While it’s impossible to guarantee a bear-proof camping trip in bear country, there are a number of steps you can take to make your campsite less attractive to bears and more likely to deter them from visiting. These steps can be boiled down to two main principles: keep bears from finding a reason to come to your campsite, and make sure they have every reason to leave.
How To Keep Bears Away From Your Campsite
The absolute most basic rule of keeping bears away from your campsite is to be smart with your food. Bears have a very keen sense of smell and can smell food up to a mile away, so making sure that you follow a few basic rules for food prep and food storage is of the utmost importance.
- Never pour out cooking oil or grease at your campsite. The best thing you can do is pour the oil or grease into an airtight container and dispose of it elsewhere.
- Don’t leave food out longer than you have to. Cleanup shortly after cooking and be sure to properly clean all utensils, cooking surfaces, and dispose of all scraps and dirty paper towels, etc.
- Drain the dishwashing water at least 100 yards (ca. 91 m) from your campsite, and be sure to strain out any food particles and store them with the garbage.
- Be sure to dispose of all garbage after cooking and eating in a receptacle away from your campsite. Most campgrounds will have a dumpster near the main office you can put your garbage.
- Don’t sleep in the same clothes you cooked in – when you cook the scent of the oil and food will stay on your clothes, so avoid tracking that scent into your tent.
- Keep your tent free of food and beverages – no candy wrappers, water bottles, etc.
- If possible, cook at least 100 yards upwind from your tent. This will help prevent the scent of your cooking from staying on your campsite.
- Store all food in airtight containers and keep inside a sealed vehicle if possible. If not, hang your food from a tree as reasonably far away from your campsite as possible, about 15 feet (4.57 m) or higher off the ground.
- Stay with your gear, and don’t leave food or beverages unattended.
- Keep a flashlight and bear spray with you, just in case.
How To Defend Your Campsite From Bears
In the event that a bear does wind up on your campground, the most important thing to consider is your own safety – so if you even think about grabbing your cooler full of food, forget it! Take care of yourself and fellow campers first and foremost, food is replaceable.
The absolute first rule here is to get to a safe spot as fast as possible. This should be your first instinct, but if all else fails and you find yourself trapped on your campsite with a bear, there are some things you can do to give yourself the advantage.
Defending your campsite from a bear is not a guaranteed win, but here are some of our best tips for getting rid of that unwanted visitor if running to safety is not an option.
- If cornered by a bear, fight with anything possible – rocks, sticks, anything you can get your hands on.
- Make as much noise as possible, this may help to deter the bear, and will also help to signal nearby campers for help.
- Keep a bottle of bear spray with you.
- Set a bear fence around your campsite – this is a little more involved but it’s pretty good peace of mind if you are really worried about the possibility of a bear finding your campground.