It’s every woodland camper’s worst fear: waking up to a bear scrounging around in your camp. A million things run through your mind, like whether it’s going to get ugly, whether you should just let it eat all your food, and whether or not you could have prevented this. It’s pretty safe to say that you can answer “yes” to two out of three of those scenarios, and let’s hope it’s not the first one! It’s true that run-ins with nature are bound to happen when you venture out into their territory, but there are precautions you can take that may render your camp off the radar not only to bears, but rodents, birds, and insects as well.
There are a couple methods you can use to keep your food out of an animal’s reach:
- Bear Bagging
This technique is simple, but it takes a few extra supplies and some strategy. First, make sure your food is sealed in airtight freezer bags or quality plastic containers, to trap in the yummy scents animals so love. You will need a couple heavy-duty duffel bags or stuff sacks, made of strong nylon or canvas, with sturdy handles. If you want to hang your bags from a tall tree limb, you will also need about 75 feet of rope, because you want the food to be between 12-20 feet off the ground to be effective. If you do use the hanging method, make sure your tree is a significant distance from camp, and far enough away from the trunk of the tree so that the clever bear can’t easily climb the tree and grab your goodies. If you do not want to hang your food bags, other campers have had success with stashing them under scrub and bushes off of beaten paths, and again, well away from camp. Bears have poor eyesight in the dark, so if there’s no food odor, it’s unlikely they’ll be able to hone in on some nondescript bags in the brush. Just don’t forget where you stashed them!
- Bear-Proof Containers
These aren’t cheap, but if you are an avid woods camper, they will be worth the investment. They completely mask any food odors that would entice bears and other animals, and are extremely durable. A simple internet search can point you in the direction of these containers.
Map Out Your Camp
Imagine your campsite is a baseball diamond. Your tent is home, your cooking area is first base, your food storage is second base, and your washing area is third base. If space allows, set up each base at least 200 feet away from each other. Position home base so that it is upwind of your cooking area. This will keep any food odors that may be hanging around the cooking station from wafting in the direction of your tent, which could lead a bear with the munchies down the wrong trail. Never, ever keep food in your tent. Make sure your campsite stays clean, and that all food scraps and garbage are properly disposed of away from camp. If you are camping in an area where you will have to pack out your garbage, bag and stow it exactly the same way you do for your food. This includes any kind of sanitary products you use as well.
Nothing is absolutely fail-safe when it comes to nature, but an ounce of prevention is definitely worth spending less time salvaging your camp when the animals stop by for a snack!