How to Keep Bears Away from Your Campsite

It’s your worst camping nightmare. No, we don’t mean camping with the in-laws. We’re talking about bears crashing your campsite. Although bears may appear clumsy, they’re considered to be one of the most dangerous mammals in the world. Bears have a super-strong sense of smell — stronger even than a bloodhound’s. And your campsite has all of that delicious food…

Fortunately, bear encounters rarely lead to a full-on attack. Still, it’s important to follow a few simple guidelines whenever you’re in bear country. Here are a few tips on how to keep bears away from your campsite the next time you go camping.

1. Choose Your Campsite Area Wisely

Be smart about where you decide to set up camp. Is there bear scat on the trail? Pack up and leave. Are there berry bushes (a natural food source for bears) near your campsite? Choose a different spot. And if you see garbage strewn everywhere, pick it up or set up camp elsewhere. Bears will return to their food sources.

2. Use the Bear-Muda Triangle Strategy

Once you find a good camping spot, use the Bear-Muda Triangle by keeping your tent, cooking area and food storage area at least 70 feet apart from each other. To make cooking easier, use a cooler with wheels to transport your food from the storage area to the cooking area. If possible, try to keep your tent upwind from your cooking area. Never eat in your tent! Remember, it’s the smell that attracts bears.

3. Lock Up and Hide Your Food

The best way to store and hide your food from bears depends on where you’re camping. Some national parks, for example, don’t allow campers to use bear hangs (hanging food from a tree), while others do. Make sure that you read the park regulations before you camp.

In general, the best way to keep bears from getting into your food is by using metal food lockers at your park’s campsite. Barring that, you should keep your food stored in well-made hard cases that wildlife can’t break into easily. If you’re locking your food in your car, make sure that it’s out of sight.

4. Maintain a Clean Campsite

Keeping a clean campsite is both common courtesy and common sense. Bears will naturally be more interested in your campsite if there is garbage strewn about and the smell of bacon wafting in the air from leftover grease.

To make your campsite less enticing to bears, wash dirty dishes immediately. Correctly dispose of grease by pouring it into airtight containers and placing them in a hard cooler. Don’t try to burn excess food in the fire! It takes an extremely hot fire to completely burn organic matter. Your partially-burned food will attract bears and other wildlife.

5. Think Twice About Toiletries

When packing for a camping trip, leave unnecessary toiletries at home. Deodorant, toothpaste, lotions and other personal care products with strong fragrances can attract bears from miles away. Even your minty toothpaste is appealing to bears. If you must bring these products with you, opt for scent-free items and keep them sealed in plastic bags.

But really, the best thing you can do to keep bears away from your campsite is to embrace your au naturale scent. Bears aren’t a fan of our natural human smell.

6. Make Noise

Like many humans, bears don’t like surprises. Making lots of noise around your campfire is a simple way to keep them out. Bust out the guitar and sing some songs around the campfire. Bring a noisemaker with you and give it a shake every now and again. If any bears are nearby, you’ll startle them into leaving.

Tip: If you plan to be gone from your campsite for an extended period of time, consider leaving a radio on to make it sound like someone is there. Keep the radio tuned to a talk show. Bears aren’t deterred by music, only human voices.

Camping Safely in Bear Country

There you have it — how to keep bears away from your campsite. With these tips, you can significantly reduce the likelihood of a bear encounter. That being said, it’s still important to keep bear spray with you at all times whenever you’re in bear country. Better safe than sorry!

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