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Boundary Waters Quetico Forum :: Gear Forum :: Can bears smell freeze-dried food?
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moose plums
01/21/2010 03:11PM
Smell or not, always secure is a good way to live.
05/13/2009 09:32PM
I don't know for sure but the meals are airtight so I don't think they would be able to smell them - same principle as the blue barrels many use. A few years ago I did find a pack back in the woods that had been torn apart. There were a lot of freeze dried packages around it but they could have been opened or stored with other food.
05/13/2009 10:40PM
American Bear Association

According to this they have a sense of smell 7 times greater than a bloodhound, which would be 2100 times better than our sense of smell.
I'm gonna say they could smell the residue on the outside of the packaging from when they filled the pouch with the food.
I know drug runners try to smuggle stuff in air tight sealed packages and the dogs have no problem sniffing that out.
01/21/2010 03:05PM
Not sure if they can smell freeze dried food in the package but they damn sure can smell MH chili mac after it has been eaten by me. No need to hang then, bear would not come with-in a 100 yards of the camp.
01/21/2010 04:02PM
quote snowman: " 7 times greater than a bloodhound...Why the heck doesn't the DEA have drug bears :) "

Think of the Pet Porter it would take to have "Drug Bears"
and what would happen when they let em out to sniff the car/person?
Remember what Smokey says: Only You can prevent forest fires.
05/16/2009 08:34PM
I wouldn't want to deal with that bear in the morning...
05/16/2009 08:02PM
You should assume on the side of caution.
05/16/2009 08:23PM
Bears can even smell what KIND of beer is inside a can:

U.S. CNN Offbeat News
Wednesday, August 18, 2004 Posted: 8:13 PM EDT (0013 GMT)

Bear guzzles 36 beers, passes out at campground

SEATTLE, Washington (Reuters) -- A black bear was found passed out at a campground in Washington state recently after guzzling down three dozen cans of a local beer, a campground worker said on Wednesday.
"We noticed a bear sleeping on the common lawn and wondered what was going on until we discovered that there were a lot of beer cans lying around," said Lisa Broxson, a worker at the Baker Lake Resort, 80 miles (129 km) northeast of Seattle.

The hard-drinking bear, estimated to be about two years old, broke into campers' coolers and, using his claws and teeth to open the cans, swilled down the suds.

It turns out the bear was a bit of a beer sophisticate. He tried a mass-market Busch beer, but switched to Rainier Beer, a local ale, and stuck with it for his drinking binge.

Wildlife agents chased the bear away, but it returned the next day, said Broxson.

They set a trap using as bait some doughnuts, honey and two cans of Rainier Beer. It worked, and the bear was captured for relocation.

05/17/2009 01:01PM
Ok, I'll bite.....

How does one test an animal's sense of smell?

Does it matter if they have a cold?

05/16/2009 06:45PM
Don't know what this has to do with black bears, but polar bears are able to smell what's inside of a can...I read an account where a couple of them broke into a shack in the arctic circle and tore apart all of the canned goods with the exception of sour kraut, which they left alone.
05/16/2009 11:26PM
incredible sense of smell, not to be underestimated.
05/16/2009 07:16AM
01/17/2010 12:53AM
I've wondered about bears and freeze-dried food, too. If bears don't like the way humans smell, how about bringing a really stinky, sweaty t-shirt and wrapping the food in that?
01/16/2010 11:36PM
Not to revive a dead thread....but...

A few years back I was truck camping (sleeping in capped bed of truck) and could not for the life of me figure out how one of my freeze-dried pro-pack freeze-dried bags un-vacuumed itself. A day or two went by and I found the culprit to be a mouse after finding the chew-hole and mess. Nothing else got chewed.

If a two-bit lousy mouse can smell it through the packaging a bear sure can.

Took me multiple re-packs and two months to catch that blasted mouse.
01/16/2010 11:41PM
i think mice can read english. :)
01/17/2010 08:17AM
tg and tgb and cowdoc.........why risk it? Assume that the bears CAN.I like that too, Silverback. :)
01/17/2010 07:31PM
quote Koda: "I've wondered about bears and freeze-dried food, too. If bears don't like the way humans smell, how about bringing a really stinky, sweaty t-shirt and wrapping the food in that?"

Leaving a sweaty shirt at the base of a tree is exactly what they do when packing out large game in multiple trips out west to keep the predators away.
01/18/2010 04:21AM

01/18/2010 06:16AM
quote mjmkjun: "
word "

This from the guy that is seen on film touching an adult Grizzly on the nose and was eventually eaten by one after living among them. 100 yards, huh Timmy?
05/15/2009 05:04PM
I presume a bear can smell anything, they can smell a brop of blood in the water.
05/14/2009 11:07PM
I guess I wanted to hear whether or not you guys believe him, either. I also thought that maybe someone had some personal experience with losing freeze-dried food to bears. I trust the collective experience and judgement of this messageboard more than I do that of a single salesman.
05/14/2009 11:38PM
don't trust bears or salesman if i bring freeze-dried it gets the same treatment as any other food-bear vault or hung
05/15/2009 02:26AM
I buy freeze-dried and dehydrated ingredients from various sourcesand then we mix up the meals ourselves. That way we get to do our own recipes (if one can call making it up as you go a recipe), spice them the way we like it, and then vacuum seal them. A lot of people here dehydrate their own but we live near the ocean and it seems to be too humid.

For sources: is currently high on my list, looks like a new possibility I heard about here also get ingredients at Asian groceries, the local natural grocery, and Trader Joes.

