Bucket List Trip - Lots of Questions

MaineBumpkin

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My wife and I decided to plan a mult-week trip in 2022 from Maine to California with multiple stops along the way including MOAB, Telluride (black bear pass), Yosemite and the Rubicon Trail (for starters). Have done plenty of primitive camping in Maine during my life but for the past seven years we have exclusively ‘Glamped’ in our 35’ travel trailer. Now I’m going back to tent camping in unfamiliar areas so I’ll have tons of questions but just one tonight.

It seems the vast majority of people who camp from a Wrangler do so with the hardtop on but we would rather plan the trip with the soft top for more open air options. We plan to ground tent so a rooftop tent is not an issue but are there other advantages of the hardtop on long camping trips? I did see some places require all food be stored in a hard shell vehicle, will they really turn you away if you have the soft top? I’d be interested in hearing other people’s methods for securing food, trash, waste when going soft top in bear country.





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BroncoHound

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I've never witnessed it firsthand, but I've heard of Park Rangers giving folks some grief for having a soft top in bear country. That said, I haven't heard it very often and only anecdotally.

As for where to stash your stuff at night, the old adage is 100ft from camp and as high as you can get it. When I car camp without a top and doors, I just sling my laundry bag, shaving kit, and trasharoo (double bagged, though that doesn't really make any difference) over a tree branch a fair bit beyond camp with some paracord. For dry food storage (both mine and the dogs), I use an old ammo can (not bear proof) and for wet I have a "bear resistant" cooler from Wal-Mart that's shaping up to be the best cooler I've ever owned. Both the cooler and the ammo can get lugged out of camp and stashed near where I hang my laundry and trash bags at night. So far I've been lucky and haven't had any critter visits, though I'm sure there are folks out there that are being quite a bit more precautious than I am.

Side note on the cooler: it also holds ice just as long as friends' Yeti and Pelican coolers and was $97 for a 55-quart versus their $400 price tags.

https://www.walmart.com/ip/Lifetime-55-Quart-High-Performance-Cooler-Grey-90949/490384164
 

Zandcwhite

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Any park ranger suggesting storing food in your vehicle, hard top or not, is either new or simply inexperienced in bear country. We had a wedding party forget a 5lb bag of sugar in the back seat of their car in the high Sierra Nevada's and the bear folded that door down like opening a sardine tin. As he ate the sugar, his saliva made a candy flavored upholstery. There was nothing left by morning but the springs where the back seat used to be. We hang our dry goods and ratchet strap the cooler under the jeep, hoping that it at least slows them down enough we can scare them off.
 

ML7

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Keep the soft top and get a rope and bag to tie up your food in a tree, good camp hygiene is real important, dont throw scraps around and clean up. More often it is small creatures that get into your food, if you are clean enough to keep them away the bears will probably stay away, dont leave food items in your car is the best rule, a car door hardtop or not wont stop a bear if he smells food.
 
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MaineBumpkin

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Thanks everyone, I stayed up scouring the interweb for more info last night and found many of these points made multiple times. The cooler tip is awesome, I will for sure be ordering one! I was looking at the Rough Country fridge last night but just can't bring myself to drop that much coin for something I may need 10 nights per year (it is great price just the same). I actually saw one post (I think) that said some parks like Yellowstone now have rules against hanging anything from trees and they have bear boxes people can lock their stuff in.

One post I read said (as you have), keep the food / bug spray / toiletries / trash out of your Jeep and don't even eat snacks in there if you can help it. A few granola bar crumbs on the floor mat will have Yogi drooling. Someone even suggested leaving the windows down so a bear can 'check things out' without destroying the $2k Best Top or ripping a door off.

My plan will be to cook away from Jeep / Tent, clean up all traces and secure food and other attractions in that Walmart cooler and everything else in something like this. I'll add ratchet straps to buy me an extra 10 seconds to hear something and react ;) Last thing I want to do is help create problem bears who end up having to be relocated.
 

baggio16

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On my trips to Alaska and other bear-friendly areas, I store all the food in scent proof bags and bear containers. That seemed to do the trick in the backcountry. I've had a grizzly walk through camp and a few black bears find their way in. So far, lucky for me. I was talking to this guy in RV in the Yukon that had to show me the claw marks from the grizzly on the sides. Battle scars.

If you're staying in campgrounds, more than likely, if you're in bear country they will have metal containers to store your supplies. Also, some areas won't let you camp if you don't have a hard sided vehicle. I was in one place where all the tenters were behind an electric fence.

I got my fridge at REI. They have the 20% off coupon for members coming out soon. Once you go fridge, you will never look back. At least for me that is. Nothing like a cold beer at night and not having to worry about ice.
 

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Any park ranger suggesting storing food in your vehicle, hard top or not, is either new or simply inexperienced in bear country. We had a wedding party forget a 5lb bag of sugar in the back seat of their car in the high Sierra Nevada's and the bear folded that door down like opening a sardine tin. As he ate the sugar, his saliva made a candy flavored upholstery. There was nothing left by morning but the springs where the back seat used to be. We hang our dry goods and ratchet strap the cooler under the jeep, hoping that it at least slows them down enough we can scare them off.
yep a Hard top won't stop a bear
 

MEHillwalker80

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Hi Bumpkin. I'm making that trip except all the way up to AK beginning June 15th this year. I'm also from the Pine Tree State. I will be posting the results on my YouTube Channel upon my return or maybe even enroute. Since I am retired Army, my itinerary will be taking me to active military base campgrounds across the US all the way to Fairbanks AK. I plan on coming all the way back through Canada in the Fall. I think it will be unique coming from Alaska to Maine without hitting any other of the lower 48. Gas prices in Canada will probable leave me penniless though :) Where in Maine are you? I'm in the Rumford/Dixfield area.
 

MEHillwalker80

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If you hang your smellables, this technique works very well and is very reliable:

 
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MaineBumpkin

MaineBumpkin

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Hi Bumpkin. I'm making that trip except all the way up to AK beginning June 15th this year. I'm also from the Pine Tree State. I will be posting the results on my YouTube Channel upon my return or maybe even enroute. Since I am retired Army, my itinerary will be taking me to active military base campgrounds across the US all the way to Fairbanks AK. I plan on coming all the way back through Canada in the Fall. I think it will be unique coming from Alaska to Maine without hitting any other of the lower 48. Gas prices in Canada will probable leave me penniless though :) Where in Maine are you? I'm in the Rumford/Dixfield area.
Hello Tom, that's great, I look forward to seeing your adventure! We are still a decade away from retirement so our trips are limited to two weeks max but we would love to do the Alaska run one day. One thing I've come to realize (with some advice from the community here) is to take it easy, don't try to cram too much in and enjoy the places we can get to. Luckily we have 15 months left for planning, hopefully gas won't be $4 gal by then! We are in Windham.

-Henri
 

MtCamper

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Two suggestions: first take a look at my set up. Not sure it is legal where you are at but I'm good in all the western states we visit. Not allowed into Oregon or Washington so we don't go there. Check the double tow laws in the states you want to travel thru. Don't worry about length. I've never seen a case where length was questioned. You can always unhook the Jeep and your wife can drive. Second: Several ice chests are approved bear proof containers. Keep proof that yours is because I still get challenged by unknowledgable Rangers on occasion.
 

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