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Bears and other critters

Old 08-20-23, 07:01 AM
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Bears and other critters

I'm in the process of setting up my bike to be self-sufficient for a few days at a time in sparsely populated areas. This will include bear country, though probably not before next year. I decided to go with a Bear Keg for my food since it doesn't require stringing it up in a tree, which may not be available. It takes care of raccoons and other opportunists/pests and was also the cheapest solution. It's plenty big (and heavy) and will sit on my rear rack where I can get into it without taking it off the bike (at night I'd place it far from the tent, if necessary). It even matches the colour of my bike.

While the keg takes care of food,there are still other items that can attract unwanted visitors like the clothes you wear while cooking. What about kitchen and cooking equipment ? My MSR stove will fit in the keg, but not my pots and pans. Do those of you that hang your food from a tree also hang everything else related to food ? I haven't read any mention of stringing up or putting in a Ursack things like stoves, pots, plates and utensils. I'd like to avoid having to string up the entire pannier that holds my kitchen stuff, and this may not even be possible if there aren't any suitable trees around. Would it be safe to bring this pannier and cookware into the tent if everything was thoroughly washed beforehand ?

My only experience with bear country has been not worrying about them in the least when I used to hike the Adirondack High Peaks, NY. Last time was thirty years ago and in my ignorance I just brought everything into the tent with me, food and all, and never had a problem. No way I'd do that today.
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Old 08-20-23, 08:08 AM
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A lot depends on where you will be and how far between resupply. I worry more where the bears are habituated to poaching off of humans. In those places I have often found that bear lockers are often available. In many places the risk is low even though there may be bears. I generally size up the risk based on whether there have been problems there before. If not I just keep the foor and other scented stuff away from my sleeping area. If there have been problems I take whatever seems to be prudent precautions.

In general for most road touring i consider bear canisters to be overkill, but If I were to tour where I felt the need I'd probably use my BV450 since it is quite a bit smaller and lighter than a Garcia or other full size bear keg. I tend to buy food for the next meal or two at a time so a small canister is fine.

The Ursack looks interesting but does not meet requirements in many places where there is a rule requiring a canister.

If going off pavement and into the backcountry there may be different requirements both for capacity and for the need for a canister at all.

I have never felt the need to use either of my canisters when on tour despite having toured a good bit in bear country. That isn't to say that there aren't places where I might consider it. Where do you expect to tour?
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Old 08-20-23, 08:29 AM
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I'm in Quebec, so lots of wilderness. This year I'll probably stick to the south and east where bears aren't a problem but I figured the cannister is a good and easy solution for other smaller beasts, and I want to test out a complete setup. I'd like to cross Canada eventually, if I can figure out a way to get around Ontario with its thousands of kilometers without adequate shoulders. Bear lockers are only an option in an official campground and I'd like to be able to camp anywhere.
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Old 08-20-23, 10:10 AM
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When you say bear country, do you mean grizzlies? Or black bear?

Grizzlies you want to avoid.

Black bear wanders into your camp, make noise, throw things at it, it typically leaves. There are times when black bear will become used to humans, but they are rare. And recently in the news in USA there was a woman killed by a black bear, but that is extremely rare. Last year I found out that there were two problem bears where I planned to go on a canoe trip, I changed my plans the night before the trip to go elsewhere. More on that one example here:
https://queticosuperior.org/black-be...t-trail-lakes/

I use an Ursack, it is legal everywhere I go. I put a dry bag inside it to reduce odor. Mine is the XL size, I think about 15 liters. The problem with Ursack is that a bear can crush anything in it, and that of course is most inconvenient. But, they can't open it if you tied it right. So, they get frustrated and leave, they therefore should ignore Ursacks in the future. The bigger hazards are mice, racoons, chipmunks, etc. And they can't crush an Ursack.

That said, before I bought the Ursack, I almost always hung my food. But, sometimes there are no convenient trees for hanging.

There was a very long thread on this topic a couple years ago at:
Bear canisters

My Ursack in the photos below, they usually are black, when I bought mine they were black or white, mine is white. These are in black bear country, not grizzly:



In this case I hung my Ursack.



To answer your question, leave the cooking gear out if it has been washed and is clean. Leave clothes out of the container. Some people put things like toothpaste that may have an odor related to flavor in a bear container.

I see you answered the question, Quebec is black bear country. But if you do cross Canada, that includes grizzlies. So behavior there is different.
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Old 08-20-23, 10:36 AM
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Originally Posted by Tourist in MSN
There are times when black bear will become used to humans, but they are rare. And recently in the news in USA there was a woman killed by a black bear, but that is extremely rare.
...
I see you answered the question, Quebec is black bear country. But if you do cross Canada, that includes grizzlies. So behavior there is different.
It's the rare cases that have me worried because I'd like to be able to sleep at night. A few years ago a young boy on a group camping trip was killed when a black bear dragged him out of his tent during the night. A woman was killed by a black bear while jogging not far from Quebec city. I'm not completely comfortable in an airplane either...

