By Gordon Peterson

A bear resistant container limits the volume of food that a person can carry on a backpack trip. When planning a menu and shopping for food, care must be taken to select items that have low volume in relation to their weight.

A pasta example: spaghetti and flat fettuccine are low volume while noodles and macaroni are high volume in relation to their weight.

Also, care must be taken that you have enough food, but you should also plan that no food will be thrown away on the trip. Experience has shown that we need 1.5 pounds of food per person per day. This will average 3000 calories per person per day. Small women generally will eat less, while large men will generally eat more, but everyone will be satisfied and no food will be thrown away.

How do you achieve 1.5 pounds of food per person per day? If you plan menus similar to mine and you use the Master Shopping List amount per person, your food weight will be very close to 1.5 pounds per person per day. This includes each member's bag of snack items. However, when you repackage food, you take the amount you planned for. Nothing extra!

Example: there are 10 people on your trip. You plan for two cookies per person for one meal, but the package from the store contains 22 cookies. Before bear containers you would take the store package, but now with bear containers, you repackage 20 cookies and leave two at home.


1. Kitchen or weight watchers scale calibrated to 1/2 oz. - or better.
2. Simple calculator with add, subtract, multiply and divide functions.
3. Plastic bags (Knapsack issue)
4. Ziplok sandwich bags.
5. Ziplok one quart and one gallon storage bags.
6. Several one cup and one pint wide mouth plastic bottles.
7. Package of size 16 rubber bands.

You do not need to protect the food against crushing and bag damage in backpacks when repackaging for bear resistant containers. Do not double bag and do not use knots to close the bag. Knots take up too much room. The small plastic bags can be rolled up and one or two rubber bands can be used to keep the roll closed. The shape of a bag can then be altered to fit into a small open space in a container. You also do not want too large of a volume in any one package. It is sometimes best to repackage some items into two plastic bags. Almost all store packaging is thrown away.

One exception of several: smoked salmon is left in its foil pouch. Also, with few exceptions, all items that make up a meal are in individual packages. The spaghetti is in one package and the spaghetti sauce is in another package. Some items like green beans repackage best by pressing flat in a ziplok bag. The one gallon bag will then pack flat in the stainless steel container.


Loading does require planning because you need to know what containers to open at each meal. The following is an example of how I loaded the containers for a ten person trip with nine food days.

One container was insulated with 1/4 inch foam and contained items sensitive to heat such as butter, cheese, etc.

A second container had tea, coffee, chocolate drink, sugar, and condiments.

Both containers had bales and could be emptied at breakfast and dinner and used as cooking pots. Because of this, I only took one set of 6, 4, and 3 quart commissary pots.

I then had eight containers for eight and one third days of menu items because day one lunch and dinner did not need to be in a container. Each container had a breakfast, a lunch and a dinner. I loaded the containers sequentially, starting with the second day's food, as follows:

Day lNot carried in any containers, as not stored overnight.
Day 2Container #1Container #2Container #3
Day 3Container #4Container #5Container #6
Day 4Container #7Container #8Container #1
Day 5Container #2Container #3Container #4
Day 6Container #5Container #6Container #7
Day 7Container #8Container #1Container #2
Day 8Container #3Container #4Container #5
Day 9Container #6Container #7Container #8
Day 10Breakfast was the only meal served and at the start of the trip it was in several containers until day 2 when it went into #1.

By loading the containers this way, it was easy to keep a record in a note pad of where the meals were and it took 2 and 2/3 days to remove one meal from each container. It was also easy to adjust each person's pack load every morning by the way I allocated the various commissary items.

To load the containers you gather all the food that is to go into one container and load it by what fits best. Do not try to keep breakfast, lunch and dinner separate. It frequently takes several attempts to find the best order of loading so there is no wasted space. The stainless steel container will hold 10 to 11 lbs. of our normal backpack food. The butter and sugar containers will hold 12 to 14 lbs. It is not necessary to load any canned goods in the containers.

Each trip member was assigned a numbered container and each container had that member's bag of snack items packed on top.

The following is a second example of how containers could be loaded for a 15 person 9 food day trip so volume and weight would be almost equal.

Three containers would be set aside for butter, cheese, tea, sugar, etc. This leaves 12 containers for menu items. Containers 2, 5, 8, and 11 each have two lunches, while the other containers each have a breakfast and a dinner. They would be loaded as follows:

Day lNot carried in any containers, as not stored overnight.
Day 2Container #1Container #2Container #3
Day 3Container #4Container #5Container #6
Day 4Container #7Container #8Container #9
Day 5Container #10Container #11Container #12
Day 6Container #3Container #2Container #1
Day 7Container #5Container #5Container #4
Day 8Container #9Container #8Container #7
Day 9Container #12Container #11Container #10
Day 10Stored in available space.


1. You do not sack up and weigh food in the morning.
2. Each day you know where each meal is.
3. Loads can be adjusted by commissary distribution.
4. Much less packaging weight and garbage.
5. Food does not get crushed or bags broken open.
6. Food is protected from rain.
7. No worry about bears or other wildlife getting into the food.
8. The containers make great sit-upons when comfortable rocks are not available.


Each bear resistant container weighs 2 and 3/4 lbs, yet I found my starting commissary load was no more than past years. I even had a compliment as to how light it was and how everyone was so well fed. How can this be? Item 4 above - "much less packaging weight and garbage" - is largely responsible, but you also save the weight of commissary sacks, a second rope for hanging food, and there is no need for two large cooking pots as two bear containers serve double duty.


I found that each trip member had to have an assigned Bear Container. Because of this, I carried fuel in several two quart containers so I could distribute the fuel load. Also, one stainless steel container with a bale could be taken along on a trip to eliminate the need for a large pot even where approved containers are required.

Gordon Peterson 2 February, 2001