Food safety to help avoid bears in the wild

If you plan to venture into the wilderness on a camping or hiking trip, you need to be prepared to deal with potentially dangerous wildlife. Bears in particular should be respected and avoided. One of the easiest ways to avoid bears is to be careful when storing and preparing food.

The safest camping food choice

Strong-smelling foods like tuna or garlic can easily attract a bear. When you choose the foods you want to package, try to avoid foods with strong odors. Canned or dried food is a much better option. Not only do these types of food last longer, but they also emit less odor. Individually packaged food is preferable to larger packages that have to be repacked by hand.

Store camping food safely

One mistake many campers make is not taking enough precautions to stock up on food. Food is often stored either in the same tent you sleep in or in a cooler nearby. This might be a very bad idea. You’re basically drawing the right bears to wear, you’re a light sleeper.

Your food should be stored far away from your tent (at least 100 metres). To prevent food odors from seeping through your campsite, your food storage site should also be located downwind from your campsite. When choosing a site to store food, consider how close you will be to the campsite where you will be comfortable taking the bears. Obviously, this is not very close at all.

For actual food storage, you have a few options. Bear-proof containers are available in various sizes. Bear-proof storage cabinets make it nearly impossible for bears to get your food. It may not be practical to carry one of these sturdy containers to camp.

The most traditional way to store food in camps is to hang your food on a tree in an airtight bag. Since bears have some tree-climbing capabilities, it is best to hang food at least 5 feet above the ground and at least 4 feet from the tree trunk. A bear can easily reach the sack if it is too low or too close to a tree trunk. This is not the safest method because using a branch that is too small makes it possible for the bear to break off the branch and using a branch that is too large makes it possible for the bear to climb into your bag. Bears can also chew on the ropes that hold the sacks up trees. So if you plan to hang your food, balance the rope with another bag. Then use a long stick to retrieve the tourist bags afterwards. Or you can hang the bag of food between two trees. Some campsites have ropes or poles set up to be used instead of hanging food from the branches.

As a last resort, you can also store your food in the trunk of your car. However, this should be avoided, as the compounds are not airtight and odors can escape. This may result in a bear scratching your car to get your food. Bears with previous human contact may recognize coolers or other food containers. So don’t put food easily in sight in the front seat of your car.

Since the litter may also contain food odors, it is also a good idea to store the litter safely along with your food supplies. Other fragrant items such as soap, toothpaste, shampoo, deodorant, and perfume should be stored with the food as well. If any of your clothes smell like food, be on the safe side and stock those clothes with your food. Make sure there are no extra snacks in your daypack when you go to bed. Tampons, tissues, and toilet paper can also lure bears if not stored properly.

Cook safely while camping

Another mistake campers make is cooking food in the middle of their campsite. This will leave traces of food odors all over your camping area. Suppose the bears come to check out your cooking area and place it away from your tent with your food supply.

While cooking, try to keep the area well-ventilated. If you’re inside a tent, open the lid to get some of the scents out of the air. You don’t want these areas to still smell strong like food when you go to sleep. Do not cook in the tent you intend to sleep in! Covering any frying food also prevents excess odors. When you’re done frying the food, completely burn off any excess grease and oil.

Many people like to go fishing while camping. If you are one of those people, do not clean your fish near camp. Ideally, you could pick fish in the middle of a lake where the bear won’t smell the remains. Burying fish nearby is a bad idea.

Another camp cooking tip is to avoid cooking too much food. Don’t cook more than you can eat because leftovers smell more than packaged food.

Clean up to prevent bears

Keeping your campsite clear of litter and food scraps will help keep bears away. Immediately after cooking and eating, you should clean all of your dishes thoroughly. Drain the food pieces from the dishwater and store them with the rest of the food and garbage. To get rid of dishwater, dig a shallow hole. Then poor it in dish water and cover it with ash or disinfectant. This will stop unpleasant odors and decomposition.

While some people do not recommend burning any trash while camping, it may be a good idea for any leftovers and food wrappers. It is better to burn these items while leaving a temporary scent than to keep items that emit attractive scents.

Always pack what you pack. Leaving any rubbish behind can turn a campsite into an ordinary bear.


Be aware of necessary food storage and cooking precautions while camping. Do everything you can to keep food smells away from campers. Taking these precautions is the easiest way to prevent a bear encounter.

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