Voice of Experience (July 2024)

T-26  Newsletter

July, 2024

(The Voice of Experience)


Bears: Smart, Motivated, Relentless

Black bears, particularly those in the Sierra Nevada, have become “habituated” to human food. That means once they get a taste of it, bears want more of it – lots more – and will do just about anything to get it.

They often succeed. Why? Brute strength, persistence, surprising ingenuity and, crucially, the lackadaisical food-storage practices of humans. Wildlife managers remind us that such a dilemma is not a “bear problem.” The real problem occurs when humans take a casual, indifferent approach to storing food.


A bear’s food-stealing repertoire includes:

  • Sending cubs up trees to dislodge nylon food bags dangling from limbs. (Solution: Use a portable, bear-resistant food canister.)
  • Gnawing through limbs several inches thick to make suspended food bags drop. (Solution: Same as above.)


“I’ve never seen it myself, but I’ve heard that some bears will walk out on a branch and make KAMIKAZE jumps at food bags to bring them down,” says Michelle Gagnon, a bear technician at Sequoia/Kings Canyon National Park.


In many areas where bear-human conflict repeatedly occurs, use of bear-resistant canisters has been made mandatory.

“Once bears get introduced to human food, they get hooked,” says Ranger. “They will go to great lengths to find more. They’ll even take up residency at 11,000 feet if there’s a campsite nearby that consistently attracts people and their food.”


Using a Bear-Resistant Food Canister: Some Advantages for Humans

    • No more bear-bagging or counterbalancing – one of the least desirable, most time-consuming camp chores a backpacker faces each night.
  • Less stress: The simplicity and reliability of bear-resistant canisters enhance your peace of mind at night.
  • Freedom to camp and store food securely in places where food-hanging trees may be scarce.
  • Bear-resistant food canisters also resist other wildlife prone to food thievery, from mice to marmots.
  • Canisters can double as a stool or table. (Do not use as cooking stove base)


Insect Bites

Mosquitoes may be as dangerous as all the bears, cougars and moose out there. They certainly are more irritating. There are far more human deaths from insects than all the other deaths caused by mammals. Insects and other bugs are clearly a danger to be reckoned with.



These used to be just an annoyance here in North America. Now they carry diseases like West Nile Fever. Use any good repellent with DEET (30% maximum), or Picaridin (20%) insect repellent to keep them away. Light colored clothing seems to attract fewer mosquitoes than darker clothing.

Mosquito head net is a good idea if you know you’ll be in an area with many mosquitoes. At about an ounce, they don’t add much weight to your backpack.


Black Flies

These are some of the most irritating of insect bites, because they Black Flies not only swarm over you, but crawl and wiggle to get under clothing and at your skin. A head net helps. Unfortunately, DEET doesn’t work as well to repel Black Flies as it does for mosquitoes. You should also seal your duffs and pant legs tightly.


Fire Ants

These inflict dangerous insect bites only if you are sensitive or get stung by many (at least dozens) at once. The bite is very painful. Watch where you step or sit down if you are in Fire Ant territory.



Ticks in the east and Midwest can carry Lyme Disease. In the west, they carry Colorado Fever, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever and Lyme Disease. They usually are a threat early in the summer, or late higher elevations. Tick bites become rare by the end of August. Check yourself a couple times daily for ticks (with a friend’s help, if possible). Slowly pull them loose with sharp point tweezers if they have already bitten you. 

Apply DEET or PICARIDIN based insect repellent on boots, lower portion of your long pants if you are hiking the area known for ticks. Also treat your clothing with Permethrin prior to hiking or backpacking trip. Do not apply Permethrin directly to your skin. (Follow product instructions.) 

Permethrin treated clothing (one treatment) is effective against ticks, chiggers, mites and mosquitoes for up to 6 washings or 6 weeks.


Insect Bite Remedies

Ice (or snow) also helps if applied to painful or irritating insect bites. Ice isn’t usually available when backpacking, of course, unless you are hiking in winter or high in the mountains. Cold water may provide some relief.

If you have Benadryl or another antihistamine, these can control the swelling caused by some insect bites. Seek medical help for bites from particularly venomous bugs, those that cause shock or from insect you are allergic too.


Key Points

  1. Use repellent with DEET (17% to 20% DEET. 30% maximum) or PICARIDIN (20%) to avoid contact with insects.
  2. Use head nets and tight cuffs.
  3. Application of ice or snow may help relieve pain and swelling caused by insect bites.
  4. Seek medical help when necessary.
  5.   Treat your clothing with PERMETHRIN.


(Recipe of the month)

Skid Road Stroganoff (4-Servings)

   12 oz. egg noodles 2 tsp. salt

1 garlic clove, minced 1/2 tsp. paprika

1 small onion, chopped 2 3-oz. cans mushrooms (Drained)

2 Tbsp. cooking oil 1 can condensed cream of chicken soup, undiluted

1 lb. ground beef 1 cup sour cream

2 Tbsp. flour Chopped parsley

   At home:

Add cooking oil to large sauté pan. Brown ground beef. Add onion and garlic. Cook for 5 minutes. Add the flour, salt, paprika, and mushrooms, stir, and let it cook for 5 minutes. 

Cool and then seal in the Zip-Lock Bag and refrigerate. (you may freeze this)


At Camp:

Cook egg noodles in a cooking pot as directed, drain and keep warm. 


Add the soup in separate large cooking pot, add cooked meat mixture, and simmer for 10 minutes. 

Now stir in the sour cream – keeping the heat low, so it won’t curdle – and let it all heat through. 


To serve it, pile the noodles on a serving bowl, pile the stroganoff mix on top of the noodles, and sprinkle chopped parsley around with a lavish hand.



Mr. Soga


Don’t Stop Here

More To Explore

The Voice of Experience (June)

T-26 Newsletter June, 2024 Hiking the Trail General advice and sound tips for the novice in us all. Lace up and load up at home, before hitting the trail, put

Voice of Experience (March)

Blisters The Cure: Catch the hot spot before it’s too late. Heavy all-leather waffle stompers may have gone the way of the dodo bird, but blisters, alas, have not. Friction,

The Voice of Experience (May)

T-26 Newsletter May, 2024 Ease the Itch People who fill their packs with over-the-counter meds for poison oak almost universally report the same conclusion: “They Don’t Work” including Benadryl. You’re

The Voice of Experience (April)

T-26 Newsletter April, 24 Body Tune-Ups Orthopedic surgeons know all about, “runner’s knee”and, “biker’s wrist,” but hey have few, if any labels for backpacking-specific maladies. That’s because ours is a

The Voice of Experience (Febuary)

Cold Weather Camping Three Ways to Lose Body Heat 1. Radiation: The emission of body heat, especially from skin areas exposed to the elements. 2. Conduction: The absorption of cold

The Voice of Experience (January)

Snow Camping Use Equipment Check list, check it twice. Use your equipment checklist and layout your gears on the floor. Check it again to pack your pack. Missing gorp is