Bear Spray or Not - - CycleBlaze

Bicycle Travel Forum

Bear Spray or Not -

Keith A. Spangler

Bear Spray or Not:  Solo bicycle touring and tent camping British Columbia and Alberta this coming August 2020.....  Thanks in advance for any advice!

Reply    Link    Flag
5 months ago
John SaxbyTo Keith A. Spangler

Hi Keith,

The answer might depend on your likely route, as well as whether you're using National or Provincial Parks, and/or wild camping.

For detailed advice on particular areas, I'll defer to people in Alberta or BC.

My experience in the area includes 2400 kms from Hinton (E of Jasper), south along the Icefields Pkwy and Kananaskis to Glacier in Montana, then zig-zagging W to the Pacific.  I camped most nights in 27 days, but always in campgrounds.

I didn't carry bear spray on that tour, although I was in bear country much of the time. In 40-some years of hiking and canoeing in Canada, and in a dozen years of cycle-touring, I've carried bear spray just once, on a hiking trip in Yukon in 2000. Happily, I've never used bear spray.

A key issue, though, is managing your food supply if you're not in a campground which has either bear lockers (i.e., lockers for food and against bears) or a bear-proof fence.  To keep bears and small critters (e.g. squirrels or raccoons) at bay, the rules are: (i) no food or fragrances in your tent, and cook well away from your tent; (ii) hang your food bag in a tree well away from your tent, well off the ground and well away from the trunk; (iii) keep your campsite scrupulously clean.  Odour-proof food bags, such as the ones by Loksak/Opsak, are very useful here.

Hanging your food can get complicated -- conifers are quite useless, in my experience.  You may need to string a line high up betw two trees.  When I'm canoeing, I don't bother hanging my food any more -- I just put it in an odour-proof bag and stow it down the shore 100 yards away from my camp under a rock or a log.

One related note: Even if you're in a campground, don't leave your panniers with food or fragrances in them, anywhere accessible to raccoons.  They will rip panniers to shreds. Leave your panniers in the washroom overnight, or atop a toilet (so long as it's not easily accessible from a nearby tree.)

Hope that's helpful,

Cheers,  John

Reply    Link    Flag
5 months ago
Lyle McLeodTo Keith A. Spangler

Hi Keith,

John's comments are spot-on, particulalry regarding food storage. If you don't follow these you will increase the (still small) chance of having an unwanted visit from a bear, but you can be gauranteed a visit by a porcupine, racoon or squirrel. Although these guys won't cause you direct harm, they will do a number on your pack/panniers and food! Unfortunately this is experience talking!

We live in Canmore and are therefore in 'bear country' every day. We do carry bear spray when mountain biking as you are more likely to come across, and surprise a bear, doing this (this is still quite rare though). When on our road bikes or touring locally we generally do not carry bear spray but many other people do. Personal choice really, and at 310 grams / canister, there is no real downside to having it. 

If you do decide to carry some though I would highly recommend using a water bottle cage adapter (available at MEC and most mountain bike stores https://www.mec.ca/en/product/5044-322/Singletrack-225g-Bear-Spray-Holster) so it's readily accessible if needed.

Regards,

Lyle

Reply    Link    Flag
5 months ago
Keith A. SpanglerTo John Saxby

Thanks John.  

Reply    Link    Flag
5 months ago
Keith A. SpanglerTo Lyle McLeod

Lyle, thank you for the info.  I'll probably get it then.  I assume you can get it at WallMart?  I will be making a stop there in Vancouver to buy a cheap cell phone on Day 1 (August).  Hey, I think I'm routing through Canmore, would love to meet you. Appreciate your time. 

Reply    Link    Flag
5 months ago
Lyle McLeodTo Keith A. Spangler

Hi Keith,

Just Googled Walmart Canada and they do seem to carry bear spray. Whether or not the particular store you go in the Vancouver metro area will have it is another story though. All MEC (formerly known as Mountain Equipment Co-op before they changed their target audienace to 30ish yoga folks -that is for real!) stores will have it though. There are three of them in the Vancouver Metro area.

We don't have any major trips plans this summer, sticking around home and doing local stuff, so by all means look us up when you get here. We're active Warm Showers hosts so if we're around when you get into the area we'd be happy to put you up and feed you. Maybe even a beer or two :)

Happy to recommend roads and routes too. if you want to contact us directly my e-mail is ltmcleod1 at gmail dot com

Regards,

Lyle

Reply    Link    Flag
5 months ago
Keith A. SpanglerTo Lyle McLeod

Lyle, you are so kind.   After writing you I researched where Canmore was located, but the closet I get to you is Banff.  I'd love to share my route with you.  Here is the ridewithgps.com link.  Scroll down on the opening back and click on "Show All on Map".  Of course the individual day routes are listed, but not in order.  Would love to hear your local feedback.  I will be opening a journal here after the first of the year FYI.  

