What Should You Put in a Bear Bag?

What should you put in a bear bag?

Bear bags are intended to protect your food on backpacking trips and to prevent bears from becoming accustomed to eating human food. “A fed bear is a dead bear”, as the saying goes, and no one wants to see a bear killed because someone was careless and didn’t hang their food in a bear bag or some other bear-proof container, like a bear canister, a Ursack, or a bear-proof cooler.

What should you put in a bear bag or bear-proof storage? Is it limited to food or are there other things that you should store as well? The answer is yes.

Here are the items, I’d recommended hanging in a bear bag or storing in an IGBC approved bear-resistant container.

  • All of your food
  • Olive or cooking oil
  • Toothpaste
  • Toothbrush
  • Deodorant
  • Mouthwash
  • Perfume
  • Soap
  • Sun tan lotion
  • Chapstick or lip balm
  • Bug dope
  • First-aid creams
  • Condiments
  • Gum
  • Scented tobacco
  • Trash

Here are some other items, you might consider storing at a distance from your tent even if they have no food value.There’s no point in encouraging a close inspection by an alpha predator at night.

  • Pots, pans, and utensils
  • Cooking grills
  • Water bottles or hydration reservoirs that have had flavorings added to them
  • Clothes that you have cooked in

Why take these precautions? Bears have an extremely good sense of smell that’s 100 times more sensitive than humans and 7 times more sensitive than a bloodhound’s. In other words, they can smell things that you’re not even aware have a smell.

Recommended Bear-Proof Containers

The following is a list of the popular bear canisters and Ursack bear-proof bear bags that backpackers and campers use where bear-resistant containers are required.

Make / ModelWeight in oz.Cubic InDays FoodPrice
BearVault BV45033 oz4404$70
BearVault BV50041 oz7007$80
Garcia Backpackers Cache43.5 oz6146$75
Frontiersman Insider Bear Safe48 oz7357$80
Wild Ideas Scout28 oz5005$255
Wild Ideas Weekender31 oz6506-7$288
Wild Ideas Blazer33 oz7507-8$312
Wild Ideas Expedition36 oz9009$349
Bare Boxer26.3 oz2753$60
Lighter1 Big Daddy43 oz6503$100
Lighter1 Lil Sami28 oz3003$95
UDAP No-Fed Bear38.4 oz4554-5$60
Counter Assault Bear Keg58 oz7167$80
Ursack Major Bear Bag7.6 oz6506-7$85
Ursack AllMitey Bear Bag13 oz6506-7$135
Ursack Major XL8.8 oz9259$100
Ursack Major 2XL15.7 oz183018$120

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9 comments

  1. Does hand sanitizer fall into the soap category?

    • IMO Yes. When a bear raided our camp while we were eating dinner near our bear hang, about 100 meters away, teeth marks were left in the toilet kit which was on a rock outside the tent. The kit contained toilet paper, hand sanitizer and a shovel. Only 1 of the empty backpacks was searched by the bear, we surmised the bear was attracted to that pack because of a nonscented plastic garbage bag used as a packliner which was still inside the backpack. The scent of plastic garbage bags may also equate to food for a bear.

    • Does it have a scent?

  2. Geez,

    It is so hard convincing people of doing this. I really think it takes a bear coming on thier space. Unfortunately when this happens. It gets reported, they are the ones at fault, and then we have a cannister mandated. It makes it hard for everyone.

  3. I will never understand why people don’t hang their “smellables”. Unless you are above tree line, it should be standard operating procedure. Here in the south bears can sometimes be a problem but usually I hang my food more because of the other smaller varmits.

  4. What about a snoring hiking partner?

    …Or should I just stuff a ham sandwich in his pocket and boot him out of the tent for the bear to scare? That should cure the snoring!

  5. I wonder if bears like “Esbit” fuel smell….

  6. On a recent trip to Yosemite a ranger told us, ” if it goes in your mouth or on your skin it needs to go in your bear canister.” That seems like a pretty easy way to remember.

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