Gear Guy

How Do I Keep Animals Out of My Camping Food?

Don’t feel like making friends with bears and raccoons? Keep your campsite locked down with these simple tips.

Don't leave food on the ground if you drop it. Opportunistic animals will find it. (Photo: knape/iStock)
Don't leave food on the ground if you drop it. Opportunistic animals will find it.

Store your camping food incorrectly—while car camping or deep in the backcountry—and wild animals will eat it. A stolen package of bacon sucks for you, but it’s potentially deadly for the animals because they become accustomed to handouts and familiar with humans. Follow these five simple tips to keep your food, and the critters, safe. 

1. Bring a Bear Canister

Sure, bear canisters are expensive (from $60 to $80) and heavy (up to four pounds), but they’re damn effective. Lock your food in the airtight, durable container to protect it from critters during the day, then move it at least 100 feet away from your tent at night—just in case. 

2. Use Established Storage Solutions

Many national park campsites feature permanent bear canisters. Call ahead and reserve one if you don’t have your own portable canister.

3. Hang Your Food in a Tree 

We recommend you use parachute cord—at least 100 feet. Attach a rock to one end and your food bag to the other. Throw the rock over a branch that’s at least 20 feet high, and then raise your stash. Tie off the p-cord around the tree. Pro tip: Practice a few knots beforehand to ensure that your food comes down when it’s time to eat.

4. Stash Anything That Smells

All scented products attract animals. This means you need to store your toothpaste, sunscreen, and soap in your food bag or bear canister at night. You might not want to eat your bottle of Dr. Bronner’s, but a bear might think otherwise.

5. Always Keep Your Food off the Ground

I shove my pack in a tree when I take a breather on the trail and never leave food lying around on the dirt at my campsite. This protects everything from opportunistic animals. The practiced diligence also helps me remember to hang my food or place it in a bear canister at night. 

Filed To: Camping
Lead Photo: knape/iStock