BWCA Optimizing bear canisters Boundary Waters Gear Forum
Chat Rooms (0 Chatting)  |  Search  |   Login/Join
* For the benefit of the community, commercial posting is not allowed.
Boundary Waters Quetico Forum
   Gear Forum
      Optimizing bear canisters     

Author

Text

gkimball
distinguished member(648)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
 
08/03/2021 07:55PM  
With the FS order regarding food protection there has been much sharing of thought regarding what the heck to do. As a confirmed bear canister user, it appears many people have no experience with them so I am thinking a thread to offer up techniques for their best use might be helpful.

I have used them for over 20 years and have evolved and adjusted what I do and don't do in several ways.

Here's a big one: package all food in small portions in their own plastic bags so that the bags fit down snug around each other, this avoiding unused "voids" and air pockets. As you practice this you will find it possible to completely fill the volume of the canister.

Put all items for breakfasts, snacks, lunches and suppers together and then try to remember which canister you put them in. The clear sided BearVaults really help with this.

As the trip goes on put trash in odor proof OpSaks inside the canisters as volume is created.

Do not carry freeze dried foods in those bulky foil pouches as they take up huge amount of space in the canister. Re-hydrate the meals in a pot with a lid - works fine. Repackage the meals in their own plastic bags and re-use the bags in subsequent trips. They will just have small amounts of powder in them.

The beauty of the canisters is they can't be carried off once they are outside of the food pack. Do not stash them back in the woods in a pack or with any kind of handles a bear can use to carry them away with.

Help me out here with what you do - I can always learn something new!
 
      Print Top Bottom Previous Next
andym
distinguished member(5125)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberpower member
 
08/03/2021 09:39PM  
Good topic. If we switch from Ursacks to Bear Vaults, we are adding weight. So, better packing of food could help us use fewer Bear Vaults and add less weight.

We generally make our own meals out of dehydrated and freeze-dried ingredients and then vacuum seal them until just before the ingredients would start getting crushed. The result is that the packages are a bit rigid and so have problems close packing them into containers. Are you suggesting that we not vacuum seal the meals? I can see that as a possibility. Or maybe just vacuum seal them but leave a bit more air inside. That increases the volume a bit but would leave them more flexible. Thanks for your insights.

 
08/03/2021 10:16PM  
It's been a few years since I've used my canisters instead of Ursacks, but will be doing so this year. The things mentioned by gkimball are some of the common strategies - repacking in less bulky packaging, packing to avoid "voids" (sorry, couldn't resist). I started with the old vacuum-sealed Mountain House Pro Packs, but discovered they didn't pack well. Another strategy that was sometimes recommended to reduce bulk was to poke a hole in the bag with a pin, squeeze out the excess air and reseal with tape. Calorie-dense low-bulk foods are the place to start. I just pack them generally in by days - a layer of a dinner, breakfast, lunch, snack, followed by a day 2 layer.

It's a good idea to review the manufacturer's website FAQ's. DEET and some other chemicals and adhesives can be harmful to the material the BearVaults are made of so review that before doing anything. UV radiation is harmful and exposure should be minimized. Be careful about stashing around rocks where extra force on the canister could be created.
 
gkimball
distinguished member(648)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
 
08/03/2021 11:05PM  
andym: "Good topic. If we switch from Ursacks to Bear Vaults, we are adding weight. So, better packing of food could help us use fewer Bear Vaults and add less weight.

We generally make our own meals out of dehydrated and freeze-dried ingredients and then vacuum seal them until just before the ingredients would start getting crushed. The result is that the packages are a bit rigid and so have problems close packing them into containers. Are you suggesting that we not vacuum seal the meals? I can see that as a possibility. Or maybe just vacuum seal them but leave a bit more air inside. That increases the volume a bit but would leave them more flexible. Thanks for your insights.

"


I have never vacuum packed the freeze dried food or other foods and have never had anything go bad. I have even had some left over and they keep well.

