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Backcountry Kitchen The Backcountry Kitchen forum is for the discussion of food and cooking gear related topics for backpacking trips (e.g. menus, recipes, stoves, fuel...).


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  #1  
Old 02-14-2013, 08:56 PM
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Forttom Forttom is offline
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Bear Can Fundamentals

I just found out that the region of a fall hike down the KY/TN version also known as the John Muir trail, requires the use of a Bear Can. Also the Daniel Boone National Forest, where I like to frequent, does too. I hadn't realized that our black bear population had reached that number to require one, but apparently it has.

In another thread, I was looking for a "light-er" weight large volume pack.
Now I find that I've got to use a Bear Can. It will have to be large enough to store approx. 20 FD meals, as well as other munchies and edibles.

Could some one educate me on the use of, size needed, and other particulars of using a Bear Can, how to pack it? Can I hang it off the bottom of my pack?

I guess the gist of what I'm asking here, is that I'm totally ignorant of the subject, never having had the need for one before.

Happy we got bears back, not so happy about another bulky thing to carry, and figure out how to choose wisely.

Thanks,

FT.
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Old 02-14-2013, 09:29 PM
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Grandpa Grandpa is offline
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I haven't had to use one yet but I know it's coming. There's a bunch of them on the market but I've been eyeing something from Bearikade. Theirs are the priciest I've seen but also the lightest. If needed, they make custom sizes and you can rent some of their standard ones.
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Old 02-14-2013, 09:44 PM
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Forttom Forttom is offline
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Whew! 300 bucks?, that's the cost of a top tear backpack....this is looking bad right from the start...

FT
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Old 02-14-2013, 09:51 PM
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Grandpa Grandpa is offline
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I thought you might get sticker shock. There's much cheaper (and as much heavier as they are cheaper) options out there.

I saw something a while back about a company trying to get one approved that I thought would be somewhere in the middle. Their design was a hemisphere with a lid. I can't remember who was coming out with it.
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  #6  
Old 02-16-2013, 11:41 PM
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big_load big_load is offline
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Bearikade rents canisters, too, so you don't need to suffer the full blow.
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Old 02-18-2013, 12:51 AM
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GGervin GGervin is offline
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Forttom, we just exchanged PM's on some of this, but I thought I'd share a little of what we talked about just in case others would benefit. I've found bear cans a vexing, hateful fascination, with some unconventional views on their use resulting.

First, yes, you can hang a bear can off the bottom of your pack. It takes either a bear can case made to take straps (like the Garcias have), or I think the Bear Vaults are designed for that without a case. Last trip into Yosemite, I met someone who had a BV500 strapped that way. But if you've got an internal frame pack, I really don't know how well the can carries there. I think inside is better than outside.

Here is my review of a small bear can. I go into a little detail about how I packed it for max efficiency. This can was designed for 3 days, and I got 5 days in it. I had to re-think everything, repackage everything, I went so far as to make my own bread. If you pull the same trick with a standard size bear can, it can substantially increase your range of travel.

The biggest problem with bear cans isn't the volume of the can, but the amount of space wasted by most backpacking meal packaging. In particular, those very common dehydrated Freezer Bag Cooking style commercial meals are very convenient and very easy to clean up after, but the extra packaging that allows FBC style cooking simply wastes too much volume you need devoted to food. With FBC meals, you literally carry some of your cooking gear (the extra plastic) in the bear can. The more meals you pack, the more "cooking gear" goes inside the can. Learn "dutch-oven" style re-hydrating instead. You repackage the commercial meal (or make your own dehydrated meal), and get rid of the plastic bag you usually cook in. You put the food in a plastic bowl with a tight lid, pour in boiling water, and set the bowl in a cozy and let it steep until done. The advantage is that the bowl and cozy aren't carried in the bear can. More bulk outside the bear can, but more room for food inside.

