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Bear Canisters/Food Handling in the Sierra

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Bear Canisters/Food Handling in the Sierra

Postby postholer » Fri Aug 21, 2009 8:43 am

Bear canisters are required along a substantial portion of the PCT in the Sierra. Hiking without a canister may result in a hefty fine. For the latest information on canister requirement locations see, for a map showing these areas.

Many food storage boxes can be found in bear sensitive areas as well. While you must carry a canister, others have opted to hike from one storage box to the next, storing their food in a box during the night. While not carrying a canister, it is effective. Here is a map showing food storage boxes in the Sierra, on and off the PCT:

Lastly for the civil disobedient, some folks will sleep with their food and defend it should the occassion arise. This is not recommended of course.

A free canister loaner program is in place managed by Jim Payne and the Saufleys. This allows northbound thru-hikers to pick up a cansiter in Agua Dulce, then mail it back when you are done. Further info can be found in the PCT FAQ:

Considerable information regarding bear cansiters compiled by Jim Payne can be found in the PCT FAQ:

The bottom line is to keep food away from bears for their sake. Do what you must to ensure this doesn't happen.

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Postby mister4x5 » Wed Oct 27, 2010 1:53 pm

What should be done with your food at night when in the desert where canisters are not required and trees are no where to be seen?
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Postby DylanNichols » Fri Feb 11, 2011 5:07 pm

I am plannin on using an UrSack for the majority of the trip, is this legal thru the entire trip? if not what is the fine? ;0)
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Re: Going canister-less

Postby stillroaming » Fri Feb 11, 2011 5:33 pm

DylanNichols wrote:I am plannin on using an UrSack for the majority of the trip, is this legal thru the entire trip? if not what is the fine?

Canisters are crap. There's no way I would carry one.

I use an ursack also, primarily for small critters. If you don't carry a canister you must be responsible with your food, that means making damn sure a bear doesn't get it for the well being of the bear.

It also means a hefty fine. You must accept the responsibility for not carrying a canister. Gladly, I will.

Jim Payne put together this list of where canisters are required, note the required areas, it's a very small stretch of trail.

It's your choice!
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Postby mister4x5 » Fri Feb 11, 2011 6:22 pm

If you don't carry a canister then all I can say is good luck. May you get what you deserve for putting the life of a bear, and possibly a hiker (quite possibly yours) in peril.

Canister requirements are not rules, they are Federal law.

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Postby DylanNichols » Fri Feb 11, 2011 9:02 pm

thanks for the death wish mister4x5, i hope you the best and see you on the trail! Jeez!
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Go get em boys!

Postby Spitfire » Fri Feb 11, 2011 9:46 pm

Mister you a bad bad man death wishin and all :-)
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Postby mister4x5 » Sat Feb 12, 2011 5:07 am

Don't take my post so seriously. I guess I should have used a :lol:

Anyways I don't see where I wished death on anyone.

Use a canister, it's the right thing to do.

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Postby Cerveza » Sat Apr 09, 2011 11:59 am

So, I ordered a canister through BearVault's PCT hiker program for the Sierras. But I just have a Sea to Summit bag and bear rope for the rest of the trail. Would you all advise that I invest in a Ursack for southern Cali? And which one would you suggest, the heavy duty one or the light-duty one? I am a very minimalist hiker and I try to use what I have when possible, but I don't want to regret not getting a Ursack if that is the way to go. (I'm looking to hear back from past PCT-ers or people that hike Southern Cali frequently.)

Thanks for any help!
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Postby shmurciakova » Sat Apr 09, 2011 3:12 pm

Hey all. I have been a ranger in Alaska the past 11 years and I always use an Ursack. I think they are great! I wouldn't probably bring the aluminum liner in SoCal, but rather bump it up to the Sierras. Then, I would probably plan on camping near a bear box in the sections where a different canister is required. Also, keep an eye on the Ursack website. They are currently in court trying to get Ursack allowed in the Sierras, so stay tuned. Otherwise, I just might bite the bullet and use an allowed canister..unsure. Food storage violations are misdemeanors, so I guess you could just risk it, but certainly use at least an Ursack. After all, the idea of the bear canister thing is to keep the food away from bears. If you use nothing that is irresponsible.
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Postby Overdrive » Fri Jul 01, 2011 3:22 pm

Everyone should remember that government rules are usually designed for the lowest common denominator - like the detour around Deep Creek. That was, in my opinion, the best 14 miles of PCT up to Kennedy Meadows and most people missed it. Never mind that dozens of locals have been using this trail every day to get to the hot springs. Let's face it, the closure was not about your safety but about potential government liability. BTW, judging by the recent posts, anyone capable of negotiating through the snow and stream crossings in the Sierra could have negotiated the dreaded "landslide" while sleep-walking.

As for the bear canisters, everyone should know their abilities and limitations, act accordingly, and take responsibility for your actions.
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bear cannisters

Postby jgar15 » Tue Feb 14, 2012 11:13 am

Although bear canisters are required, not everyone uses them. They are tough to fit in your pack, a pain to pack, and spendy to mail to kennedy meadows. That said the people that dont use one usually use ursakks. Last year I used a food snack that was supposedly smell proof and slept with my food every night with no serious issues. In the dessert everyone just sleeps with their food. Once you get used to the trail you will probably cowboy camp (under the stars) most nights anyways and can just keep the food next to you in your pack.
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Postby Pfeiffer » Thu Feb 16, 2012 8:33 pm

Last edited by Pfeiffer on Fri Feb 24, 2012 12:03 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby markv » Sat Feb 18, 2012 10:15 pm

I'm going to throw my experience into the mix. I've thru-hiked the PCT, another time round on just the JMT, have spent several other backpacking trips in the Sierra and other places.

In the High Sierra, between Whitney and Sonora Pass, i personally know 2 people who had bears literally take their un-canistered food from them at night, including one who had their food taken from UNDERNEATH HER HEAD. I'm not an alarmist at all. Really i laugh at most cautionary crap. My own bear experience in the Sierra is limited to one time when a bear came to my camp, found my canister, looked at it, and moved on.

Dudes, you could perhaps get lucky, but for the lousy 2 weeks in the High Sierra you just have to carry a canister. It's a safety issue, people and bears. Do it. Suffer the weight, it's part of the experience.

For the rest of the PCT, i carried no food protection at all, and never had a problem. Once i got to Washington, and in literally 2 California heavily-used sites, i found there to be some mice at night. But i had a little bit of string and i just strung up my food from my tent pole in a way that they never once got to it. These aren't AT-style turbo mice. Basic human know-how will keep your food away from them, without having to pay for or carry an Ursack.

Happy hiking!
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Postby Gary Schenk » Thu Mar 08, 2012 9:29 am

It's not about protecting your food from the bear, it's about protecting the bear from your food.

After the bear gets your food, because you're too special to carry a canister, they should make you personally shoot the bear. The rangers do NOT like that part of the job.
Gary Schenk
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