Is a bear canister or other anti-animal food protection method needed for (long) day hikes in bear country?

For example, is it unsafe to go on a 20-mile hike/trail run in Yosemite with a sandwich in one's backpack?

I thought the conventional wisdom is that animals will not be bothered to directly steal food from a human, but some of the answers here suggest otherwise.

2 Answers 2


I'm answering from personal experience, which although extensive, is of course limited: limited to black bears, limited to the Sierra and to the Rockies and to a lesser degree, Shenandoah, and limited to several long trips per year for 40 years, plus short trips, warm-up day trips and day hikes from our base camps.

We never carried a bear canister for day trips or even considered it. On day hikes, we carry trail mix, bread, cheese, chocolate -- the usual tasty assortment, mostly in a day hiker with, say, a box of raisins in our pockets. On the long trips, we have packs stuffed with food, tasty and freeze dried. No bear has ever approached us when we had our packs on, looking for food.

In our early days, before bear canisters were ubiqutous and in the era when hanging food was the norm, bears got into our food several times when we were camped. A bear can be very clever and determined in getting food down when it is hanging from a tree. And several times we were awakened by a bear trying to open a bear canister; they never succeeded.

We were never panhandled when hiking while eating, although I would draw the line at hiking with a dead rabbit or a large paper bag of blueberries dangling from my waist.

This is Ursus americanus only. We have no experience with grizzlies.


Does Yosemite mean the valley, or the park? Bear behavior is very different in specific areas like Yosemite Valley where there are a lot of bears who are habituated to humans.

Your question seems to refer to my own anecdote about having a bear stealing my food while I was sitting down and eating. This was in an area with bears habituated to humans. It was after dark in an area with lots of humans camping close together. A place like that is a bear supermarket.

But if you go out for a long trail run, stop in the middle of the day in remote backcountry, pull a sandwich out of your fanny pack, and eat -- well, let's be realistic about the risk. You're far away from areas where bears are habituated from humans. The chances are extremely small that you will encounter a bear at all during the time it takes you to eat. If you do, the bear will be afraid of you and run away. The risk you're experiencing is smaller than the risk experienced by someone in Yosemite Valley who is walking through a parking lot with a sandwich in their hand.

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