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Thread: Bears

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    Senior Member Newspaperguy's Avatar
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    Bears

    To keep hungry bears away from the tent, it's a good idea to cache food and any objects with an odour. This includes toothpaste and other items that might not be edible as well as dried foods in packages. Even if we can't smell them, bears can. Do you also include canned foods? If not, where and how do you store them?

    Campgrounds in bear country will sometimes have lockers or poles and cables to allow campers to store their food where the bears can't access it. Those doing wild camping do not have these facilities and must use other methods.

    How do you store food in bear country? Does anyone here tour with a bear cache container? This allows storing of food securely in areas where tall trees might not be available. The drawback is the price, at $80 for a 10-litre container.
    Life is good.

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    Other negatives of the canisters are weight, bulk, and limited capacity.

    Although it will not pass muster where canisters are required, I find that a chain mail bag is easily suspended in bear country and keeps non-bear critters out of my food when not in bear country.
    Last edited by Cyclesafe; 04-29-11 at 11:58 AM.

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    Stoker's View seenloitering's Avatar
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    These things are better suited for bicycle touring than the barrel containers. Dry sacs also work well, and are multi-functional.

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    Senior Member staehpj1's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Cyclesafe View Post
    Other negatives of the canisters are weight, bulk, and limited capacity.
    I especially agree on the weight. Most are between two and three pounds. That has been enough to discourage me from using one on tour so far. Depending on where I tour in the future I might consider using a canister especially since I own one, but for me and extra 2.5 pounds is a big negative.

    Capacity is generally way more than I typically need on a bike tour and I am also usually not too limited on bulk. If needed it could always be strapped on top of the rear rack.

    The price I don't consider a huge deal. I wanted one for backpacking any way and $80 didn't break the bank.

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    totally louche Bekologist's Avatar
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    i hang food to the best of my abilities, everything, toiletries, etc.

    in bona fide grizzly country, i practice the double rope hang method and a large, triangle camp with food/cooking/sleeping separated by at least 100 yards. black bear country, i aim for 30 yards separation.

    at a designated campground, i hang the food near other people's tents. just kidding, kind of.
    "Evidence, anecdote and methodology all support planning for roadway bike traffic."

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    Senior Member Rob_E's Avatar
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    I picked up a bear cannister at an REI garage sale for under $40. It was a returned item, but given that the whole idea is that it's basically indestructible, I figure used is probably as good as new. I haven't decided if I'm going to carry it with me or not, though. I have found that it fits (very snuggly) in one of my Nashbar panniers, so if I dedicate one, whole pannier to eating (and I suspect that I will), it doesn't seem like a big volume penalty. I've already established that my cooking gear would fit inside with plenty of room left for food. I'm considering putting some type of insulation in the bottom few inches and making a cooler section.

    The only "tour" on my horizon is a few days of riding out to and up the coast. Only one night of that ride will be in "official" black bear territory, with a 2nd night in possible black bear territory (in that there have been sightings, but it's not considered likely to find them there). I could just hang my food, but the bear cannister will keep other critters out as well, some of which might not mind climbing to get at my food, and it doubles as a camp stool. I think the camp stool aspect may be one of the most appealing as I was looking at the possibility of carrying some kind of chair, but I abandoned the idea due to weight, bulk, and general awkwardness of fitting any kind of chair into my gear, so the idea of a chair that does double duty as my kitchen has some appeal even apart from the bear protection aspects.

    But so far the only time the bear cannister has been on my bike was on the way home from REI, so more testing is in order. There will probably be some overnights where I take it just to see how convenient it is to carry.

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    family on bikes nancy sv's Avatar
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    We did the triangle thing too - we stopped to cook dinner an hour or so before we were ready to stop for the day, then cleaned everything really well, cycled another hour, then camped. That took care of the cooking smells. We had our food in dry bags, so hauled them way far away from the tent - along with shampoo and toothpaste and everything that smelled. We never had a problem in our campsite at all.
    WE DID IT! Our little family of four cycled 17,300 miles from Alaska to Argentina! The trip of a lifetime for sure. www.familyonbikes.org

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    Senior Member boomhauer's Avatar
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    my thoughts exactly...

