Whether you are camping in an open campground, a State National Park, in the backcountry, or in a notable bear country, more than often you will have a chance to encounter some form of wildlife.
If not anything else, deers and rabbits can be easily spotted in the wilderness or you might have an occasional visit from raccoons who come to your campsite in search of food.
But out of all these visitors, there are some that you do NOT want EVER to come near your campsite. These are the dangerous grizzly bears. In fact, bear encounters are extremely common around campsites in bear country, especially when campers do not take enough precautions against them.
If sometimes bears get attracted by the scent of human food, then there are times when campers put their tents in areas with a high amount of bear activity, either ignoring the warning signs or not having prior knowledge of it.
In this detailed article, we will provide you with a number of bear-safety tips, including what to do to not attract bears and how to keep them away from your campsite in the first place.
So, keep reading if you want to be safe from bear attacks at your campsite.
How to Keep Bears Away From Campsite
- Choose Your Campsite Wisely
- Cut Down on Smell of Every Kind & Nature
- Choose Your Food Wisely
- Store Your Food Wisely
- Do Not leave Any Food Unattended Near Your Campsite
- Clean Up After Every Meal
- Change Your Clothes You Cooked In Before Going Into Your Tent
- Think Wisely About Your Toiletries
- Keep the Fire Pit Clean
- Use the Bear-Triangle Strategy
- Always Keep Your Car Doors Locked & Cover-Up Your Coolers
- If You Have Pets Keep Them on Leash at All Times
Choose Your Campsite Wisely
First things first… You should know that bears prefer open areas like meadows and fields. And they are most likely to come near your campsite if there is a creek or river nearby; because these animals are mostly attracted by the smell of water.
So, it would be wise to avoid camping close to such riverside areas.
While brown bears can tolerate a certain amount of proximity with humans (around 200-300 feet), black bears will never stay in an area where humans frequent – this means you should also avoid camping in forested areas.
However, if you do not have any other choice but to camp in the forest near a stream, make sure there is no berry bush around your site. The smell of ripening berries can be so strong that it might attract black bears and grizzly bears alike.
You should also avoid setting up your tents near the base of a cliff since these animals seem to find those spots very appealing as well. They often enter such areas by chance and end up staying there for a few days.
Cut Down on Smell of Every Kind & Nature
When it comes to making your campsite less attractive for all kinds of wildlife, you should know that smells and scents play a very important part in this process.
So, if you really want to keep bears away from your campsite, make sure there is no smell of any kind around your tents – not even the faintest one.
The bear’s sense of smell is at least fourteen times stronger than that of dogs and they can easily pick up on the slightest scent coming from miles away. So do not forget that even the smallest trail of odor might lead a big grizzly straight towards your campsite!
Choose Your Food Wisely
The next thing you should do, while setting up your campsite, is to make sure that nothing of what you bring or cook has any strong smell.
For example, if you are cooking fish for dinner, make sure it will be done in the bear-proof container so no smell is left behind.
If food cans are involved here, they should be opened before cooking and then packed tightly with plastic bags. Also, never store them unopened since bears can sense food even through metal cans!
If there are any other smells coming from your site (like burning rubber, for example), these animals might come sniffing around just to find out where all this smell comes from… And the last thing you want at your campsite is a bear checking out the area!
Store Your Food Wisely
Some people like to hang their food in a tree or tie it on a branch. Not only is this not an effective way of protecting your food, but it’s also very dangerous for you and other campers as well.
First of all, even though these animals are not good at climbing trees, they can easily climb up if there is edible stuff above them – so hanging your food will not help you keep it safe by any means.
And secondly, throwing rocks at the branches (in case the animal gets hold of your food) might end up with one (or more) rocks falling onto someone’s head… Which perhaps would be better than having bear(s) come down upon you!
Of course, if you want to hang your food, make sure it is done in a well-lit area and as high as possible. Also, avoid high branches since the animal might jump and reach your food anyway!
Black bears can also do some pretty amazing stuff when it comes down to getting what they want (like opening bear-proof containers), so keep that in mind as well before deciding how to best protect the human food from them!
