Food security

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What is your preferred method for protecting food from the elements, insects and animals while remote camping?

I simplify my menu and package snacks and meals in appropriate quantities for compact lightweight carry and convenient consumption. I seal the items in waterproof bags then place the bags into a food storage container in the order of intended use.

For many years I stored and transported my food in a soft sided bag or pack. I protected the food storage container by keeping it in my possession or hanging it. I was successful using this method but hanging was often difficult and the soft container was vulnerable to breaching insects and animals.

I continue to prepare snacks and meals in appropriate quantities and seal items in waterproof bags but I now transport and store the food in a hard sided bear resistant container.
 
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Where I camp most these days raccoons are the biggest problem. They are incredibly quick and good at opening a lot of containers. They will chew through packs, soft coolers, and tents with aplomb to get at food or items that smell like food.

I do not take any food items or things that smell like food into the tent. Any cookware, food items, toiletries, and trash are kept in a hard sided container. That is usually either a blue barrel or 5 gallon polyethylene pails with Gamma Lids but when base camping I also have a couple of hard plastic storage cases such as Plano boxes that accept small padlocks at the corners.

I will sometimes take a soft cooler (RTIC) with me on downriver canoe trips since hard coolers are just too heavy. I keep a close watch on those and usually leave them in a vestibule outside my tent and occasionally inside the tent, but I keep any food items inside double bagged in ziplock bags and make sure the outside is wiped off frequently to remove any food odors.

I have taken multiple trips into the BWCAW and Quetico quite a few times but not for years. I never had a bear encounter there but did then hang food in a soft pack. During one Spring trip the berries had been late coming in and animals were quite hungry. I was driven off one intended campsite on an island by famished squirrels. As soon as I would take one pack out of the canoe several squirrels would jump on it even though it was by my feet. If I turned to chase them off of one pack, a group would jump on another behind me.
 
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“I seal the items in waterproof bags then place the bags into a food storage container in the order of intended use”

I have never been able to predetermine what or how much I want to eat for any meal when tripping, there are too many unknowns; how hungry I am, how much food prep of cooking I want to do, what looks most appealing at that particular meal.

I keep foodstuffs in a blue barrel, usually a 45L or 38L on solo trips; breakfast, lunch/snacks, dinner and stove/cookware each in separate stuff bags. Organizationally I put the next stuff bag needed on top; ie after breakfast I put the lunch/snack bag at the top most easily accessible.

Grab the appropriate bag from the top, have a look inside and see how much of what looks most appealing at the time.

My proudest food packing episode was prior to (and after) a 3 week trip. I knew what grub I already had in the tripping truck, stopped at a grocery store and wandered the aisles grabbing some of this and some of that.

Three weeks later I had enough food left for a lightly fed day, the foodstuff insurance with which I’d like to finish a trip. The only thing I ran short on was drink mix flavoring, something I use very little of in any case.
 

Glenn MacGrady

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I use a bear-resistant Ursack.

Inside the Ursack I use two odor-resistant Opsaks, one for my food and one for my garbage. Since my food is mainly just commercial freeze dried packets and wrapped protein bars, the garbage is mostly rinsed aluminum foil. I tie my Ursack to a tree about 25 yards from my tent. Never had a problem with ground rodents or bears.

Ursack on tree.jpg

The benefit of an Ursack with Opsaks to me, versus bear vaults, wannigans, pack baskets, barrels or other hard containers, is light weight and decreasing gear volume as they collapse. The Opsak was obviously created for the very purpose of being a more air and odor resistant version of the typical commercial Ziploc bag, so I believe it's undeniably superior in those regards as long as it's sealed and cleaned properly.

I can fit a week's worth of my limited type of pre-packaged food in one Ursack, which is about as long a trip as I ever take. A two week trip would require another Ursack, or maybe they make larger ones now.
 
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I considered a Ursack but a hard sided canister met my requirements better.
 

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My preferred method was a chainmail and velcro sack called the GrubPack with a drybag on the inside. Rodents, not bears have always been my greatest nemesis. That combo was then stashed 100 yards away from camp. With the Forest Service changing its rules and not wanting to hang food on non-existent suitable trees, I bit the bullet and bought a BearVault 500. I guess it will double as a place to sit.
 
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I just throw it in a bag in a barrel. I leave the barrel outside the tent. If I get bearanoid, I put ear plugs in, solves the bear problem every time. I guess if I was in grizzly or polar bear country, I would take more precautions.
 
