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      Bear resistant food containers?     

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novak324
 
05/27/2020 02:08PM
Hi all,

I’m a first time BWCA goer this summer. I’m doing just a brief weekend base camping on Seagull lake, but have been researching a ton & just trying to be as prepared as possible so I enjoy it & feel ready to take on a longer trip with more portages later on!
So right now, I’m looking for a cheap bear resistant food container. And any advice on this at this point.
Thanks!
 
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05/27/2020 03:58PM
I like containers because besides impeding bears they keep rodents like squirrels and chipmunks from chewing through packs. I would use a 5 gal. Bucket with a Gamma Seal Screw on lid or look for a BearVault 500 On sale or used on Craigslist. I saw the Gamma Seal lids at Menards today. I stash the container away from camp a ways when I’m away or at night.
 
TipsyPaddler
distinguished member (200)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
 
05/27/2020 04:42PM
For a weekend trip staying close to the EP the 5 gal. Bucket w/Gamma Seal solution is probably the best, cheap option. Stashing the container away from camp at night is key. If you are unlucky and a bear gets your food you are just a short paddle to the EP.

I am a fan of the Ursacks but they are not cheap and maybe overkill for a first, short trip.
 
EddyTurn
member (38)member
 
05/27/2020 06:03PM
Wherever you camp, bear will get there if it wishes so. They are excellent swimmers. Mice and squirrels often occupy desert islands and might present bigger peril to one's food bag than a bear. But as far as bears are concerned I'm not sure that a generic bucket will keep the food safe.
 
campnfish
distinguished member (259)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
 
05/27/2020 06:28PM
Depending on your group size maybe rent a bear vault from an outfitter if they have them, then see if you like that.
 
05/27/2020 06:41PM
I started out hanging food in a drybag, but that's a PIA. Then I stepped up to a "bear canister" - BearVault, Backpacker's Cache. I currently use Ursacks. BearVault Ursack Those are the bear resistant options. I don't know if you'd consider cheap, but . . . Some are having sales now.

Those options don't have large volumes, so food (and packaging) needs to be compact. Other options - things like blue barrels, buckets, Vittles Vaults (pet food container) - rely mostly on odor containment and stashing out of the way.

Of course, there's always the option of hanging a food pack.
 
jrlatt
distinguished member (467)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
 
05/27/2020 07:17PM
Hello

I have used the blue barrels for years with no problems. I am currently using a 30l.

I think you should read what Cliff has to say.
There is also a good video on youtube if you search bear and knife lake

Cliffs Jacobson recommendations

Have a great trip
 
TominMpls
distinguished member(612)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
 
05/28/2020 03:39PM
Like Boonie, I switched from hanging to BearVaults a while ago, and in the last year or so I've mostly switched to Ursacks. On a canoe trip the BearVault wins because your food will actually survive a bear in edible shape, with no major issues, and in your pack you won't get your crackers crumbled; but the Ursack is so much lighter that I'm willing to risk a little crushing of the contents.

Understand that to actually hang a non-resistent pack correctly takes time and practice, or a lucky site. Back when I would hang I never had a bear get into my bag, but I did have lots of rodents eat my food - a situation I've never once had happen since I started use bearvaults and ursacks.

That said, on a first trip I wouldn't buy an ursack or bearvault. They're expensive investments for people who plan to use them a bunch. You could probably rent a bearvault from an outfitter, but otherwise I'd just put the food inside an odorproof bag (such as an OpSak), put that bag inside a hangable pack, and hang it. It'll probably take you a half hour to get it right, and another fifteen minutes to retrieve it in the morning, but that's part of the experience, right?

Recall that most camp pests - both bears and mini-bears - are creatures of habit. Even if you keep a clean camp, you'll notice the same perfect tree to hang that every other camper at that site notices. When the squirrels, chipmunks, mice, and maybe bears come into camp they don't even need to smell it - they'll go where the bag always is, and they'll have a snack. So try to hang it away from camp, in a place others haven't used.
 
mschi772
distinguished member (404)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
 
05/28/2020 08:00PM
Your options for bear resistant containers are:
Ursack
Bearvault
Garcia
Wild Ideas Bearikade
Lighter1
(and some others that are much like those above but inferior in some way imo such that I never remember them)

None of these are cheap. Ignoring Bearikade which has astronomical prices, Ursack has the largest volumes coming in at 30 liter or 15 liter. Bearvault BV500 is the next biggest at 11.5 liter. This is highly dependent upon MANY factors, but I generally feed 4 people for a week with 60 liters with some bulkier foods and less than perfect packing.

