Bear Cannisters and Kayaks

I’m contemplating a kayak camping trip in bear country. I looked on line at various bear cannisters but wonder how easily, it at all, they’ll fit in my hatches. (I guess I need to go to the garage and measure them as a first step.) Why didn’t I check out the Ursack at Canoecopia? My question(s), what have other kayakers used? If they don’t fit in the hatch, do you lash them on top and what are the pros/cons and tips for doing that best. I also assume leaving the canister in or on the boat is a no-no when you make camp. Right?

Yeah, you don’t want anything that
might make a bear think of food to be inside your kayak. Bear might tear boat open. I think the bear cans will fit your hatches, though they won’t make for very space-efficient packing. Let us know what your measurements show.

Oh, if you aren’t long-of-leg like me, you might be able to rig a way to tie your bear cans between the end of your footbraces and your bulkhead. If you’re real lucky, you might find a way to attach them to the footbraces so that when you want them out of the boat, you just slide the footbraces back so you can reach the cans.

Don’t say I never offered you a stupid idea.


Very interesting. I hope Ursack gets
a fair evaluation. The business of hiker-campers not using various containers correctly was somewhat mysterious.

hang it
do a bear hang. canisters are nice, but carry some line and carbiners (nice to have for emergencies anyhow) and hang, it the landscape allows…


Might not have trees
I haven’t chosen my exact destination yet, but I wanted to be prepared in case there were no “convenient” trees.

So how do you know

– Last Updated: Mar-23-09 11:29 PM EST –

there will be bear problems?

addendum: Just been looking at "bear proof" containers. HA! I'd be hard pressed to get my dinner in one, these things are small. Guess it would be OK if you are one of those folks who use that dehydrated stuff. (Don't think bears would be interested in that stuff anyway :) I like to eat well on my trips and pack accordingly. I'll just stick with my big old dry bag (25L) and hang it over a high limb.

Its best to assume there will be
a problem and not in any case to contrbute to one starting.Keeping a camp odor free and clean is a key step.

Hanging food is not necessary. Bears can climb trees better than we can and in some areas have developed a knack for travelling along ropes. Most likely if you find what looks like a good hanging tree, you are not the first to use it. Bears are creatures of habit and know where to check.

So I put my food out of the way in the bush(the Cliff Jacobsen method) or half a mile away on the tundra (where there is a dearth of trees). An odor containing container IMO is essential and a bear canister for travel in grizzly country. (those bears are really curious and will play patacake with your boat if they sense something inside)

Usually more troublesome are gnawing animals… Red Squirrels regard Nalgene as a chew toy and forget soft bags…

Ursacks sound good for a kayak.

Bear Country
I’m looking at Northern Wisconsin … which has black bears (and apparently at least one mountain lion – but that’s another issue). So, no, I don’t “know” there will be a problem, but I know there are bears and figure I should take precautions. Thanks to everyone for you advice. … Keep it coming.

Bear Bucket Vs. Compound Plastic Bucket
My husband used about a 2 pound spackling bucket that was cleaned out to camp with since he didn’t have much food or scented items. The parks dept still wants them hung, perhaps because they are not real bear buckets and the bears can still get in them. Also, if kept out of your tent, raccoons can drag them away. I saw 2 raccoons trying to run down the beach with mine when we used it, and didn’t hang it yet. That was a 5 pound compound can (plastic) w/lid.

The real bear buckets are bear proof, so the bear cannot open them. If you hang a plastic bag, birds will peck at them until the contents fall or are accessible.

Do not put any scented items in your tent. Some people even believe in keeping clothes they cooked in outside the tent. Bears will try and enter your tent and so will raccoons. If you are not there when it happens, if you’re lucky, you will come back to your tent to find it ripped apart.

Call a ranger’s station or some other outdoor place associated with where you intend to camp and find out if there is a bear, raccoon or some other type of problem where you really need a bucket.


keep it in perspective
I camp about sixty days a year and I have about three bear sightings a year while camping. None have been in my campsite to my knowledge.

What has happened before your visit has as much an impact as your visit. If there are fish guts on site,or a really dirty campsite, stay away. I try never to stay at a known shore lunch site.

I dont worry to the extreme of changing clothes prior to entering the tent, but I do not bring food in either.

We do have bears and moose in my backyard as well as coyotes and foxes and a fisher population. From time to time there are bobcat sightings and every few years there is suspicion of a cougar. I wish I saw a lynx, but the nearest sighting is 40 miles away.

Bears and bear cans

– Last Updated: Mar-25-09 1:28 AM EST –

We pack for 20-24 days in four Ursacks and one hard shell bear can. Ursacks get smaller with each meal eaten, the bear can doesn't. I put the bear can in front of my foot pegs inside of a dry bag. THe can does offer the opportunity for a place to sit, but aside from that, doesn't have any advantage over the Ursack. We paddle in the epicenter of brown bear country and have never had a bear bother us because of food. I also suggest using Watchful eye designs odor proof bags inside of the bear bag or can.

