View Full Version : Question About Food Smells in Pack

Wander Yonder
2003-01-28, 05:02
I read over on the TLB board that one of the guys carries his food in a paint can because no food smells can escape to attract bears.

I don't want to carry a heavy steel can, but I was wondering if a lightweight cookie tin would be worth the weight because it would keep food scents from permeating my pack. I'd still bearbag it at night.

Any thoughts on that?

SGT Rock
2003-01-28, 07:23
IMHO it is being overly anal, at least on the AT. People are successfull all the time with simple stuff like garbage bags, stuff sacks, and the like. A sack fits in your pack better and is much lighter. If you are really worried, get an Ursack.

Wander Yonder
2003-01-28, 07:52
Okay, thanks for the feedback. I've never camped in bear country so am being overly cautious.

What I will probably do is just use a silnylon sack with the loop on the bottom like your instructions show.

2003-01-28, 09:04
Currently, there are worse behaving bears elsewhere.

If you are hiking the AT, then put your food and trash in a bear bag at night and hang it (or bear box if there is one) if you are in a place that has bear problems. Places with bear problems include all of Georgia, Great Smokies, Shenandoahs, and New Jersey. The bear proof cans and Ursacks are not needed along the AT. Just an extra stuff sack.

Elsewhere along the AT, small rodents like mice, will get into your food and trash unless it is hung at night.

The smarter bears are in places like the Adirondacks. There, if you want to eat the next day, your food better be very well hung and lucky. I have seen some well hung bear bags get taken.

2003-01-28, 10:13
If you stay in shelters you may also want to put your socks (and tissue/toilet paper) in your bear bag. The minibears(mice) will chew them up. Of course the best solution to that is just not to stay in shelters.

2003-01-28, 11:04
Originally posted by sharon_at03 [/i]
Okay, thanks for the feedback.
[i]I've never camped in bear country so am being overly cautious.

Oh I don't know about being overly cautious Sharon. Last August I had a large black bear walk into my very isolated camp site just around sunset. SOB stuck around to traumatize me for just about an hour. I was alone, and I must tell you - I didn't like it a bit. It makes for a nice story now, but at the time it made for a very spooky night in the old HH. Any reasonable precautions you can take will do wonders for your peace of mind. As for food smells in your pack - it is an rare hiker that packs fried fish or bacon or stuff like that anyway. These are traditional bruin magnets. It seems to me that most back pack meals are not all that strong smelling. Just keep your stuff wrapped in plasic as others have suggested and you'll be fine. Hanging your food is of course recommended, but there will be times when there just aren't any good hanging trees available. Do the best you can - that's all you can do. The most likely bandits to damage your pack and belongs are squirrels, mice and enterprising racoons. Of course these guys don't turn your bowels to water like a bear can.



Wander Yonder
2003-01-28, 11:48
Peaks, I read Bluebearee's journal where a bear stole her bag that was hanging on a bear pole her first night out. Somehow he managed to work the bag loose. That's kind of a classic! I hadn't heard about the smart bears in the Adirondacks.

Redbeard, I don't plan to stay in shelters unless it is storming. But I've heard about the mice eating socks, packtowels, etc. I don't think it's a good idea, but I read one older couple's journal. They kept mice out of their pack by leaving their garbage sack open so the mice could get in and explore. Kept the mice busy.

PKH, I do not envy your adventure!

Any reasonable precautions you can take will do wonders for your peace of mind.

I plan to cook anything savory or with lingering smells a long way from my camp each night. And it won't be fried fish or bacon... more like olive oil and garlic!

I think there are two kinds of hikers. The ones who are conscientious and try to minimize potential problems and the ones who don't care. It seems to me that if you do what you can reasonably do, then you just have to accept the occasional surprise. (Like your bear!)

Years ago while camping in Florida, a wild hog started rooting at the base of my tent. That got my attention, too!!!!!!!

2003-01-28, 13:01
I met two hikers (not hiking together) that carried all their food in Rubbermaid containers. one guy said that it helped to keep food smells down to the minimum and kept mice out of his food (difficult to chew through hard plastic). The other one used it as part of his frame system for his pack.

If you feel you need to use something like the Ursack or even just plain old Rubermaid containers, go ahead and use it. You might be happy you did if a bear decided to do a copy cat crime of Bluebearee's night time raid. But it might not be for more than piece of mind.

2003-01-28, 13:48
i guess i'm one of those hikers who doesn't care. not to say, i don't take some precautions, it's just that i'm usually too tired to care (after a long day of hiking). early in my 2000 attempted thru-hike, i dutifully hung my food bag and was very careful about any food odors in my pack or tent. that didn't last long because (in my experience) it wasn't worth the trouble unless there were poles or cables where i was camping. except during the first few weeks and in the GSMNP, i didn't notice many other hikers hanging food either. my pack and food bag are in the tent with me (i frequently get hungry late at night). my few encounters with nosy bears were ended by yelling or throwing something at them. i actually carried on a one-sided conversation with a bear in the SNP (hey, i was lonely). went something like this:

hey bear, ever think of taking a bath, you stink? -- snort (look who's talking),
you know i got food in my tent, don't ya? -- snort (yep),
yer not gettin' any! -- snort (we'll see),
hey bear, ya ever had an alabama haircut? -- snort, snort (oops, see ya)

almost a true story.

