Holding On To My Food

Bear KegIn the wilderness there are animals of all sizes that want to relieve you of your food; the small ones may not bother you while doing it, and the bigger ones may decide that you are the tastier morsel. In any event, protecting your food supply is a must. Enter the Counter Assault Bear Keg (bear resistant food container).

Unfortunately, tree limbs to hang the food off of are in short supply in northern Alaska and a few other places we will be passing through. This led me to purchase a bear proof plastic keg. Actually, I purchased two of them; the first turned out to be too small to hold a weeks worth of food plus other smelly items (soap, trash, toiletries, etc) so I returned it and purchased a larger, 720 in3, version.

Closed KegThe Counter Assault Keg weighs 3.1 pounds and is advertised to hold 8-12 days of food. The longest stretch we will have between food provision stops is 8 days, so this looked like just the ticket. The top of the keg is held in place with 3 quarter turn locks, and when the keg is closed up it has a very smooth surface making it difficult, is not impossible, for an animal to get sufficient purchase to pry it open. The bright yellow color should make it easier to locate if an animal tries rolling it around.

Food ItemsWhat specifically will I put in the container? I assembled a weeks worth of breakfasts, lunches, dinners, snacks, and toiletries to see if it would all fit. The key is getting everything in there for the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, . . . xth day. The first day’s food can be carried outside the keg because it will be eaten instead of being stored. All together, my food for 8 days is about 10 pounds worth of ‘stuff’.

I plan on using food pouch cooking for breakfast and dinner; so these meals are in 1 quart freezer bags. The freezer bags are heavier duty and more resistant to damage from boiling water. Also, the freezer bags can be easily rolled up and sealed, thus removing excess air (which takes up wasted space). Some of the purchased ‘dried’ meals come in somewhat stiff foil pouches which I opened and transferred to freezer bags; I cut the label and instructions from the foil bag and put them in the freezer bag. Many of the commercial meals are listed for 2 people, however, the calorie count per serving is somewhat low for someone bicycling all day long (200-300 calories). On the cross country ride we typically ate more than 250 each night.

Here is a list of what I was able to fit into the bear keg:

  • 7 breakfast food pouches
  • 10 hot tea bags
  • 7 hot dinner pouches
  • 3 desert pouches
  • 6 bagels
  • 1 bottle of honey
  • 1 jar of peanut butter
  • 12 snack bars
  • 1 pouch containing trail mix
  • bar soap, toothpaste, cough drops, a few other small ‘smelly’ items

Behind The SeatDeciding how/where to carry this 10″ diameter x 14″ long food container took a little doing, but I finally fitted it in a space behind the seat and secured it to the seat frame with 2 Velcro bands, 2″ wide by 32″ long, purchased from Harbor Freight. It is tucked away nicely there and the Radical Design Panniers rest easily on either side of the keg.

Bear safety guidelines suggest cooking and storing food (and other items) at least 100 yards from the campsite. All food items, trash, and other ‘smelly’ items should be hung at least 10′ in the air and 4′ from tree trunks, if trees or other supports are available. If trees, or other supports, are not available the bear keg should be stored in a depression or in low brush to minimize the chance of it rolling away. I purchased the canvas cover for the bear keg to facilitate hanging it in the air when possible.

The blog post written by the couple who lost their food to raccoons and skunks, and then spent 3 days hiking out of no-man’s-land without any food was enough to convince me that bears are not the only problem. I believe this keg will definitely protect my food supply, from all size animals, between provision stops.


A Radical Design

Radical Design Banana RacerOne of the key questions I faced with using a trike on this South From Alaska self-supported tour was, ‘where am I going to put everything?’ On the Bacchetta Giro 20 I was able to use the Arkel RT40 under seat bags which provided 2,450 in3 of storage. Unfortunately, the TerraTrike Rambler sits too low and the RT40s won’t fit beneath the seat. After considerable research I settled on the Radical Design Banana Racer panniers.

The Banana Racer panniers have 1,525 in3 of storage and weigh 19 ounces. The Racers plus the Arkel TailRider provide close to the RT40 storage capacity: problem solved. Radical Design panniers are made in the Netherlands, and the company has been in business for over 20 years. The bags themselves are made from Cordura Nylon, have heavy duty zippers with cover flap, and use a cinch strap on the outside to relieve zipper stress. A external mesh pocket is located on the lower section of each bag. The outside panel on the bag is available in several different colors; I chose yellow for visibility.