Back to the thread at hand: we've had many discussions of how to store food in the BWCA. The common thread among the disparate measures is to keep the odor down. To me, that means seal and double seal. So, I would still put sealed food pouches in another odor liner.

My other personal feeling is to not put all my eggs (even if powdered) in one basket.

I thought about what it would take to do a good test of this and it is hard. To test the bear resistant barrels and Ursacks they use problem bears that have been relocated to zoos but they put really smelly stuff in the containers to get the bears to try and break in. If you just threw a package in a bear's cage in a zoo they would probably check it out whether it smelled or not. So, maybe if they threw in a bunch and only some of them contained food then that might be a good controlled experiment.
05/15/2009 08:44PM
tbg makes a great point about habituated bears!
05/14/2009 10:33PM
Unless there has been extensive controlled testing done (which I doubt) the only one who could give you a definitive answear is a bear. If you didn't believe the speaker at REI, what did you think you would get for an answer here?

Andym; how do you make your own freeze-dried food?

05/15/2009 08:28PM
Whether bears can smell or not smell freeze-dried food is a moot point. Consider bear behavior when they investigate a campsite. Many on this site have no doubt read of instances where a bear came into camp and wreaked havoc on food and non-food items. A habituated bear associates humans with food, and will investigate all items as potential food. Fuel bottles have been bitten and punctured in the quest for vittles. Unprotected freeze-dried packets would certainly not survive the bite-and-taste test, if you were unlucky enough to have a visit from Yogi and Boo Boo.
05/14/2009 11:57AM
drnatus: LOL!! You made my day!!!
05/14/2009 01:26PM
Can they smell fresh meat? What are we made out of anyway?

05/14/2009 07:07AM
If their sense of smell is that good, nothing is safe. Everything I take has probably touched food or at least been touched by hands that have touched food at some time. I am no going to have to hang every single thing I take!! This is going to be a lot of work.
05/15/2009 09:16PM
I also agree with TBG. I have a funny feeling that if you happen to have a problem, that REI speaker isn't going to be around for you to say " told you so". Hang it or barrel it.
05/15/2009 10:08PM
Exactly I said...they will smell it right after they bite a hole in the package! Hang it or vault it!
05/14/2009 09:24AM
Why not just ask'em next time you see one?
05/14/2009 09:54AM
7 times greater than a bloodhound...Why the heck doesn't the DEA have drug bears :)
05/14/2009 11:50AM
So can they smell the food you just ate for dinner? Do we have to hang ourselves in the tree next to the bear bag??? I might have to rethink my trip!:)
05/14/2009 10:32AM
They just assume pay for the 7 X-tra Bloodhounds
05/13/2009 08:47PM
I don't know for sure, but I've always operated under the assumption that they cannot. I don't put the vacuum packed freeze dried food in the back that I bear proof/hang/ground. Never had a problem, but never had a bear in camp either.
05/13/2009 09:12PM
Do chickens have beaks?
05/13/2009 09:59PM
Yes....right after they bite a hole in the package.
05/13/2009 10:22PM
They can smell beer through a can...
05/13/2009 07:59PM
A speaker at the REI in St. Louis just swore up and down to my buddy that, since bears cannot smell freeze-dried food through an unopened package, there is no need to pack it into a bear barrel. Can this be true? This might allow us to travel with just one barrel instead of two, but I'm thinking that a bear's sense of smell is much stronger than this guy realizes.

Pack the freeze-dried meals in a barrel or not?
05/14/2009 07:16PM
You mention bear barrels so I figure you may not be into hanging food or just want to save on the weight. I agree. You might look at for a lighter alternative. Or even just use their large odor liners to further cut down on any possible trace odor before hiding the freeze-dried food.

We mix our own freeze-dried meals and so I assume there can be a residual smell on the outside. Some people do wash the vacuum sealed bags once they are done. You could also do that with store bought meals.
05/13/2009 08:33PM
I love that saying.
Arkansas Man
05/14/2009 05:20PM
Tis always better to be safe and fed... than assuming and hungry!! Take the extra precaution and hang, hide, or barrel it!

05/13/2009 10:24PM
how about this for appropriate saying:

Do Bears shit in the woods?
05/13/2009 08:28PM
An old Indian guide once told me,"A pine needle falls in the forest, the eagle saw it, the deer heard it, and the bear smelled it"
05/14/2009 05:02PM
Hang that which you care not to lose. Dried or not.
05/14/2009 06:52PM
neverfales, sorry if I was one who contributed to the hijacking.

The only way I can see a definitive answer coming your way would be to contact the companies who make the food and see if they have tested it. You will likely get a "no" or a lawyer driven answer and still be left to make your own best decision. I think that if there was someone with a definitive answer they would have given it. In the end, I believe, it will boil down to how much risk are you willling to personally take.

P.S. I'm still not going to hang myself in the tree! :)
05/14/2009 04:28PM
This was one post I was really hoping wouldn't get hijacked! I actually needed some answers.
01/18/2010 06:58AM
agreed, gutmon. one chance too many. still, good advice on containment of foods--as well as what's read in this thread.
01/19/2010 09:48PM
I have had bears take 3 food packs, and then never ate the FD food, just bit into it and left it. Even bit into FD hamburger, but also green beans. I think it tastes like cardboard to them, not food. They sure like raisins, though, and then they get diarrhea from them. I now use the barrels for all food, and have never had them tested by the bears.

Grandma L
01/20/2010 03:38PM
For pete sakes, who cares what they can smell or have to bite to find. I don't want them in my food or stuff or anything. Hang or barrel - prevention all the way.
01/21/2010 02:28AM
When in doubt secure it. I even hang my oderless deoderant.