Enjoy the Great Outdoors in Comfort and Safety: Tips to Keep Bears at Bay

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Answered by: gregory, An Expert in the Planning a Campout Category
One of the best things about camping is that it lets you enjoy the beauty of nature firsthand, but sometimes the natural world gets a little too close. Encounters with bears have become increasingly common in recent years, as habitat destruction, human encroachment and other factors drive bears closer and closer to places where people congregate.

Even worse is the fact that many bears have lost their natural fear of humans. Those urbanized bears have come to see humans as rich sources of food, and they often view cars as giant containers of delicious treats. If you want to protect yourself, your food and your camping companions, you need to be bear-smart.

Seeing a bear in the woods is a rare treat, but seeing a bear destroying your campsite could give you a very unwelcome wake-up call. Here are a few tips to keep bears at bay.

Select a camping spot that is upwind of your food supply. Bears have great noses, and they will quickly sniff out your campsite meals.

Check for bear signs before you camp. Take a close look around for tracks, droppings and other indications that bears are in the neighborhood. If you spot any signs, find another place to pitch your tent.

Avoid campsites near berry bushes and other potential natural bear food sources. You do not want to inadvertently invade an established bear habitat.

Keep your cooking and sleeping areas separate. Keeping a minimum of 100 yards between where you sleep and where you store your food can reduce the chances of a nocturnal ursine visit.

Change your clothes after dinner. The aroma of campfire-cooked food can linger on your clothes, so change into something more comfortable before you turn in for the night. Store your cooking clothes with the food, and make sure the stash is well away from your tent.

Secure your food in a bear bag. Hanging your food from a tree is the safest option, so check your camping area for suitable branches. You can buy bear bags at many outdoor retailers, or make your own waterproof and odor-blocking food storage container.

Be a good housekeeper. Keeping your campsite clean is an effective way to keep bears at bay, so be sure to dispose of uneaten food, wrappers and other signs of your presence. Washing your cooking utensils, silverware and plates right away can also make your campsite less attractive to area bears.

Choose your food carefully. Bear-proofing your campsite starts before you leave home, so plan your meals carefully. Aromatic foods, especially foods bears love, are best left at home. The campsite is not the place to enjoy pancakes with maple syrup; you might as well hang out a welcome sign for the bears.

Leave no trace. The concept of "leave no trace" is a staple of camping etiquette, but disposing of trash and picking out what you pack in can also make bear encounters less likely.

Bears are an integral part of the natural world, and when you go camping, you are entering their territory. That means you are the visitor, so you need to take proactive steps to make sure your interactions with bears are conducted respectfully and at a safe distance. Seeing a bear is a true treat for any camper, and following the tips listed above can help ensure those sightings are in the wilderness and not in your tent.

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