In 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.
The 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.
What 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
Deciding 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.