Maybe it's because I usually pack the food in good quality bags like OpSaks or heavy duty zip lock bags from the grocery store. These better grade bags never seem to blow out during the trip plus the OpSaks control odors for a clean camp.
 
andym
distinguished member(5125)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberpower member
 
08/04/2021 04:52AM  
Thanks. We have the vacuum sealed food inside an Opsak. We can try going to just ziplocks for better packing. The other advantage of vacuum sealing is that it is waterproof. But a ziplock and Opsak is good for that too.
 
straighthairedcurly
distinguished member(1123)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
 
08/04/2021 11:21AM  
Thanks for this thread. It is very useful to hear from someone with experience.

I typically make my own FD meals and vacuum pack them. But using Ursacks it didn't matter as much. I have been considering the packability issue. I am wondering if I vacuum pack some of the bulkier meals and then ziplock bag some of the more powdery meals that can be used to mush around the stiffer vacuum packed items. Definitely some experimenting to be done.

 
gkimball
distinguished member(648)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
 
08/04/2021 01:05PM  
straighthairedcurly: "Thanks for this thread. It is very useful to hear from someone with experience.


I typically make my own FD meals and vacuum pack them. But using Ursacks it didn't matter as much. I have been considering the packability issue. I am wondering if I vacuum pack some of the bulkier meals and then ziplock bag some of the more powdery meals that can be used to mush around the stiffer vacuum packed items. Definitely some experimenting to be done.


"


Yes experimentation is needed to find the best methods for packing the foods you like to bring. There were a couple of foods I just quit bringing along because I couldn't pack them efficiently for the trip I was taking. After a few tries you can choose what will work for the trip you ate taking. It also makes you decide the "must haves" too.

Like Snicker bars...gotta have one every day even though they are space hogs in a bear canister!
 
08/04/2021 01:46PM  
I've done some testing on how to maximize the amount of dog food I can bring in my Ursack - but I think it directly translates to human food in a canister - its just easier to see the impact using bulky dog food.

I use to package my dog food in 1 day bags and vacuum pack them, but I found I the ridge packs just didn't lay well together. I started sealing them in the same bags, but no vacuumed packed. I got more days in my Ursack. Finally I just started putting it in an Opsack, then that in another plastic bag and packing it in bulk. I got still way more. The freely it can more, the more it fills all space was my conclusion.

I have also tried vacuum packing some of my human food, but several times had some rigid edge in the food (like a noodle or dry piece of beef even) poke pin holes. I now pack all my food loose, and when I can in bulk.
 
ockycamper
distinguished member(668)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
 
08/04/2021 03:11PM  
We take up mainly freeze dried meals from Camp Chow. To cut down on those bags, we poke a hole in the bag, then push all the air out, covering the hole up with a piece of duct tape. When ready to eat, we pour the contents into a pan and cook on the stove. Trash goes right back in the bearvault it came out of. We don't have any "left overs" as I make the men we bring up eat up everything that is cooked so we don't have any problems with food smells. I have found that one bearvault will hold breakfast and dinner for a group of 6 men for one day. So we bring up 5-6 bear vaults per camp. It is not really that many as we assign each man one bearvault to carry/portage. They really like this system better then hauling around heavy 30 or 60 litre blue barrels.
 
billconner
distinguished member(8015)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberpower member
 
08/04/2021 06:23PM  
gkimball: "straighthairedcurly: "Thanks for this thread. It is very useful to hear from someone with experience.



I typically make my own FD meals and vacuum pack them. But using Ursacks it didn't matter as much. I have been considering the packability issue. I am wondering if I vacuum pack some of the bulkier meals and then ziplock bag some of the more powdery meals that can be used to mush around the stiffer vacuum packed items. Definitely some experimenting to be done.



"



Yes experimentation is needed to find the best methods for packing the foods you like to bring. There were a couple of foods I just quit bringing along because I couldn't pack them efficiently for the trip I was taking. After a few tries you can choose what will work for the trip you ate taking. It also makes you decide the "must haves" too.


Like Snicker bars...gotta have one every day even though they are space hogs in a bear canister!"


143 snicker bars - 20,000 calories - in one BV500?
 
gkimball
distinguished member(648)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
 
08/04/2021 06:43PM  
billconner: "gkimball: "straighthairedcurly: "Thanks for this thread. It is very useful to hear from someone with experience.