I like the idea of using a separate odour-resisting bag to hold all the non-food cooking stuff and leave that out at night, while having the pannier in the tent. That way the worst that could happen would be for the bag to have a few holes in it.

I realize and have read from experts that bear encounters are rare, encountering an interested or threatened bear is a lot rarer, and the chances of dealing with an aggressive bear that won't give up are almost non-existant.

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Old 08-20-23, 10:46 AM
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Hang it, away from your camp, and do not do it like Tourist in NSN first picture, the most geriatric black bear in the world would have no problems climbing that tree. Chances are if you get an indestructible canister (questionable) the bear could just take it. They have been seen stealing entire golf bags.

By far the biggest problem is not them stealing your food but pretty much destroying your camp while looking, and destroying it they would do while posing little danger to you. If they smell it, they'll come looking, and if they are dumpster bears they specifically will try to scare you away. And they are smart; a while back I have t stop my car for a bear in the middle of the road. He just started walking around the car and next thing I know the mother ****er was trying to open my back doors, he knew how the handle operated...

So hang it and that means hanging away from the trunk, away from your camp, and do not eat at your camp.

Last edited by abdon; 08-20-23 at 12:20 PM.
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Old 08-20-23, 11:12 AM
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Raccoons are the major pest around here, though there were bear warnings in some of the campsites I stayed at earlier this summer. I forgot cord, so I tried sealing everything up in a plastic bag in a stuff sack inside my pannier, but the raccoons got to it:

New easy access port

Luckily, they just ate my bag of trail mix. I duct taped the hole in the bag, bought cord at a hardware store, and hung it the rest of the trip. I had no more problems, but my wife's advice is to seal food in barrier bags, then inside leakproof, airtight containers--essentially super ziplocs inside better tupperware. That way, if there's no locker or place to hang my bag, it should be ok.

I haven't tried them yet, but I'm going on another short tour next week and I'll see how it works.
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Old 08-20-23, 12:34 PM
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Apart from my well-being, I'm mostly interested in preventing my panniers from getting abused.

For the cookware and clothing, I could but them in a Loksac OPsack inside a stuffsack in the pannier and hang just the stuffsack up as best as possible.

I'm still going to use the Bear Keg to avoid problems like gna just encountered. It's like having a car trunk on a bike.
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Old 08-20-23, 12:38 PM
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Originally Posted by Paul_P
I'm in the process of setting up my bike to be self-sufficient for a few days at a time in sparsely populated areas. ....
How many days at a time between grocery stores? I do not mean average, I mean maximum. Or do you anticipate counting time in weeks between re-supply?

When I pack up food while at home for camping I have access to a wide variety of foods, etc. I think about 2 pounds (or a bit under a kg) per day. And I can get a bit over a week in a 15 liter dry bag.

But if I am shopping in stores, I am more likely to buy more canned foods, etc. Then it gets heavier and bulkier.

I am packing right now for a backpacking trip in the near future, food gets heavy.
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Old 08-20-23, 01:07 PM
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Originally Posted by Tourist in MSN
How many days at a time between grocery stores? I do not mean average, I mean maximum. Or do you anticipate counting time in weeks between re-supply?
Probably not more than three days if I find a spot I like. I'm still trying to get around the idea of what to do with my bike while I resupply in a grocery store. I know some just go down the aisles with their bikes, but I have trouble seeing myself do that. Maybe you get used to it ?
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Old 08-20-23, 01:41 PM
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Originally Posted by Paul_P
Probably not more than three days if I find a spot I like. I'm still trying to get around the idea of what to do with my bike while I resupply in a grocery store. I know some just go down the aisles with their bikes, but I have trouble seeing myself do that. Maybe you get used to it ?
Three days of food is pretty easy to handle. And I can't imagine your bear canister being a problem for volume.

You put a lock on your bike. In a rural area in a small grocery store, if I use a lock it is probably a small skier lock.

You said MSR stove, is it butane or liquid fuel? Finding fuel might be a bigger issue depending on your equipment. Last time I was in Canada, Canadian Tire had stove fuel.
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Old 08-20-23, 01:56 PM
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Yes. You should store all your attractants, including toothpaste if you have any. Cooking things as well. That’s why I look for campgrounds with food storage lockers when in bear country. I have occasionally used campground bathrooms when lockers have not been available. But it sounds like you’re planning to be in true wilderness, so that might not be an option.

BTW…The all attractants rule I learned before by week in the backcountry of Glacier National Park. In the end, you’ll have to decide for yourself. Six years ago, while I was sleeping, I had a huge black bear walk near my tent, stopping to take a dump, on the way to raiding the unsecured dumpsters at a private campground abutting the Allegheny National Forest in Pennsylvania. I later had a close encounter with it leaving camp. Not the way I wanted to start my day.

