Tech Tip – Packing for Backpacking – Bear Cans

glacier campsiteBy Sarah Ebright, Lead Guide
We’ve all had the same experience. You’ve meticulously packed your backpacking pack for your upcoming trip. You’ve got your sleeping bag at the bottom, sealed against the most torrential downpour. You’ve nested your stove inside your bowl and your bowl inside your pots. You even made your rain gear accessible. You hoist your pack up on your back and are pleasantly surprised by how light it feels. Two steps toward the door, and … oh wait.

You still need to fit the bear canister. Time to explode the backpack and try again.
While we can’t help you to remember to pack the bear can, we do have some tips and tricks for how to pack it efficiently. Check out our suggestions below!
  • How to pack your bear can:
    • Seal all your food inside Ziploc bags to limit the smells coming from the canister. Bear cans are not air- or water-tight, so Ziploc baggies will add that extra layer of protection.
    • Use several smaller Ziploc baggies instead of one larger one. It is easier to maximize the volume of the can by arranging smaller baggies to fill the space.
    • If you have any extra room in your bear can, fill it! Stove, pots, or fuel are great things to squeeze into your canister.
  • How to pack around your bear can:
    • I like to place my bear can vertically in my backpack, pressed up against the frame directly above my sleeping bag. This keeps the weight close to my center of gravity and near the middle of my back (which is great for the uneven terrain of the Wrangells).
    • Use your sleeping pad, stove/pots, med kit, and stuff-sack of extra layers to keep the canister in place.
    • Remove your tent/fly from their stuff sack, and stuff them in the nooks and crannies around your bear canister to fill any extra space in your backpack.
    • Keep any food you plan on eating on the trail (snacks and lunch) outside of the bear can and near the top of your pack so it’s easy to access during the day. Just make sure you’ve got room to store all your smellables back in the canister at night.
So with these tips and suggestions, it’s time to give it a try! Since each backpack is different, spend an evening trying out several options to see what works best with your particular pack. Don’t forget to put your backpack on after packing to make sure the weight is distributed well.
Keep on Adventuring!
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