I typically make my own FD meals and vacuum pack them. But using Ursacks it didn't matter as much. I have been considering the packability issue. I am wondering if I vacuum pack some of the bulkier meals and then ziplock bag some of the more powdery meals that can be used to mush around the stiffer vacuum packed items. Definitely some experimenting to be done.



"




Yes experimentation is needed to find the best methods for packing the foods you like to bring. There were a couple of foods I just quit bringing along because I couldn't pack them efficiently for the trip I was taking. After a few tries you can choose what will work for the trip you ate taking. It also makes you decide the "must haves" too.



Like Snicker bars...gotta have one every day even though they are space hogs in a bear canister!"



143 snicker bars - 20,000 calories - in one BV500? "


Never say never...
 
08/04/2021 09:24PM  
Go for it, Gordon - and no stove, no fuel, no utensils, no pot, nothing to clean. :) You don't even have to rehydrate. The 143 Snickers in there would weigh almost 17 lbs.
 
gkimball
distinguished member(648)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
 
08/04/2021 10:58PM  
boonie: "Go for it, Gordon - and no stove, no fuel, no utensils, no pot, nothing to clean. :) You don't even have to rehydrate. The 143 Snickers in there would weigh almost 17 lbs."

And it would be the first BW trip I ever gained weight on. You all may have opened a new door to experiencing the BW!
 
Northwoodsman
distinguished member(1654)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
 
08/05/2021 08:13AM  
I can get almost 25 lbs. of Peanut M & M's in my BV 500. Perfect for a fire ban.
 
08/05/2021 09:12AM  
Usually when I plan meals, I repackage them into zip-lock bags. Vacuum sealing makes them too rigid to fit nicely. If there is more than step to the meal, I'll put all the ingredients into a gallon zip-lock. I also always write the meal and prep instructions on the bag so anyone could do it. You can make some pretty nice meals using pretty few steps and fuel. The most complicated it usually gets for me is cooking rehydrated egg crystals separately from the boiled main dish to mix in later for texture.
 
ScottL
member (45)member
 
08/05/2021 09:19AM  
billconner: "gkimball: "straighthairedcurly: "Thanks for this thread. It is very useful to hear from someone with experience.



I typically make my own FD meals and vacuum pack them. But using Ursacks it didn't matter as much. I have been considering the packability issue. I am wondering if I vacuum pack some of the bulkier meals and then ziplock bag some of the more powdery meals that can be used to mush around the stiffer vacuum packed items. Definitely some experimenting to be done.



"




Yes experimentation is needed to find the best methods for packing the foods you like to bring. There were a couple of foods I just quit bringing along because I couldn't pack them efficiently for the trip I was taking. After a few tries you can choose what will work for the trip you ate taking. It also makes you decide the "must haves" too.



Like Snicker bars...gotta have one every day even though they are space hogs in a bear canister!"



143 snicker bars - 20,000 calories - in one BV500? "


I now have my food list figured out for all future canoe trips!
 
ockycamper
distinguished member(668)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
 
08/05/2021 10:03AM  
It strikes me that most of the reluctance to using bearvaults is their bulk, weight and price. Although a Ursack is actually more money then a BV500.

That said, you can still single portage with BV500's We take 14 to 18 men up each September in 3 groups. I divide up the BV500's so each man from my camp (6 guys) carries one.

We have also found you can easily put 4 BV 500's into a sealine pack and carry them all through that way. Still lighter then a 60 litre blue barrel.

The push back seems to be from the backpack/single portage community. Once you work through the idea that the BV500's don't really slow things down if divided up or put in packs, its not really an issue.

They have also eliminated trash bags for us, food packs, and rumaging through a blue barrel or ursack to find that item we are looking for.

