I am considering to get Garcia Machine Backpacker's Cache. According to MEC user reviews, this is the only cache approved in the Adirondack Mountains. Canadian parks, and other places as well, contain instructions of how to hang your food bear-proof in a tree. Those drawings are always related to bear bags rather than bear canisters.

If I am camping in an area with black bears and grizzly bears (but not polar bears!), do I still need to hang my cache in a tree, or is it sufficient to put it on the ground at a safe distance from my tent?

  • In the Canadian rockies most people use bags and suspend them, any formal back-country site in a Canadian Park will have equipment to suspend them, but I usually have a rope and beener just in case. That canister would be a real pain in a backpack.
    – furtive
    Jun 16, 2014 at 17:58
  • @furtive They're mandatory in some places (such as the Adirondack Mountains)...
    – gerrit
    Jun 16, 2014 at 19:06

3 Answers 3


Bear canisters should not be suspended.

Doing so would make it possible for a bear to steal the canister and take it away. The shape of the canisters make it very challenging for a bear to hold or carry, and normally they will eventually give up and ditch the canister somewhere still close enough that you could find and retrieve it. If you have it hung, and the bear manages to snag it down, it could hold the rope in its teeth and haul it away never to be seen again.

The same concern should also be for placing the canister near water, where it could float away never to be retrieved.

You should leave your bear canister on the ground, at least 100 feet from your campsite. I typically bury mine somewhat beneath loose rocks or logs to make it more of a hassle for any critter to get to. Make it difficult for the canister to be accessed and inadvertently rolled very far away.


You should not hang a bear can; as whatsisname mentions it could be counterproductive and make it easier for a bear to make off with it. Not just that, but it will be a significant hassle for you to hang it.

You should always prop some rocks around your can so it can't be rolled away as easily. Don't put it near a cliff, because you don't want it getting rolled off the edge.

(Note that in many places bear canisters are required by law. A few such places I've been (by no means an exhaustive list of where they're required!) include anywhere (National Forest or National Park) in the Sierra Nevada (CA), Yellowstone National Park, Denali National Park, many places in the Washington Cascades, and managed areas (i.e. parks and reserves) in Yukon and Northern Territories in Canada.)


I haven't been camping where you are going, but Cliff Jacobson, who is well known for his experience in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (which has plenty of black bears), says not to hang a bear bag. Hanging is just advertising, he says, and bears are clever enough to get it down. Instead, seal your food inside a thick plastic bag, and shove your food back into some thick bushes, or put it under your canoe. Make it harder for the bear to get, however you can.

If you keep the smell to a minimum and make it harder for a bear to get ahold of your food pack, there is apparently a decent chance the bear will just give up and go away.

For what it's worth, I don't hang food packs. I've been following Jacobson's advice for years. I've never had a bear in camp, so maybe not hanging the bag (and keeping food inside a plastic bag) makes it harder to find. Since I haven't had a bear in camp, though, I haven't had a chance to test whether a bear will get bored if I've made it hard to get to my food pack.

  • 3
    This is bad advice. There is no keeping "smell to a minimum" with bears, they have a keener sense of smell than bloodhounds. If you don't want to hang your food fine, but at least have enough respect for the wildlife to use a bear canister, or a purpose built bag such as an ursack. You owe it to the bears to do it right. You've just been lucky enough not to have been caught. Jun 5, 2014 at 17:14
  • 3
    Yup. I've had a bear through my camp. The food barrels were under the (26 ft) canoe, and the bear biffed them around quite a bit. When they didn't yield, the bear left, walking right past our tents without any interest in them. More importantly, your technique does not protect you from squirrels and similar rodents, who have got into poorly hung packs and ruined some of our food in the past. Jun 5, 2014 at 17:18

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