    Quote Originally Posted by nancy sv View Post
    We did the triangle thing too - we stopped to cook dinner an hour or so before we were ready to stop for the day, then cleaned everything really well, cycled another hour, then camped. That took care of the cooking smells. We had our food in dry bags, so hauled them way far away from the tent - along with shampoo and toothpaste and everything that smelled. We never had a problem in our campsite at all.
    I find it curious that people even tour with any amount of food to worry about. I've toured in grizzly country and there was always a town or convienience store every 10-30 miles. I always had a couple granola bars that I kept 50 yrds away, in a tree, from where I camped. I always ate and cleaned everything an hour before and 5 miles from where I slept. In the morning I jumped on the bike and ate a couple granola bars till I could get to the next store. I've taken two cross continent tours without any cooking. What's the point? It just adds weight.

  10. #10
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    Along with Nancy SV's methods I add an Ursack bag that is bear and critter resistant. The Kevlar/spectra material has served me well in bear country of Montana, Idaho, Alberta and British Columbia on bike tours such as the Divide Ride and on kayak tours in Alaska. I either hang it if a tree is available or tie it to a long tent stake I pound into the ground or tie it to a tree stump or rock outcropping. It has kept the critters large and small from taking my food cache for almost a decade.

    The newer versions have an optional aluminum insert for rigidity and odor proof storage bags not available 10 years ago when I first bought the Ursack. A useful tool on tour in my experience.

  11. #11
    family on bikes nancy sv's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by boomhauer View Post
    I find it curious that people even tour with any amount of food to worry about. I've toured in grizzly country and there was always a town or convienience store every 10-30 miles. I always had a couple granola bars that I kept 50 yrds away, in a tree, from where I camped. I always ate and cleaned everything an hour before and 5 miles from where I slept. In the morning I jumped on the bike and ate a couple granola bars till I could get to the next store. I've taken two cross continent tours without any cooking. What's the point? It just adds weight.
    We obviously haven't toured the same places you have! For the first 2000 miles of our journey (from Prudhoe Bay, Alaske to the end of the Alaska Highway) the CLOSEST towns were 200 miles apart. 300 -350 miles wasn't uncommon. The farthest was 500 miles. When you're traveling those distances with kids, you aren't doing 150 miles/day. It's a LOT of food!!!
    WE DID IT! Our little family of four cycled 17,300 miles from Alaska to Argentina! The trip of a lifetime for sure. www.familyonbikes.org

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    +1 for the Ursack. Best when hung from a large rock formation (bears don't rock climb, just climb trees). If a steel food locker is provided I always make use of it. I never had a problem in Black or Brown bear country, even when hanging my food and trash from a tree. I also have a Garcia canister I sometimes use backpacking because it is required in some areas of California (nuissance black bears).
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    I have a full sized BearVault, which weights 2lb 9oz. I picked it up at a REI scratch and dent sale for $20. Since my food plan is to stock up where it's cheap and eat out of my stores when I'm out in the boonies, and I like my camp cooking, the weight of the container is a drop in the bucket with all the food I'll be carrying. I don't plan on using it, however, until I have a trailer to put it in.

    Just a caution to anyone else using a BearVault. The one I bought was among 6 or so which had been returned. Most where returned because the buyer could not figure out how to open the lid. One, however, had deep gouges in the lid and the tag read "Returned: bear got in". It could be that it wasn't properly secured, though. At very least, no raccoon should ever get into my food with it.
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    Senior Member BigBlueToe's Avatar
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    Once while car camping at Sequoia N. P. I had too many boxes of stuff. Rather than rearrange it so that all the food would go in the bear box, I decided that canned goods were okay left out because the bears certainly couldn't smell through a sealed can, could they? While I slept 20 feet away a bear took all the cans out of the cardboard box (without even knocking the box off the picnic table bench.) It left the canned vegetables alone, but ripped the top of the can of B & M Baked Beans and licked it clean. My conclusion was that not only could the bear smell the food in the cans, it could differentiate and choose the most appealing food (and that it wasn't fond of vegetable, but was very fond of beans cured in brown sugar and pork fat!)

