Bear Food Storage - Hang or Canister?

If backpacking in a place with active bears but no regulations, hang food or pack bear canister?

  • Hang it

    Votes: 22 68.8%
  • Pack the canister

    Votes: 6 18.8%
  • Purple!!!

    Votes: 4 12.5%

  • Total voters
    32

Nick

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Joined
Aug 9, 2007
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If you're backpacking somewhere like the Wind Rivers that doesn't require bear canisters but you had one to use, would you pack the extra 2.5 pounds to use the canister or would you hang your food?

Hanging Pros:
Much lighter!

Hanging Cons:
More difficult
Makes food hard to get at until you go untie it all
Potential to get wet in storms
Can't hang if you're above tree line

Canister Pros:
Super easy to put away food for the night
Nice little stool if you have a narrow butt
Nothing gets wet if it rains
Useful above tree line

Canister Cons:
Huge and heavy!
 
I'll address each of your points individually:


Hanging Pros:
Much lighter! - True

Hanging Cons:
More difficult - But not really that difficult.
Makes food hard to get at until you go untie it all - Not a big deal, just hang it at bed time and retrieve it at breakfast.
Potential to get wet in storms - Dry bag. :)
Can't hang if you're above tree line - Probably not bear country, then. :)

Canister Pros:
Super easy to put away food for the night - True
Nice little stool if you have a narrow butt - Most don't, including myself. :)
Nothing gets wet if it rains - Dry bag negates this if hanging.
Useful above tree line - Just dead-weight, then. :D

Canister Cons:
Huge and heavy! - True


I only took bear precautions once, and that was with @pixie1339 in Amethyst Basin. I simply don't worry about it too much when hanging out at 11,000'+, but if I was worried, I'd just use a dry bag and hang it. It's not too much hassle and worth the weight savings.
 
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Haha! Nice!

I'm on the same page, however I'm not sure of a couple things.

More difficult - But not really that difficult.

You clearly were not drunk enough. Me and @Ndheiner barely found our way back to camp once in the Winds last year! Only after stumbling through the woods for a while and eventually ending up BACK at the bags we had hung did we realize we were not headed in the right direction! :D

Makes food hard to get at until you go untie it all - Not a big deal, just hang it at bed time and retrieve it at breakfast.

No midnight snacks? What if it's raining in the morning?!???!

Can't hang if you're above tree line - Probably not bear country, then. :)

Probably, but I'm not totally sure. I know in the Uintas they aren't an issue above 9500' or so but I swear I've seen more than a few clips on the Discover Channel of big bears lumbering around above tree line. Anyone else know on this?

Nice little stool if you have a narrow butt - Most don't, including myself. :)

Maybe I need two canisters? One for each cheek? :)

I only took bear precautions once, and that was with @pixie1339 in Amethyst Basin. I simply don't worry about it too much when hanging out at 11,000'+, but if I was worried, I'd just use a dry bag and hang it. It's not too much hassle and worth the weight savings.

Totally with you on the Uintas. Just not so sure about some other areas. I think they actually cite the lack of trees to hang on as a reason for bear canisters being required in some areas like the Tetons. They might be being over cautious though, not sure.
 
You clearly were not drunk enough. Me and @Ndheiner barely found our way back to camp once in the Winds last year! Only after stumbling through the woods for a while and eventually ending up BACK at the bags we had hung did we realize we were not headed in the right direction! :D

Sometime around a campfire I'll tell you about the story of Chris and me stumbling around Keg Knoll, afraid to go back to our own camp because we thought it was somebody else's. :D (I guess I just did kinda tell the story.)

The rule should probably be: better safe than sorry. I don't worry about it much in the Uintas because I figure there is almost always a dirtier camp around than mine for a bear to go sniffing around at. However, I never sweat it over a couple of extra pounds or extra effort, 'cause I figure I need the exercise. :roflmao:
 
If I can hang my food, I'm more inclined to do so than to carry the extra weight of a bear canister. Hanging food isn't so bad if you can throw a rock over a branch. I've had varying degrees of success in that department, but always manage eventually.;) Like @Udink mentioned, I dry bag my food so I don't need to worry about the rain. I always hang my food when backpacking in the mountains. Better to be safe than sorry in my opinion. I did purchase a bear canister this year because there are places I want to go where a bear canister would be the better option (Tetons, Winds, etc.) I know I mentioned in a previous post that I thought the solo size Bear Vault would be a better choice, but after buying both and testing them out, I kept the larger one.
 
...I want to go where a bear canister would be the better option (Tetons, Winds, etc.) .

I've always hung my food in the Winds and never had a problem. There is always a tall tree easily found to hang your food from (unless your camping above treeline).
 
I've always hung my food in the Winds and never had a problem. There is always a tall tree easily found to hang your food from (unless your camping above treeline).

I guess I should have specified some parts of the Winds. I read a trip report from someone visiting Titcomb Basin a couple years ago and it sounded like the bear canister came in handy because there are areas above treeline there.
 
I'm Team Canister.
I always take a canister. It's easier to hide, but not easier to pack. We've ultralighted and used a garcia can for a weeks worth of food. We did have to use a little ingenuity :), but it all fit. I've even taken two for a really long, not-so-ultralight trek to accommodate a week and a half of food. It comes in handy more as a table than a seat, especially because we have some big agnes pack chairs. And it's a good place to put contained garbage rather than some random spot in the pack.

Bear Country.
The Uintas might be different but it is still bear country, may be black bear country, but nonetheless, bear country. That means a clean camp. A bear follows their nose, not the dirtiest camp even though @Udink makes a good point and I've heard of the dirty camps getting the "best" bears. Still, a clean camp is the best way. The times I've been in the Uintas I've never found a tree that was, 10' off the ground and 8' out from the trunk. Isn't that what it should be?
Different areas have different bears. Alaska is in a class all its own. Montana and Yellowstone are Griz/Black bear area. Further south it's just Black bear. See Griz country below.