When not tripping, I use them for food storage at home as well.
 
andym
distinguished member(5125)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberpower member
 
08/05/2021 12:13PM  
Ockycamper, yes the issue I’m contemplating is added weight and bulk. Thanks for your tips. If I remember your other posts, your trips are 6 days. Is that right? We prefer 10 or more. I also prefer not having food in the pack with our clothes and sleeping bags. So I think I’m putting 3 or 4 canisters in our gear/food pack. That ups the weight by 6 to 8.5 lbs over Ursacks. I may partially counteract that by moving some of the denser gear items (hatchet, saw, …) to the daypack I portage with the canoe. I recently got a bigger daypack so that will be possible.
 
andym
distinguished member(5125)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberpower member
 
08/05/2021 12:31PM  
Jaywalker, I agree that bulk packing works. Some of our friends go backpacking frequently and their food packing consists of throwing a few bulk ingredients into bags and heading out. Then each night you get to decide what to mix of things and spices you want. It is simple but effective eating. It could also be fun to come up with recipes each night in camp.

We would just have to make sure we file things out so they last the whole trip. I could divide each ingredient between the canisters so we are aware when the first bag of each thing runs out. And the more efficient packing could mean more ingredients in fewer canisters and that is a win.
 
ockycamper
distinguished member(668)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
 
08/05/2021 12:32PM  
We go for one week. . .five days on the water cooking breakfasts and dinners. I have found that four BV 500's will handle the food for 6 men for 5 breakfasts and 5 dinners, along with 5 desserts (we eat those in the afternoons). All four will easily fit in a Sealine pack, although heavy. I prefer to just pass out the four cannisters, one per canoe. They just carry them through the portages.
 
ockycamper
distinguished member(668)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
 
08/05/2021 12:42PM  
We pack the cannisters, dinner on the bottom, breakfast on the top, one cannister per day. Then we label the cannister for which day to use it. Two our camp leaders like to bring "real" food. I used to do that and cook huge meals but found I spent all my time in camp cooking. Now I order Camp Chow meals from Trail Center Lodge and just supplement with a few items. To limit space, I prick the containers and purge the air, sealing the hole with duct tape. When preparing, I pour the ingredients into a pan and cook it that way. When done for the day the trash goes right back in that cannister.
 
ScottL
member (45)member
 
08/05/2021 01:53PM  
ockycamper: "We go for one week. . .five days on the water cooking breakfasts and dinners. I have found that four BV 500's will handle the food for 6 men for 5 breakfasts and 5 dinners, along with 5 desserts (we eat those in the afternoons). All four will easily fit in a Sealine pack, although heavy. I prefer to just pass out the four cannisters, one per canoe. They just carry them through the portages."

Just curious--what do you do about lunch? If I'm paddling and/or fishing all day away from camp I'm burning enough calories that I'm not going to get by with just 2 meals, even if I get dessert.
 
ockycamper
distinguished member(668)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
 
08/05/2021 02:12PM  
We bring tortillas, peanut butter, precooked bacon, cheese, etc and use it for lunch while out. As with you guys, we are out fishing or exploring. In colder times, I bring a jetboil and some soup mix for lunch as well. They go in the day bags. When back in camp, each person puts their lunch stuff in the bearvaults.
 
andym
distinguished member(5125)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberpower member
 
08/05/2021 11:00PM  
Ockycamper, you definitely have food down for your groups. Some of the ideas might be adaptable for us. I could see hand carrying a canister with the rest in my pack.

We generally pack lunch for each day. It is either cheese or powdered hummus with bread. Early in the trips it is bread from the store. Later it is baked the night before. But on days we are moving, we often just snack on gorp through the day. It depends on who we are with. The friends who are great backpackers I mentioned above definitely prefer an actual lunch stop. The woman in that couple has great endurance but her body needs a real lunch or she crashes. Everyone is different.
 
AtwaterGA
distinguished member (220)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
 
08/07/2021 06:36AM  
We have used bear vaults for many years. With the covid restrictions we have not been able to trip in Quetico for two years. At age 76 we may not be going many more times. We have five bear vaults and still cannot get seven days food in them. We odor proof and hide the food that we can not get in five containers. That food is used first. Mark hiding spot with surveying flagging tape. Use duck tape and write on the tape to mark what is in each container. Will take shorter trips or buy more bear vaults for future trips.

