Bear country

  • Hi Guest, you may choose a LIGHT or DARK theme that works best for you with the "Style Chooser" button at the bottom left on this page!
  • HTML tutorial

Ramman

Rank II
Member
Adventure

Contributor III

357
Massachusetts, USA
First Name
Frank
Last Name
...
Member #

28203

Ham Callsign
KC1PHT
Sorry if this was previously asked I couldn’t get it to come up.

Regardless how does everyone store and cook food when in bear country. I have a young family so that is a huge concern. We use a yeti 65 and either fire or grill to cook with.

Would you recommend just like regular camping cook away from sleeping area? It just blows my mind how many people cook off the back of the rigs and then sleep right over the stove and coolers.
 

MOAK

Rank V
Member

Traveler III

2,622
Wernersville, PA, USA
First Name
Donald
Last Name
Diehl
Member #

0745

Depends on the bear country. In the northeast my wife and I have nary a concern as we keep a very clean campsite ( think leave no trace ethics ) out of habit. So much of a habit that it is in difficult for me to articulate what to do or not to do. A couple things for sure though; Bears love the smell of bacon. Use the bear boxes if there are any, if not, hang your waste products high in a tree away from camp. If, on the outside chance we find ourselves in heavy bear territory, we eat MREs for that overnighter. And stop using deodorants, odorized soaps, etc etc. I'm reminded of a guy that used to work for me, the bees, wasps, flies, and bugs in general would be all over him every day. I was never bothered by any of them. This employee doused himself with aftershave and other deodorants every morning. Insects and other wildlife are very attracted to those kinds of odors. If you are in grizzly bear country, all bets are off. We just don't camp in known grizzly regions. How does one know? Whenever and wherever you go have a conversation with a ranger or BLM manger. They will have a good idea where the bears are.
 

Trail_pilot

Rank III

Enthusiast III

830
First Name
James
Last Name
Girard
It's already been said but the biggest thing is to keep camp clean. Hang or store food or garbage as way from camp and Hugh enough that a bear can't reach. Some campgrounds have a pre-made bear hanging line, but I havealways found them to be too low and close to camp. Put everything away and lock it up at night and you should be fine.
 

TylerC

Rank I
Member

Contributor II

271
Medicine Hat, AB, Canada
First Name
Tyler
Last Name
C
Member #

2426

We camp exclusively with kids in bear country. We have seen lots of bears but never had an issue.

Key thing is no food, cooking, toothpaste, deodorant, toilet or anything near where you are sleeping that might give off a scent. Absolutely no smells. They are attracted by smell. Keep all scents, including stove and coolers, in the vehicle and you won't have any issues.
 

Contributor II

98
East Tennessee
First Name
James
Last Name
vvvvv
I want to say I saw something about cooking 100 yards from where you sleep and then keep the trash another 100 yards out?

I'm in the Smokies (well, next to it) so bear issues when we are out are kind of a thing we think about. But usually, these bear are just looking for a quick snack. They are getting smart too! I saw a report last year that they are starting to open car doors like a person instead of tearing the doors off. Like, wow!
 

Ramman

Rank II
Member
Adventure

Contributor III

357
Massachusetts, USA
First Name
Frank
Last Name
...
Member #

28203

Ham Callsign
KC1PHT
I want to say I saw something about cooking 100 yards from where you sleep and then keep the trash another 100 yards out?

I'm in the Smokies (well, next to it) so bear issues when we are out are kind of a thing we think about. But usually, these bear are just looking for a quick snack. They are getting smart too! I saw a report last year that they are starting to open car doors like a person instead of tearing the doors off. Like, wow!
That is insane not only do you have to worry about being carjacked going into a city now you have to worry about smoky going for a joy ride as well hahah
 

Road

Not into ranks, titles or points.
Member

Advocate III

3,379
On the road in North America
First Name
Road
Last Name
.
Member #

6589

Sorry if this was previously asked I couldn’t get it to come up.

Regardless how does everyone store and cook food when in bear country. I have a young family so that is a huge concern. We use a yeti 65 and either fire or grill to cook with.