    While biking I use an Ursack. I don't know if it will totally defeat a bear, but I don't want to bring my bear vault. I've brought it backpacking and it's heavy! I hang my food bag. If a bear gets it and shreds it, at least my Ortliebs won't be shredded. The Ursack is also tough enough to defeat squirrels, which I've seen chew through backpacks and tents.

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    Senior Member staehpj1's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by boomhauer View Post
    I find it curious that people even tour with any amount of food to worry about. I've toured in grizzly country and there was always a town or convienience store every 10-30 miles.
    I try to not carry more food than necessary, but... I would say that I have often found stores to be farther apart than "every 10-30 miles".

    Quote Originally Posted by boomhauer View Post
    I've taken two cross continent tours without any cooking. What's the point?
    One point is that touring is supposed to be fun and for at least some of us eating well is part of that fun.

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    I have not had to worry about bears on bike trips because the areas I went to were pretty safe. In the boundary waters canoe area (Minnesota/Canada border) where bears are an issue, I hang food in a dry bag.

    From the first photo you can see how I use two lines, a couple carabiners and a couple rescue pulleys to get it up high and away from the tree trunk.

    IMG_4559.jpg

    There was a lot of slope and I was uphill from the food bag when I took the photo, so it is much higher off of the ground than it looks in the photo.

    reIMG_4561.jpg

    Bears are not your only problem, small rodents can make a mess of things.

    IMG_1523.jpg

    But generally these animals offer more photo opportunities and don't get away with much food.

    IMG_4363.jpg

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    Senior Member Newspaperguy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by boomhauer View Post
    I find it curious that people even tour with any amount of food to worry about. I've toured in grizzly country and there was always a town or convienience store every 10-30 miles. I always had a couple granola bars that I kept 50 yrds away, in a tree, from where I camped. I always ate and cleaned everything an hour before and 5 miles from where I slept. In the morning I jumped on the bike and ate a couple granola bars till I could get to the next store. I've taken two cross continent tours without any cooking. What's the point? It just adds weight.
    My experiences are different.

    Where I live, if I travel east or west, I can go stretches of 100 kilometres between stores. On one road, there's a store 50 kilometres from any community. It isn't always open. On other country roads, there are occasional stores with limited hours, limited selection and high prices. In the northern parts of many Canadian provinces and in the Arctic, the stores are much farther apart. Touring in those areas demands a degree of self-sufficiency. And on some roads, water also becomes a critical need as it is not always readily available.

    If you're touring in a built-up area, then it's easy to stop for the night near a town and pick up a bit of food when you get there. If you're in the more open spaces, then other solutions are needed.
    Life is good.

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    <riding now> BigAura's Avatar
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    I'm about to embark on my Alaska-Canada Tour and have decided to go with the BearVault. The weight hit is big but because its required in many parks I'm going with it.

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  20. #20
    mev
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    Quote Originally Posted by boomhauer View Post
    I find it curious that people even tour with any amount of food to worry about. I've toured in grizzly country and there was always a town or convienience store every 10-30 miles. I always had a couple granola bars that I kept 50 yrds away, in a tree, from where I camped. I always ate and cleaned everything an hour before and 5 miles from where I slept. In the morning I jumped on the bike and ate a couple granola bars till I could get to the next store. I've taken two cross continent tours without any cooking. What's the point? It just adds weight.
    As others mention, it depends where you tour. I've ridden the Dempster (Inuvik), Dalton (Prudhoe Bay), Alaska highways as well as around Australia and across Siberia. In all those places, there are considerably larger gaps between 10-30 miles. I've found ways to get by with "no cook" foods in those places sometimes 2-3 days and travel a little quicker than Nancy was traveling. However, that still means carrying some food. There weren't bears in Australia or Russia where I rode, though still want to watch wild animals.

