Food choices for bear canister?

-- Last Updated: Dec-01-08 10:52 PM EST --

I was talking with a friend who has done two 12-14 day trips in Glacier Bay about bear canisters. He said that in areas where you use the canisters you should only be carrying freeze dried food for hot meals. His reason was that his cook set and plate (or cup or bowl) would not fit into the canisters. Therefore he only used the cookset to boil water (no food ever touched it). Likewise the freeze-dried foods were their own bowls so there was no extra container to go back in the canister. I think breakfast was cereal prepackaged in single serving ziplock bag so that bag was the bowl for breakfast.

From what I have read about needing to get all the "scent" items into a canister it does kind of make sense that cooking gear, eating gear, and maybe even fuel (white gas) would need to be in a canister. However it sure seems like you would really need lots more canister space and a special cookset to go inside.

How do others handle their cooking gear, cups/bowl/etc, and white gas fuel in bear areas?
Do you limit yourself to only boiling water in the cookset? Do you only eat out of disposable (crush down to trash bag in canister) containers? If not in canister do you just leave the washed cookset and eating container in same area as the canister, or where you cook, or back to sleeping area?


Not many
Not many people really have to deal with this.

I had a bear issue once and we moved the camp site to an island.

We deal with black bear so a fire and less than great hygiene (urine) around the perimeter of the camp seam to keep the bears at bay.

I have thrown a dry bag with food over a high branch 50 feet from the tent. It is held up there by my tow line and can be retrieved easily for breakfast.

I have not had an issue but I have only dealt with black bear.

I don’t see many bear; and never when I have a license for them.

Grizzlies and Polar bear are a whole different story.

I will deal with that when I paddle Labrador.

Another stunt some friends have played is to hang some old meat in a tree a half mile away from your camp. That keeps the bears busy trying to get that down and makes for entertainment.

when I backpack
I limit myself mostly to boiling water and mixing in my bowl. I found that for a bear canister rice based meals work best since it packs well. Breakfast is usually oatmeal which packs well too.

I do put items like toothpaste in the canister, but not my fuel (white gas).

Most of my paddling isn’t around bear country so less an issue.

I wash my dishes

NO, no, no
We did a fifteen day one in the Arctic on the Noatak River in bear country, (saw lots of them).

You just was the hell out of dishes, pots, pans, etc and rinse them real good.

They just go in a sack.

Food goes in one or more bear cannisters and smellies (soap, dish washing detergent, bleach, tooth paste,etc) goes in another.

They all are kept a minimum of 100 feet from your camp site.

Same thing on several other trips we did one of which was in Glacier Bay.



food for bear canisters
Something else you can do is to pack your own food that only needs hot water to make it edible. A great source I found was I ordered the book too. My stove is a Caldara alcohol stove from The stove works out really well either backpacking or packing in my kayak. The food needs to be tested at home to adjust the portion sizes, for me I found the portions to large and adjusted them acordingly to how I eat. Having all your food in zip-lock baggies really reduces the volume of the food so they fit easily into a bear canister. And a lot more fits in there. I’ve only camped/hiked/backpacked where there were black bears, still had to hang my food and smellies but cook stove, fuel, coffee cup, never did. My son has camped where he had to also hang pots and pans but not fuel.

Thanks for the info
My friend who did the Glacier Bay trip is a real minimalist even on shorter trips. The few other people I have done kayak camping with are mostly overnight river campers and carry tables, chairs, ice-chests, and multiple stoves and cooksets.

I am trying to learn by example but the examples I have seen are so far apart in approach that I find myself kind of confused on what I want to do.


well what do you want to do?
I did a spreadsheet with all possible stuff I would ever take on a canoe trip and then in other colums check whether its appropriate for that trip. One list does not fit all.

Where are you going?Glacier Bay? When? When has as much impact as where.

My where lists are different for boreal forest, tropics, river, solo portaging etc,barren lands.

My wife and I did 6 days
in Glacier Bay and we carried freeze dried food for meals and that way we ate out of the package and when done just rainsed out the package and stuffed it in the cannister when done. We just boiled water in our Jet boil so it never came any where near food to worry about putting it in a cannister.

The basic decision I have to make
is whether or not I need to buy a different kayak for some of the trips I am planning. Since I am looking at trips to Glacier Bay, Glacier National Park, Yellowstone/Grand Tetons, and Quetico and Algonquin parks in Canada I am going to be dealing with bear canisters for the first time. What needs to be in a bear canister determines how many canisters I really need. How many canisters I need determines whether or not I need a new kayak. If I do need a new kayak then the number of canisters required would affect which new kayaks I should consider.

I realize that each trip will be different. I am kind of putting together a “most loaded” scenario so I get the idea of what is the minimum size kayak I need. I am a small paddler using a GP so I am trying to keep the kayak as small as possible, but still carry enough to be comfortable on the trips I am planning.


Don’t need canisters at Jellystone

– Last Updated: Dec-02-08 8:09 PM EST –

I've paddle-camped there three times and just cooked normally, which in our case usually involves a lot of FD meals because they require no dishes other than a pot for boiling water. But we do cook some things and just wash the dishes normally.

The main thing to do at Yellowstone is to keep ALL scented items out of your tent (toothpaste, soap, food). What we did was to put them in the same bag we put the food in...which Jellystone requires that you then throw over the bear bar nicely provided at each site. You will need a suitable rope, carabiners, and some practice beforehand (the bars are HIGH). Also, you must keep your cooking area well away from your tents.

When paddle-camping in SE AK, we just cooked and cleaned as usual. Cooking area away from tents. We put our food in our hatch compartments, as all of us had hard hatch covers. The food was of course multiple-bagged to reduce any scents. But we had no really aromatic food anyway. And we were there before the salmon were running, so we only saw one black bear though we saw tracks and scat of grizzly a few times.

I don't think you need to eat only FD foods, but it's probably wise to avoid cooking things such as bacon, garlic, popcorn, etc. The stuff smells good and strong even to us; I bet a bear can smell it miles away.

Take beanie weenies. No self-respecting
bear will touch them.

Careful with putting food in your yak.
We saw a black bear rip apart a kayak to get at the food in it. Remember they can rip open a car so keep your food in the canisters and store them away from you.

As far as attracting the bears in the first place, they will likely come and check out your boats before anything else. They like brightly colored plastic things, especially ones that smell like hydrocarbons or rubber/glue. I wouldn’t store food in a kayak in case a bear decided to remove it. I doubt he’d use the hatch. We had one bite the nose off a Zodiac once.

I don’t bother to put my stove or dishes in the canister, I think that is being a bit too paranoid about scent. I wouldn’t sleep with it under my pillow but there are many more smelly, interestingly colored things around camp than that.