I met a ranger who said she used one of these small bear cans and got 5 days of food in it by eating a lot of oatmeal. She didn't repackage it, instead she sprinkled it all into the can after everything else went in. She literally filled all the empty spaces and solid-packed the can that way. Pure genius. The extreme end of this would be to eat only oatmeal. I bet a solid-packed bear can of nothing but oatmeal with no packaging would last a real long time. Maybe 20 days? Maybe so long, you'd never want to eat oatmeal again? But if it makes the trip doable...

My point is food choices and cooking style choices heavily impact how much you get in the can. (That's the unconventional part of my thinking - most people don't realize how cooking styles impact can use.)

I know you said this might or might not be of use to you, but thru-hikers regularly mail themselves food to be picked up at post offices near trail heads. It keeps you from trying to carry a month's worth of food, which is going to be a real big, heavy load. If possible, don't carry it all at once. For some, researching and using thru-hiker restocking techniques could cut down on bear can size.

A side note re: sticker shock: Bearikade not only makes an "Expedition" model, you can have them custom make whatever size you need. But... not all bear cans are created equal. Some are SIBBG approved (which means proof against black bears) and some are IGBC approved (proof against grizzlies) as well. I believe the Bearikade does not have IGBC approval. Also, historically, some cans have gotten SIBBG approval one year, and then had the approval revoked a year later - only to fix problems and have them re-approved the following year or so. The approval issue can vary from park to park and from year to year, so you pretty much have to check the list of approved cans for the specific area you're going into every year to know if your can is OK or not. I suspect most people think a bear can's a bear can and they all do the same thing. They don't. It's a real expensive surprise to find a custom made bear can that's allowed in Yosemite might not be allowed somewhere else. Do homework before buying.
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  #8  
Old 02-18-2013, 01:14 AM
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Forttom Forttom is offline
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Thank you. As far as the rating, we only have Black bears. I don't think I'll be travelling to Grizzly country anytime soon. This trail is to remote to stash food, you'd almost have to hike the whole 50 - 60 miles. I'll have to look some more, but I don't think it has access to any towns, just wooded parks, and an occasional farm or deep "country" house. I'm only shooting for 5 to 6 miles a day, as this trip has been described as "not for the faint hearted", meaning rough, and I'm getting older and will be doing this solo, so I'll probably take it very easy. Lot's of natural "death traps", along with a healthy dose of wild boar, and other things with teeth or fangs. So, I wanted to take food for 10 days. Others have hiked this trail, I'm going to call Fish and Game and see if they can tell me how it's done, and if there is, in fact, access to a small town with a post office, I can mail FD foods to.

Thanks for the education.

FT

Last edited by Forttom : 02-18-2013 at 01:16 AM.
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  #9  
Old 02-18-2013, 10:33 AM
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Grandpa Grandpa is offline
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GGervin,

Thank you for the info. It was very useful. I know I'm going to run into the bear can issue before too long and I need to be ready for it.
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Old 03-03-2013, 10:43 AM
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Benwaller Benwaller is offline
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Cans are necessary because bears can ride bicycles. Smart critters and pragmatic - your food is easier to get and higher in calories than the berries and whatever else these starving creatures otherwise have to find. And they learn this yogi practice from each other, actually.

So we are stuck with cans.

Which is good for the bears and not all that bad for us. For example, a Garcia, heavier than your sleep system likely, makes a decent camp stool. It also works well as a washing machine. Interesting fact is that the much-despised Garcia is not a cylinder, as it's circumference in the middle is greater than at the ends and so will not roll straight down the hill - it will turn into the hill and stop way sooner than any true cylinder, so you might actually find it eventually if, of course, you lay on a sufficient number of reflective tape strips to aid in such rescue.

I would rather not carry a can, but when I must I always look for the sunny side of the requirement. The way I see it hauling a can is a small contribution to the preservation of the wilderness areas that I value and to which I return frequently in pursuit of fundamental harmony with the cosmos.

The positive metaphysical benefits of hauling a bear can into the weeds.

Of course.

, Ben
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