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Bear Resistant Canisters

View the Bear-Resistant Canister Regulations (leaves DEC website).

Many black bears, particularly those in the Adirondack High Peaks Wilderness, have become adept at obtaining food that is stored by back country campers. Bear-resistant canisters are the most effective means for preventing bears from obtaining food while you are camping. Bears will return to look for natural foods in the forest when bears are unable to acquire food from back country campers. This leads to a more enjoyable experience for all involved.

As defined in regulation, NYSDEC requires the use of bear-resistant canisters by overnight users in the Eastern High Peaks Wilderness between April 1 And November 30. NYSDEC encourages campers to use bear-resistant canisters throughout the Adirondack and Catskill backcountry.

NOTE: Black Bears in the Eastern High Peaks Wilderness have regularly defeated bear-resistant canisters made of clear plastic such as the one depicted on the right in the photo below. Campers should use another type of bear-resistant canister to prevent the loss of food. The clear plastic bear-resistant canisters are effective elsewhere in the Adirondacks and through the Catskills.

Bear-Resistant Canisters Facts

  • Bear-resistant canisters have passed rigorous testing with live bears.
  • Canisters are solid, non-pliable, and do not allow bears' claws or teeth to grip under any edges.
  • Canisters are usually made of a hard plastic, but metal or another material may also be used.
  • Non-rigid containers or sacks are not considered bear resistant canisters under the regulation.
  • Canisters weigh 3 to 5 pounds.
  • Canisters typically are 8 inches by 12 inches in size and hold up to 5 days of food for 1 person, when properly packed.
  • Bear-resistant canisters are available for purchase or rent from many local, national and web-based outdoor recreation retailers.
Image of three different bear resistant canisters designed for storing food in the backcountry.

Though bears may be able to move canisters by swatting and rolling them, they are unable to gain access to the food inside. This teaches bears that they cannot receive food rewards from back country campers.

Packing a Bear-Resistant Canister

Bear resistant canister with food packages.
  • All scented items: Food, toiletries and garbage must fit inside the canister whenever you leave it unattended, throughout the entire trip.
  • Choose your food wisely: Dense, high-calorie options are best.
  • Plan each meal: Avoid bringing too much or too little food.
  • Repackage bulky boxes and inflated packaging: Put all food and toiletries into re-sealable bags.
  • Check that everything fits: Before you embark on your trip, make sure that all of your food, trash, toiletries, and scented items will fit into the canister on the first night.
  • Carry the first day's food outside of the canister: This food must say with you at all times since it is not stored in a canister.
  • Minimize toiletries: All toothpaste, bug spray, sunscreen, etc. should be put into small reusable containers.

Using a Bear-Resistant Canister

Bear Resistant Canister Attached to a Backpack
  • Ensure that the canister lid is secured.
  • Carry the canister in the backpack or strap it to the outside.
  • Nylon carrying cases are available for some canisters.
  • Place reflective tape on the canister to assist in locating the canister in the dark.
  • Label the canister with your name and contact information in case it is lost.

Storing a Bear-Resistant Canister

Bear resistant canister stored on the ground.
  • Store the canister at least 100 feet from the campsite and 100 feet from the cooking area.
  • Store the canister on level ground in an area where it will not be obviously visible to a passing bear.
  • Hanging canisters is not recommended. Bears in this region that are able to get the canister out of a food hang will be able to carry it away using the rope tied to it. The shape of the canister alone makes it more difficult to carry away.
  • Do NOT store canisters in carrying case or attached to your backpack overnight (bears may carry away your pack with the canister).
  • Do NOT store canisters in or near water. Canisters are not watertight and do not float.

Bear-Resistant Canister Regulation

Subparagraph 190.13(f)(3)(xiv) of Title 6 of the New York Code, Rule and Regulation (6 NYCRR) (effected August 24, 2005) states that no person "during the period April 1 through November 30, no overnight camper in the Eastern High Peaks Zone shall fail to use bear-resistant canisters for the storage of all food, food containers, garbage, and toiletries."

6 NYCRR Paragraph 190.13(b)(2) defines a bear-resistant canister as "a commercially made container constructed of solid, non-pliable material manufactured for the specific purpose of resisting entry by bears."

6 NYCRR Paragraph 190.13(b)(6) defines an overnight camper as "a person who stays or intends to stay in the Eastern High Peaks Zone during the night."

6 NYCRR Paragraph 190.13(b)(4) defines the Eastern High Peaks Zone as "that portion of the High Peaks Wilderness Area located to the east of the ridge line immediately west of the Indian Pass Trail."