If you plan to venture out into the wild on a camping trip or hiking trip, you must be prepared to deal with potentially dangerous wildlife. Bears in particular are to be respected and avoided. One of the easiest ways to avoid bears is to be careful when storing and preparing food.
Choosing the safest camping food
Strong-smelling foods like tuna or garlic can attract bears more easily. When choosing which foods to pack, try to avoid foods that have strong odors. Canned or dry foods are a much better option. These types of foods not only last longer, but also have fewer odors. Individually packaged foods are better than larger packages that must be manually resealed.
Safe camping food storage
One mistake many campers make is not taking proper precautions when storing food. Too often, food is stored in the same store you sleep in or in a nearby fridge. This can be a very bad idea. Basically you are drawing the bears on the right to use, you are sleeping vulnerable.
Your food should be stored a good distance from your store (at least 100 meters). To prevent food odors from spreading through your campsite, your food storage location should also be downwind of your campground. When choosing a place to store food, think about how close to your camp you would feel comfortable having bears. Obviously that’s not very close at all.
For actual food storage, you have a few options. Bear proof containers are available in a variety of sizes. These bear-proof storage lockers make it nearly impossible for bears to reach for their food. However, it may not be practical to bring one of these durable containers to camp.
The most traditional method of storing camping food is to hang it on a tree in an airtight bag. Since bears have some tree climbing abilities, it is best to hang food at least 5 feet off the ground and at least 4 feet from the tree trunk. A bear could easily reach for a bag if it is too low or too close to the tree trunk. This is not the safest method because using too small a branch makes it possible for a bear to break the branch and using too large a branch makes it possible for a bear to climb into your bag. Bears can also bite the ropes that hold the bags in the trees. So if you plan to hang your food, counterbalance the rope with a second bag. Then use a long stick to retrieve the travel bags. Or you can suspend the food bag between two trees. Some campgrounds have ropes or poles set up to use in place of hanging food from branches.
As a last resort, you can also store your food in the trunk of your vehicle. However, this should be avoided as vehicles are not airtight and odors could leak out. This could cause a bear to scratch your vehicle to get to your food. Bears with previous human contact can recognize refrigerators or other food containers. So don’t easily put food out of sight in the front seat of your vehicle.
Since your trash can also have food odors, it is recommended that you store your trash safely with your food supply as well. Other fragrant items like soap, toothpaste, shampoo, deodorant, and perfume should also be kept with the food. If any of your clothing smells like food, be careful and store these items with your food. Make sure there are no extra snacks in your backpack when you go to sleep. Tampons, napkins, and toilet paper can also attract bears if not stored properly.
Cooking Food Safely While Camping
Another mistake campers make is cooking food in the middle of the campsite. This will leave traces of food odors throughout your camping area. Suppose the bears will come to investigate your cooking area and place it away from your store with its food supply.
While cooking, try to keep the area well ventilated. If you are inside a tent, open the flap to vent some of the odors. You don’t want these areas to continue to smell strongly of food when you go to sleep. Don’t cook in the tent you plan to sleep in! Covering foods that are fried also prevents excess odors. When you have finished frying the food, completely burn off the excess fat and oil.
Many people like to go fishing while camping. If you are one of these people, do not clean your fish near your camp. Ideally, you would gut the fish in the middle of a lake where a bear would not smell the remains. Burying fish scraps nearby is a bad idea.
Another tip for cooking at camp is to avoid overcooking food. Don’t cook more than you can eat, as leftovers smell more than packaged foods.
Cleaning to prevent bears
Keeping your campsite clean of garbage and food scraps will help keep bears out. Immediately after cooking and eating, you should thoroughly clean all your dishes. Strain the pieces of food from the dishwasher and store them with the rest of the garbage and food. To dispose of the water from the dishes, dig a shallow hole. Then rinse with dish water and cover with ash or disinfectant. This will stop odors and spoilage.
While some people don’t recommend burning trash while camping, it can be a good idea for food scraps and food wrappers. It is better to burn these items leaving a temporary odor rather than keeping items that emit odors that attract bears.
Always pack what you pack. Leaving trash can make the campground a regular place for bears.
Take into account the necessary precautions for cooking and storing food during the camp. Do your best to keep food odors out of your camp. Taking these precautions is the easiest way to prevent an encounter with a bear.