So, whether you use a bear-hang or bear kegs and tubes to store food, do not underestimate the intelligence and strength of these animals and therefore, make a wise decision regarding your food storage area.
Do Not leave Any Food Unattended Near Your Campsite
This goes without saying but I will say it anyway. Do not leave any food unattended near your campsite, no matter whether you are in bear country or not!
Black bears are very persistent and they can stay in the same area for weeks if there is food to find. Once they find a trail that leads them straight to easy sources of nutrients, they will keep coming back again and again!
If you want to play it safe, do not let any wildlife come anywhere near your site – these animals are unpredictable and quick-tempered, so never leave anything edible unattended near your tents!
And one more thing… If you have multiple campsites on one trip or use the same place regularly, make sure there is enough distance between each site since bears might find easier sources of food just a few hundred feet away!
Clean Up After Every Meal
Once you are done eating, make sure there are no signs of food rotting around your campsite, for you do not want to attract bears by the scent of it.
This is very important if you are camping in bear country- brown bears have a really great sense of smell and they will immediately know if another animal has eaten recently in the same area.
And since these wild beasts do not share territory or food that easily, they might come to take it from you! This can become even more dangerous when you are asleep – it is very likely that the bear will attack you to protect its source of food!
So, clean up after every meal and avoid cooking anything near your campsite just to be on the safe side! Also, do not bury rotten food or garbage bags containing used food items near your campsite. Again, it’s because of the strong connection between smell and bears.
Change Your Clothes You Cooked In Before Going Into Your Tent
This sounds silly, but if you go into your tent wearing clothes that smell like food with the strong intention to sleep there overnight, you might be inviting trouble, especially when you are camping in a bear country!
Many animals have a great sense of smell and they will know exactly where food is. They can also tell whether or not humans are nearby by smelling them and this means that any animal might show up just to find out what’s going on.
This is why changing your clothes after cooking seems to be a pretty smart idea!
Think Wisely About Your Toiletries
If you use any cosmetic products, do not throw used cotton swabs or cotton balls in the fire. Even your minty toothpaste or scented body lotion is a big no-no for camping if you want to stay safe from a deadly bear attack.
It is common sense to not leave anything near your campsite that smells like food since it doesn’t take much for an animal to find out where it can find easy sources of nutrients.
So, instead of burning these items in the campfire, put them into a bear-proof container and dispose of them when you are back home. It will keep wildlife away from your site, which means you will be able to sleep better.
Make sure you always use odor-proof plastic bags and unscented garbage bags for disposing of stuff, beacsue, again – in a bear country you never know when a curious bear will show up.
Keep the Fire Pit Clean
This is another very important thing to do if you want to protect your campsite from a bear attack.
A fire pit that has ash residue might look like a good source of fuel, so bears will check it out and come back for more. So, clean up the fire pit and any other place where you used wood for cooking to avoid attracting wild animals!
Forget About Campfires If You Want To Be 100% Safe
Campfires seem pretty safe since they keep predators away with their light and noise – but this effect can be quite deceiving! Bears might be temporarily intimidated by campfires at first, but after some time they will get used to them and start acting normally again.
Even if there are no fires in the area, bears will still come to check out the smell of food. So, it’s better to play it safe and stop using campfires altogether if you want to avoid bear attacks!
Always Keep Your Car Doors Locked & Cover-Up Your Coolers
This is a tip for campers who go on camping in their cars.
It’s better to lock your car doors as you drive and as you camp – bears can open unlocked doors by using their claws, so make sure you secure the area around your campsite too!
Also, do not leave any food or drinks in your car overnight, and cover up all coolers with a blanket. This way, wild animals will think that there is no food at all and they will leave right away!
If You Have Pets Keep Them on Leash at All Times
Unlike you, other animals can detect the smell of food from a great distance. This means that they will be much more likely to come closer to your campsite as long as it smells like something edible.
One tip for people with pets is to keep them on a leash at all times since this will discourage wild animals from coming by because they can feel threatened, and thus attack!
In case you don’t want to take any chances, make sure those pets are always supervised and avoid taking them into the forest or onto the mountain trails.
