance, wouldn't it be a bad idea to keep the clothes that you had on while cooking in your tent?
Hehehehe. It brings to mind a thread on another forum way, way away from here where there was some discussion about the environmental appropriateness of throwing banana peels into the wilderness. I always figured that *we* humans wouldn't eat 'em coz they taste horrible, and monkeys and apes won't eat 'em coz they taste horrible, and therefore any animal I can think of wouldn't eat 'em coz they taste horrible -- evidence by the fact they're still there six weeks later.
If you find your own sweat-soaked clothing that stinks to high heaven to be totally unattractive , why would a bear find it attractive to eat? But if you were swathed in the fragrance of an attractive scent such as deodorant, well... maybe eating might not on the bear's mind... as it stumbles into your tent...
You can't be too cautious but you can be too paranoid.
I have camped and lived in bear country for years and never had a problem.
Bears are curious and they might paw and sniff your bike, your panniers, even your tent with you in it. What they are really interested in, is your food and not so much your smelly socks and underwear.
Any bear worth her salt can smell whether you have food in your tent or just your underwear and she'll go for the food. It is good advice to keep lotions and other fragrant items away from your tent and panniers.
Wild bears are less dangerous than ones that have become habituated to humans, so you may be safer camping in the wild, than in campgrounds. If you do wild camp, avoid berry patches.
Skookums is from Alberta - I'm from Wyoming - we've both spent a lot of time in country with mountain lions and wolves and bears - and we enjoy it with a few reasonable precautions.
1 - Raccoons and ravens are more likely to get your food than bears. A raccoon will rip thru the tent to investigate as will a bear - - but the damage might just be a little more with the bear. Ravens have been known to unzip panniers with their beaks to get to the food inside. NEVER have any food in your tent. If you have eaten and especially cooked in your tent - I would suggest getting another for the Alaska trip. Similarly, by keeping all your food and toiletries in your front panniers, you can just hang these - as is.
Hang your items 5m (15 ft) high and 2-3m (6-10 ft) from the trunk of a tree. 30 ft of good climbing cord with a carabiner for weight to toss works well for me. Also make sure you hang your stuff 100m downwind so that any curious bear doesn't mosey thru your tent site to get to the smell in question. In tundra, if you don't have bearproof cannisters, the best choice is to make a cache a good distance downwind from yout camp site - covering with big rocks will dissuade small critters, but not bears.
2 - Salt is a rare commodity in the wild - so animals - especailly deer and other ungulates will be attracted to sweaty stuff. They have been know to chew up seats - padded handlebars - and, yes - nasty underwear. But these items can go in your tent safely.
3 - If you see a mountain lion, consider yourself lucky - they tend to avoid humans and present no problem with your food unless you are taking along a lamb or small dog. Same goes for wolves. In the north country they are hunted and fear humans. Further south - where they are protected - they may approach, but are usually looking for lambs and small dogs like the lions.
And watch out for crows. Up on the Wapta Icefield crows have learned that skiers packs left at the foot of the peak are full of goodies and they know how to open zips and have strong enough beaks to shred plastic bags.
I don't know what they do in the summer, but I expect they are down on the Icefields parkway preying on unsuspecting bicycle tourists.
that is quite a trip. If you don't mind my asking, could you tell us your plans? Are you flying in to Alaska?
Sure. The basic idea is to fly into Alaska and up to Deadhorse (Arctic Ocean), then ride down to Anchorage (Pacific Ocean) then down into Canada to friends in Calgary. From there head across Canada to the Atlantic Ocean, down into the USA, down south for some warmth, across to the West Coast, up to Canada (Calgary) again and from there either fly home to Australia or head on over to another part of the world. It all depends on how well the $'s last. We don't have a specific route laid out yet but are working on it. We figure to be on the road in North America for about 12-24 months.
We did a round Australia trip (Nov 01-Sep 03) and this is the next stage before we tackle the rest of the world
Thanks all for the info, it is all invaluable. Added to this, we have heard that the smells of copulating or a womans menstral cycle can attract bears. Anyone got any advice or experience in this area?
Andrew & Joanne
Since 9-11 - you can no longer bike all the way to the Arctic Ocean. There are some extremely restricted tours that let you spend something like 15 minutes at a bleak industrial location. Never done it - don't think I care to. Also, you have the pipeline running alonside the road all the way - hey - that's why they built the road.
The Dempster Highway - on the other hand - in the Yukon is far more scenic by most cyclists' estimates - but here, too, you can't bike all the way to the Arctic - instead you take a puddle-jumper up to the village of Tuktoyaktuk. A far better Arcticv experience. My good money is on the latter. It's remote, expensive - but I have biked the Yukon and NWT a number of times and loved it!
I figured I would share a personal story about why I am now very strict about immediatly hanging "smellables"
I was backpacking in New Mexico with a few friends and we set up camp around 3 or 4 pm. We knew we were in an area with bears so we hung up our food right away, but I threw my toiletry kit with some advil, toothpaste, and chapstick into my tent and went out to find some water. While I was off pumping water one of my friends saw a bear rip into my tent and grab my little tote bag of stuff. When I got back we went off generally in the direction that the bear left and found the bag ripped open--everything was still in it except the chapstick.
Needless to say I suffered from dry lips and a big gaping hole in my tent for the rest of the trip, but I sure learned my lesson! That being said, I've heard that if you forget something really minor like chapstick it is usually sufficient to stuff it in your shoe before you go to bed. Supposedly the human smell (stink) is enough to overpower the other, more appetizing, smell.
Great posts chaps, living in the UK, you do not have to worry about such things but these post were a true education for me. I will from now on as a matter of course hang my smellies with my food away from the camp just to develop a habbit and when away from the UK cook away from the camp. Thanks for all the inputs..