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Old 10-26-09, 01:37 PM   #1
imi
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Bear Vault

Hi... I'll be touring up and down California later this winter (february and march), keeping to the lowlands, and was wondering if a "Bear Vault" would be sensible?

... or are they all asleep?

Tried the search function but was a bit surprised to only find one fleeting reference to them...

cheers

Last edited by imi; 10-26-09 at 01:45 PM.
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Old 10-26-09, 01:47 PM   #2
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If you're planning on camping in campgrounds, if the area has bears there will typically be metal "bear boxes" for you to put any gear with food smells into for the night.

Bear Vaults and the like are really only needed if you're backpacking.
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Old 10-26-09, 02:00 PM   #3
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thanks moleman76... I've seen pics of these boxes but didn't know if they were ubiquitous at campgrounds.

One cool thing 'though is that they double as a seat, good if the ground is wet 'n cold
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Old 10-26-09, 02:11 PM   #4
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What route are you planning on taking? I live at the end of the Eastern Sierras and we need to use the bear cans for backpacking, but moleman is right, most campgrounds will have the bear boxes available for you to store your "smellies" in. I'd say not to worry about it unless you also plan on doing some backpacking in bear areas.

The Bear Vault - is that the big clear one? I don't see that fitting in a pannier very well. How would you carry it?
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Old 10-26-09, 02:17 PM   #5
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Bear canisters are a good idea. I've done a lot of touring in California, in and out of bear country, in addition to living here; and bears and other animals can be a real problem. Rodents (squirrels and chipmucks during the day; at night, mice and various species of rats, native and introduced) and raccoons are also common, and can be problematic. A good bear canister solves a lot of the problems that go with these critters. *None* of them can get at your food if it is in a good bear canister.

Ursacks are not quite as effective; but they are another option.

Many of the bears are not asleep, especially at the lower elevations and around campgrounds and other areas that are still providing meals for them.

All of the creatures mentioned can smell food inside panniers. Once they locate the food smell, they often go for it with determination and zeal. I've had rodents gnaw through several layers of heavy nylon. The improved Ursacks are pretty much immune to bears, but not to rodents' teeth.

Raccoons and bears are close relatives, and both are rather clever creatures.
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Old 10-26-09, 02:36 PM   #6
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What route are you planning on taking? I live at the end of the Eastern Sierras and we need to use the bear cans for backpacking, but moleman is right, most campgrounds will have the bear boxes available for you to store your "smellies" in. I'd say not to worry about it unless you also plan on doing some backpacking in bear areas.

The Bear Vault - is that the big clear one? I don't see that fitting in a pannier very well. How would you carry it?
Thanks guys...

My planned route is:
LA, San Diego, Anzo Borrego, Joshua Tree, Death Valley, up the SJ valley as far as Williams (depending on how rainy it gets) across to the coast and back down to LA.

I'll be rounding the southern ends of the Sierra Nevadas (Bakersfield) and the Coast Range (Clear Lake) rather than getting too high up.

Any suggestions as to the best route up the Valley? 99 or smaller roads? I'm in no rush whatsoever

I don't have panniers, rather a round dry bag which the Bear Vault 450 (the smaller one) should fit snugly in with sleeping bag and cooking gear.

Good thinking NilesH... lots of sharp toothed hungry things out there!
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Old 10-26-09, 02:40 PM   #7
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I keep one for camping but never carried it on a cycle.
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Old 10-26-09, 03:41 PM   #8
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Based upon your route, I wouldn't bring it. Crossing the Tehachapis and Clear Lake area would be your only bear territory. If you make it to Yosemite, lots of bear boxes there.
If the hindrance of the bulk and weight is worth it to you to keep out rodents, then you might bring it.
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Old 10-26-09, 04:14 PM   #9
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...Any suggestions as to the best route up the Valley? 99 or smaller roads? I'm in no rush whatsoever....
Smaller roads are better. 99 has a lot of traffic.

There are many pleasant farm roads in the Central Valley that do not have much traffic.

If you happen to make the trip to Yosemite, or if you end up near Escalon, there is a road called 'J6' that makes for good riding north. It connects with other small farm roads that continue farther north.

Hwy 49 south of Grass Valley/Nevada City is busy, and much of it is hilly as well; the roads that are down low enough to be out of the hills make for better riding in this area (for most people at least).

***
There is an interesting route you might try, if you want to ride through a beautiful part of the lower elevations of the Northern Sierras: Ride north on the farm roads until you start getting close to the greater Sacramento area. Then get on the paved bike path that goes along the American River (it is about 32 miles long, and you can pick it up at various points between Old Town Sacramento and Beals Point, near the Folsom Lake Dam).
If you end up anywhere near Sunrise Avenue (as you are coming up from the south), there is a canal that also has a paved bike path along it. That bike path ends near Sunrise Avenue, near the American River. From there, you can get on the American River bike path, and ride up to Folsom Lake. The bike path continues around Folsom Lake, but it is unpaved shortly after Beals Point. You can take it further around the lake, or get onto Auburn-Folsom Road right away, at Beals Point.
Then from the town of Auburn you can take Dog Bar Road to Grass Valley; then it's a short ride to Nevada City (both of these are nice towns to have a look at). From there, you can and take Purdon - Lake Vera Road to North San Juan (good camping spots along the river near Purdon Crossing).
From there (North San Juan) north, Hwy 49 is not so busy, and it is *very* scenic. You can take it to Downieville and Sierra City, and then get on the road to Gold Lake, and from there get back down to the Central Valley through Quincy.
Or you can stay on Hwy 49 and continue over Yuba Pass (which is low enough to stay open much of the winter, though during a shortly after some storms it can be closed), and down into Sierra Valley, where there are hot springs and some beautiful riding.
That area is one of the most beautiful in California (Downieville-Sierra City-Lakes Basin-Sierra Buttes-Sierra Valley). Much of it is hilly, though -- not steep hills, but long grades, both up and down.
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Old 10-26-09, 04:25 PM   #10
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You can also get into this area from Marysville, by taking Hammonton-Smartsville Road along Beale AFB to Lake Wildwood and Pleasant Valley Road, which goes up to meet Hwy 49 near North San Juan. Best done with a fairly light bike -- quite a bit of climbing....

Ursacks might be worth researching. They are a viable alternative -- even if they aren't exactly 100% rodentproof, they are still effective against most other creatures, and are at least some deterrent against the rodents (though exactly how good they are at this isn't fully clear). They can also be suspended from tree branches.

Last edited by Niles H.; 10-26-09 at 05:12 PM.
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Old 10-26-09, 04:35 PM   #11
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I have been using an Ursack for years for camping on bike and kayak tours. It has kept all of the toothy critters out of my food supply. It does not prevent mashing of the food by larger creatures but works quite well in my experience.
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