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Old 08-20-23, 02:06 PM
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Originally Posted by Tourist in MSN
You said MSR stove, is it butane or liquid fuel? Finding fuel might be a bigger issue depending on your equipment. Last time I was in Canada, Canadian Tire had stove fuel.
Naptha, coleman fuel. Yes, Canadian Tire is where I usually get it, and they're pretty much everywhere.
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Old 08-20-23, 04:20 PM
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Originally Posted by Paul_P
Naptha, coleman fuel. Yes, Canadian Tire is where I usually get it, and they're pretty much everywhere.
Don't put your stove in the food container, bears should not bother your stove. It is more likely to smell like petroleum than food.

Sounds like you should not have trouble finding food or fuel then.
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Old 08-21-23, 05:33 AM
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Originally Posted by abdon
Hang it, away from your camp, and do not do it like Tourist in NSN first picture, the most geriatric black bear in the world would have no problems climbing that tree.
Ursack doesn't need to be hung. It can be just tied to a tree. That is unless the recommended proceedure has changed recently. Using it with the scent proof bags is probably a good idea. Also keep it away from where you sleep.
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Old 08-21-23, 09:33 AM
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Originally Posted by staehpj1
Ursack doesn't need to be hung. It can be just tied to a tree. That is unless the recommended proceedure has changed recently. Using it with the scent proof bags is probably a good idea. Also keep it away from where you sleep.
​​​​​​ That is, if you don't mind your food being mushed into the consistency of baby food.

I forage in Alaska, I come across black bears all the time. Young ones look like squirrels when you spook them and they go running up a tree. Older ones don't have the same spring on their step but they are every bit as capable climbers. If you look at an empty bag and just think about food they'll be able to smell that. If they come, see it, and can reach it, they will mess with it something fierce.
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Old 08-21-23, 10:43 AM
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Originally Posted by abdon
​​​​​​ That is, if you don't mind your food being mushed into the consistency of baby food.

I forage in Alaska, I come across black bears all the time. Young ones look like squirrels when you spook them and they go running up a tree. Older ones don't have the same spring on their step but they are every bit as capable climbers. If you look at an empty bag and just think about food they'll be able to smell that. If they come, see it, and can reach it, they will mess with it something fierce.
I think there is quite a difference between Alaska and continental USA that is east of grizzly country.

The first of my two photos in a previous post in this thread, the first photo with Ursack tied to a tree was on a hiking trail that is somewhat wilderness, but only a short distance from major highway and residential. There are several hiking parties on virtually every foot of that trail every day. I am sure there are bears in the area, but the bigger hazard there is small critters looking for a free meal.

The second photo where I had it hanging, that is in Boundary Waters Canoe area, a designated wilderness area where bear precautions are much more important. Where I can, I do hang the food there, but some campsites lack good food hanging trees. I bought the Ursack to use where I can't hang food, but since I carry it, now I put the hung food in the Ursack anyway.

You are correct, a bear can crush your food in an Ursack when tied to a tree, which I noted in my first post in this thread. I only tie it to a tree where I am more concerned about small critters than bear, or where there are no practical places to hang the food.

Photo below, a state park in Alabama near the Natchez Trace parkway. The Ursack hanging in the tree is more intended to prevent critters from getting into it. But at a campground like this, for decades I have left food in a dry bag on a table or in my tent vestibule or hanging from a tree branch. Now that I have the Ursack, used it here for a bit of extra protection. This photo was taken in April this year.



I have not bought the aluminum sheet that Ursack makes for them, that is not really needed where I camp. If I was depending on the Ursack to be bear proof much more often, I might buy it to make the food less crushable.
https://www.rei.com/product/182980/u...iner-15-liters
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Old 08-21-23, 11:19 AM
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Actually the worst offenders are black bears not brown, they are endemic here. I take it you haven't had a bear toy with your bag. The first one that does will change your opinion.
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Old 08-21-23, 01:22 PM
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I have bacon, homefries and eggs for breakfast a lot on tours, and sausage/potatoes/carrots/onions for dinner fairly often as well. Needless to say the food odors and fumes from cooking these delectables gets in EVERYTHING...clothes, panniers, tent and gear. With all this, I have had very few bear problems (meaning visits...no confrontations) and only a few 'coons here and there, in nearly 40 years of touring. I really can NOT explain my "success." I do not carry bear repellent. When in bear country I carry 2 or 3 emergency flares (the kind you see around auto accidents) that I snag at a local hardware store. It is a rare animal that isn't repulsed by flame, smoke, and sound, which these flares provide. Again I have rarely had to use them, so i can't say they "worked" all the time. The animal may have left anyway.

