Bears and Food

What is your preference for protecting food from bears, chipmunks, squirrels, etc. when paddling in Quetico/Boundary Waters…Do you hang a bear bag or hide it away from camp?

We always have a dog[Macky] with us, so we don’t worry about it to much. The dog has gone off a couple of times, and chased off whatever it was. I’ve been camping in the ADK’s for a couple of years and no problem yet.

hang, not hide
Ok, I don’t know the specifics of the Boundary Waters situation, but in bear country I normally hang the bags.

Hiding doesn’t sound like it would do much, besides keep the bears away from the tents. But with their sense of smell, they likely would find the food. And if hidden away from people, they are more likely to try to get at it (some animals will stay away from camp because of the smell of people).

Bear proof containers may be good, also, if you have space (more likely in a canoe than a touring kayak).

If no bears, but instead just small varmint, I would close the food inside the hatch of the touring kayak. Worked great in places like the islands off of the San Juans in WA, where there are hordes of mice.

I’ve Had Bears In Camp…

– Last Updated: Feb-27-07 12:21 PM EST –

...a number of times since my wife seems to be a "Bear magnet." In thirty something BWCAW trips since '84 I've never lost food to a bear while hanging my food. The key, is to NOT hang it where everyone else does, look for someplace less obvious. And be sure to use a two-rope system to pull the pack at least 6' away from the tree. BTW, I also have food double-bagged and in a Rubber-made box inside my #4 Duluth pack. Those Bear-cannisters look like a pretty good investment, though. WW

i canoe in many places where there are no trees or trees that are not suitable for hanging food. i use 60 and 30 litre barrels and this obviates the need to hang anything.

I’ve never camped in bear country
not yet, anyway, so I’ll be reading posts here with interest.

I have worked with bears as a biologist though, so here is my 2 cents. They are a creature of habit and are very intelligent…if the have had luck finding food in any container, whether it be a tin can, backpack, tent, trashbag or Toyota, they will likely try it again regardless of whether it smells or not. They also frequent areas where they have had success finding food, so if you use a site that is heavily used by others, try not to keep your food where everyone else has. “The designated bear pole” is probably not the pole you should use. Best to hide the pack away from camp or hang it out of sight of the usual hanging spot…any reasonably airtight container should be enough to keep bears from detecting your food pack. If you use a site that isn’t frequently used, you may be OK no matter what you do so long as you sniff-proof the food…but keep it out of your tent no matter what! There are a few bears who are just curious and will check out new things…it is best that those things don’t contain food.

Raccoons and mice are another matter entirely.


always hang food…differant place than others usually use

out of normal scent currents…high in the air

Best wishes


Eat the bear… NM

adk requires bear canisters?
I thought that the adirondacks required you to have a bear canister for overnight camping?

ADK and bears
Just some areas, including the Eastern High Peaks.

I carry bear canisters, but the question was

Hide or Hang

The Garcia Bear Canisters fit in the rear oval hatch of all Nordkapps made with the oval rear cover

Best Wishes


One thing to remember
When you’re about talking bears and food, it’s not just food that you need to keep out of the tent, also soaps, toothpaste, cosmetics, and lip balm.

It all smells tasty to a bears nose.

use the system described by Roy, in fact, Roy taught me the method last summer up in G. Marais.

Used it since and it works incredible. High and far away from the tree. Plus, the system can be set up in a small bag and you have extra biners and rope for any emergency’s you might encounter.

Thanks Roy!


to help…finishes all those hangs where you try to shove the pack higher with a paddle while someone else tries to drag on the line…nothing to getting a pack 20 to 25 feet or more off the ground and 8 or 10 feet from the tree :slight_smile:

(Based off of Z drag from my WW Days)

Best Wishes


– Last Updated: Feb-28-07 7:01 PM EST –

An example of bear proof container allowed in ADK high peaks and out west in Sierra's. See through polycarbonate comes in two sizes, solo and tandem.


does any one have any good pictures of bears in your camp.

Only bear we get is the koala bear



Hanging vs. Canister
When I was forced to use a canister (Eastern High Peaks Regulation in the Dacks) I was upset because of the size, weight and expense of the canister. What I learned using a canister was that they really are not that much larger than the food bag I typically would carry, once you subtract the weight of the extra ropes necessary for hanging the weight was a wash and as for the expense, I’m now such a fan of the canister that my sixty bucks has become a wise investment.

What I like about my Bear Vault.

  1. Functions as a table or stool at dinnertime
  2. Rodent and rain proof all the time
  3. Easier, I frequently make and break camp in darkness, finding suitable trees and throwing ropes without light is difficult, a canister needs only to be set on the ground
  4. Independence, When camping with others a communal food bag can become so heavy that hoisting and lowering requires assistance. With a canister, I can have breakfast on my time and I don’t have to worry about others pawing through my grub

    The manufactures of the canisters that I am aware of only make claims of being bear resistant. I have seen canisters that have been clawed and gnawed by Black Bears without gaining access I have also witnessed a bear dinning on a properly hung food bag so my personal experience leads me to believe that canisters are a better option. I put my canister in a brightly colored nylon bag; this makes it easer for me to grab hold of it. When I stash it in the woods this bag is tied to a branch somewhat close to the canister to aid in locating it later.

    Happy canister camper,


No, but we have some good video
of them in our yard. :slight_smile:

One thing to remember about canisters…
they roll. Don’t put it near a river, cliff, canyon, etc.

Hang or hide?
I have used a bear vault on my trips to Boundary Waters and have never had a problem or maybe I’ve never had a bear come around to test it out. I’ve found that the idea of hanging a bag is impractical to me: seldom good locations of trees, the rope stretches too much, too tired to mess with it after a day of paddling, etc. I always try to keep the food airtight in plastic bags and put the vault in a dry bag closed tightly. I also try to keep a very clean camp. I figure lessening food smells helps a lot to keep my camp from becoming a bruin buffet. I do put the vault a distance from camp as well. Am thinking of tethering it to a tree with wire, etc.