Bear Bagging Gone Wrong


How you store your food at night in the wilderness is an important decision, especially in bear country. I've been thinking about proper food storage techniques this week while I write content for the next CleverHiker video series. In some parks and wilderness areas, they have rigid rules, which make your decision much easier. In Yosemite for example, backpackers are required to carry bear canisters in the backcountry and campers are required to use bear boxes in campsites. Educating visitors and forcing them to obey strict food storage rules has led to a dramatic reduction in bear break-ins, aggressive bear behavior, and bear fatalities. 

Earlier this week I received an email from a hiker that Annie and I met in Colorado. She shared a story and some photos of a bear encounter that her and her hiking partner experienced on the CDT shortly after we met. I thought the story would be good to post and hopefully spark a conversation. There are a lot of different strategies for wilderness food storage and I've found that many hikers use different techniques. There doesn't seem to be a standard method these days, so I'd love to hear your input. 

If you have a minute, leave a comment below and let us know what strategy you use for food storage. 

Do you hang a bear bag?

Use "smell proof" bags? 

Cary a bear canister?

Leave your food by your tent? 

Do you have a good bear encounter or lesson to share?

Thanks for your input! 


woman standing next to ripped bear bag
woman standing next to ripped bear bag

Reader email: 

Our trip was beautiful and exciting… especially  since we had a bear encounter our last night and he ate all our food!! We strung up our food bags up and had those "bear proof" bags, but that didn't stop him… It was a crazy night!

The bear woke us up at 2:45 clawing open my black bag looking for food, which was of course right by the tent at my feet. I coughed, and it snorted back. Scared us to death! Kate grabbed the trekking poles, banged them together and yelled, "go away bear!"  Not 2 minutes later, we heard the jingle of our bear bell attached to our food bag in the tree. By that time, we realized there was nothing we could do, but listen to him eat all our trail mix, and bars. He left only the potato flakes and toms toothpaste. Who knew?! My bear proof bag, hung in a different tree, was not shredded, but completely disappeared. :( We hiked out on empty stomachs, hitch hiked to our car, and ate a huge breakfast in Salida, CO. 

When we arrived home, Kate went to REI and they recommended the bear vault canister, which she might get. I'd definitely be interested to know what other hikers use. 

Glad your time in Colorado was fun; it was such a pleasure to meet you and Annie! Y'all are definitely the lightest, and fastest backcountry hikers I've ever met! I'm also stoked to get your lightweight backpacking videos and I'll definitely spread the word about you guys! 

Take care and thanks again Dave!!

Betsy :)

Pictures: I don't know if you can tell he chewed on my bag, and Kate is signing the word bear in sign language. That's what we do for a living; work with the deaf. Anyway, eventful trip and we are anxious to go back sometime, except much lighter!!

hole that bear chewed in bag
hole that bear chewed in bag