What's the Big Deal About Bear Barrels?

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What's the Big Deal About Bear Barrels?

You are sitting in your tent, just settling down to sleep after a long day of hiking, fishing, and taking pictures with your friends. You had a fabulous dinner of freshly caught BWCA walleye and instant mashed potatoes over a small fire. Packed away in a plastic “Wal-Mart” bag, you set the leftovers outside your tent, excited to eat them for breakfast. 

Just as you start to doze off to the sound of water flowing and crickets chirping, a large stick snaps suspiciously close to your camp. You play it off as a figment of your imagination, but your heart rate slowly starts to increase. All of a sudden you hear commotion by your leftovers, followed by a scream. You unzip your tent to see a large, but skinny black bear run off with your food. Your friends all come out of their tents too, dumbfounded by the event that just took place. Looks like you’ll need to make your way back into town for breakfast tomorrow.

Bear in a Tree

Bear in a tree. Photo Credits: Steph Anderson

This situation is pretty easily avoidable. Bear barrels are a necessary part of adventures in the Northland (and pretty much anywhere for that matter). A bear barrel is a hardshell, locked container that keeps the delicious smells of food from entering a bear’s keen nostrils. During the late summer and early fall, bears are eating more while trying to put on some pounds before their winter hibernation. The Duluth News Tribune just published an article about the importance of bear barrels that can be found here!

This year, with the uncharacteristically dry conditions and lack of a solid berry harvest, bears are looking for food anywhere they can. This could be garbage cans in town, or in the backpacks of campers who didn’t think to put their food out of a bear’s reach. At the very least, outdoor enthusiasts need to hang their food from a tall branch of a tree. This will keep the scent of your food elevated, as well as make it more difficult for the large mammals to get ahold of your dried cranberries. 

Close Bear in a tree

Large Black Bear in a tree. Photo Credits: Steph Anderson

Frost River carries two sizes of latching bear barrels: a 30 liter barrel and a 60 liter barrel. If you are going on a long, unsupported trip, a 60 liter barrel might be necessary to carry all the food and other accessories you need to survive. If you are going on an overnight or a weekend trip, the 30 liter barrel should suffice. Carrying these barrels by themselves is clunky and awkward. A few of Frost River’s canoe packs will fit the larger barrel, while most will fit the smaller. A list of packs that will comfortably fit the two barrels is detailed below.

Frost River Bear Barrel

Frost River 30 and 60 Liter Bear Barrels. Photo Credit: Woods Creek Productions

These packs WILL fit the 60 liter barrel:


These packs WILL fit the 30 liter barrel:


In order to avoid having unwanted visitors in your camp, it is of the utmost importance to use a bear barrel. Be sure to check out Frost River’s barrels before you head out on your next adventure!