Easier.
Yosemite requires canisters for a few reasons. They're fool proof...you can be as drunk as you want ;). It prevents tree damage from over use. And the bears in the central sierras recognize tree hangs and can get them down. I've had my canister kicked around a few times and I've been glad each time.

Treeline.
Treeline doesn't matter. Bears will go wherever they smell, or have previously found, food. The bulk of the John Muir Trail is above treeline where a canister is truly the only option. Watch the mountains episode of Planet Earth and they showcase Griz hunting moths well above treeline.

Griz Country.
Glacier and Yellowstone have specific camps set up to do bear hangs. There is is regulated as such. The food hangs and kitchens are designated a certain distance from the tent sites to protect all people. Only in these areas have I found it useful to use the hangs, mainly because they have built food hangs to a specific height and width to keep bears away. There they also recommend, if not require, that the clothes you EAT in you leave with the food to prevent bears from sniffing around a clean camp. More and more Griz move further south into the Winds every year. We should treat all the winds as Griz country and if a hang isn't adequate, use a canister.

Practice safe whatever you choose and read up on the local requirements/regulations. I'll have to post a TR of my first trip to Yosemite and our endeavors to "see" bears. Let's just say I'm glad my friend had insurance :D! I'm team canister, the bigger the better.
Nice topic @Nick, I always enjoy a good discussion.

Salud, amigos!
 
Great post, @TannerT ! On the last night of our trip to the Winds this past week, we camped just above treeline in the Cirque. We ended up finding a funky overhanging tree up against a giant boulder that enabled a suitable hang, but it really made me think more about the canister as there really wasn't anywhere else around that would have worked. It's pretty obvious that a bear would have no problem wander the 1/2 mile up from forest in such a busy area where I'm sure they've found plenty of messy camps to pick through.
 
...Watch the mountains episode of Planet Earth and they showcase Griz hunting moths well above treeline.

For whatever it's worth...

I've seen black bears doing the exact same thing (grubbing moth in the talus) well above tree line in the La Sal's.

- DAA
 
I guess I should have specified some parts of the Winds. I read a trip report from someone visiting Titcomb Basin a couple years ago and it sounded like the bear canister came in handy because there are areas above treeline there.
There's only small shrub trees in Titcomb so if you're camping there I'd recommend the bear canister.
 
I just growl at any bear that comes my way... haven't been attacked yet! (Might have something to do with not being in bear country, ever)
 
I carry a bear canister when I'm in grizzly country. I don't carry the canister in Yellowstone since they have the poles. I usually hang my food in the Uintas, but I figure that I can take most any black bear I might run into in the Uintas, so I don't worry about it too much if I can't find a good tree :)

I almost never hang food when I backpack in the Appalachians...the bears are just usually so small that they're pretty scared of people. I would hang in the Smoky Mountain National Park, though, because the bears are so numerous.

So, bottom line: I carry the canister in grizzly country and I almost always hang everywhere else.
 
So, bottom line: I carry the canister in grizzly country and I almost always hang everywhere else.

Do you consider the Winds to be Grizzly country? I know the north end has had them for a while but now with them being spotted in the south, I'm curious how everyone approaches that range.
 
Do you consider the Winds to be Grizzly country? I know the north end has had them for a while but now with them being spotted in the south, I'm curious how everyone approaches that range.

Well, I didn't take the canister this past weekend when I was starting from Green River Lakes. But if I were starting closer to Dubois, I would probably take the canister. And if I had a bigger canister, I might have taken it when starting from Green River Lakes. I don't think I would take it if only hiking south of Elkhart Park, though.

I know this isn't necessarily the right answer...and this is not the advice I would give to other people...but when I read that there are only an estimated 600 grizzlies in the Greater Yellowstone Area, and I read that grizzlies are starting to turn up in the northern Winds, I'm really not that concerned about the odds of having a dangerous grizzly encounter in the Winds.
 
Well, I didn't take the canister this past weekend when I was starting from Green River Lakes. But if I were starting closer to Dubois, I would probably take the canister. And if I had a bigger canister, I might have taken it when starting from Green River Lakes. I don't think I would take it if only hiking south of Elkhart Park, though.

I know this isn't necessarily the right answer...and this is not the advice I would give to other people...but when I read that there are only an estimated 600 grizzlies in the Greater Yellowstone Area, and I read that grizzlies are starting to turn up in the northern Winds, I'm really not that concerned about the odds of having a dangerous grizzly encounter in the Winds.
They closed the Green River Lakes campground and any camping within 5 miles 3 years ago as a precaution because of all the Grizzlies.

They have also been spotted near Big Sandy and on the west side near Lander along the Popo Agie Falls trail.
 
They closed the Green River Lakes campground and any camping within 5 miles 3 years ago as a precaution because of all the Grizzlies.

They have also been spotted near Big Sandy and on the west side near Lander along the Popo Agie Falls trail.

Yeah, I was there when they had it closed, and that's why I might have taken a canister this past weekend if I had a bigger one. But I talked to some guy working there at the campground when they had it closed and he said he couldn't understand what the big deal was about because he hadn't seen any bears.

When I was out there when they had it closed, I was more afraid of the crazy mosquitoes that year than I was of a wandering grizzly :)
 
And sometimes a bear canister is just not enough. Here's a campsite I had in the backcountry of the Weminuche (oops!) Washakie Wilderness:

DSC04842.jpg

And before anyone says anything...the Wal-mart tent is not mine...but the bear fence is :)
 
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