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I strongly considered the Ursack but for some reason, that I cannot remember, I went with the Bear Vault. Which I am happy with, but very much agree with Glen on the volume change in food as you move through your trip. For that, I may switch to a Ursack since I hang my food anyways.

So that brings me to how. I hang all my smelly items away from the tent, I don’t personally keep anything in my vestibule but packs and footwear, etc. I also have a dedicated 20L drybag for trash, it’s clearly marked and I just clean it when I get home.

I’m very surprised that not are there not more people talking about mechanical advantages for hanging gear/food. We’ve all talked about, and read about rescue kits. 3:1. 5:1. But not many people have discussed the benefits of these for hanging barrels or food. I know we’re all strong enough to pull a bag or barrel up on a paracord/rope but depending on the species, like cherry, hickory, silver maple, pine, spruce, the bark has a lot of friction. Making life harder than it needs to be.
 
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I've been using and teaching the Marrison haul system for many years. It uses two carabiners as frictionless pulleys (or you can use heavier real pulleys if you like)) to lift heavy first of trip food loads over a suitable tree branch. Scouts tend to have very heavy loads that are easily lifted using this 2:1 mechanical advantage rope system.


By the way, although many people like to use the Ursack bags, which are great for protection from "mini-bears", they do not satisfy the legal requirement in places like parts of the Adirondacks, where solid hard sided officially certified bear resistant canisters are required. When I paddled the first Yukon 1000 mile race, we carried a large, certified as bear resistant Yeti cooler in our 7 paddler voyageur canoe. Race rules required starting with 20kg of food per person (do the math) on that first running of that race (mandatory only in that first year race), and it all had to be in certified bear resistant containers.
 
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I carry my food in two Sealine bags inside a Duluth Day Pack. After dinner, I toss the bags in the bush in opposite directions from camp. I keep the Duluth Pack in my tent.
I have never had any problems but I avoid popular canoe areas or routes that get a lot of visitors. I don't think the bears or critters have become habituated to campers' food in these areas I travel.
I have camped in early spring/fall at Lows Lake in the ADK. with my wall tent. I always cook over my wood stove in the tent and never had an issue. Food stays in my wanigan in the tent, or just outside. While the bears may be hungry in the early spring, I feel they are still shy and have not gotten used to the smells and noise of campers like mid-summer at Lows. In the fall I'm licensed and armed, bear would be legal game in NY and Maine.
 
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“I’m very surprised that not are there not more people talking about mechanical advantages for hanging gear/food. We’ve all talked about, and read about rescue kits. 3:1. 5:1. But not many people have discussed the benefits of these for hanging barrels or food. I know we’re all strong enough to pull a bag or barrel up on a paracord/rope but depending on the species, like cherry, hickory, silver maple, pine, spruce, the bark has a lot of friction. Making life harder than it needs to be.”

No doubt hanging a hard sided container is the best solution, but that is dependent on having trees, or at least the right sized and sturdy enough trees.

This solution, lacking trees of any useful size, resulted in squirrel chewed not-so-dry dry bags the next morning.

P5111060 by Mike McCrea, on Flickr

Hard sided container”, even with rope between trees and a pulley system squirrels are acrobatic climbers and will make short work of dry bags or soft sided packs.

P4241902 by Mike McCrea, on Flickr

P4251914 by Mike McCrea, on Flickr

The only time I will store food in a soft-sided container is at the start of a multi-week trip, when everything won’t fit in a barrel. I’ll put the excess no-odor stuff like commercial freeze-dried meals in a dry bag, but as space becomes available in the barrel transfer any of that excess.

In terms of the actual throw this thread was lively and informative.

 
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Regarding mini-bear species, mice are bad at ground level, but red squirrels are devils at any level. I once saw a Garcia canister (the black hard plastic kind) that had been rented in the Adirondacks returned with its rounded bottom edge completely chewed through. The renting camper said he watched and witnessed a red squirrel work on it over a three day period. IMO he should have been charged the cost of replacing the canister when he turned it in, but was not.
 
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Sometimes I don’t think about a lack of trees. Almost every location I do and have paddled is covered in forest. But I can see that as more of a challenge. As well as living out in the PNW, I get the difficulties there. Our N. MI forests, least visited forests, are very thick with under layer with tall trees where the lowest branch is high off the ground. It gets frustrating finding a good limb at times.

