Playing Bear Canister Tetris in the Sierra

Fitting a hike's worth of supplies in a bruin-proof container is an art.
Packing a bear canister (Photo by Daveynin)

Packing a bear canister (Photo by Daveynin)

At long last, it's happened: I've made it to Kennedy Meadows, the unofficial end of the desert. From here, we move on into the South Sierra Wilderness, and from there into the mountains proper.

A new environment means new gear, and for my friends, today was Hiker Christmas: piles of packages and new gear. Everyone's trading parasols for microspikes, adding warmer layers, and, of course, packing the infamous bear canister. Mostly, the weight tradeoff is a wash, particularly since water isn't an issue in the Sierra - even a liter of water, at 2.2 pounds, makes up for the weight of the canister.

Trying to fit between 6 and 11 days of food into a bear can is no easy task, requiring diligence and an iron will to not just eat that pesky bag of gummies that won't quite fit the way you want it to. Eventually, most people got everything situated, or resolved to hang their extra food for the three days to Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park, where it becomes illegal to hang. There's no guilt about not saving that chocolate for later when there's no room to carry it.

Me, I've been postmarked: My bear canister full of food and new socks and microspikes hasn't arrived, and I'm stuck here until it does. So while my friends were already planning on zeroing here and leaving out the following day, who knows when I'll be able to set out, or if I'll be able to catch them when I do. It's a bit stressful, particularly since it's safer to go through the Sierra in a group.

But there's nothing to be done about it except try to relax, catch up with other hikers, and avoid the heat that's settled in once more. Soon, my canister will come, and I'll be on my way to the mountains.