How To Keep Food Away From Bears While Camping

how to keep food away from bears while camping

How to keep food away from bears while camping? Do you want to know how to keep food when camping in bear territory? Every trekker and camper should be aware of the fundamentals of protecting their provisions and fragrant items that may attract bears and other wild animals.

Bears have a very advanced sense of smell, which is why they are drawn to everything that smells fascinating. Bears are attracted to obvious food items, toothpaste, soap, lotions, and bug sprays (particularly if they contain citronella), among other things.

The good news is that there are several simple methods to make sure your camping site is not like a moth’s nest. The most apparent approach is to keep your campsite clean and hang your food and rubbish out of reach when you are not using it.

General Food Storage Tips

how to keep food away from bears while camping

Keeping human food (and other aromatic things such as toiletries) away from animals in a campground or backcountry campsite requires the same precautions. Here are some basic recommendations:

  • Keep food, trash, or any other aromatic goods outside of your shelter.
  • Leave your food unwatched at all times. Jays, squirrels, and chipmunks may grab food in broad daylight, while other animals such as opossums prowl at night.

Food Storage In A Campground

  • Keep all your provisions in your cooler or automobile at all times, even if you are sitting nearby or on a short walk to the outhouse, and especially if you are going on a hike.
  • Keep any loose food, as well as a cooler if you have one, in a metal bear box at night. Storing goods inside your automobile may be an alternative in some regions, but you should first consult with the local land manager since some areas (where bears have learned to break into cars) prohibit it. Raccoons and bears are good at cracking open ice chests that have been left unattended. Some cooler makers state that their products are bear-proof, although padlocks may be required. If bears are a problem in the campground, you can hang a bag of food from a high tree limb or use a bear canister as a last resort.
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Food Storage In The Backcountry

wildlife photography of brown bear cub
how to keep food away from bears while camping

Follow the rules and recommendations for food storage carefully if you will be in a national park or forest’s bear-inhabited backcountry, on a national scenic route like the Appalachian Trail or Pacific Crest Trail, or on a national scenic trail such as the one mentioned above. If you are hiking in an area with no defined regulations, you have three options:

  • Using the provided metal food locker
  • Using the bear canister or bear bag
  • Hanging your food on the tree or pole

The following are the advantages and disadvantages of each bear-proof food-storage technique in the outdoors:

Metal Food Lockers

Large metal bear-proof boxes are provided at certain campgrounds and designated backcountry campsites so that you may store your food, trash, and toiletries. These may be communal, so there is no assurance that they will have enough space for your things. Also, make sure the clasp is secure to prevent bears from getting in. You can bet they will if you do not do this.

Bear Canisters

The plastic cylinders can be screwed on and off by humans and require a screwdriver or a coin to lock and unlock). They are intended to fit into most backpacks and come in a number of sizes, so you may pick the right one for your trip alone.

If you are backpacking where canisters are required, make sure you have one with you. If a ranger confronts you on the trail and discovers that you do not have one, expect to be fined heavily. Rangers sometimes lend or rent bear cans in some national parks. If you have a backup plan, though, they may run out of canisters on high-demand summer weekends before you get there, so keep that in mind. Canisters also keep raccoons out of your food and garbage, which is why they might be required for this purpose.

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  • Bears have never been observed opening a canister.
  • Instead of hanging them, you may leave them on the ground.
  • They are ideal for camping as a seat with the cover on.
  • Some are transparent so you can tell if you remembered to stow that chocolate bar away.
  • Bears have discovered that canisters are a waste of time and may leave once they see you have one.


  • Heavy and bulky (most weigh two-three pounds).

Tip For Using The Bear Canister:

  • Reflective tape should be placed on your canister. This will allow you to see what is going on more easily if you hear something frightening at night. 

Bear Bags

If a bear canister is not required but you want to keep your food secure, use a bear bag. An aluminum liner is available as an option for the smaller model, which fits inside and protects the contents from being crushed or punctured by a bear.

You can also use strong odor-proof plastic bags to store your food and waste before transportation.

If you are in bear country, however, choose a bag model that has been proven to work against marmots, mice, and other rodents and has passed the Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee test (IGBC).


  • They are lightweight and compact.


  • Bear bags are not allowed in certain national parks because they are a bear-proof food-storage option.
  • Even if it can not get into the bag, a bear may crush it or even carry it off.

Tips For Using The Bear Bags:

brown coated bear walking on grass field
how to keep food away from bears while camping
  • Make sure the drawstring is securely fastened and that the knot is done exactly as directed by the manufacturer.
  • These bags can be left on the ground like a canister, but you might want to attach them to a tree limb or suspend it from a bear pole.
  • White bags are often used as deer attractants. To distinguish yours from others’, write your name or create a design on it with a permanent marker.
  • If you are not sure whether to use a canister or bag, bring one for your most critical food as well as a bear bag for your trash and lesser-used items.
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