The line between trees and hanging in the center is a nice idea and reduces the need for any sort of friction saving devices.
In terms of the actual throw this thread was lively and informative.
I believe this is one of the earlier threads that lured me into this whole site.
 
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“Regarding mini-bear species, mice are bad at ground level, but red squirrels are devils at any level. I once saw a Garcia canister (the black hard plastic kind) that had been rented in the Adirondacks returned with a bottom corner completely chewed through. The renting camper said he watched and witnessed a red squirrel work on it over a three day period.”

Back when we used gasketed screw top buckets we twice had occasions when squirrels chewed through the raised lip on the screw tops, destroying the waterproof integrity of the buckets and leaving shards of plastic scattered on the ground.

Knock wood we have not had issues with squirrel chewed blue barrels, even on habituated sites. I’m not sure there is a rim or lip small enough for a squirrel to sink their teeth into.

If you have ever watched video of the squirrel obstacle courses people build for vulgaris entertainment it is obvious that a simple rope hang is not a guaranteed deterrent.


A far less complex squirrel challenge that our kids talked about for years.

https://www.canoetripping.net/threads/bear-hang-using-a-3-1-pulley-system.86780/page-2#post-86823
 
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I strongly considered the Ursack but for some reason, that I cannot remember, I went with the Bear Vault. Which I am happy with, but very much agree with Glen on the volume change in food as you move through your trip. For that, I may switch to a Ursack since I hang my food anyways.

So that brings me to how. I hang all my smelly items away from the tent, I don’t personally keep anything in my vestibule but packs and footwear, etc. I also have a dedicated 20L drybag for trash, it’s clearly marked and I just clean it when I get home.

I’m very surprised that not are there not more people talking about mechanical advantages for hanging gear/food. We’ve all talked about, and read about rescue kits. 3:1. 5:1. But not many people have discussed the benefits of these for hanging barrels or food. I know we’re all strong enough to pull a bag or barrel up on a paracord/rope but depending on the species, like cherry, hickory, silver maple, pine, spruce, the bark has a lot of friction. Making life harder than it needs to be.
I gave up hanging decades ago. In taiga country suitable trees are scarce. And as for white pines... I am looking at a hundred right now.. The ones that have branches suitable have branches that start some 45 feet up. The rest of them are young trees and bend at the weight of even a bird feeder. Many boreal forest species simply do not have good anatomy for hanging. And willows don't begin to hold drying laundry..

We may be going to Newfoundland.. Sometimes there are trees and sometimes none.. And we were planning on camping near St Anthony.. I hope this fella got the next iceberg floating by. https://www.msn.com/en-us/news/worl...s-ceiling-after-climbing-onto-roof/ar-AAW7Cu5
 
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“as for white pines... I am looking at a hundred right now.. The ones that have branches suitable have branches that start some 45 feet up”

Same for Loblolly Pine on the mid-Atlantic coast. A stand-alone Loblolly might have a decent branch within throwing distance, but in a loblolly forest the first viable branch may be 50 feet in the air.

https://nc-forestry.stores.yahoo.net/lopi3rdcycop2.html

Anything below that is likely to be a short dead stub that will snap off under minimal weight.
 
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Last summer on the Noatak River in Alaska (basically treeless, and under National Park Service jurisdiction), we were required to use rigid bear-proof containers, either bear canisters (available on loan through the NPS) or small metal barrels (5 gal. steel drums, again available on loan). We were out for 30 days, so each of us had 4-5 of the Garcia bear canisters.

On a trip down the Alsek/Tatshenshini rivers (Yukon, B.C., Alaska), we used electric fences.

On a kayak trip in coastal Alaska, we used electric fences. Bear canisters weren't an option due to fit/size, and there were no significant trees (just those ghastly alders!).

On my solo trips to Quetico (or basically anywhere else that might have bears), I use a BearVault and a Ursack, which gives me about 10 days of food (and wine, though not enough). I now have another BearVault. I'm mostly concerned about unattended food left at portages when I'm carrying the canoe. I try to go when others aren't around, so there's no activity at the portages to keep bears away. But, bears don't seem to be a problem there anyway,

Backpacking, where food canisters aren't required, I've used the counter balance method described in one of the sites above. But then I've usually had good trees.

On a six week trip to the Barrens a few years ago (my first), we kept our food in our waterproof portage packs (didn't use barrels), away from camp. Being a retired bear conflict manager, I was pretty concerned, however we never saw any bears or bear sign on the entire trip. We had an electric fence, but never used it. I think I got complacent.
 
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