Food pack quandry

For my BWCA trip this May each of teh paddlesr will be carrying his own food.

I have been debating how to pack - I have a 7-gallon bucket w/screw lid which I was going to equip with a self-made harness. This should be big enough for my food, my Jet Boil, and all kitchen implements. This should be mouse and raccoon proof as well.

A 30-qt barrel and harness would be even nicer than my bucket system, maybe have a bit more secure closure, and carry better. Pricier though.

The Cooke and Granite Gear food packs look really nice, but I hate to invest in them as I do not plan on carrying fresh food (except for apples, oranges, peppers and onions).

Lastly, it just occured to me that a Sealine WP bag w/shoulder straps might work quite nicely. It might even be possible to sling it comfortably onto the top of my portage pack for carrying.

What systems are all of you using?


Bear barrel
I’m using a bear barrel in a dry bag (holds about a weeks provisions if you pack right). This fits in the Granite Gear Quetico pack nicely for single portaging. If I needed to split my load in order to balance the canoe, I can simply remove the barrel and place it in the bow… though I never need to.

The short story is if you are single portaging, you won’t need a separate food pack.

Dry Bag
I just use a dry bag, not sure of the brand, with shoulder straps.

I use a 60L Headstrong barrel and harness for family tripping in the North country. If I was going solo I’d use their 30L barrel/harness. There are other food barrel/harness makers out there and some are very good quality, but I don’t think any are better than Headstrong’s design. I think they are reasonably priced for the quality and they ship from a warehouse located in the USA to US customers – which avoids international cross-border shipping delays and added shipping charges. I received mine 2 or 3 days after I placed my order.

I hang my food barrel at night to take it out of the reach of bears, but often during the day it sits on the ground. We’ve experience many camp sites with resident chipmunks and little red squirrels, both of which could very quickly chew a hole through a nylon food bag. Though I like the looks of the CCS food pack I think a hard sided food barrel is a far better way to go. The barrel is of course absolutely waterproof as well, can’t say that about any soft sided food pack.

As to using a dry bag for food… it would be water proof, but it would have the same critter ‘chew-thru” draw-back as any soft sided food pack. Another drawback of a roll-down top dry bag is the long ‘throat’ of the roll-down, I would think looking around in one to find a particular item would be a PIA. FWIW, I never put any food in any pack I use or may use at some point to carry clothing, tents or other gear. Food odors can last a very long time… In my opinion any pack that has been used at some point for food is a potential ‘critter magnet’ for a long time to come.

To get more information on tripping equipment go to the Canadian Canoe Routes web-site. There aren’t many trippers at this site, but they abound at CCR. – Randall