LA’s Guide to Summiting Whitney, Part III - Food Storage: What to do about bears on the trail.

People: On the trail you are required to use bear-proof storage for our food. The rationale behind this rule is identical to storing food in cars. It is again illegal to feed wildlife; and the Forest Service doesn’t want bears becoming habituated to human food. As all bears in the Sierras have learned to defeat the “hanging method” of food storage, the Forest Service requires all backpackers to carry what are known as bear canisters, which are reinforced (usually plastic) containers that weigh approximately three to five pounds and are bear-proof. It is also important to note that as Trail Camp is above treeline, the hanging method would not be an option! The number of people and the amount of food a group plans to eat will determine how many containers you will need to carry. Generally, I would say that one canister can hold three to four people’s food for one night. Once you have reached your campsite, take the canister out, and place it roughly twenty feet away from your campsite. Do not leave it in your pack; otherwise the bears will simply take your pack containing the canister back to their den!

The bear canister does two things: 1) it protects your food from bears, and places you in compliance with the law; and 2) it protects your food and smellable items from marmots. A marmot is a rodent that lives at high elevations (9,000 feet and up) and is roughly beaver sized (for more information than you will ever need about marmots, check out this site: ). These not-so-little rodents also love to eat people food. They will chew through tents, backpacks, and just about anything else to get at the food. I have seen all sorts of equipment ruined by these guys, and I guarantee that they will be around any campsite at Trail Camp in force (along with their other smaller rodent cousins). They also have an uncanny ability to swoop in, chew holes in stuff and disappear while people are around or watching. The bear canister, while extra weight is therefore a bit of a blessing in disguise as it allows you to be protected from bears, and it allows your gear to be protected from marmots.