    I've been a little more lackadaisical about hanging things up, generally keeping food out of my tent and otherwise parking my bike with panniers a little ways away from the tent. So far, I've had two instances of larger wild animals getting into things: one was in Russia where some animal (my guess was a dog) got hold of my food bag and stole it from the bike. I cycled ~50km before being able to replenish so not a huge thing. The second was at a provincial campground in YT. They had bear-proof garbage cans but not lockers. Some animal (my guess was a bear), ripped open a pannier - left stuff on the ground including a lot of interesting claw marks on the plastic peanut butter container I was carrying. Safety pins helped me keep pannier together after that.

    I've probably had at least as much fun with small things like ants getting into the panniers and food when parked. That was a bigger deal in Australia.

    So I agree that one can get pretty far without cooking, for some extra cost, and occasionally a stretch of eating no-cook foods; particularly if one is in the lower 48.

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    Not much experience touring (once around Lake Superior), but much experience backpacking in bear country. Highly recommend hanging in stuff sacks. Get a 5 or 6 mil nylon cord (often called parachute cord) and sew/tie a small canvas bag to it - about the size of your fist and having a cinch closure. You will fill this bag with rocks/dirt to throw over branches. Probably 30 feet of cord is good; ideally the bag is at least 10 feet off the ground and 5 feet from branches. Mother bears often send cubs up after the food! You want to make sure that the bags hang enough that rodents don't have easy access. I've found that beefy nylon stuff sacks work well, especially if they have a strap sewn into the bottom. I tie off the opening and hang them upside down to help keep away rodents. Above tree line, you can sometimes find rocks to hang from. As mentioned above, check food storage regulations in your area. Black bears are WAY more of a problem than Grizzlys where I've been. Black bears are like big racoons! If you know there are no trees or regulations require it, go with the canisters. Carrying them is better than losing your dinner/habituating bears to eat us!

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    I like my Bear Vault. I keep some food in it--Coffee most importantly and 1st breakfast (bagels, buns, whatever), and emergency rations. I dearly love to brush my teeth, and to have soap when theres water to bathe. No food or toiletries have EVER entered my panniers, handlebar bag or tent, and I have seen no evidence of animal intrusion. I do have a few scratches from whatever, probably not bears, on the Vault. But like the hikers say, "hike your own hike." So I say ride your own ride, and if you want to hang--hang. If you want to Vault--Vault. And if you want to do nothing--do nothing. But that's just me.

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    Wheezy Rider Connell's Avatar
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    OK, here's a question for you experienced folks. Where I live, and do most of my camping, there are trees in abundance. But they're almost all pine trees. Now pine trees look nice, and smell great but one thing they aren't good for is supporting hanging bags of food.

    Because pine trees are much narrower at the top than they are at the bottom. So to throw a rope (even tied to a stick or a rock) over the higher branches is an exercise in futility. Usually it just gets tangled in the lower branches.

    And even once do manage to get the rope up there, the higher branches are invariably thin and flimsy. So the weight of your food bag simply pulls them down and the rope slips off.

    And even if you manage to get the rope onto a high enough branch, and it's strong enough to hold your bag, any bear worthy of the name could easily climb up and help themselves, not matter how high you tie it.

    So when you tour in pine tree country...what do you do?
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  24. #24
    family on bikes nancy sv's Avatar
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    We had that problem too. Up in the tundra, there are no trees. Once we got into tree country, the trees were too small to be of any help. And then we had trees that wouldn't support the weight of our food.

    We ended up putting everything in a dry bag and placing the dry bag way far away from the tent on the ground. We hoped the bears didn't get into it, but figured the worst that would happen would be that we would go hungry if they did.

    As much as everyone talks about hanging food, the reality is that there are times when you simply can't - and you do the best you can in those situations.
    WE DID IT! Our little family of four cycled 17,300 miles from Alaska to Argentina! The trip of a lifetime for sure. www.familyonbikes.org

  25. #25
    Senior Member Newspaperguy's Avatar
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    Nancy, that's part of the reason I'm leaning heavily to the bear canister. In the Arctic and in scrub country or dry land farther south, the trees are not always plentiful, or they may not be suitable for hanging food.
    Life is good.

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