But it sure raises a fuss!
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Old 08-21-23, 01:48 PM
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Originally Posted by Tourist in MSN
I have not bought the aluminum sheet that Ursack makes for them, that is not really needed where I camp. If I was depending on the Ursack to be bear proof much more often, I might buy it to make the food less crushable.
https://www.rei.com/product/182980/u...iner-15-liters
Can you still get those? I didn't see them on the Ursack site any more. It looks like Moosejaw and a couple others still list them for sale, but I am guessing they are old stock.
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Old 08-21-23, 03:51 PM
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Originally Posted by staehpj1
Can you still get those? I didn't see them on the Ursack site any more. It looks like Moosejaw and a couple others still list them for sale, but I am guessing they are old stock.
At that REI link I posted, that lists a price (sale price). If REI is out, they no longer list a price. I had also noticed that they were no longer on Ursack website. Maybe they did not sell enough to want to sell them any more?

Note that mine is the XL size, and that aluminum sheet is the size for mine. So, if you have one that is a different size, they might be gone in your size.
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Old 08-21-23, 11:00 PM
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Originally Posted by Roughstuff
I have bacon, homefries and eggs for breakfast a lot on tours, and sausage/potatoes/carrots/onions for dinner fairly often as well. Needless to say the food odors and fumes from cooking these delectables gets in EVERYTHING...clothes, panniers, tent and gear. With all this, I have had very few bear problems (meaning visits...no confrontations) and only a few 'coons here and there, in nearly 40 years of touring. I really can NOT explain my "success." I do not carry bear repellent. When in bear country I carry 2 or 3 emergency flares (the kind you see around auto accidents) that I snag at a local hardware store. It is a rare animal that isn't repulsed by flame, smoke, and sound, which these flares provide. Again I have rarely had to use them, so i can't say they "worked" all the time. The animal may have left anyway.

But it sure raises a fuss!
I wasn't kidding, I forage and come across black bears many times a year (and more dangerous, moose). During the day they are less of a problem (unless they learned that scaring people often means they drop their food). At night time is when they turn into giant racoons and can wreak havoc.
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Old 08-22-23, 04:56 AM
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Originally Posted by Tourist in MSN
At that REI link I posted, that lists a price (sale price). If REI is out, they no longer list a price. I had also noticed that they were no longer on Ursack website. Maybe they did not sell enough to want to sell them any more?

I suspect that maybe they found that the heavier weight and cost of the setup hurt the image of the product as a light and inexpensive product when compared to a canister. Since they never managed to get certified at many of the national parks maybe they took a different approach and gave up trying to emulate the full function of a canister cut the liner out of the product line.

Note that mine is the XL size, and that aluminum sheet is the size for mine. So, if you have one that is a different size, they might be gone in your size.
I think they are gone in all sizes as far as new stock from Ursack. What may be in stock around various vendors... who knows? You may still find what you want, but if interested you might want to snag one soon. I guess any sheet metal or even home shop could fabricate one pretty easily and possibly cheaper. I'd stick with the same 6061 T6 aluminum in the original dimensions for your size Ursack.
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Old 08-22-23, 05:13 AM
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I just thought the mention that if going for a canister was what someone wanted to do, I'd consider the BV425. It is pretty small at 5 liters, 8.7 x 6 inches, and 1 lb. 12 oz., but for on pavement touring most of us can shop every day (or two). If you shop you can leave that day of food out because you eat it before camping. So I could jam another 2 days of food in if I choose compact food. For about $75 or a bit more it is pretty cheap. I still don't plan to start carrying a canister for touring and have a BV450 so I may not buy a BV425 for backpacking, but if I were doing a lot of overnight or two day backpacking trips I would.

If you can't get by with the BV425 the BV450 might be for you. I have managed with the 450 for 4-5 days when backpacking (the first day carried outside of the canister).
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Old 08-22-23, 06:29 AM
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Originally Posted by abdon
Actually the worst offenders are black bears not brown, they are endemic here. I take it you haven't had a bear toy with your bag. The first one that does will change your opinion.
Two of us on a canoe trip near the Minnesota Canadian border, a bear woke us up at about 2am with the noise of it trying to climb up the tree we had our food hanging from. We got up, threw rocks and sticks at it, it decided to leave. We did not sleep very well for the rest of the night, assumed it would return. If it did, we were unaware of it.

Next morning, my pack was undisturbed, it is a Sealline waterproof pack. My canoeing partner had a cotton fabric Duluth Pack, the bear had emptied out his pack, left his stuff littered about. But no food was in the pack. My canoe partner had left the flap over the top of the pack unbuckled so the bear did not damage it to open it.

My other black bear experiences did not involve any of our equipment, bear saw us and left.

That said, there are problem bears. My first post in this thread included a link to a short news article about a couple problem bears. I chose to go someplace else, as one of those problem bears hung around several lakes where I expected to camp for about five nights.
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