Tips for Camping Near Bears

When camping in locations where there are bears, certain precautions must be considered. Being prepared for an encounter with a bear should always be kept in mind when venturing into bear territory. Grizzly bears are the most dangerous and most feared by humans. Most grizzlies reside in the northwest portion of the U.S., Alaska and western Canada. Black bears and polar bears are less aggressive but can be harmful if cornered or seeking food. Identifying a safe campsite should be the first priority followed by proper food and garbage disposal.
bear at campground


Difficulty: Challenging

How to:

Things You’ll Need:
  • Garcia Machine Backpackers' Cache
  • Shovel
  • 1 box of gallon-size ziplock bags
  • 50 feet of rope
  • Rubbermaid storage bins
  • Dish soap
  • Water
  • Bear pepper spray
Step 1
Choose a campsite that appears free of bear tracks and activity. Look for the presence of a bear by large portions of brush or branches being crushed. Bear tracks and mangled garbage are signs that a bear may be present within the area.
Step 2
Identify grizzly bear prints from a black bear. Grizzly tracks show paw prints in which the toes are very close to each other. Long claws between 2 to 4 inches are present as opposed to the shorter 1-inch claws of the black bear.
Step 3
Set up camp in an area near climbing trees if necessary. Be sure you can climb above 10 feet from the ground. The trees will come in handy if a large bear approaches, offering a quick safety net. Bears--especially cubs--can climb trees, but will likely be discouraged to do so unless there is food or aggressive behavior has been displayed.
Step 4
Keep all food and scented objects it least 20 feet from the tent area. Have bear repellent on hand at all times--especially at night. When sleeping, keep the amount of sleepers per tent minimal so there is plenty of room between them and the outside of the tent. Bears are known to swipe at tents or concealed objects if they see or suspect movement.
Step 5
Cook food away from the campsite. Designate another location to prepare, cook and eat the food. Bears will catch the scent almost immediately and be drawn to the smell. Meat and perishable food items should be avoided at all costs. Bury bones and discarded food scraps several inches into the ground. Use a shovel to dig the hole and bury the items. A bear can detect scent--even in closed metal garbage cans and some vehicles. Wash all dirty pots, pans and cooking utensils thoroughly with soap and water.
Step 6
Attach a rope to a tall branch at least 10 feet or more above the ground. Create a pulley by wrapping around the branch twice. Secure one end of the rope to the trunk of the tree, with the other end attached to the cache or other bear-proof container. Make sure the food is high enough so that the bear cannot get into it.
Step 7
Store all personal items and items that may have come in contact with blood or other animals in wrapped ziplock bags inside Rubbermaid storage units. If unsure of whether they smell like blood, store in the safe cache to assure they won't attract a bear.

Tips & Warnings

Don't set up camp near a kill site or area where a dead animal carcass is found. Bears will be attracted to these areas.
Never approach a bear or her cubs; simply walk the other way and slowly leave the area.
If a bear invades the campsite, leave immediately. Do not expect the bear not to come back.
Never run away from a bear. Bears can reach speeds of up to 35 miles per hour.
Never make direct eye contact. Slowly back away, but do not turn around completely---the bear may take this as a threat.
When using bear spray, it has to be in close range (within 5 feet). Only use as a last resort.

Article Written By Julie Boehlke

Julie Boehlke is a seasoned copywriter and content creator based in the Great Lakes state. She is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists. Boehlke has more than 10 years of professional writing experience on topics such as health and wellness, green living, gardening, genealogy, finances, relationships, world travel, golf, outdoors and interior decorating. She has also worked in geriatrics and hospice care.

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