There are any number of attempts at protecting provisions in the wilderness. The king is the bear barrel. There are a variety of items used for bear barrels, from those specifically designed and manufactured commercially to various recycled plastic pickle and olive barrels used for the purpose. Nothing is perfect, however, at least not forever. Bears are extremely intelligent, and at least in the Adirondacks they’ve learned that a blue barrel or a bag hanging from an overhead line mean the same thing to them that the Golden Arches mean to most kids. They’ve learned how to rip the line holding the container in the air, climb the tree to sever the horizontal line running between two trees, or if hanging from a small tree, send cubs up the tree until it bends down enough for Mom to reach dinner. The barrels will still work in most other areas, at least for awhile, but just like monkey see, monkey do…….
Bears represent the most severe threat to food supplies in areas where they are common, but they’re not the only threat. Anything from mice, rats, raccoons, or anything else that can smell the food, will try to get to it. The first solution is to pack food in air-tight, odor-free packaging, like zip-lock bags. Often people will even double bag provisions. The second solution is to keep a clean campsite and avoid having food in camp. Cliff Jacobson, who often paddles through the Northern tundra bear country where there are no trees to hang food caches from, says he seems to have the best success by just getting food away from camp. Bears equate food with people, so not having it around people helps. He moves his food storage a couple hundred feet downwind from camp and leaves it on the ground.
I’ve recently stumbled on something I’m giving a try. USA Emergency Supply handles dehydrated foods and food storage equipment for emergency storm shelters. They manufacture a strong double lid, called The Gamma Seal Lid, that fastens to the top of 5-gallon utility buckets you can buy at any Lowes or Home Depot. The outer rim snaps securely to the top of the bucket. It’s so secure, it has to be set in place with a mallet. The inner face of the rim is threaded to receive the threaded and gasketed lid, making a watertight and airtight seal. The sturdy bails make it ease to carry the buckets, even two in a hand, during a portage. This makes the harness needed to transport a barrel unnecessary. When I made up my provisions, I found that each bucket carried a full week’s supplies, and weighed 12 lbs. As to cost, the buckets were $2.74 ea. at Lowes, and the lids vary in cost depending on the number ordered, but run around $6.40 ea. This compares favorably with the $80-90 most bear barrels go for.
A wanigan is a container to carry the pots and pans, dishes, eating utensils, stove and fuel, cooking utensils, and normal items you need to access for nearly every meal. These include coffee, tea, cocoa, spices, dish soap and scrubber, clothes pins, etc. Rather than building a wood box for this purpose, one bucket accommodates everything that’s needed.