Growing up in Iowa was great. The only wildlife to worry about while camping was the occasional dumpster diving raccoon and ugly looking opossum. That’s just not the case in bear country. From the Redwoods of Big Sur to the Blue Ridge of the Appalachians, there’s more to know about sharing a campsite with potentially grouchy neighbors. And here for you today are some of those things to keep in mind.
Keep Food Out of the Campsite
In fact, keep things that your human taste buds wouldn’t consider to be food, but still have fragrant odor, away from your campsite (bug-spray, perfume, tooth-paste, etc.). The best way to avoid a bear is to not invite them. You have your own space (your tiny campsite), and they have theirs (the rest of the forest). To effectively keep the scents out of your campsite follow the advice below.
Use Bear Bags
The best thing you can do to block bear-attracting smells is keep all of your “smell-ables” (anything with a scent), in one designated bag in your backpack. This effectively becomes your “bear-bag” and makes everything easy to transport, and more importantly, when done right, ensures you’re not leaving that one fateful Snickers bar tucked away in your sleeping bag.
Separate Cook Site
Cook site selection and separation is key. You know how a warm meal cooking smells so delicious after a day of backpacking? That’s how it always smells to a bear. No sense in setting up stove where you sleep. Instead find a nice cooking area approximately 300 feet away and preferably downwind from where you sleep. This not only keeps the smells away from the campsite, but sets you up nicely to throw your bear hang.
Use a Bear Hang
Depending on the area, you’ll need to find a way to store your food overnight somewhere away from your campsite. One of the best ways to prevent Yogi Bear from slashing into your salami is by throwing your food into a tree. Find a suitable branch (at least 15 feet above the ground), and throw your rope. Use a pulley system to make life easier and make sure you hang it a fair distance from the trunk of the tree (bears are great tree climbers).
And finally, within moderate measures, a good way to keep Black Bears at bay is to be loud. And if you’re with a group of children, chances are there won’t be a Black Bear within a 3‑mile radius. Black Bears (and I repeat, Black Bears) are a normally skiddish animal. So unless you back it into a corner or separate it from its cubs (I don’t recommend doing this), then it will most likely run away at any noise you make. You don’t need to blow your whistle with every step you take, but if you ever feel uneasy with your silent surroundings, simply play a favorite game of mine loosely entitled “Hey Bear.” All you need to do is cup your hands, lean your head back, and shout “HEY BEAR!” as loudly as you can.