Pack it Right!
The use of bear-resistant canisters for food and garbage storage was initiated in Glacier Bay National Park in 1991. The frequency of incidents where bears have damaged property or obtained food has decreased markedly since use of these canisters was instituted. All food, alcohol and scented toiletries (ex. toothpaste and deodorant) carried into the backcountry must be packed into canisters. For more information on bear country camping and bear biology you may look up the Park’s webpage on bears. Our Photo Gallery also has a video about bear behavior and camping and navigating in bear country safely.
The NPS loans bear canisters free of charge. You may check out as many as you think you’ll need and return any not filled prior to departing on your trip. They are issued during your required camper orientation at the Visitor Information Station at the public dock in Bartlett Cove.
The PVC canister is light weight and designed to slip into a camper’s backpack, but also fits nicely into the bow and stern bulkheaded compartments of both the single and double kayaks that we rent. It measures 8.8″ x 12″ and weighs 2.7 lbs. With 560 cubic inches of volume it will hold approximately 4-5 person-days of food.
The NPS no longer carries the larger sized bear canisters.
Make sure your food will fit. Plan your menus carefully before you depart. Select convenient, lightweight foods that don’t take up a lot of room such as freeze dried food, rice, pasta, instant soup mixes, dried fruits, granola bars, trail mix, jerky, and instant oatmeal. Remove all bulky packaging and boxes. Repack whenever possible into zip lock bags. Eliminate bulky foods such as canned products and fresh fruit or frozen meat. (Cans also retain food odors and must be packed out along with your other garbage.) See also our webpage on Packing Tips.
Once you have packaged your dried foods for your menus, if you would like to mail them to us in advance, send to Glacier Bay Sea Kayaks, P.O. Box 26, Gustavus, AK 99826. Mark clearly on the outside of the package your name, arrival date, and number of each box sent (1 of 2, 2 of 2). Keep boxes small and not too heavy or cumbersome to carry. We ask that you call or email us to confirm its arrival. Please use U.S. Priority Mail only and allow two weeks for delivery. Private Carriers (UPS or Fed Ex) take much longer to get to Gustavus.
Ursacks are an alternative to the bear canisters for food storage in bear country. Ursacks that have been certified by the Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee are allowed for food storage in Glacier Bay National Park. This certification should be listed in the specifications for the product on the Ursack website. However, both the NPS and GBSK recommends bear-resistant food canisters, available for free here from the NPS Visitor Information Station, over Ursacks for kayaking in Glacier Bay because they will protect your food from being squished by a curious bear’s teeth.