June 7, 2018
Yeap, a bear played with my food. Here is what happened.
Last weekend, I went on an overnight backpacking trip with my husband and friends in the North Cascades, WA, USA (Goat Lake trail for locals). Before settling in our tents for the night, we stored our food in a bear canister and left it close to where we cooked and far from our tents. A bear found the bear canister (can’t blame him, Gourmet Hiking food is delicious!), played with it (see marks of bear claws) and in his attempt to open it, throw the canister in the lake. Luckily for us, we found the canister in the morning at a swimmable (but very cold!) distance from the shore.
In the end, the bear did not access our food but caused disruption to our trip: our pots and stove were nowhere to be found (stored next to the bear canister), the bear canister was filled with water, and our food was literally floating in it. And well, that was a very chilly morning swim! Strong of this experience, I decided to share a few advice on bear safety in the backcountry!
Note: This post contains affiliate links. You can read my disclosure here.
Why you don’t want bears to access your food
Well, first off, there is nothing fun getting your food stolen, by bears or by any other living beings, especially when you are hungry! While this means you would have to hike out without food, for bears, it might be the difference between life and death. Yes, it is that serious! Bears who get used to human food and garbage lose their fear of humans and usually become a threat to public safety. They often have to be euthanized. So, yeah, you should do your best to prevent bears from accessing your food.
How to store your food?
Depending on the place you backpack, three different options are possible.
In some areas, food lockers are available, which means you don’t have to worry about bringing the “equipment” to store your food.
In certain parks, the use of bear resistant food canisters are mandatory. This is what I had when a bear found my food. As my bear canister was fully closed and locked, the bear wasn’t able to eat my food. However, I should have been careful to the spot I placed it. Indeed, you should place your bear canister away from cliffs and water sources.
In other places, the recommendation is that you hang your food.
Make sure you check out this article by REI on how to use the different food storage methods.
Learn more about bear safety
If you want to know more about bear safety, I encourage you to read this article by the National Park Services.
Did you experienced similar situations with bears? Feel free to leave your comments below.
Be bear safe out there and enjoy!
Gen Masson, MSc, RD, CD, CSSD, IOP Sport Nutr Dipl