Tips to Avoid a Bear Encounter if You are Camping in Bear Country
These are some bear-safety tips that can come a long way in the face of a bear encounter –
You can defend yourself against a black bear or a grizzly bear in different ways. For example, you can use a certified bear spray
Use the Bear-triangle Strategy to Deter Bears
Make Noise From Inside the Tent If You See a Bear Outside at Night
Use Certified Bear Spray
Use a Bear Fence
Don’t Venture Out in the Dark or at Dawn, Alone
Use a Bear-bell to Make Noise While Hiking on Trails
Use the Bear-Triangle Strategy to Deter Bears
The bear-triangle strategy is a proven way to keep a grizzly bear away from the site and protect your loved ones. It means that you should always be vigilant since bear attacks can happen very suddenly.
So how does this work? You just have to keep your cooking area, your sleeping area, and your food-hanging area separated from each other by at least 100 feet and in a triangular formation.
Your sleeping area should be the top of the triangle with your cooking and storing food area as its two bases. The best possible way out is if you keep your tent upwind to the area of your cooking.
Make Noise From Inside the Tent If You See a Grizzly Bear Outside at Night
If you see a bear outside at night, the best thing to do is to bang on pots and pans from inside your tent. Make sure you make noise until the animal goes away.
If it comes too close, you can throw things at it, to make your presence felt but do not, under any situation come outside your tent.
Use Certified Bear Spray
These sprays are specifically designed for self-defense in case a bear attack takes place on you or someone else – they come in very handy when you want to protect yourself against bears.
However, keep in mind that if you carry a bear spray with you while out camping this means that there is a chance that bears will be attracted by the smell of the bear spray!
So, be a little aware of this fact. Also, remember that only a bear spray is effective on bears. If you use any other pepper sprays it won’t have any effect closer to that of a bear spray.
Use a Bear Fence
A bear fence is a great idea for people who camp out in areas where there are wild animals and they want to make sure that their campsite will be safe from attacks.
One such fence surrounds the North Carolina bear reserves, and it is 8 feet high! However, if you think about building one yourself, you can research and easily make one or purchase one that is available in the market for a few bucks.
Don’t Venture Out in the Dark or at Dawn, Alone
You should never go on any camping trip alone especially if it’s going to be your first time – this way you will have someone with you who can back up your claims if something like a bear attack were to happen.
If you plan on going out at night, make sure your group is big enough and that everyone has had some proper training in wilderness survival.
Use a Bear-bells to Make Noise While Hiking on Trails
One last thing you can do while hiking around the forest or mountains is always bring a small bell with you and add it to your backpack for extra safety.
The bells will ring every time you bring the pack down, so they will serve as an additional warning system in case there is a wild animal around!
This way, everyone will have time to get away from the area safely without making too much noise!
An Additional Tip When You Unfortunately Attract Bears to Your Campsite
If you camp sensibly and responsibly, there is no chance a black bear or a grizzly bear will come to your campsite. But in one of your activities or an event that attracts bears, then you should know it is different how you respond to a black bear against a brown one.
Black Bear Vs Brown bear
A black bear has a different approach to aggression than a brown bear. When you are faced against a brown bear it’s better to play dead, keeping your organs protected.
If you play dead, make sure you curl with your knees close to your chin and cover your neck with your hands. In the case of a black bear, it’s better you take an aggressive approach yourself. Use a bear spray or anything you get to strike it. Aim for the nose which is the weakest spot on the bear.
While camping out in the forests and mountains is no doubt an amazing experience, you should always make sure that you are safe.
Bears can be dangerous since they are very unpredictable, so following these tips will keep you safe when you are camping in bear country.
Always remember that you need to be more proactive than reactive. If you keep your campsite clean, free of any scents, store your food wisely, and deal with your toiletries and garbage responsibly, you will be safe from bear attacks, even if one of them comes to give you a sudden visit.
You can always carry bear spray to be on the safer side.
So, be diligent, careful, and remember – safety is always better than cure if you are camping in bear country.
Happy & Safe Camping to You!