Bad Campers
kayamedic, you’re absolutely right about it having to do with what’s been taking place in the camping area before you got there. We have had a campground in WA close temporarily due to problems with bears, which translates to problems with people attracting them with food that’s left and and garbage.

I was camping next to some people that must not have been real campers. They left muffins on their picnick table, then walked away. The crows made short work of them.

I saw a bobcat last year. I was driving around a lake in a remote area, but there were a few houses around that lake and the bobcat was trying to eat out of a garbage can. It was funny to see him next to a DiGiorgno pizza carton.


Bear cannister played a role in this…

– Last Updated: Mar-25-09 1:30 AM EST –

...Sea Kakaker Safety article.

Just something to keep in mind is all...

I've camped many weeks on the west coast of Vancouver Island and lost count of how many bears I've seen there. One of the highest densities of black bears, if not the highest, in the world. Food is in the kayak--never had any trouble. I'm not saying this is the best way to do or that someone should do it this way at all. That has just been my experience. Bear cannisters are not required on the west coast of Vancouver Island last I knew. Some places they are required. The ursack seems a good resource for kayakers as the cannisters won't even go in my hatches and the amount of food they hold is pretty small. I've used them hiking once or twice and they are a pain, but it's obviously important to do what's reasonably possible to keep from creating habitually offending wildlife and work as reasonably possible within the 'leave no trace' ideaology.

all this negative talk…I guess I put my 2 cents worth in…

When going out both my wife and I each carry a garcia bear canister and also the Ursak.

The Garcia’s fit in the rear hatches of our Nordkapps (just under the hatch cover)…they start by carrying food…so does the ursak’s…as the food diminishes the garcia’s pack out the trash and the ursaks are finally folded and end up in the garcias by the end of the trip…all the food smell is contained.

I also hang the ursak as if I didn’t want anything testing , salivating or jumping on it…making it into a disgusting putty like substance.

I hang em high

doesn’t take any strength to use the simple Z drag method to put food up high…

I try to not use the trees others use…I look a lot higher than most even attempt.

I disagree with Cliff Jacobson on his thought that the animals won’t look in the woods for food…DUH

treat all food as if it will attract critters…don’t leave it laying around…and hang it high when possiable.

And find a bear canister that works with your kayak and buy it…don’t rent just anything and then try to figure out how to fit it

getting animals in bad habits always ends badly…for both parties involved.

Best Wishes


I have to agree Roy,ever since we had that discussion in G. Marais, I’ve been hanging my food with a zdrag method ever since. I don’t use it all the time, but I think people are looking for too many convenient ways of just “stashing” their food, rather than having the comfort that it’s hung away from your camp and you don’t have to worry about a bear chewing up your boat. By the time someone sets up their little alarm system on their boat with rocks, pots/pans, etc…I can have the bear hang up.

I have to disagree with bears locating the lines and getting to the food…not with a zdrag system hung high. Yes, bears can get to poorly hung bags with traditional hangs that haven’t worked.

If the camp chosen just isn’t going to work for a hang, then I’ll find other options. I have spoke to several people that have used this system in grizzly country and done properly, the bears have never got to their good bags.

I’m not to smart
SOOO… how are you supposed to get pulley three up high enough in a tree to do any good as illustrated?

As I understand it your food bag should be 15ft or more above ground and at least 10ft from the nearest tree.

what do you food hangers do in
black spruce country or on the tundra?

Don’t be so quick to dismiss methods that you do not use.

There are bears there too and there is a dearth of suitable trees to hang from.

Sure Z drag systems give you peace of mind…but I remember seeing a bear about 60 feet up a tree in Moosonee.

I like Bear Vaults.
They will fit between my foot pegs and the bulkhead in all my boats. However, I’m a short-leggedy person.


A word about Ursacks. I’ve used them and my problem with them is what your food looks like after a bear has attempted to get inside of it. It’s better than winding up with no food at all, but sheesh, what a mess! :-o

Bears get angry?
Since, as last poster said, the bears pretty much trash your food anyhow even in Ursack, doesn;t the Ursack simply cause a bear to destroy your food and, once angered like the ones in the Ursack test videos, come after you, the camper? I know black bears aren’t too aggressive, but I’m just asking. Wouldn’t having the food in an odor-proof Tupperware set (Tupperware in a dry bag for the ultimate storage), and hung from a tree if someone is really into overkill, enough? I mean, if the dang bear eats the food–highly unlikely–then at least they’ll be satiated and won’t come after you next.

Sure, I can see if you are way way out in the Boundary Waters or something, and civilization is days away, you;d protect your food like your life depended on it. But for most of us Joe Rec camper types, paddling back to the SUV and hitting the IGA is not a bad idea either.

Okay, you can all lambast me now.