where store pack/gear during night in bear country?

6:59 p.m. on April 20, 2011 (EDT)
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backpack beginner's questions:

In bear and marmot country like SEKI, Yosemite, I understand that any food, waste, personnal product that smells, etc must be in a bear canister that is put away from the tent, but where must we leave the backpack...!?? In the tent (to protect if from of rain or to prevent to be chewed by small critters?... or away from the tent in case it would carrie some odors but exposed to rain?

Similarly, where should we store the cooking gear?


7:46 p.m. on April 20, 2011 (EDT)
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If there is lots of extra room in the tent, then that is my preferred location.  If I'm backpacking any reasonable distance though, I'll usually share a 2 man tent with another person and won't have that kind of room.  The second choice is under the vestibule of you're tent.  If the tent doesnt have a vestibule, then just throw a rain cover or trash bag over the pack and call it good.  Obviously store you're food at least 100 yards away and preferably downind.

If the bear canister was attached to the outside of the pack I can't see there being enough oder transfer to cause a huge problem, unless you have something that really smells in there. 


Maybe in highly traveled areas like Yosemite where many animial associate packs with food it is more of an issue but I've never had a problem with anything being attracted to any residual odor transfer from the bear canister to the outside of the pack.

1:52 a.m. on April 21, 2011 (EDT)
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Mine is pretty much empty anytime that I stop someplace longer than just to sleep for the night so I leave it out under a tree. Most all of my gear gets used and kept near the pack and any change of cloths I have is in the tent to make a pillow with. One thing that I've always heard and make a point to do myself is leave all of the zippers open so that if something does want to check out the insides because of residual smells they can. Several times I've seen packs that have had holes ate into them by mice and marmots to get inside. I once saw a waist belt that had been chewed on I assume for the salt build-up.

2:55 a.m. on April 21, 2011 (EDT)
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Bears, especially in the Sierra, are very savvy as to what is food and what isn't.   Some of the smaller varmints are not.  All the smelly stuff and food (garbage too), go into the canister.  In much of the NP in the Sierra the hang method is not allowed.  The bears have figured it out.  Unless there is food in the pack, I've never heard of packs being destroyed by bears.  By rodents, yes. 

When you leave your pack unattended, you should unzip all the pockets and provide easy access to the very curious.  If they want into your pack they will find a way.

If you need to keep your pack from the elements carry a pack cover or put a waterproof parka over it, while you are in the tent and don't need it.  I've used my tent's footprint as a pack cover at times when I'm away and I expect it to rain later in the day.  I don't set my tent up during the day, usually.

Cooking gear is probably not at risk if you keep a clean camp.

Your canister could be at risk.  Don't tie it to a tree as it gives a persistent bear some leverage.  Best not to leave it too close to water or in a place that will allow it to roll down hill if the bear wants to play with it using it as a rugby ball.  I have mine wrapped with reflective tape in case I have to go looking for it at night.  It also doubles as a good marker when I'm coming back to camp late.

The bears won't hijack you on the trail for food.  However unattended packs are fair game. A hiker left his day pack on a rock to step a few paces away to take a better picture.  In the time that I looked away to get the photographer's attention the pack disappeared.  I was amazed that I didn't see the animal ... it was only a moment.

10:10 a.m. on April 21, 2011 (EDT)
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In what should the cooking gear be packed in the backpack?  Does it have to be in a airtight bag of some sort?

Where should it be stored at night? Near the bear canister?

How safe/maniac one should be with garbage and crumbles while hiking?  Should he not temporaly put the granola bar wrapper in a side pocket of the backpack or in his pants' pocket, but stop and put it in his garbage bag inside the bear canister?


6:06 p.m. on April 21, 2011 (EDT)
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guyd, I have always just keep the pot, stove, cup together and put them someplace convenient in the back pack. It depends if it is the last of first thing out of the pack when we stop for the day (or for lunch).  For two of us (or solo), a quart (or so pot) forms the foundation of the kit:


You certainly don't need titanium, but it was a present (don't forget the hints to well heeled relatives and friends).  A small canister of gas fuel, and Pocket Rocket or Snow Peak fits inside with a lighter and a pot grabber.  A couple of cups and spoons and we are ready to go. We still have and use the decades old nesting aluminum set. My wife luxuriates in an old aluminum pot (maybe 3 cup size) with a lid that she claims boils better water for tea.  Our old plastic cups nest together and have a measured cup mark scratched on the inside and fit inside her fav pot.   We used to have a cozy bag that kept them from messing up the inside of the pack and rattling around and it doubled as a pot holder.  We gave that up when we could not longer use wood fires.  My wife carries the pots and pans.  I always know where she is.  Much better than bear bells.  As we churn our way through the bear canister, and as room becomes available, the cook kit goes in the canister.  Only because it takes up less pack volume there and is where you will need it.

