Food Storage

Those camping along The Colorado Trail – and elsewhere in Colorado’s backcountry – need to take adequate steps to store their food so that it’s inaccessible to bears and other critters. It’s not only a matter of safety for Trail users, but also for the safety of the wild animals along the Trail. Not to mention the consequences of losing your food supply to a hungry intruder.

Stuff bags on rope in trees

Bear problems along the Trail are on the rise as the black bear population rises (there are no grizzlies in Colorado) and the popularity of the Trail increases. Fortunately, few Trail users report adverse bear encounters, but those that do occur can wreak havoc on the Trail experience. Smaller critters – raccoons, porcupines, skunks, etc. – can do surprising damage to a food supply as well.

Bears that score human food morph into “food bears.” They begin revisiting the same campsites looking for more easy pickings. Bears that are normally spooked by humans become more aggressive and menacing. Bear-human clashes become inevitable.

Man stringing food bags on storage line.
Your plans for a CT trip should include a food storage strategy. Options range from hanging your food bag out of reach of a bear to bear-proof canisters and bags. In no case should you sleep with your food. Hanging your food is the lightest option, but it requires practice, patience and extra time to do it properly. Many CT travelers use a bear-proof bag such as an “Ursack” along with an odor proof plastic bag like an “Opsak” as a liner.

One example of the recent-year bear problems along The Colorado Trail, in 2011 and 2012, the CT saw nuisance bear activity in the heavily used Segment 1, including the Bear Creek and West Bear Creek campsites. Several hikers lost food and equipment, their trips upended or ruined. Colorado Division of Wildlife put up signs warning: “CAUTION, BEAR ACTIVITY. Exercise proper camping and food storage! Be bear aware!” The following season there were no reports of bear problems in the area.

For more information, here are some helpful links:

Article suggesting hanging is ineffective (Outside Magazine)

Bear-proof “Ursack” bags

Odor proof bags (CampSource via Amazon)

Bear behavior and tips (Bear Smart Durango)

Hanging your food (YouTube)

Bear-proof canisters (REI)

Forest Service site page, “Be Bear Aware”