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Do freeze-dried meals need to be placed in bear vault?

When hiking/backpacking I normally carry freeze dried meals i.e. Mountain House.  Should those be put in a bear vault or does the pouch hide the scent?  


9 Replies

Yes, ALL food (and anything with a scent, ie cosmetics, toiletries, etc.) should be hung: at least 1 yard from any part of the tree, at least 5 yards from the ground, and at least 10 yards from your camp (if hunting/trapping/fishing, any processing/preparing/preserving should be done at a "cook camp" at least 50 yards away from your camp). Just remember "1, 5, 10, 50" . As to prepackaged [freeze-dried] food, yes, this STILL applies!

Bears are perfectly suited for survival in the wilderness; they can run as fast as a horse, swim like a fish, climb trees like a monkey, AND, they have a nose like a bloodhound. Plus, they're SMART, they can learn!

There's no need to be afraid of bears, attacks/deaths by bears are rediculously rare, but they are interested in our FOOD, so, they will investigate what they think may be a food possibility. That's their job, that's what they do. YOUR job is to deny them any/all food rewards! Thereby preventing them from being habituated (associating food with people).


Be smart, be safe.



just put only the food you DON'T want the bear to get into the vault.

now, here's my video of my bear encounter on the JMT.

REI Member Since 1979

I completely disagree, EVERYTHING that has an "interesting" scent should be hung along with your food (including your mess kit, particularly if you cooked any kind of meat with it, including food scraps and food garbage, of course). That's why any reputable/dependable source will tell you that includes "cosmetics and toiletries" or anything with a fragrance. And yes, if your cooking caused grease to splatter onto your clothing, you may want to wash up and change your clothes before turning in for the night!!

Please understand, I'm not so concerned if you get mauled to death, I just don't want a bear to be put down because some tenderfoot got lazy... just kidding... sort of... but not really.... As we say in Hawaii, "Life is hard, 'but it's harder if you're stupid.'"

meant to ask earlier, want to clarify, you disagree about putting food in a canister? Or you 'agree' about putting food in a canister, but would 'add' all the other scented stuff?

REI Member Since 1979

Sure... I agree food should be put in a canister (aka, bear can', bear barrel, etc.) along with anything that may cause a bear to "investigate" a possible food opportunity. Again, ESPECIALLY food, food scraps, food garbage, etc. Of course, in some areas, like the South Sierras, and some national parks, you are required by law to have and use a bear barrel.

Most outdoor enthusiasts have heard the story of the bear that completely demolished a Volkswagen Westfalia (in Canada) just to get to a stale, old piece of cheese the owner forgot about. And if you think throwing food garbage onto a bed of hot coals would deter a bear, you'd be dead wrong!

And as I said, they're SMART! Experienced distance hikers on the PCT know this because the bears have figured out how to get the food down!! So, they've had to use a few different ways to hang their food. I was even told by a ranger that a bear had broken into a cabin when the owner had just restocked the pantry, but the bear, for the most part, only crushed open the canned meat.

Would I recommend using a bear barrel AND hanging it? YES! As I stated above, the objective is to deny the bear ANY/ALL possible food rewards. If a bear manages to feed, it WILL be back (bears tend to stay within a few square mile area). The idea is to make it too much trouble for the bear to keep trying, so they will move on (and not waste calories).


@Philreedshikes  I didn't answer but yes, I totally agree that that is a good practice.  

That's why I asked the question because I don't want me OR a bear getting hurt over some food.

Kinda new at this and trying  to learn all I can.

Thanks for your response.


When I carry a bear vault, even my freeze-dried meals go in it. On longer trips when all my scented items will not fit in the bear vault, I also use a bear hang until I have eaten enough food that it will all fit in the bear vault.

aka "Boonerelli"

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Use the bear canisters.  I hung food for years.  Then I watched a bear climb 40' up a tree, reach out along the line we placed, snag our cross line, and pull the food bag to him. 

As is clear from others, the short answer is yes, FD pouches are not totally vapor proof.  What is also clear (but not what was asked) is that anything that might have an interesting fragrance belongs in a bear canister. I recall years ago a car was ripped open in Sequoia and the best guess was that a tube of toothpaste was the item of interest. So it is best to put soap, toothpaste, sunscreen in the bear can, too, if possible.

Realistically, bears have gotten a lot less interested in backpackers in the Sierra since the advent of bearboxes the NPS has put out and requirements to use bear canisters. People bashing pots and pans to scare off bears was once a common noise; on a trip on the Muir Trail a couple years ago, I heard none of that.

I do not think there is any real advantage to hanging a bear canister. The exception might be if you cannot place the bear canister somewhere where a curious bear might knock it into a river or over a cliff, hanging it might keep it from getting lost.

Personally, I do not hang pots and pans or place them in a bear canister. I've *never* in many months spent  in the backcountry had a bear bother cookware I've cleaned and left out, but I do put such stuff well away from where I sleep. (I did have a deer once push stuff around). Arguably clothes that got soiled with food in some way belong far away as well. 

Very few backpackers are remotely capable of properly hanging food. Sorry, I know what it really needs to look like, and it isn't often what I've seen. It is really hard to find a good branch, it can be hard to get a line over said branch at the right spot, and then double balancing food bags high enough to be bear proof takes time and practice (there is a two-rope trick that makes it easier). If you end up with an overfull bear canister, pick out the least appealing things to hang (e.g., bug repellent) and just do your best. 

My experience is with black bears; you want to be super careful in grizzly country