The cook kit goes near a flat rock convenient to the 'camp' when we unpack for the day and stays there until we leave.  It is convenient in case visitors drop in for an impromptu chat, tea and cocoa.  For all these years we have never known (suspected maybe but not sure) to have had an intruder checking it out for smells.  We wash things up every night and leave them out in the open to air dry.  The bear canister we usually keep close to camp in the Sierra (not elsewhere) in full view.  It appears to be a deterrent to the smart ones that know not to waste time on it.

If we go on winter (or on longer trips) we upgrade to a larger pot (if we need to melt snow), MSR Dragonfly, and a couple of jugs of liquid fuel.  Under some duress we will take other cooking utensils such as a small fry pan combination with a small oven.  But that is grandiose.  Usually we are too tired or distracted to go look around to do a lot of cooking.  Besides my job is clean up.  We normally have a hot lunch and a good relaxing rest.

You won't be molested by a bear on the trail anymore than you will by the Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders.  In my case, for either, I don't have anything they want or would go out of their way for.  While on the trail, pack the trail snacks in a convenient place so you can get to them.  A shirt pocket or a side pocket on the pack or inside if you need to carry them there. My shirt pocket is usually full of all kinds of edibles.  I'm sure the shirt smells good to a critter but haven't had it carried off or chewed upon - ever.  I'd suggest you maintain better habits, however.  We pack all the debris along with all the other garbage we collect in a stuff sack - for convenience a RED one-  for the bear can at night.  I won't pick up discarded tissues on the trail, however.

We generally keep things well organized and protected.  In the northwest it is the jays you have to wary of.  They will take on anybody and thing for a free meal.  If a bear is in the area - you can usually hear the whooping and hollering from other camps if you are on a popular trail -, we are a bit more cautious.  We've never had to discuss a meal with a bear.  While fishing I've had to back away from my catch when approached by a black bear.  I report those incidents to whomever is controlling the area.  Some will argue over whose catch it is and will be injured.

Bears (and some humans), normally shy creatures,  take advantage of opportunities. An unattended day pack on the trail, or a cooler in a car camp,  is considered an opportunity. It is so rare that a bear (N. American black bear) attacks a human without provocation that it makes worldwide news.  If you leave the stuff they are looking for (food) un-protected, they assume it has been abandoned and is their's.  Don't try to take it back, because once they have it, it IS theirs.  No question about it.

There used to be a suggestion that you set up camp on one end of a triagle with 100' on a side.  You sleep at one point, you cook at another and you store food in the third.   That seems to be very conservative and over reacting with black bears in N. America.  Our usual "triangle" might have 10' sides.

If you are in grizzly country (only a few places in the lower 49) most of above applies but you have additional true risks and concerns you should be aware of.  Ask the people in the area and try to sort out the legends from the real facts.

7:53 p.m. on April 21, 2011 (EDT)
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"Bear Country" is everywhere in BC and we have both Black Bears, a dangerous but usually mild-mannered animal and lots of Grizzlies, among the most dangerous land animals on the planet. So, since "food" smells WILL attract bears and they WILL attack and sometimes without seeming provocation, I have a simple procedure of dealing with my pack, etc.

After, I eat, I hang my pack in a tree, with EVERYTHING in it, except water bottle, flashlight and shelter-sleeping gear. I sometimes do this with a "hanging pole" made from a small tree and sometimes over a branch. I am really concerned with making certain the bear will not come into my sleeping space and once he is investigating my pack, I will be alarmed and can deal with him as circumstances indicate.

I NEVER take food into ANY of my tents and will not cook in one; the experience of an encounter with a mature Grizzly in your camp only a few yards away, will teach you this, if nothing else does. I keep one specific tent, my Integral Designs MKI-XL-yellow for winter camping and will eat and so forth in it and ONLY in it.

