Bears and Camping

Camping in areas where bears live can be dangerous if you don’t know how to keep your campground safe. Bears and people don’t make a very nice combination. Here are some tips to reduce the chances that bears will come into your campground.

It’s best to choose sites that are out in the open. Pitching your tent in a deeply forested area gives bears a lot of places to hide and take cover as they make their approach. If you do have to camp around trees, pitch your tent around some good climbing trees.

When you arrive at a potential campground, look for signs that a bear may have recently been at the site—such as disturbed fire pits, or paw prints. If campers that were at the site before you weren’t diligent in keeping the site unattractive for bears, your site may be a bear’s new target. If there are signs that bear activity has occurred, bypass the site and look for another one.

Next, check out the potential site to see if there is anything around you that would attract a bear. Are you in an area where bears may be feeding on nuts or berries? Are you near game trails? If so, bypass the site and look for another one.

Once you do find a site that seems free of bear activity, separate yourself from your food. Most national parks require that back country campers properly hang their food so it’s out of the reach of bears. Many backcountry campsites provide hanging poles for this purpose. If there are no hanging poles, you’ll need two trees and two ropes. One rope should be placed so it runs between the two tall trees—much like a clothesline runs between poles. Tie your food onto the second rope. Next, take this rope and cast the free end up and over the rope that runs between the two tall trees. This will enable you to pull your food up so that it hangs between the two trees well above ground level. Tie the root securely to a tree branch, or tree trunk, to keep the food securely in place.

If you are camping in an area that has no tall trees, it’s recommended that you place your food in many layers of zip locking plastic bags. This will help cut down on the smell. Then, take your food and place it somewhere several hundred feet away from your campground.

When it comes time to do your cooking, don’t cook anywhere near where you have pitched your tent. It’s recommended that you do your camp cooking a few hundred yards downwind of your tent’s location. Food smells can get into your tent from the food itself and from the smoke that comes off the stove/grill.

Try not to cook too much food. You should only cook what will be eaten. If you do have leftover food, dispose of it far away from the campsite in bear proof containers, if possible. Clean your cooking utensils and dishes immediately after you’ve eaten, and if you smell like food or smoke, wash up and change your clothes.