Canoe Barrels and Bears???

I realize that canoe barrels are not bear proof and that a bear could certainly get in one if he wanted to I would think…however…I have also read somewhere that people use them instead of bear cans because while they are not bear proof they are air tight and supposedly a bear can’t smell that there is food inside and leaves it alone.

Seems to make sense but also seems risky in bear country.

Any thoughts?



Bears are curious
I’ve seen gas cans that were chewed by bears. They don’t necessarily need a strong food smell to investigate, just some sort of novel smell,

I use barrels, and just leave them a good distance from my tent. I suspect the blue ones may be bear resistant, but not likely bear proof, as you said. Bears near them will be able to smell them and may investigate.

Wild bears are afraid of human smell. Food-habituated park bears are attracted to it. It seems to depend where we are camping.

It depends on what sort of bear
country. Not all is the same.

I use barrels because where I travel bears are more likely to be afraid of man. They are hunted…bears associate humans with bad things.

Out in Glacier Bay we were told that bears are extremely curious and will play with anything. So we used bear canisters, which are a size and shape they literally can’t get teeth on.

And in potential problem areas where there are more bear human encounters than desirable, canisters are what is needed…Say in New Jersey or the High Peaks of the Adirondacks, required.

BTW overall the risk from bears is IMO much lower than from small gnawing animals. Even in grizzly country (and we had only Duluth Packs) our biggest food predator was the sik-sik, the arctic ground squirrel.

In the Everglades you will probably get divested of your food and water if both are not in hard sided containers. Again small gnawing things.

In Quetico BWCA etc some campsites have such a rodent thievery problem its virtually impossible to eat a meal unmolested.

Bears are not out looking for human food in most places. I watched a bear at a campsite across the water from mine root for bugs as I ate.

What I think is more important in trying to figure out if you will have a bear problem is not the container for food you use but the history of the campsite. If its a mess or has fish guts lying around, I pass it up. Its possible that Bruin has it on his nightly route map.

bear proof
I actually think your assumptions are wrong. Ive never heard of a bear getting into a bear barrel. I know many people who have taken many many trips to the barren lands and arctic regions of canada and never had a barren land grizzly or polar bear get into one. Lets put it this way, you and I would probably have to search a long time to come up with a statistical number of barrel incidents.

Beware of what you use

– Last Updated: Jan-31-11 1:18 PM EST –

Some places WILL challenge your choice of container.

There ARE bear resistant containers that have failed.

Full approval is given to any container that has passed visual inspection,
an impact test, a zoo test and has been successful during three months of field-trials
in the summer.

but blue barrels are not bear barrels
Most of us that use them know that they are not bear proof, but a convenient way to tote food on canoe trips while lessening odor escape and ensuring that we don’t soak our food.

Its that clamp too that is a small critter exercise. I wish I had pics of raccoons opening the clamp. Mine is cotter pinned now. I would think that bears could also open the clamp if they had any real wish to.

your several days to the nearest food source for re-suply

Not a good time to test the theory…Ha Ha Ha

would suck to be the one that tested it and was totally suprised:)

I like the Garcia bear canister. for whenever there is the slightest possiability and I’m not able to hang the food properly

Best wishes


To put things in perspective

– Last Updated: Jan-31-11 2:13 PM EST –

I camp about 70 nights a year.

I see bears about a dozen times a year in my travels.

Zero have been at camp in backcountry travels.

A couple in the ADK's over the years.

Saw some 100griz in the Yukon (and we did not have barrels)

Saw ten in five days in Yosemite and five of the bears were pests. It was fun though watching one dismantle a Coleman two burner at the next campsite.

The "owner" of the site came back as the bear was leaving. More entertainment..the owner and a friend took off after departing bear with axes in hand.

Darwin has more work to do on some National Park users.

That said,my husband hit a 350 lber with MY car.NEW!!. I would like to know what one is supposed to do when that happens.

Do you check on the health of the bear?

Cliff Jacobson says…
Some folks don’t like the fact that Cliff Jacobson has a “recommended method” for everything. Whether you like that or not, it’s hard to argue with the fact that he’s spent as much time camping in bear country as anyone, often in places where bears have learned to look for food in canoe campsites, but has never lost food to a bear. His technique is to stash the food well outside of camp, in a clean, waterproof container. The containers don’t give off enough odor to lure bears so they need not be hung from trees, and bears coming into camp don’t find what they are looking for.