Gamma sealed buckets are NOT bear resistant. Vittles Vaults are NOT bear resistant. Blue barrels are NOT bear resistant. I'm not saying you can't use these, but don't lie to yourself or your friends about what they are/aren't. Tripping for years with no problems is not proof of bear resistance. That is normalcy bias and nothing more.
 
andym
distinguished member(4754)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberpower member
 
05/29/2020 03:27AM
I hadn’t seen the lighter1 before. It’s an interesting trick because a lot of the weight savings is in making the lid a frying pan. Two thoughts on that. First, you better clean that pan really well or you just led bears to your food stash. Second, that weight savings works for one canister. The second one gives you an extra frying pan that you don’t need.
 
billconner
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05/29/2020 06:01AM
I believe Northern Tier, who send a lot if Scouts into the wilderness, still hang. I'd wager that if it was not overwhelming successful, they'd change.

Lable it confirmation bias if you wish but when I googled the definition of that term I found "the tendency to interpret new evidence as confirmation of one's existing beliefs or theories." My own empirical evidence is over 20 years, and Scouts much longer, hardly "new". If you don't like to hang, good options above, especially if you like very compact dried food. I use the CCS deluxe food pack - 80+ liters. I like some fresh food and enjoy the sport of hunting for the tree and hanging the bag.

Don't know what will work best for you.
 
MagicPaddler
distinguished member(1356)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
 
05/29/2020 06:37AM
 
mschi772
distinguished member (404)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
 
05/29/2020 09:00AM
billconner: "I believe Northern Tier, who send a lot if Scouts into the wilderness, still hang. I'd wager that if it was not overwhelming successful, they'd change.


Lable it confirmation bias if you wish but when I googled the definition of that term I found "the tendency to interpret new evidence as confirmation of one's existing beliefs or theories." My own empirical evidence is over 20 years, and Scouts much longer, hardly "new". If you don't like to hang, good options above, especially if you like very compact dried food. I use the CCS deluxe food pack - 80+ liters. I like some fresh food and enjoy the sport of hunting for the tree and hanging the bag.


Don't know what will work best for you."


My apologies. The logical fallacy at work in the "I've been doing X for this long and nothing has ever gone wrong" is normalcy bias. Sorry for the mix-up.

Good hangs are effective. Most hangs are NOT good hangs. That's neither here nor there because the OP asked about bear resistant containers, not hanging.
 
Blatz
distinguished member(1343)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
 
05/29/2020 10:12AM
I've been using an Ursack the last few years. Does it work? I don't know any better than those who hang and have never had a Bear get they're food. All I know is it's light weight, simple, and the material can't be chewed through by rodents and bears. That works for me. I keep a very clean camp so I may never know first hand if it's effective.
 
05/29/2020 01:48PM
Novak-

The vast majority of people never have a bear visit. In that case, everything works.

Keep odors to a minimum, keep a clean camp, keep food put away and secured by whatever method you use. Don't put your greasy bacon and garlic fingers all over your food container. Don't feed the cute little mice, chipmunks, etc. Pack out the leftovers, wrappers, etc. Don't camp at sites with obvious signs of bear trouble or visitation, i.e. a pile of bear scat in camp.

Hanging has been used for a long time, but depends on a good hang, which is not always easy to achieve. In places such as the Barrenlands there is no place to hang. Hanging is not permitted in some heavily used places where bears have become accustomed to it and adept at getting hung food.

Those places require "approved" bear resistant containers such as BearVaults, Backpackers Cache, Ursacks, Bearikades, etc. The approval comes from the SIBBG and the IGBC. You can read about those tests at their sites and also some information at the BearVault and Ursack sites I linked.

There is also stashing (see Cliff Jacobson), which can be employed with food packs, blue barrels, buckets, Vittles Vaults (none of which are "approved" bear resistant containers), as well as with the BearVaults, Ursacks, etc. The non-approved containers do not offer the same level of protection as the approved ones if a bear finds it. All things work if no bear finds it. None works all the time, but some offer much greater protection than others.

You may be able to rent or borrow a bear canister rather than buy. You can usually rent them at places that require them, but I think there's a place that rents them by mail. Bear canisters are not large, so be aware of the size limitations. You can find dimensions on the websites.
 
billconner
distinguished member(7268)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberpower member
 
05/29/2020 07:06PM
mschi772: "billconner: "I believe Northern Tier, who send a lot if Scouts into the wilderness, still hang. I'd wager that if it was not overwhelming successful, they'd change.



Lable it confirmation bias if you wish but when I googled the definition of that term I found "the tendency to interpret new evidence as confirmation of one's existing beliefs or theories." My own empirical evidence is over 20 years, and Scouts much longer, hardly "new". If you don't like to hang, good options above, especially if you like very compact dried food. I use the CCS deluxe food pack - 80+ liters. I like some fresh food and enjoy the sport of hunting for the tree and hanging the bag.



Don't know what will work best for you."



My apologies. The logical fallacy at work in the "I've been doing X for this long and nothing has ever gone wrong" is normalcy bias. Sorry for the mix-up.