My two other ID tents and my two Hillebergs NEVER have food, hygiene products or anything except me, maybe a gun if I am using one on that trip and a light, book and sleeping gear in them and NEVER will.

In over 50 years of intense BC, Alberta and Territories outdoor experience, using this approach as taught to me by oldtime mountain men who started in the bush here before WWI, I have never had a problem with a bear and I have seen many of them....I honestly adore bears, always have, love to hunt them, never shoot one and I NEVER trust one!



2:51 p.m. on April 22, 2011 (EDT)
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My personal suggestions, note to you; that have always worked for me.

Note to self; where is that big lump of wood that I can now go and rub.

- Cooking/preparing a meal, do this no less than 100ft+ away from tent/camp and preferably downwind.  I have heard of some people cooking, then hiking 1/2 to 1hr before setting up camp.

-  storage; all cooking equip., food/scraps, trash(store it) and any thing that may have come in contact with food in a "Bear Container" or similar - (my preference, a waterproof/airtight bag, (e.g "Watershed" of "Wolfman" duffel, this stays as food stuff bag from beginning to end of trip).

Even possibly store/hoist food preparation clothing but store this in a separate bag and use again when cooking. (note, when cooking sit up wind of fire/stove and its' smoke/steam). If possible rinse out (maybe wash), then dry overnight the food preparation clothing so fresher for wearing the next day as day clothing and therefore have a different/clean/dry set of clothing for night/sleeping.

- Hoisting; go slightly downwind of camp, e.g. 100ft+ (similar or same as cooking area) to find a suitable and preferably double tree hoisting location.  Hoist bag/s (get rain covers if you are worried about them getting wet), so that they are no less than15ft off the ground and hoisted in mid air, i.e. away from either trees branches.







4:27 p.m. on April 22, 2011 (EDT)
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That is a lot of trouble, but, if you have ever stood, alone, within 10 yds. of a Grizzly, unarmed and far from any possible help or rescue for even a few minutes, you will consider Callahan's ideas to be damn good ones as I do...BTDT.

11:49 a.m. on April 23, 2011 (EDT)
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Would someone know if an asthma pump is an hazard if kept into the tent (for possible night use)?

I've read 'Try to avoid using bug repellent after 4PM'... Isn't the time when you start needing it ?!?  Does it mean that you must wash before entering the tent?

If the cooking is only boiling water to rehydrate a meal, is the smell of the meal really that going into your clothes??

12:35 p.m. on April 24, 2011 (EDT)
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I'd guess an asthma prescription in the tent would be an acceptable low risk.

Not sure DEET is an attractant at all, except to communicate that there are humans near.  Always good to let them know you are around anyway.  You can wear a hooded jacked, long pants, thicker socks, gloves and a head net and still be comfortable without bug repellent.

Unless you are a very, very sloppy eater, I don't think your clothes will be a concern.  Especially if you are wearing them. 

I've been hiking with a few who didn't go near water except to drink for a 10 day trip.  You can imagine their other habits as well.  They haven't ended up bear bait yet.

Keep a relatively clean camp, lock up your food in a safe place (personal bear canister, the BIG bear boxes on some trails, hang - when allowed); don't try to approach a bear to get the two of you in the same picture; don't try to save your food once they have it; don't injure the bear when you are trying to discourage it from hanging around - throw rocks toward it and not at it.  Those rocks hurt it as much as it hurts you and you would not want an upset bear within a mile of you.

Each year hundreds of thousands get out there amongst mosquitoes, centipedes, scorpions, desert fox,  rattle snakes, rabid bats, bears, lions, and things that go bump in the night and return unscathed except for a few blisters and a sunburn.   They hardly give a nod at the most dangerous of them all - us. 

Almost every bear encounter is a photo op.  Just keep your distance as I'm sure it will from you and enjoy seeing nature the way it was designed to be enjoyed.

You haven't met trouble in the wilds, until you have come across a family of hungry raccoons.  Not many of those in the Sierra, however.

5:39 p.m. on April 24, 2011 (EDT)
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In addition to all the helpful advice above, you may want to read the following article on the site:

Hiking and Camping Safely in Bear Country.

June 22, 2018
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