In previous posts I’ve discussed my sleeping bag, sleeping pad, stove, tent, and water purification strategy. If you go back and read those entries be sure to read the comments. There are a lot of great suggestions there.
Before I describe my bear canister, here’s a bit more regarding the rules behind their use.
There are stretches on the John Muir Trail where bear canisters are not mandatory; this map shows where canisters are required and where they are not. Here’s the thing, though: in the areas where canisters aren’t required, the only legal alternative is to counterbalance your food.
Counterbalancing is hard to do, effectively, and means that instead of trudging around at the end of the day looking for an empty, flat, legal campsite (which isn’t always easy to find), you are trudging around looking for an empty, flat, legal campsite near a tree with the perfectly placed branch growing from it’s side.
Good luck with that. The practical solution is to carry a canister throughout.
I’ve written about the Wild Ideas canisters before, and after my latest thru-hike I’m as convinced as ever: the Bearikade is your best choice. Although I’ve rented in the past, a few years back I went ahead and purchased a Bearikade Scout. I’ve carried it ever since. (Since I do most of my Sierra Nevada hikes solo, and since I don’t bring much food, a small canister is all I need.)
The Bearikades are the lightest, do a great job of protecting your food, and come in lots of different sizes.
If you decide to rent instead of buy, and if you are hiking the John Muir Trail, you can even call them (805-693-0550) for a substantial discount.
Purchasing, however, may be the better way to go. Why? Because you can have your canister custom made to hold precisely what you want. (They do that by varying the length of the cylinder, not by changing the diameter.) Want a canister that holds a couple of cubic liters more? Order a canister a couple of inches longer. Since the carbon-fiber material in the middle is the lightest part of the canister, you gain less than two ounces of weight per extra inch of length.
Much of what I carried on the trail this year will never see the woods again, at least in my backpack. I’ve decided to be much more aggressive in my pursuit of a lighter load. That’s not true of my Bearikade; right now, at least, it’s as good as it gets.
My grade: A
Good hiking, Ray