Link:  https://ridewithgps.com/events/98068-canadian-heavy-rescue-solo-tour-2020

Reply    Link    Flag
5 months ago
Lyle McLeodTo Keith A. Spangler

Hi Keith,

Looks like a great trip. We've ridden about 75% of it over the years and have driven all of it (some portions countless times).

The only suggestions I would make (and they are suggestions only!) are:

  • From Kamloops consider riding south on hwy 5a to Merritt through the Nicola Valley. This is a beautiful valley with high country ranches (part of the Douglass Lake Ranch - one of the largest and most historic in Canada) and two lakes, Stump and Nicola. Both Kirsten and I rated this one of our top days on our 2015 x-Canada ride (link to Day 6 Merritt to Kamloops - CGOAB journal, working on getting it published here too). It helped that the weather was perfect but this is a beautiful and somewhat unique area. It will be different than any other day on your trip.
  • From Merritt you could then continue west through the beautiful Nicola valley along hwy 8 to Spences Bridge where you would connect with hwy 1 (Trans Canada) for 35 km to Lytton. Normally I try to avoid the TCH, but this section is very scenic, the road is in v good shape and the truck traffic is relatively light as the majority of the long haul traffic takes hwy 5 from Kamloops to Hope. I would trade riding this section of the TCH for the Kamloops to Cache Creek section any day!
  • From Lytton, where the Thompson and Fraser rivers meet, head north on hwy 12 to Lillooet and you're back on your original route. This is another beautiful valley. We drove Kamloops to Lillooet along this route in late April this year on our way to Tofino (Vancouver Island) and we could count the number of other vehicles on our hands and toes. Granted, there will be more traffic in August, but in general it's local traffic with very few trucks. The entire route is beautiful. From Lillooet to Pemberton your legs will be cursing you but you'll have great bragging rights when you're done. There are some steep sections!
  • My only other suggestion would be to continue down the Bow Valley an additional 22 km on the paved Legacy Trail bike path past Banff to Canmore. Banff is nice, but it's overrun with tourists in the summer. Canmore gets it's share of tourists too, but not like Banff. The ride is easy and beautiful. It looks like you will be arriving in this area in mid August. Unfortunately we will be away (Haida Gwaii sea Kayak trip from 13 - 25th August) but there are a couple of other active WS hosts in Canmore. I don't think there are any in Banff.
  • Great to see that you are taking the McLure ferry across the Thompson and riding the West Syde Road (spelling correct!) into Kamloops. We took this on our 2015 trip too and it's wonderful! Good condition and almost no vehicle traffic. Lot's of local bike traffic though - all good!
  • Also great to see that you are  riding the 1A hwy from Banff to Lake Louise. This is a great ride with more bikes than cars (mid week!). Usually lots of wildlife on this section too (elk (lots), bighorn sheep (lots), the odd moose, the even odder bear (black and grizzly) and very rarely, wolves) We are continually amazed at the number of WS guests we get who ride the TCH from Lake Louise to Banff (even after  we strongly recommend that they don't) because 'that's what the Google Map route is' !!

Be forewarned that on this trip you have a high probability of encountering weather extremes. The  Okanagan  is typically quite hot with temps in the mid 30's (that's celsius) and it is not unknown to get snowed on  (yes even in August) on Sunwapta pass at the Columbia ice fields! When you are camping anywhere from Radium through to Jasper in the Rockies, night time temperatures will be in the single digits. If it's sunny it warms up quickly to high teens, low 20's, but if it's raining, it's usually stays pretty cold (think high single digit to low teens)!

One other thing to be aware of is that a major multi-year construction project is starting in 2020 on Hwy 1 between Golden and Field BC. You are not riding on this, but at times the entire highway will be closed and all traffic will be diverted to hwy 93 south to Radium or to hwy 93 north to Jasper. You are riding these! A road closure schedule is not available yet and the Hwy folks have said that they will try to minimize the impact during heavy tourist season ... but i suspect that there may be a lot more truck traffic than normal from time to time along hwy 93 from Radium to Castle Junction (hwy 1 & 1a). I don't think hwy 93 to Jasper (Ice Fields parkway) will be impacted as much.

Hope this helps. Have a great trip, we'll follow along.

Regards,

Lyle

Reply    Link    Flag
5 months ago
Keith A. SpanglerTo Lyle McLeod

Lyle, wow!  I am extremely thankful to you for taking the TIME to share your experience with me.  That is certainly above and beyond.  I get criticized a lot from some fellow travelers for researching to much.  I just like to be informed (educated) and safe I have people who love me and worry when I'm on these trips.  I road Texas to Florida in 2018 and found a lot of surprises, despite my normal research madness.  Hurricane Michael caused major issues along my route, but friends I made a long the way made it all good.  I sincerely appreciate your information and kindness.  I will take your advice and review the recommendations.  The weather is something I've been curious about so that is a help for sure.  I wish I could thank you over a cup of coffee and a beer for sure, but maybe another day.  Thank you my friend!!!!!!!!!

Reply    Link    Flag
5 months ago