Good hangs are effective. Most hangs are NOT good hangs. That's neither here nor there because the OP asked about bear resistant containers, not hanging."


Quoting: "Normalcy bias, or normality bias, is a cognitive bias which leads people to disbelieve or minimize threat warnings. Consequently, individuals underestimate the likelihood of a disaster, when it might affect them, and its potential adverse effects."

By hanging, I dont underestimate a thing. There is a minute chance a bear might get my food pack hanging in a tree. Hardly a diaster for me if once in hundreds of trips the bear wins.

 
Portage99
distinguished member (401)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
 
05/29/2020 08:03PM
FYI, I had trouble opening the BearVault. I’ve been googling for hacks. For a slick way to open the bearvault, place a credit card or thin pocket knife against the clicker tabs.
Much easier!



Hack
 
schweady
distinguished member(6882)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberpower member
 
05/31/2020 11:24AM
Portage99: "Hack "
Great. Now I have to be on the lookout for credit card-carrying bears... :-)
 
05/31/2020 01:34PM
When I've had trouble opening mine, it was mostly dirty threads. Try to keep them clean.
 
sdebol
distinguished member(566)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
 
05/31/2020 05:33PM
Portage99: "FYI, I had trouble opening the BearVault. I’ve been googling for hacks. For a slick way to open the bearvault, place a credit card or thin pocket knife against the clicker tabs.
Much easier!



Hack "


Yes, especially when it is cold. I use the tip of the little pliers on a leatherman juice multi knife—just keep them closed and push on the little tabs as you open. The knife handle provides nice leverage too. We usually just keep one sitting by the vaults.
 
TominMpls
distinguished member(612)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
 
06/01/2020 01:41PM
I'll note that no bear-proof container would stand up to beaver teeth. Fortunately, there's nothing a beaver wants that a bear can get more easily than a beaver, or else some bears would be employing beavers to pop the canisters for them :-P
 
A1t2o
distinguished member(960)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
 
06/01/2020 03:33PM
I think most people would be fine with a blue barrel. It might not be bear proof, but it should work at least as well as hanging. If you are good at hanging and willing to put in the effort to do so far enough from camp then that would probably be best, but most people don't go far enough from camp, high enough off the ground, or out of reach if the bear were to climb the tree. Unless the conditions for hanging are perfect I think a blue barrel is lower risk.

I prefer an alarm system and the blue barrel, I use a sound grenade for my alarm. The whole point is to slow the bear down long enough to scare it off. As long as the bear doesn't get any food in it's mouth, you should be able to scare it off. A blue barrel is cheap enough to replace too in the event that a bear does damage it.
 
andym
distinguished member(4754)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberpower member
 
06/01/2020 04:20PM
Darn, there goes my plan for camouflaging my bear canister with bark!
 
jrlatt
distinguished member (467)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
 
06/02/2020 02:45PM
mschi772: "Your options for bear resistant containers are:
Ursack
Bearvault
Garcia
Wild Ideas Bearikade
Lighter1
(and some others that are much like those above but inferior in some way imo such that I never remember them)

Gamma sealed buckets are NOT bear resistant. Vittles Vaults are NOT bear resistant. Blue barrels are NOT bear resistant. I'm not saying you can't use these, but don't lie to yourself or your friends about what they are/aren't. Tripping for years with no problems is not proof of bear resistance. That is normalcy bias and nothing more."


Bear walking away from blue barrel

I agree blue barrels are not bear proof. I disagree they are not bear resistant.
The BV has been redesigned, due to some smart bears.
BV failure

Have a nice day
 
mschi772
distinguished member (404)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
 
06/02/2020 08:43PM
jrlatt: "mschi772: "Your options for bear resistant containers are:
Ursack
Bearvault
Garcia
Wild Ideas Bearikade
Lighter1
(and some others that are much like those above but inferior in some way imo such that I never remember them)


Gamma sealed buckets are NOT bear resistant. Vittles Vaults are NOT bear resistant. Blue barrels are NOT bear resistant. I'm not saying you can't use these, but don't lie to yourself or your friends about what they are/aren't. Tripping for years with no problems is not proof of bear resistance. That is normalcy bias and nothing more."



Bear walking away from blue barrel


I agree blue barrels are not bear proof. I disagree they are not bear resistant.
The BV has been redesigned, due to some smart bears.
BV failure


Have a nice day
"


My language was chosen deliberately. Limiting the discussion to containers that are realistic for these uses (so no steel vaults for example), no container is bear-proof. That kind of guarantee just can't be given. Bear resistance, as far as I'm concerned, is earned by passing something like the IGBC testing program. Blue barrels have not earned this distinction and, as pictured below, it's not just the crappy ones made infamous by Fishguts but also the better ones that have demonstrated their lack of proper resistance.
 
jrlatt
distinguished member (467)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
 
06/02/2020 09:14PM
I am curious as the source of the pictures? I found it.

