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No one wants to lose their food in the middle of a backpacking trip. Learn how to protect it from bears and other wildlife.
The Three Food Storage Options
1. Portable animal-resistant food storage containers
2. Food Storage Boxes
In areas where food storage containers are not required, you may use a food storage box if available. Keep in mind that you must share these boxes with other hikers; locks are not permitted on them. Carry rope for hanging food in case the box is full or you don't camp where you intended. The caching of food and gear in food storage boxes is not permitted within Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks. Food storage boxes are typically 47" long x 33" deep x 28" high but size varies by location.
3. Counter-balance Method
The only methods of hanging food that are allowed are those that do not leave any ropes hanging down where bears can reach them (the counter-balance method). However, because trees suitable for counter balance are rare and bears are so adaptable this method generally does not work in these parks. Only use the counter-balance method in areas where canisters are NOT required and other methods are not available.
Wilderness Food Storage Precautions and Regulations
Avoid bringing odorous foods that attract bears.
Don't leave food and containers in cars at the trailhead (including ice chests, bags, and cans). You must use trailhead food storage boxes if they are available. If not, contact a ranger for alternatives. Bears can break into vehicles if they see or smell signs of food.
Share food-storage boxes with other campers. Store soap, sunscreen, deodorant, toothpaste and garbage in the same way as food. Bears are attracted to anything with an odor.
You can often scare bears away by making loud noises and throwing objects before they get to your food. Be bold, but keep a safe distance and use good judgment. Never attempt to retrieve food from a bear. Never approach a bear or get near a cub.
Remove all food from packs and store it properly at night and any time you are away from camp. Bears are active both day and night. Leave packs on the ground with flaps and pockets open.
Take all your garbage with you when you leave an area.
If a bear does get your food, you are responsible for cleaning up and packing out all debris, and for reporting it to the nearest ranger.
Note: These regulations and precautions help decrease the chance of personal injury or property damage. However, bear damage and confrontations are still possible, even when all guidelines are followed.
All bears in the Sierra Nevada are American black bears, Ursus americanus. This name can be misleading, as they may be black, brown, cinnamon, or even blonde in color. The last grizzly bear (Ursus arctos) in California was killed near Sequoia National Park in 1922. This food storage information does not apply to areas inhabited by grizzly bears.
Last updated: June 29, 2023