 
GeneH
senior member (55)senior membersenior member
 
08/13/2021 03:17PM  
I just picked up an Ursack last year, and thinking of a small canister as backup + Ursack tied to a tree crotch for overflow, thinking we didn't have much of a problem here in MN. My premise was over-protected since I've never had a bear encounter or lost food to large or small animals. Now, not so much.

A quick google search of canister failures https://andrewskurka.com/bear-canister-failures/ was a little bit of an eye opener of reports around 2012 and 2013. Mostly I was looking to see if containers were being moved and lost by bears.


Sounds like it's time to get a small canister and if I need more food, prepare to hang my Ursack as if it's a regular bag, way high and away from the tree. Maybe use the canister in camp during meal and keep it closed except for the actual food I'm cooking at eating. Refil from the Ursack well away from camp as needed.

Any thoughts on this? I really have no experience with canisters or bears. Lucky most of my outings are not longer than 3 nights, so a small canister should work. Andrew Skurka Canister Reports
 
ockycamper
distinguished member(668)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
 
08/13/2021 03:33PM  
How many people go with you on your trips? I have been able to get breakfast and dinners for 6 men/5 days in four BV500's. We take dehydrated foods primarily like Camp Chow. We also bring pancake better, fish batter and mixes to bake with. The secret is getting rid of all the air in the packaging before you put it in the bear vault. If you really want to go max space savings, you can take your meals out of their packaging and vacuum seal them in new packages, then in the bear vault. This not only totally minimizes space needed, but gets rid of any odors as well.
 
GeneH
senior member (55)senior membersenior member
 
08/13/2021 04:07PM  
ockycamper: "How many people go with you on your trips? I have been able to get breakfast and dinners for 6 men/5 days in four BV500's....
Just me. I read your post a little earlier today - thanks for posting again as a good reminder. I just completed an order for a Bare Boxer. Small but I like the triple lock mechanism. The weight is a major consideration for backpacking.

If I did the math right, you're getting 93+ cu in (per person per day.
Using that, the BB will get me 91+ cu in liter per day. (.03 liter less) I expect longer trips to be canoe, and may have to suck it up and buy a second, larger container for those trips. Or maybe use my Ursack on a pretty good hang, if not to the full 10ft and if a bear destroys some of my food not all is lost. Presumably the bear won't get fed out of the Ursack.

I dunno. Speculating. Just picked up the Ursack last hear so that I didn't have to think about a hang.

ADDENDUM: LOL! Did anyone even read this? I had mistyped it as 93+ liter per day. Sheesh.
 
andym
distinguished member(5125)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberpower member
 
08/13/2021 10:45PM  
FYI, check the trip planning no forum for a thread about a change in the FS order to now allow pliable bear resistant things a.k.a. Ursacks.

Still appreciate everything I learned in this thread and may get a BV to diversify my food protection.
 
chessie
distinguished member (196)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
 
08/22/2021 09:35AM  
WE now do just this - all food in zip lock baggies, and inside bear canister. We just did 2 weeks in BW, and for the two of us, two bear vaults and one garcia cannister. Plenty of room. "Trash" goes into a large zip lock. As we ate the food down, we eventually could put part of our small cook kit into the space in a cannister. I put a small strip of reflective tape on either end of the garcia, as it's a black cannister, just in case someone carts it off and I am trying to find it with a flashlight. Putting your meals/food in zip locks is a good idea anyway as these cannisters are not water proof, as in, if you should swamp, they don't seal and could take in water. We were slow converts from my rope/pully/hanging system, but no regrets. Easy, less fuss, easier on the trees. Our food pack had the 2 bear vaults upright, and the garcia across the top with stove adjacent. Then, a crazy creek camp chair against the back for extra padding.
 
08/22/2021 10:51AM  
This is my kitchen and food for 10 day Quetico trip 2015 paddling solo but with friends.
I do have a second Ursack it has never been needed, if it was it would be my preference over canisters. A 10 liter 10 pound food pack for 10 days. This is easy to hang and would be my choice.

I could as easily done this with a canister. Repackage and know what you will consume. My personal approach is to use a pantry style instead of single packaged meals. I mix and match the needed/desired ingredients in camp more along the line of cooking in a home kitchen.


butthead
 
      Print Top Bottom Previous Next