Personally, with non-bearproof containers, I’d feel safer with the container hung in a tree even if the bear isn’t supposed to be able to smell what’s inside. I also have extremely little personal experience in bear country.

Skip olive barrels
I say skip olive barrels (blue barrels), and use a real bear resistant containers. Why risk it?

What would a 60 l bear proof container

– Last Updated: Jan-31-11 3:10 PM EST –


The Garcias and their ilk fit fine into kayaks. But several small canisters run several hundred bucks. Then they require a pack to carry them in.
Not everyone kayaks..some canoe and portage.

Its all about risk management and not risk avoidance. Do what works for you.

Personally I live in a bear area and am amazed that they avoid the compost bin and go right for the bird feeder. Perhaps they are more used to feeder=food. Townwide composting is relatively new. And the bears will undoubtedly learn. But its just a piece of plastic.

Here is another story of Yellow Yellow. The break into anything artist. Wonder what her time into a barrel would be?

Just beacause they are Barrels
Check out pictures and reports of the forest sevice of barrels.

dan cooke

Buy it once - have it for life
IF you spend big time outdoors, the cost in negligible.

Let’s say you own the canister for 10 years making multiple trips

each year, the cost is spread out making it worthwhile.

I keep my food in a rubber maid cooler, and I keep a shotgun stuffed with 3" mag 1oz slugs. I’ve never had a bear come close to getting my food. Bear in camp equals several loud booms and a dead bear.

but for three weeks? Expeditions can be quite long. I realize most p’netters are not long distance trippers.

Otherwise my approach is:

Avoid habituated areas

Ask locals and heed their advice

Blue barrels ought never be referred to as bear barrels.

They do contain odors and provide weather and water resistance and damage protection from small gnawing creatures, which are far more of an immediate threat to more campers than bears.

If you are in serious bear habituated country they are no insurance against losing your food. The good news is that most of us can afford to lose two weeks of food and live off ourselves.

You can go two weeks without food. Water is an entirely different matter…

Still looking for a bear vault of 60 L…

but heck, where I go its not a matter of what does the campsite look like, the question is “is there a campsite?”.

I do have and use a Counter Assault Bear Keg for short trips.

It does have a carry bag but not a harness.

So on longer trips my tactic changes. Nothing is right or wrong. No two trips are the same.

but never never let a bear mess with your transport. No food in the canoe or kayak overnight.

BTW. I have had several face to face encounters with bears on portage trails. As I dislike portaging at night, all encounters have been during the day.

You can do that legally, or do you just.

– Last Updated: Jan-31-11 8:16 PM EST –

... not care about what's legal and what's not in the places you go? Being attacked by a bear and shooting to protect yourself is one thing, but out of countless cases of bears entering camps, attacks are extremely rare. I think that even a curious bear deserves a warning shot or two if you are really that frightened simply because it is sniffing around in camp. If you are talking about trips in into the near arctic and grizzlies that have never seen a human before, that's another situation, but toting a shotgun (and keeping it handy at all times) to deal with black bears who've learned what a food pack is sounds like a solution in search of a problem. Seems to me that denying them access to your food by any of the normal procedures would be easier and then you could eliminate about eight pounds of hardware from your kit too!

We have two Garcias and wouldn’t be
without them.

We used them all over Ak and the Yukon.

But we still stashed them a long way from the tent each night.

Why not use what works ?

When not in bear country, they also keep your food safe from all the other critters

Jack L

bear resistant, water resistant …
That’s like saying Catholic high school girls are sex resistant. (“I resist! Oh …”)

Won’t find large bear-proof
There are no such things as large bear canisters. To be approved as bear-proof, the canister has to be small. The size causes the bear to be frustrated as they cannot both hold it and chew it at the same time. If it was large, there would be more room for their paws to grasp the container and allow them to sink a tooth into it. So while I too would like large container, the largest I’ve seen was under 8 liters in size.

Bear Power
When a 1,000 lb bear heaves down with both paws on a container

–it had better be pretty damn tough or it’ll pop