Would you recommend just like regular camping cook away from sleeping area? It just blows my mind how many people cook off the back of the rigs and then sleep right over the stove and coolers.
.

I try to practice what I call THBP in wilderness awareness. Types, Habits, Best Practices.

I like camping solo as remote as roads and rig will let me, and I love learning as much as I can about where I am, from fauna and flora to local geology and history.

It fits hand in hand to learn:
- what types of bears (or other potentially dangerous critters and plants) are likely to be where I'm camping
- what their habits are, and
- what my best practices should be when in their country.

My advice In storing and cooking food in active bear country, is when possible employ what folks call a Bear Triangle, with Sleeping, Food Storage, and Kitchen at points of a triangle at least 25 paces (approx 100') apart.

Sleeping area should be upwind from cooking and food storage, meaning set up so prevailing breeze/wind comes from behind your sleeping area >>towards>> food storage and cooking areas. That's so a bear who's caught scent of your food or cooking area is likely to have come come from a downwind direction and will find those areas before it stumbles across your sleeping area.

These days it is harder to find good camp spots where you can use a large Bear Triangle, though when you can, it's a best practice.

For best practice in storing food, my first line of defense is certified bear-resistant containers. Yep, that's a real thing. I have three Zarges K470 cases that are certified bear resistant by the IGBC; Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee (see vid below). Besides being rugged, lockable cases, they have a durable, effective, and waterproof seal that prevents food smells from escaping when closed.

They're expensive, though if you camp a lot in bear country, or just get out adventuring a lot in general, these cases (middle stack in image below) are well worth it. My K470s will still be around and used by my kid and her kid long after I'm gone, with each scratch, ding, and sticker telling a story.

org_0438-900.jpg

I've camped in bear country where Rangers and Game Wardens will impose a fine for leaving a cooler or food boxes out, but have nodded at mine and said "Good man; you know what to use."

Here's the whole Zarges K470 list. The three with double asterisks ** are certified Grizzly bear-resistant.
Here's the list of IGBC Certified Bear-Resistant Products.

Bear Bags: I've gotten away from hanging food in a bag from tree limbs. A lot of times where I camp there aren't any trees around. Other times I've woken up to find my bread and other perishables scattered around the ground, after being hauled up by racoons and torn open. Black Bears can, and will, climb trees, too, and are known to even sleep in trees.

Food smells: Clean your food prep pans and dishes, utensils, etc thoroughly. Ziplock and lock away any towels, skillet leathers, etc that were used in food prep, as well as any paper, wrappings, etc if you can't burn it. If you can have a fire, be diligent about cleanliness of cooking grease and not leaving charred bits of food in or around firepits or grills.

I know a through hiker on the AT who was very bear-aware and thorough about cleaning up after cooking, though had absentmindedly wiped his hands on his trousers when making a sausage meal. He woke up in the middle of the night to the head of a black bear poking into his backpacking tent.

Bear habits: Learn about the type of bear where you'll be camping; when they forage, what foods they like, nocturnal habits, etc. I can't vouch for Brown, Kodiak, or Grizzlies, but Black Bears have lousy eyesight, so they don't often come out at night much unless it's near full moon and clear. Here's a good page on Black Bear Facts. Search around and I'll bet you'll find more on Grizzlies, Brown Bears, etc.

I've camped a lot in the mountains of East Tennessee and the Chihuahuan Desert, both of which have black bear varities. I've had several bear encounters over the years. On one windy full-moon night in a new spot, I was watching the treetops dance overhead. It was like a giant ballet of seaweed in ocean currents; a noisy overhead whoosh swaying back and forth with great grace.

I looked down to see a shadow big as a boulder move at the edge of camp. My eyes adjusted, and about 30' away was a large black bear, snout up to the dark air, sniffing and stepping towards me. I slid my hand to my belt, got my flashlight, flicked it on, and made myself big as I could with arms out, all hunched. I shone the light on him and growled "Youuuu better get on OOOUT of here!"

He took another two steps towards me, intent on finding the source of whatever he'd smelled, then turned. He kept looking back over his shoulder at me. I kept my light on him and followed. He crossed the path and stood up behind a large tree. He grabbed around its sides. I thought he was going to climb, though he kept leaning to poke his head around to see if I was still coming. Was kind of comical, really.

