If you are planning on camping anywhere near bear country (which is most of North America) than you need to be aware of the risks and how to stay safe while out in the woods. Bears don’t only hang out in the backcountry, they will also come into well populated campgrounds and knowing how to react can save both the bears and your own lives. There is so much we could cover when it comes to being bear safe, but for this article we will stick to camping in a campground and not backcountry camping. Some of the techniques can be used for both styles of camping, but more specific backcountry bear safety will be covered in more detail in another article.
One of the biggest and most common mistakes I see when camping is people leaving there food and trash out. Bears have a very keen sense of smell that allows them to smell food from miles away. Leaving out food and garbage is basically inviting any bears in the area to enter your campsite. It is important that all of your food is stored away from your tent and not out in the open. Food can be kept in a number of places; it can be hung up in a tree away from your site or on a bear pole, in the car (but make sure it is not visible and your doors are locked), but most importantly, NOT IN YOUR TENT! Trash should be placed in bins or dumpsters provided at the campground, if none are available it can also be hung away from your site. One last thing when it comes to food and trash, your cooking utensils and clothing you cooked in should be stored the same way as food. Do not keep used pots and pans in your tent and also do not sleep in the clothes you cooked in.
So you might be asking, what do I do if a bear wanders into my campsite? Well first off, do not panic, and do not run. Bears can run much faster than you can so this surely will not help you out at all. If a bear comes into your campsite you want to try and scare it away. This might sound a little funny at first but it really is what you are suppose to do. You need to start making a lot of noise toward the bear, wave your arms around, and if need be throw rocks or other objects towards the bear but not at it. You also want to make sure you never turn your back to a bear, if you need to back up be sure to do so slowly and continue to face the bear. If the bears behavior indicates it is interested in your food than separate yourself from your food by slowly backing away. If the bear is not showing interest in your food and attacks you need to fight back with whatever you can. A bear that attacks humans in a campground when there is other food available is not going to stop attacking if you simply play dead. Fight back like your life depends out it, at this point it does.
Another common mistake that will attract an unwanted bear encounter is eating in your tent. Even eating a few chips or a cookie will leave behind crumbs that can attract a bear to your tent. A good rule to live by while camping is that your tent is a 100% food free zone, no drinking and no eating at all in it.
This is just a quick overview of some of the most common mistakes made while camping and what you can do to avoid them. You can never be to safe while camping in bear country. Something we have always brought with us while camping or while going out on hikes is a good bear spray. These sprays are designed to stop a bear in its tracks and are a great way to give yourself a chance to escape from a charging or attacking bear. The product we use and recommend is UDAP’s Premuim Bear Spray with Hip Holster 7.9oz./ 225g. We have tested this product (not on an actual bear) and it produces a very good stream and a nice cloud the further out it goes. Plus it comes with a holster so it is easy to carry while hiking or walking around the campsite.