Support StrapThe bags lay across the seat using two 1 1/2″ wide straps and incorporate a 1″ support strap at the top which can be unsnapped and clipped around the seat to hold the bags in place. In my case, the support strap is looped over the head rest support post; I had to fabricate an extension to the support strap because the original strap was too short. Radical Design uses standard plastic buckles which can be found either locally or on the internet: 1″ Duraflex Stealth Plastic Buckles. The 1″ web strap was available locally.

Third StrapThere are only two adjustable width straps which lay across the seat: at the bottom of the pannier and in the middle.This basic design of the Banana Racers allows the top of the panniers to lean back, past the seat frame. In my case, this provided interference with the Arkel RT60 panniers on the rear rack. Sooooo, I added a third strap at the top of the panniers. This strap keeps the panniers more in line with the seat frame. The 1 1/2″ triglide buckles and webbing were available at a local fabric store.

The panniers are essentially long tubes with a full length zipper running down one side. This is quite useful for storing things such as a sleeping bag, tent, or items stored in stuff sacks. In my case, I have my tent stored in one side and my sleeping gear stored in the other. My rational was based on being able to easily get to the tent for quick setup and then quick access to the sleeping bag/mattress/pillow.

Waterproof CoverThe panniers are not waterproof, and Radical Design does not provide an optional accessory cover. After my success with the Lil’ Roy water proof covers I decided to build some for the Banana Racers.

I used yellow rip-stop nylon for the shell, which is basically a ‘boat’ shaped creation comprised of three parts: a front, a back, and a wrap around piece between the two. I sewed a pocket hem around the open top of the ‘boat’; before sewing the pocket I installed 2 metal eylets where the bungee cords would exit. Next, I ran a small bungee cord (replacement cord for jointed tent poles) through one eyelet, around the pocket, out the other eyelet. The bungee cord was terminated with two cylinder cord locks. I added 1″ reflective material down the length of the cover and two Velcro strips between the three Mesh Drainpannier straps to pull the cover closed. Rip-stop nylon is not water resistant so I sprayed a coating of Kiwi Heavy Duty Camp Dry on the inside of the covers. Even with these covers pulled snug around the panniers and  the Velcro fasteners pull tight there will be some water getting in. To solve that problem I installed small mesh screen material in the bottom of the cover for drainage. Cost for the covers, including a can of Camp Dry: $30.

At this point I have not actually used the Radical Design Racer panniers on a tour but have been very happy with how they fit on the trike.They are easy to ‘flop’ on the seat in the morning and remove at the end of the day. I have experimented getting into them and putting things back and everything seems to go as planned. Overall, I think these Racers will do the job quite admirably.

Hangin’ The Bladder

BladderI decided to go with a water bladder on the trike since water bottles could not be located within easy reach while riding. The questions became: what kind of bladder and where would I put it.

There seems to be all different brands, sizes, and shapes of bladders available. After as much research as I was willing to put in I selected the Camelbak 70 ounce Lumbar Reservoir. I selected the lumbar style because it seemed to fit better across the back of the seat. The 70 ounce size was selected because it holds about the equivalent of 2 large water bottles (28 ounces each).

Bladder BagCommercially available bladder bags did not  seem to fit my needs, so I elected to make one that worked in the space I had available. I used a heavy duty nylon canvas, similar to Cordura, some edging, some webbing, and a plastic snap. The materials were all in stock at the local fabric store, and the cost was about $15. I was able to use a home sewing machine, with a #16 jean needle, even thought the material was quite thick.

Bladder In The BagBag Closed

The hole in the bag was sized so that the round plastic bladder opening just barely fits. There is a small flap on the tongue of the bag that slips over the plastic extension on the bladder opening. When closed up there is a natural opening for the tube to extend out through, and the entire package can be closed up and carried by the strap.

Name Badge ClipsTube and Clip

Tube location was an issue so I constructed 2 clips from some name badge clips and short strips of double sided Velcro. When wrapped loosely around the bladder tube they can be positioned at the best location. I place one on the back of the seat and the other on my shirt or jacket.

Bladder Bag On The BikeIt is a tight fit, but the bladder bag slips in between the Radical Design panniers and just behind the headrest support post. The bottom of the bag rests on the mounting straps for the rear rack and the bag strap goes over the headrest tube for added support.

I added a quick disconnect in the bladder hose near the bag. This allows me to disconnect the hose and fill the bag without removing it.

All in all, the bladder works very well, and it was a good choice for my needs. Two water bottle racks and 28 ounce bottles weigh 11.6 ounces; the bladder/bag/clips weigh 14.4 ounces. This is not much of a weight penalty for the benefits. The biggest problem I have encountered is trying to standing up without removing the hose clip from my shirt. Ah, when did my memory and my body go in separate directions?