This was posted by ragged ragged

I will still use my blue barrel. I will also continue to keep a clean camp and making sure all food smells are in a sealed container. You do not want to have spilled food on the outside of your food container. Having a sow walk away from a blue barrel After spending a lot work getting it down. There was some footage of the video that was removed from the original post. The sow head was right above the barrel, then she just walked away. To me that is a thumbs up for there usefulness even if they not certified.

Have a nice day


 
Jaywalker
distinguished member(2148)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
 
06/02/2020 09:35PM
I have seen that photo posted on an outfitters website in the Adirondacks, the same place the infamous Yellow Yellow broke into certified bear-proof canisters. mschi772 is correct in saying that nothing “portable” is 100% bear proof, it that there always seems to be one big or super-smart bear that breaks in. Absent a steel box cemented into the ground, there is at least some degree of risk in bear country. Personally, I’m comfortable continuing to use my Harmony blue barrel until I learn of at least one or two break-ins in the BWCA or Q, at which time I may reconsider. IGBC certified containers certainly offer the highest protection level, but for now I’m personally comfortable with what I’m doing. Some 200,000 people go into the BWCA every year and very, very few have bear trouble. EDIT: I mixed up my eastern “A” parks, and stand corrected, Algonquin, not Adirondacks.
 
ashlandjack
senior member (55)senior membersenior member
 
06/03/2020 08:10AM
Is there a bear repellent that works?
 
06/03/2020 09:56AM
No, there is no repellent; there is bear spray, but it doesn't work like bug repellent. DO NOT SPRAY IT ON YOURSELF! :). Probably less than 1% of visitors even see a bear, much less have a problem. Prevention is best: Avoid sites with known bear problems (outfitter will have up-to-date information), minimize odors, keep odors off your food storage, keep food (and garbage) put away and secured, clean fish away from camp.



 
TominMpls
distinguished member(612)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
 
06/03/2020 12:18PM
Some of y'all blue barrel users are acting like somebody's saying you've made a bad choice or you shouldn't use them. Nobody's saying that and nobody cares if you use them. The OP asked about bear resistant food containers, and blue barrels don't meet a reasonable standard of bear resistance. That doesn't mean you can't use them, but there's no reason to be defensive in a thread about bear resistant containers.

Personally I've gone backpacking in the BWCA with a lot of people who use nothing bear resistant at all - their tactic is to put their food in odorproof bags and stash - on the ground - in the woods where animals aren't looking for it. They've never had trouble with that approach while I was with any of them. But I don't do it, I use a Bearvault or an ursack because I want bear resistant. They have an approach that works for them, but it's not bear resistant.
 
BWPaddler
distinguished member(9217)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberpower member
 
06/03/2020 06:11PM
Portage99: "FYI, I had trouble opening the BearVault. I’ve been googling for hacks. For a slick way to open the bearvault, place a credit card or thin pocket knife against the clicker tabs.
Much easier!



Hack "


In Camp, I usually just pick up a stick and push it in as I'm turning the lid. Without a stick or some other leverage it is indeed pretty hard.

My whole approach is to put the Vault between my two legs and hold it while I try to turn the lid with one hand and push the tab in with a stick with my other hand. I figure if it's hard for me hopefully it will be impossible for the bear LOL
 
BWPaddler
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06/03/2020 06:13PM
I started out hanging the food pack, but as others have said, finding the perfect combination of trees and branches in a fairly convenience place, is sometimes really hard. Although I invested in the proper rope and pulleys to try to make the system better it was still cumbersome in my opinion and I hated having to spend the time doing that.

Then I heard of stashing or caching and I just made sure all my food was in plastic and then inside a thick plastic liner bag and then in a pack. The theory there was two take that pack someplace off the beaten path where a bear would not think to look and ensure no smells led the bear to the pack. Despite all the reports of the mini and micro bears that chew through canvas to get food, I have never ever had even one nibble with this approach. This caching worked perfectly for quite some time, and eventually I got even lazier and didn't like paddling a little ways from Camp to put the pack in an unsuspecting place, or gearing up to paddle over and get it again in the morning.

So now, as I noted above I use a bear vault. The downside to that is that my cooking gear does not fit inside and no doubt smells like food. So I sometimes just leave that on the grate in the hopes that the bear will recognize there's nothing left to lick. The food in the vault I just walk to a place on the edge of Camp that's not on the latrine Trail LOL. I stick it in the shadow of a rock or under the lowest limbs of a tree. Much easier to collect again in the morning.

If you are anywhere near the metro area you would be welcome to borrow a bear Vault for your initial trip. I own three of them and I'm quite sure I don't need them all at the same time this summer. Drop me an e-mail.
 
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