7 Definitive Tips to Keep Bears Away When Camping
Bears, especially the black ones, can be docile and harmless creatures, making safe camping in a bear country possible.
However, hungry bears can come to your campsite to forage. When they smell food in your camp, they’ll do anything to get it. Running into a bear can also make them feel threatened, leading to a terrible attack.
If you don’t want to be a victim of bear attacks, here are a few practical tips to help you keep them away from your campsite.
How Do You Keep Bears Away When Camping?
1. Choose the Right Campsite
When choosing a campsite, ask yourself whether the area is friendly to bears. Are there bear droppings nearby? Do you see any claw marks on the nearby trees?
Messy sites are usually a significant bear attraction as they probably have fallen food and other scents that can encourage bears to visit.
It would help if you also looked around to see whether the site has any natural bear food like berries and other wild fruits. Animal carcasses are also a red flag, as the killer could still be around.
If you realize that your coveted site looks suitable for furry creatures, the best thing to do is to stay away from that area. Then look for another camping ground that looks boring and unattractive to bears.
Pitching your tent near a water source puts you at a higher risk of bear encounters or attacks, especially in a grizzly bear country.
It helps to camp further away from water sources, regardless of how attracted you feel to the water. Otherwise, you’ll be sleeping between thirsty grizzly bears and their favorite drinking spot, which might end badly.
2. Observe the Bear Country Campsite Set Up
When camping in a bear country, the best way to be safe is to set up your camp using the bearmuda triangle.
The bearmuda triangle is a strategy separating your three main spots, including the cooking, sleeping, and food storage areas. These crucial areas should be about 100 yards from each other.
Depending on the orientation of your chosen campsite, the sleeping area should be at the top of the triangle. This way, the food hanging and cooking areas will be on the lower side, so bears won’t have a reason to come to your tent and distract your sleep.
If your preferred campsite has no tree nearby and you must store your food in bear canisters, keep the containers 100 yards from your tent.
3. Store Your Food In Odor-proof Bags or Containers
Knowing how to store your food correctly when camping in a bear country can save your life. Since bears have an excellent sense of smell, you need to keep all your scented food in an odor-proof bag or container.
If you are car camping and your vehicle is nearby, keep the cooler and the food bags in the trunk.
Since your vehicle is not scent-proof, ensure the bags and containers are properly secured to prevent any conspicuous smell. Bears will go crazy and mess with your car’s paint, trying to get inside when they smell food.
If you don’t have your car and have to keep your food outside, you may be tempted to bring everything into the tent, but this is a recipe for disaster in a bear country.
Instead, store your food and scented items like toothpaste and lotions in odor-proof bags. Then find a suitable tree and hang your items.
The best way to hang your food is to look for a tree with extended branches. Ideally, the food should be 15 feet from the ground and 4 feet from the tree trunk.
If you have a bear-proof container or bear kegs/tubes, keep them at least 50 meters from where you are asleep.
4. Don’t Bring Aromatic Foods to the Campsite
When camping in a bear country, the type of food you bring determines how safe you’ll be from the hairy creatures.
Aromatic foods like fish, bacon, fresh fruit, nuts, and honey, are bears’ favorites. The more scented your food is, the more delicious it will smell to the hungry bears.
If you must bring these foods, keep them in tightly secured scent-proof containers and remove all the crumbs after eating them.
During the day, it’s wise to keep all your edibles in a supervised area and not leave them unattended for even a minute. Bears can show up any time to your campsite and devour your food, leaving you starving for the rest of the trip.
Apart from food, other scented items like perfumes, soaps, and lotions can also attract bears to your campsite. So, non-scented hygiene items are your go-to.
5. Clean Up Immediately After Cooking and Eating
After cooking and eating, you may be tempted to relax and do the dishes and packing later. However, this is the worst idea as the food scents can entice bears to your campsite.
Pack all the remaining food and clean the used utensils as soon as you finish cooking and eating. Then look for any fallen pieces and get rid of them. Remember, even a bit of macaroni is enough to invite a hungry bear from miles away.
If your camping area lacks a designated dishwashing area, do your dishes outside your camping triangle.
You may think burying your food scraps, or any garbage is wise, but it’s not. You should instead pack the waste in a scentless garbage bag or dump it in designated bear-proof containers.
If you lack a bear-proof garbage bag and can’t find a waste container nearby, you can burn all the leftovers and scraps and destroy everything.
Once you brush your teeth, do not discard the used water near your sleeping area. Instead, dig a small hole and dispose of the water. You don’t want to regret anything in the middle of the night.
6. Keep Everything in the Campsite Clean
Before surrendering your sleeping bag, ensure everything in the campsite is clean to keep bears at bay.
If you think that your cooking clothes have any smell, the scent will be over five times stronger to a bear than what you sense. So, the best thing to do is remove your cooking clothes and wear clean sleeping clothes.
Speaking of clothes, avoid visiting your tents when cooking as you may bring food aromas to the tents. And if this sticks around throughout the night, you’ll probably have bears distracting your sleep or, worse, attacking the tent.
Keeping your campsite clean will keep bears and other destructive animals away and make it easier to prepare breakfast.
It also ensures that you leave the area as you found it or even cleaner, creating a safe environment for other campers.
7. Tend to Your Pets or Keep Them Leashed
Do you love camping with your furry friend? Pets can go wild when let free in the forest. They can run around and provoke hungry bears.
If a bear is hungry and feels provoked, it can attack and eat your innocent pet. While this is rare, it can still happen.
So, keeping your pet leashed would help prevent them from wandering in the wild. Remember, many temptations can lead your dog to unforeseen circumstances that can harm them in your absence.
You should also bring enough food for your pet and feed them about 100 yards away from your sleeping area. Avoid feeding wild animals as this can attract others, like bears, to your campground.
Q: What Smell Keeps Bears Away?
A: Ammonia and bleach fumes can keep bears away. Since bears have sensitive noses, ammonia or bleach-based cleaners will irritate and keep them away.
However, this doesn’t mean that you can mix ammonia and bleach to make bear spray. A mixture of ammonia and bleach can lead to deadly fumes harmful to bears and humans.
Bear sprays are effective for self-defense against bears as they have a strong smell that annoys them. For this method to work, you should keep your bear repellent easily accessible.
Q: What to Do If a Bear is Around Your Tent?
A: If you notice that a bear is around your tent, the practical thing to do is turn your lantern or flashlight on and yell to let the bear know that you are inside.
Banging loud items like pans or blowing an air horn will also scare a bear away.
When camping in a bear country, you should always have bear spray and keep it within reach while sleeping in case of a night attack.
Stand tall if you see a bear coming to your campsite and avoid running away, as this would trigger an attack.
Q: What Can You Do Around Your Campsite to Avoid Attracting Bears?
A: You can keep everything in your campsite clean to avoid attracting bears. This includes cleaning your utensils once you finish using them and going to the bathroom at least 50 meters from your tent.
Another crucial thing to do around your campsite to avoid attracting bears is packing all your leftovers and garbage.
Storing your food away from your tent will also keep bears at bay. You can keep your food in scent-proof bags and hang it on a tree.
The rule of thumb is to ensure that your tent has no smells that attract bears, from foods to hygiene products.
A bear fence is also an effective way to scare bears away without hurting them. This method works great for areas with aggressive grizzly and polar bears.
Camping in a bear country and remaining safe throughout your excursion is possible. As long as you stay in your lane and avoid bringing scented items into your tent, bears won’t bother you.
You can use the tips in this article to minimize the chances of seeing a bear when camping.
However, if you have a bear encounter, stay calm and ensure your bear spray is within reach for self-defense in case of an attack.