What happens when your campsite isn’t bear-proof…check out his video from the Oakland Zoo to find out. The zoo set up a mock camping scene in partnership with The United States Fish and Wildlife Service in our black bear habitat and filmed the bears’ reaction. Find a complete guide below on how to properly bear-proof your campsite:
National Park Service Guide To Camping In Bear Country
KEEP A CLEAN CAMP:
Store all food, garbage, or smelly items so that bears cannot access them. Ravens sometimes open containers or bags and scatter the contents. The following items should be properly stored when not in use (even if clean and empty):
- Water and beverage containers
- Cooking or eating utensils
- Stoves and grills
- Coolers and ice chests
- Garbage—bagged or not
- Food and condiments (even if in containers)
- Cosmetics and toiletries
- Pet food and bowls
- Pails, buckets, and wash basins
Store these items in vehicles or the bear-proof storage lockers available at many campsites. Do not store these items in tents or truck beds, or leave them unattended on picnic tables. After every meal, pick up food scraps or garbage that fell to the ground.
If a bear enters your camp, grab your stuff, especially food, and move to the safety of a car or building. Do not run. Food can also be safety stored in bear boxes. Read more about reacting to a bear encounter.
IN THE BACKCOUNTRY:
- Be alert for bears both on the trail and in camp. Make noise and keep bear spray with you at all times (we recommend one can per person). Read more about best practices for hiking in bear country.
- Never camp in an area that has obvious evidence of bear activity such as digging, tracks, or scat.
- Avoid bringing smelly foods into the backcountry.
- When not in use, secure all food and other smelly items by hanging them from the food poles provided at backcountry campsites (you’ll need at least 35 feet of rope for this). Everything should hang 10 feet above ground and 4 feet away from tree trunks. Food storage lockers are provided at some backcountry campsites.
- Certain portable bear resistant food containers (BRFCs) may be used for food storage in lieu of hanging. BRFCs can be hung or left on the ground underneath the food pole or in the cooking area. Make sure all food and odorous items will fit into a container before starting your trip.
- Do not leave backpacks or bags containing food unattended, even for a few minutes.
- If you see a bear approaching your camp, make sure your food is secure and make noise to discourage it from entering your camp.
- If a bear enters your camp, grab packs and food that isn’t hung, then slowly back away. Do not let a bear gain access to your food. Read more about reacting to a bear encounter.
- Strain food particles from dishwater and pack out with your garbage. Scatter dishwater at least 100 yards from tent site.
- Remove any food scraps and garbage from fire pits.
- Sleep at least 100 yards (91 meters), preferably upwind, from the “core camp” area where you cook, eat, and hang your food.
- Keep your sleeping gear clean and free of food odors. Don’t cook in your tent, and don’t sleep in clothes worn while cooking and eating.
- Bears & menstrual odors: data from Yellowstone does not indicate any correlation between bear attacks and menstruation.
In addition to food and garbage, some common backcountry items that you’re required to hang include beverage cans (empty or full), coolers, lip balm, sunscreen, bug spray, and lotions, toothpaste, food panniers, horse feed, some medications, clothes worn while cooking, and eating utensils that haven’t been properly cleaned. Keep all food and smelly items out of sleeping bags, tents, and their stuff sacks.