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Storing Food in the Backcountry

Updated: May 17

Including the best method to prevent pests from sharing your dinner


No matter where in the world your adventures take you, keeping pests out of your food bag should be one of your top considerations when making preparations.


Most trampers have likely either had the experience of losing food to a mouse, possum, or bird, or they have heard stories of others who have.


Even if you haven’t had your food stolen, no one wants to be the person who attracted pests to the hut in the middle of the night.


Knowing this issue exists, what should you do about it?


First, know that not all food storage strategies are equally effective. Even, and perhaps especially, long-standing techniques are faulty or have been solved by some of the more intelligent scavengers.


In huts, it's common to hang your food from the walls or rafters by nails. Hanging food is also common on long trails in North America where even the bears have figured out the solution to this long-standing technique. But mice don’t need to be smart to reach your hanging food bag. Without cone-shaped obstacles, mice will happily run along, and climb up and down, strings thinner than a shoelace. My brother found this out when he went to eat his almonds the next morning after using bear wire (a clothesline-like wire strung between two trees) on the Appalachian Trail, only to find mouse droppings in his almond bag instead.


You may also be inclined to simply leave your food inside your pack at night, especially if tenting. Debra found out the hard way (before switching to the method described below) that mice will happily leave holes in the pack itself as they tunnel through to your food. Not to mention birds or possums rummaging through any pack left on the front porch of huts.


Even bear canisters, only worth mentioning in NZ because they are considered the gold standard for food storage elsewhere, share one fatal flaw with all the other food storage techniques mentioned above:


If animals can smell your food, they will come looking for it.


This means they are in your campsite, or in the hut, regardless of how inaccessible you make your food. So why not solve the source of the problem instead?


Enter scent-proof bags, a solution rapidly gaining popularity among thru-hikers for their simplicity and packability, lightweight, and unparalleled effectiveness. These bags use a hermetic seal, and laminated layers of plastic with nylon reinforcement to create an air-tight, waterproof barrier. They have also been through bear-testing conditions to demonstrate that bears cannot find food stored inside these bags.


If bears can’t smell your food despite a sense of smell 7x better than a bloodhound, then mice, possums, and other wild pests don’t stand a chance.


Debra and I have been using scent-proof bags for years, on long trails in North America, and all across Aotearoa New Zealand without ever having any problems. The only issue you may face with these bags is leaving your grubby handprint on the outside of the bag as you seal your food inside - but no solution could help you then!


We endorse the use of these products so much we have brought them to Kiwi Ultralight. This is an upgrade to the food bag you already carry- never risk sharing food with pests again!


You can purchase scent-proof bags on our website at this link:




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