Where is the recommended place to store a BV450 bear canister overnight in black bear country?
I received a similar question via email from David N., so a standalone post on the issue seems warranted. But to give a more comprehensive answer, I’ll broaden the question to:
Where and how should bear canisters and Ursacks be stored overnight?
Let’s first look at what the land agencies and manufacturers suggest:
1. Put them a “safe” distance away from camp. Yosemite National Park recommends a distance or 25 to 50 yards. I have not found a specific recommended distance for grizzly habitat.
2. Avoid any location where they can be rolled away.
3. Do not attach anything to the canister (e.g. a rope or handle) that would make it easier to carry away.
1. Seal the Ursack with a double overhand knot.
2. Anchor it to an unbreakable tree or branch, as high as you can reach, using a figure-8 knot, which is easy to tie and which resists cinching. Do not anchor it low to the ground, which will make it easier for a bear to smash and get leverage.
3. If you have more than one Ursack, spread them apart by about 25 yards.
For additional recommendations, go here.
The official recommendations mostly sound reasonable. I would add only a few things:
1. Distance from camp
In black bear habitat, usually I keep my canister or Ursack closer to my camp, probably more like 10 to 20 yards. It’s far enough away that a bear shouldn’t step on me or confuse me with my food, but it’s close enough that I can hear a bear messing with it. It’s also close enough to deter most bears, which generally are uncomfortable entering an occupied camp.
In grizzly habitat, I’m less bold. A 25-yard minimum sounds about right.
When using a canister, I try to find a spot where it will be difficult to roll far or to roll out of view. Look for a talus field or rock garden, a shallow but steep-sided depression, thick brush, or a flat open meadow.
Be particularly careful of nearby creeks and cliffs. Famously, a bear in Yosemite learned that canisters would explode if she rolled them off a cliff near Snow Creek.
3. Alarm bells
Often I will put my clean cook pot on top of my canister or Ursack, so that it makes noise if a bear (or maybe a large rodent) begins to investigate my food. If I’m sleeping soundly and wrapped in a noise-muffling mummy bag, hopefully I’ll wake up.
4. Ursacks above treeline
It’s best to secure an Ursack to an unbreakable tree or limb. If you’re above treeline or in the Arctic, use the next best thing available. For example, tie it around the base of a boulder, or around a boulder that’s wedged in a talus field. Make it difficult for a bear to carry it away.