Re: [John Muir Trail] Bears
- I disagree with Herb about the soap. Hand sanitizers are nowhere near as
effective as soap at getting rid of the ickies that can cause GI problems
for your entire group. And hand contamination is reportedly much more
likely to cause sickness than are water quality issues like Giardia. I just
wash my hands with an hopefully biodegradable soap as far away from a water
source as possible - I just use water from my water bottle to wet my hands
and then to rinse.
Hand sanitizers *might* be a backup to soap for the times when you are too
tired to do a good hand wash. I carry a little. But I'd never rely on it
after making a deposit in the woods. I try to wash right away with soap and
water. If I can't (e.g., I've already emptied my water bottle) I would
definitely wash before handling any food or messing with a water pump.
I'm hoping someone on the group is enough of a microbiologist to comment
intelligently, since I suspect I am more dubious about hand sanitizers than
But is we can't find an expert, this seems to be good info on this:
See generally http://biology.about.com/od/microbiology/a/handsanitizers.htmand
links provided there.
From a Purdue researcher: "[R]esearch shows that [sanitizers] do not
significantly reduce the overall amount of bacteria on the hands, and in
some cases they may even increase it."
From a FDA research summary: "The instant hand sanitizers resulted in a
significant *increase* in bacterial numbers on hands."
Not everyone is so negative on hand sanitizers. But the most optimistic
opinion I've read (on an admittedly not-thorough search) is this:
"According to research performed by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and
Prevention, hand sanitizer is considered as effective at killing germs as
washing your hands with soap and water, *unless hands are visibly soiled*."
I find that my hands usually are "visibly soiled" on the trail, so even the
optimistic view is not encouraging.
I find a 1-oz bottle of the standard liquid campers soap ("Campsuds" - the
green stuff) lasts me a week on the trail. And I use it on cooking utensils
and clothes as well as on hands. My theory is sue sparingly but often.
On Tue, Jun 2, 2009 at 11:26 AM, herbstroh@... <
> In areas that require a canister, the bags are not legal. Also, some of the
> experienced hoodlum bears are able to get into them after much effort.
> Unfortunately, you have to get the trash back into the canister.
> As far as what to do with the canister at night, no you do not need to hang
> it. Take it at least 50-100 feet out of camp, and put it between logs or
> somewhere that prevents Mr. B from rolling it off in a futile effort to get
> inside. Hikers have reported having to hunt down a can that had been batted
> about and rolled down a hill.
> Having said that, the experienced bears have learned they can't get in a
> can, and will just walk by looking for easier pickings.
> Some people take bear spray, but the incidents of attack of a human by
> black bear are almost non-existent. I don't think its worth the weight.
> They only come around for your food, and if its handled correctly they
> should leave you alone.
> On soap, I don't take any. The easiest way to avoid getting soap in surface
> water is not to have any soap. I do take a hand sanitizer for hygene. Camp
> dishes get a "mountain wash" and we call it good.
> Original Message:
> From: tiffrowe00 firstname.lastname@example.org <no_reply%40yahoogroups.com>
> Date: Tue, 02 Jun 2009 17:08:01 -0000
> To: email@example.com <johnmuirtrail%40yahoogroups.com>
> Subject: [John Muir Trail] Bears
> Hi All,
> I don't have much experience with bear canisters and all practices to keep
> the bears away. Any tips would be appreciated.
> Are bear bags good to have? I was thinking of keeping trash in a bear bag.
> Does anyone recommend a good environment-friendly soap? I assume that
> scented soap is a no no.
> At night do we need to keep our bear canisters away from our site or up in
> a tree as well?
> Should we bring bear mace spray?
> Some friends who did JMT a couple years back never saw any bears. They
> also carried baking soda for all their cleaning, seems like to much extra
> weight to me.
> mail2web - Check your email from the web at
John Curran Ladd
1616 Castro Street
San Francisco, CA 94114-3707
415-648-9279 (voice and fax)
[Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
- I don't know how high the density of bears is in SNP, but, living in the area myself and having hiked there many times, I was disappointed for several years at not having encountered any there. I finally had my first sighting last year, followed by another one 5 minutes later, then a mother and cub shortly after that. So, I saw 4 bears just in the one hike, all within about 20 minutes. That was really exciting.
Shenandoah National Park, where the black bear density is very high, also permits the use of spray although I cannot imagine why anyone would feel the need to use it. All of the bears that I've seen are more timid than deer. After hiking the JMT without a bear sighting, I had a bear encounter at Shenandoah at few weeks later and another one in April. Both times the bears ran as soon as they detected my presence.