2003-01-28, 18:53
Let me clarify my food hanging.

If there is a bear line or bear box, that's where my food bag goes.

If there is the mouse hangers in a shelter, that's where my food bag goes. I figure that the hangers would not be there if there was a bear problem.

If I was camped someplace where there wasn't a shelter with mouse hangers, then I thru up a quick bear line to get my food bag out of the pack and off the ground.

I don't know how the bear got Bluebearies off the cable at Springer Mountain. Maybe we should use a caribiner to clip onto the bear cable a little better? But, in the Lake Colden area of the High Peaks, there are some well fed bears. They seem to have no problems getting stuff off bear cables there.

2003-01-28, 20:05
here is a link for an excellent discussion of bear-bags:

I made a set with silnylon based on Ray Jardine's (Beyond Backpacking) sealable stuff bags (seal the seams well and they make pretty good back-country volleyballs) They hang upside down and the overall weight is considerably less than the former hanging systems that I used.

Wander Yonder
2003-01-29, 05:34
I really like the concept of the bear resistant cannisters. They would keep everything from bears, mice and racoons out without the hassle of hanging. I just can't deal with the bulk and weight.

That's why I was interested in the idea of a cookie tin. But I've also seen what bear teeth can do to an aluminum pot.

Even when I have hung my food in the Talledega National Forest, I have found small tooth marks in the zip lock inner bags the next morning.

But I can live with that. :)

Actually, I didn't know how to bear bag correctly then. I had the bag hung right against the overhanging branch. Maybe suspending the food pack 6 feet below the branch would help with the small critters, too.

2003-01-29, 08:04
I like the idea of bear cannisters too, but in addition to the weight, I find the bulk to be a problem. We certainly have a healthy bear population, but fortunately our bears are not as well trained as some of those in the U.S.

One of the problems with hanging food is that near every (usually overused) camp site is THE tree for hanging food - ie: it looks secure, it has a large, strong branch at just the right height and everybody who uses the camp hangs their food from THAT branch on THAT tree. Bears & other critters learned a long time ago that whenever campers occupy that camp site then THAT tree will have goodies hung from THAT limb - just for them - and they have all night to learn how to run the maze.

There is a lot of information on hanging food and most of the information is pretty good - but I don't think that there has been enough comment on just getting the food away from THE tree. Get it out of there. Hang it from a different tree - maybe one that is not quite so handy - but not so obvious either.

Ray Jardine's comments about stealth camping and doing his cooking and eating away from the camp where he slept really hit a note for me.

Wander Yonder
2003-01-29, 08:54
Canoe Blue, I agree with you about THE tree. Especially in the Smokies where you have to stay at shelters, it seems like you are guaranteed to be visited by bears acclimated to human food -- and they are assured that it will be hanging there for them.

I'm big on stealth camping, too. I think the bears probably have regular runs where they know food will be. So a lone bag hanging in a tree far away from the others shouldn't draw nearly as much interest.

2003-02-18, 11:29
In the Boundary Waters Canoe Area, when on lakes without much of a bear problem, I have just kept the stash of food outside the campsite in past years. Bears seem to know to look around the center of the site for food. They *can* find it elsewhere but often are not interested in doing what they could do to find it. Last year I put a couple days worth of food in a Garcia cannister, but would be reluctant to carry that 2.2 pounds again unless I had to someplace out west. (Anyone want to buy a Garcia cannister cheap??)

I did buy an ursack, not for bears, but for mice, skunks, and racoons. I'm told it works for mice on the AT, and if it works there it probably works everywhere.

I also appreciated Sgt Rock's words about hanging his whole cook kit/toothpaste etc. in the food sack. Seems to make a lot of sense at a hammock camping site. Easy to pack up in the AM and get moving.

Rick <><

2003-02-18, 15:36
I just wanted to share an observation I made while my family and I were camped near Stover Creek in November.

We used the bear cables to hang our 2 bags. One bag had kitchen/cookwear stuff in it and was made out of coated nylon.

The other bag containing food, was made out of silnylon.

We hung both bags upsidedown.

When we took things down early the next morning, we noticed there was 'definite evidence 'that a mouse had explored our regular nylon cookware bag.

The silnylon food bag, however was 'evidence' free!

My husband and I concluded that perhaps the silnylon and its slippery-ness was perhaps a help!

In any event, I now have silnylon stuffsacks for all of my cooksets!

:D Perkolady

2003-02-18, 19:50
OK, this is going to sound strange/dumb/stupid. But I'm going to put it out there for the experts anyway.

Hunters will use a scent-cover to hide their scent while hunting. The times I've hunted I've used it too and it does work. I've had a small deer walk right up to me while eating away and didn't have a clue I was there.

Now what if you were to spray a couple of squirts of that onto your food bag? Do you think that would hide the smells of your food?

This comes in a couple of different smells. The one I have is skunk. No, it's not that strong of a smell. I don't think you would even hardly smell it.

I think if it came in dog scent it would sell out.

What do ya think? Would it work?