I’m planning a canoe trip along the shores of Lake Huron and Georgian Bay this season. It’s one of my favourite places to paddle in Ontario. The only problem is that it’s an area known for habituated black bears that visit your camp looking for a midnight snack. I generally hang my food in other bear-troubled areas like Algonquin or Killarney Provincial Park. The Huron and Georgian Bay coastline, however, doesn’t have a lot of tall trees to swing a rope over.
Originally, I thought I would just store my food in my regular blue canoe barrel and then stash it back in the woods away from camp. That’s what I’ve done while paddling in the North, in places like Woodland Caribou or Wabakimi Provincial Park. The trees are small there too. The question is, would a bear get my food? Well, the chance of having a habituated bear wandering into your camp is pretty darn low up there. Not many paddlers go that far north, and not many bears create a routine of robbing campers of their food. So that system seems to work well for that type of trip. However, it’s important to note that those blue barrels paddlers use are NOT bear proof. Just wander into the front gatehouse of Killarney Park and have a look at one the staff put on display that a bear completely destroyed to get at the camp snacks.
So, I got myself a Bear Keg from Counter Assault—the same company that makes bear spray. I know backpackers use this system a lot, but I don’t know of many canoeists. I’m not sure why.
In fact, it’s mandatory for backpackers to use in many national parks in the United States and Canada. It’s also approved by the Sierra Interagency Black Bear Group and Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee. Not sure who they are but it is darn impressive that they back the product.
The bear canister has 716 cubic inches of storage, which may be too small for some paddlers who are travelling more than a week, and don’t pack a lot of dehydrated meals. But it only weighs 3.8 pounds. You can store it in your pack, or it does come with its own carrying case, with heavy duty black nylon straps for attaching to pack and a zippered lid entry.
There are alternatives, such as transparent canisters, which make more sense if you are looking for a particular chocolate bar or package of coffee. But I like the yellow-coloured canister—it’s easy to find in the early morning when you haven’t had your coffee yet and everything around you at camp seems to bend in with the woods. I also prefer the snap on lip system rather than the screw on style. It may be confusing to figure out at first, but to me, it is a far more secure system. Heck, bears are smart.
There’s also those Ursack Bear Sacks I see other paddlers using. Cool idea, but I found mixed reviews on social media whether they truly work or not. Let me know your thoughts on that one.
In a nutshell, this Counter Assault Bear Keg is going to be a perfect addition to my coastline trip that’s overpopulated by problem bears. There are no portages to be had—just nuisance bruins sneaking into camp at night trying to steal my powdered Gatorade and marshmallows past their expiration date. I think I’ve got that problem covered.