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[pct-l] New Bear Canister

Not believing any manufacturers claim about weight I hopefully put the
largest of my new composite bear canisters on my scale. It sure looked
great. The cap was fastened with three large turnbuckles while the inside
was smooth and without the support rings that made my Geo aluminum Bear Can
so hard to pack. This, I thought, was the ultimate bear canister for someone
who could afford the $250 price. A full 900 cubic inches, 50% more than a
standard bear canister, promised to be enough room for even the sloppiest
food packer.

I have probably used every bear canister known to man including the original
two turnbuckle monster that the Sequoia National Park lent to me in 1986.
That year I learned a lesson that the National Park Service would spend ten
years learning - that counterbalancing your food simply didn't work in areas
where there was high human traffic. On that hike I ran across two hiking
parties that had lost food to bears and watched astonished while a bear
casually crashed through a forest, snapping branches off trees that would
decapitate a human. "Throw stones at bears?" I gasped, in response to the
NPS advice to scare bears away from food. "No way! What if the bear gets
pissed?" Right then I hunted down an purchased two hand made, four pound
bear canisters from Dur-Ty business and have used bear canisters ever since.

Bear canisters are effective at protecting food from bears. Effective, that
is, if the food is actually stored inside the canister. Unfortunately, most
of the time it is not, the 600 cubic inch volume being simply unsuitable to
store an average backpackers food. Not that it has to be. I have crammed
over 18 pounds of food in a standard bear canister. I even wrote an article
on how to do it. [http://www.pcta.org/plan/canistercare.shtml] However,
every time I venture into the wilderness I find that backpackers have a full
bear canister. And an overflow bag - A bag of food that they hope the bear
won't get but, if the bear does, they still have enough food in the canister
to not make the trip a total disaster.  This is a good solution for the
backer but a bad plan for the bear who learns to depend on human food and
ultimately gets shot by the NPS for his trouble.

And bear canisters are heavy. The original canister, at more than four
pounds, was terrible. The lightest I have is the aluminum can from Gio
Industries at 2 pounds, 3 ounces for a 600 cubic inch model while the
reasonably priced Garcia canister is two pounds, 10 ounces for essentially
the same volume. You can, therefore, understand why I was stunned when the
weight of the 900 cubic inch composite canister registered 2 pounds 3.6

Actually the smaller composite canister, which I also have, is the lightest
canister yet at 1 pound 13 ounces. At 650 cubic inches it is more than
enough for a single person to get a weeks food in with only minimal care to
packing. Unfortunately, minimal care is not zero care and the typical
backpacker's approach of simply stuffing prepackaged freeze-dried cardboard
into the canister will only yield 4-5 days of rations. Knowing the pain of
getting ready for that once-yearly backpack I advise spending the extra 5
ounces and 50 bucks to get the larger can.

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