Why You Need a Bear Canister for the Backcountry
Protect wildlife and store your food properly.
All backcountry hikers have a love/hate relationship with bear canisters. They're bulky, add a couple pounds to your pack weight, never easy to pack, hard to fit more than a couple days worth of food and scented items in them, but we need them. Not just for ourselves, but for wildlife.
They're not designed to be scent proof, but they're designed to keep wildlife, including bears, chipmunks, squirrels, and mice, out of our food. This protects your food supply while you're in the backcountry, but also protects bears and other wildlife.
Our food is high in sodium, sugar and calories, especially if you're bringing the right kind of food with you on the trail, these three are essential for survival.
Let's start with bears, typically they're scared of humans and they avoid interactions (unless you get between a mama and her cubs). But when bears get into our food, they begin to associate humans with yummy tasting, high calorie food. This is when bears start coming into campsites, and human-bear interactions increase. This also means the chances of a bear becoming aggressive towards humans increases. That poses a safety hazard to you on the trial, but that's also when the bear and her cubs need to be put down. Protect our bears, and store your food properly.
If you leave food in your pack or your tent, smaller animals like marmots or mice chew holes through your pack and your tent to get into your food. If all of your food is tucked away in your bear canister, it helps keep your gear in tact and keeps wildlife out. Squirrels, chipmunks, and marmots are cute, but you shouldn't be feeding them human food either. Our food is not healthy for them, it impairs their natural ability to forage for food, they lose their natural fear of humans, it causes population imbalances, and they turn into nuisance animals as they gather more around campsites and tourist areas instead of being spread out through the wilderness.
Drive up campsites in active bear areas have metal bear boxes where you can store all of your food and scented items. When traveling into the backcountry, use a bear canister. Place the bear canister about 100 ft outside of your tent. Don't place it by a cliff or water, if a bear does try to open it and it rolls, you don't want it rolling off a cliff or drifting away in a river.