There is a lot of controversy about food storage, but I think everyone will agree, our responsibility when visiting the wilderness is to keep bears wild and fearful of humans by not sharing or introducing them to human food.
What Should be Contained?
All food, trash, toiletries, and other scented items including sealed or packaged food, sunscreen, soap, mosquito repellent, lip balm, deodorant, medications, and feminine products. As a general rule, if you put it in your mouth or on your skin, it should probably be protected from bears.
How to Keep Yogi out of our Food?
Suspend a Bag from a Tree
This method is not acceptable in some areas (i.e. Yosemite) and is ineffective if done incorrectly. It is probably the most common, certainly the least expensive and the most entertaining.
Bear Proof Canister/Vault
Yes, these hard plastic canisters are heavy and awkward to store in your pack, but they are required in some areas and as a benefit make a great stool in camp. Rental options are available. Not all Bear Resistant Canisters are approved devices. Check with the National Park and Wilderness areas you plan to visit.
Ursack Bear-Resistant Bag
This is my favorite option, although not yet approved in areas such as Yosemite. When not required to carry a canister, this is a much lighter weight option that provides protection from both rodents and bears while also eliminating the problem with hanging. It’s important that you learn how to tie the knots, but in my opinion a much simpler solution. I do not use the optional aluminum frame. The Ursack should be used in conjunction with a scent-free bag (see below).
Bear Boxes / Food Lockers
Even in the back country, bear boxes are occasionally available.
The Opsak help keep your backpack odor free and add one more layer of protection. I use these bags inside my Ursack, as recommended.
Scent-free sleeping area
- Clever Hiker Blog – Bear Bagging Gone Wrong
- Hanging A Bear Bag—The PCT Method
- Section Hiker – How to Hang a Bear Bag
- Bear Canister Rentals – Wild Ideas
- Section Hiker – Keeping Bears Wild
- Andrew Skurka – Bear Canister Shopping Guide – Buy vs Rent?