I saw the next morning that the last campers to use my site had left food bits charred on the fire-ring grill. Full moon nights in the mountains can bring bear out for just that sort of thing.

A lot of bear-awareness is just using common sense. Read up a bit about it where you're going, especially from experienced hikers in bear country; they'll have good tips on how to be best prepared.

IGBC Certification Test with Zarges K470s and Grizzlies:


.

There exists a veritable plethora of info on camping around bears. More on using the "Bear-muda Triangle" for spacing between cooking, sleeping, and food storage; bear bags, and more can be found with a simple search: Bear Triangle

.
 
Last edited:

Ramman

Rank II
Member
Adventure

Contributor III

357
Massachusetts, USA
First Name
Frank
Last Name
...
Member #

28203

Ham Callsign
KC1PHT
Thank you I appreciate it that is very detailed and the bear I kept thing of baloo from the jungle book made my day thank you!
 

MidOH

Rank IV

Off-Road Ranger I

1,298
Mid Ohio
First Name
John
Last Name
Clark
Ham Callsign
YourHighness
We camp exclusively with kids in bear country. We have seen lots of bears but never had an issue.

Key thing is no food, cooking, toothpaste, deodorant, toilet or anything near where you are sleeping that might give off a scent. Absolutely no smells. They are attracted by smell. Keep all scents, including stove and coolers, in the vehicle and you won't have any issues.
I usually reek of Blue Ranch Doritos.

I've been face to face with plenty of black bears. Never a problem.
 

Pathfinder I

1,212
Canada
First Name
Craig
Last Name
PereferNotToSay
Great post, as usual, by @Road. I will only highlight this part:

For best practice in storing food, my first line of defense is certified bear-resistant containers. Yep, that's a real thing. I have three Zarges K470 cases that are certified bear resistant by the IGBC; Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee (see vid below). Besides being rugged, lockable cases, they have a durable, effective, and waterproof seal that prevents food smells from escaping when closed.

They're expensive, though if you camp a lot in bear country, or just get out adventuring a lot in general, these cases (middle stack in image below) are worth it. My K470s will still be around and used by my kid and her kid long after I'm gone, with each scratch, ding, and sticker telling a story.
The only point to add here is that these steps aren't just good to prevent a bear encounter for oneself. Bears are incredibly intelligent and very easily trained. A bear who successful accesses YOUR food will be a lot more brave when approaching other people with food smells, and that dramatically increases the risk to others and usually results in a terminated bear. I think we have a responsibility to the places we like to visit to try to avoid the unnecessary termination of critters and safe food storage is something we can all do to support that goal. So, don't train bears that humans are easy food sources, and bear-resistant containers like what @Road shared are some of the easiest ways to do that. There are cheaper options too that also pass muster on bear-safe food storage. For example, here's one for about $100: BearVault BV450 Bear Resistant Food Canister | MEC
 

Road

Not into ranks, titles or points.
Member

Advocate III

3,379
On the road in North America
First Name
Road
Last Name
.
Member #

6589

.
Well, this'll either put one's fear of bears into high gear, OR help one understand the importance of:

1. Not wandering alone into known bear territory.
2. Knowing what to do if attacked.

I Feel Lucky - Alaskan Surveyor

Here's the NPS advice on what to do in bear attacks:

Bear Attacks (also has articles on hiking in bear country)
.
 

MegaBug

Rank VI
Member

Explorer II

4,240
Colwood, BC, Canada
First Name
Matt
Last Name
Lester
Member #

20270

Where we travel on Vancouver Island in British Columbia the Black Bears are a very regular encounter. We have found that for the most part they will do everything they can to stay out of your way and will most often just ignore you. We have passed bears 5 feet beside our vehicle on a trail and have them just nonchalantly keep munching on berries without giving us a single look! Of course you take obvious precautions but these things aren't out to hunt humans. We try not to put ourselves in a situation where we will surprise one (esp sow and cub), put our food and garbage inside our vehicle (trailer) at night and that's about it. It's easy to overthink this - just be sensible.